Monday 8 September 2014
Back in Bishkek, back in the same hostel as previously. I wonder if they’re getting sick of me yet? James is also here – he didn’t book ahead but turned up en-spec, though I guessed they would have had room for him too. We’re getting towards the end of the ‘season’ here, and in a couple of weeks the nomads will have moved out of Song-Kol, the resorts of Issyk-Kol will have shut up shop, and the high passes will be snowbound until next May.
Also sharing the dorm is a local man, well he speaks Russian and very little English, who has the weirdest intense staring eyes. It’s quite uncomfortable to look at him.
The journey back on the marshrutka felt quicker than the journey there- maybe it was because I’d done the journey before so knew what to expect, maybe it’s because me and James chatted to each other for most of it, or maybe it was just because we drove quicker, who knows.
The other British chap from Friday was also headed back to Bishkek today, but we didn’t see him, so I assume he caught an earlier bus. He’s also not at this hostel, so assume somewhere in Bishkek there’s a party hostel full of people who hate Bishkek …
The border crossing was just as hectic as last time, and we passed through it just as quick – too quick in fact as we ended up waiting on the other side for so long that we weren’t even sure if our bus had left without us – it didn’t help that we couldn’t see anyone who looked like people we were travelling with. It did eventually turn up, with most of them already inside, suggesting that we were waiting for it in the wrong place.
We went to a restaurant that had been recommended by the hostel last time I was there but which had been full when I went to try it a few lunchtimes ago. It was pretty packed again when we got there, but we persevered and were rewarded with a reasonably tasty dish of laghman – meat with spicy noodles. And bread. And Kompot – a fruit-juice like drink that I’d sampled previously and made a change from water.
Prior to leaving Almaty, I had another weirdity in the post office this time they wanted me to write my name and a Kazakh address in the top left corner, which as you can imagine was a little bit pointless. Eventually they accepted ‘Post Office’ as a suitable address alternative. At 450T, it was also by far the most expensive of my #LetterACountry mailings; that’s more expensive than the UK.
In general, I did notice that about Kazakhstan – it’s one of the more expensive countries I’ve visited. While not as expensive as, say, Australia, it does rank alongside the Baltic States in terms of cost of living. Now part of that is the ‘Almaty effect’, and I’m sure somewhere like Aktobe is cheaper in general, but things like postal services would be the same right across the country.
Also, as I was leaving the hostel, the female owner wanted pictures of both me and James; I’d seen on one of their noticeboards that there were lots of pictures of backpackers on it. Weirdly, she also specifically wanted a photo of my feet – presumably because she again saw me as ‘the barefoot backpacker’.
Got to be up early tomorrow again. Bah.