Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Foiling the Horse Thieves

Wednesday June 9th
It was inevitable that the once picturesque valley running down from Lake Sayram to the south would not escape the creeping tentacles of the modern Chinese transport system. Not only is the old main road being torn up to be replaced with a brand new expressway, but the construction of an ambitious new railway link to the Yili valley has resulted in engineering work on a futuristic scale.

The Kazakhs are beginning to move their livestock up to graze on the high summer pastures, and we regularly passed flocks of sheep, and occasional herds of cows and horses being driven by mounted herdsmen.
These desperadoes have a bit of a reputation as horse thieves - when we stopped overnight at the little town of Guozi gu we were even warned by a Kazakh Policewoman against the dangers of Kazakhs pilfering our horses. The local police, although friendly, were very uncomfortable with our presence, and several delegations did their utmost to persuade us to move on to the delights of a comfortable foreigners hotel 20kms further along the road. They appeared to be convinced that hordes of marauding Kazakh horse thieves from miles around were at that very moment congregating with the sole intent of abducting our horses, and were only mollified by the construction of a sort of equine Fort Knox out of commandeered trucks.

And we were pressured into paying a night watchman to keep an eye on them, although Valerie opted to sleep in the truck, and I pity any potential horse thief who might unwisely have attempted to sneak past her.

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