28.12.2015 -5 °C
I've been enjoying the warmth and comfort of being indoors over the past three weeks. Flimsy plastic tent linings and arduous camping stoves have been replaced by sturdy breeze blocks and reliable white goods. And it has to be said that cultivating a brew from the simple flick of a switch is one of the most understated privileges of the modern age! As such the knee's are redeveloping nicely.
The snow has arrived, covering Almaty with a generous layer. People busy around in puffer coats and Ugg boots, and the traffic is as insane as ever. The other day I cycled up to Almaty's highest point to enjoy a supposed panoramic view of the city; it was far from that. All I saw was a strip of a few streets below. The rest was hidden behind a thick veil of smog, the only visible city beyond being two factory chimneys, bellowing out white smoke into the sky. I knew the smog in Almaty was a problem, but I didn't realise just how much. 1 litre of petrol costs about 30p, which relative to the living standards is very cheap. So it's not really surprising that most choose to get around by car, half of which are gassy 4x4's. Alternatives come in the form of a reliable and comprehensive bus network, a single tube line running across the city, and a few bike lanes to incentivise the humble bicycle. Cleverly contrived billboards illustrate a cleaner Almaty through the use of alternative transports. There's a long way to go, but it's a good start.
With a visit to Kyrgyzstan on the cards I thought it would be a good idea to check my paper work was in order, before crossing the border. Following a visit to the police it turns out it wasn't. When I first crossed the border I was handed a registration card, with instructions telling me to register myself at any police station within 5 days. Accordingly I went to a police station, where I was told that there was no problem. Assuming I was either registered or didn't need to be, I trundled off to catch my next train. Turn's out I wasn't registered and needed to be. So now I was standing in the office of the border police, surrounded by burly looking officials, having my file prepared. Despite Yerlan's best efforts to excuse any fault of mine, my passport was detained, and I was to go to court in the morning. We arrived outside at 10am, armed with various papers of government literature to argue with. After 15 minutes of waiting the investigator turned to us, handed me my passport and told me to go and get registered. Seemed I was off the hook. Following a series of visits to various government buildings, it eventually transpired that I never needed to be registered in the first place! We took a photo of the relating article, just in case. A precious 60 pounds saved, and possible other consequences, We headed back home to prep for skiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii.............
Karakol ski resort lies on the southern shores of lake Issyk Kul, and as far as I can tell provides some pretty first class riding. The highest lift tops out at 3000 meters, where you are greeted with a breath taking panorama of distant mountains, stretching right across the horizon. A good twenty minutes of flowing slopes, passing icy pine trees, maybe a collision with a hidden tree stump, and your at the bottom, ready to start again. This time we were on chair lifts, though none of the falling over at the beginning amusement that was customary at LXI.
Nick made a movie of our exploits. Enjoy!
If it doesn't work then follow this link - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yh3Qb4KReUw&feature=youtu.be
Otherwise it's changing bed sheets and listening to people talk about the Premier League. I'm working with two die hard Liverpool fans..... They're not too happy at the moment.
Merry bloomin Christmas and a riotous New Year to your all.