Friday 20th August
The bad news is that I have been beset by an endless host of problems - I have had enough last straws to make a bale. The good news is that in spite of everything I have at least managed to make a start. I arrived at Marat the Meat’s on the day of departure to the border to find that the bay horse had a nasty gash in his side - I think the result of a kick from the black pony, who is wearing the ‘mountain shoes’ the so-called farrier insisted on fitting in spite of my objections. They have nasty ‘calkins’, which are protusions on horseshoes to give grip in treacherous conditions we are unlikely to encounter. Luckily the wound was not anywhere vital and is not affected by the tack, but it needed stitching. Someone, whom I was assured several times was a vet though I am now very doubtful, did the deed. I stressed the importance of making sure the gash was scrupulously clean before stitching, but the whole thing rapidly swelled up afterwards, and I had to call vet out again on arrival in Zharkent, and two days later when I arrived back there. It has gradually been improving, and the walking will have helped it, but it is still oozing.
Then Kanat phoned to say there were delays with his registration and he would not be able to arrive until the following evening. As the truck driver had to get back to Almaty the day after travelling to Zharkent, it looked as though I might end up being dumped at the border (which is 10kms from anywhere) to cope on my own with three strange horses and baggage - not a viable proposition. However, the lady of the Kazakh home where I was staying came up trumps and helped to arrange a solution.
So here I am on Tuesday 17th August at the Kazakhstan side of the Chinese/Kazakh border with our truck driver, and local Uighur taxi driver Alimjan aboard the black pony, about to set off for Alimjan’s comfortable home at Pendjim10 kms away where we had left the chestnut horse, and where we stayed the first night. Kanat arrived later that evening.
The first two days went off reasonably well, and with the chesnut as packhorse, we made slow but steady progress to the small town of Koktal, though our seemingly idyllic streamside camping spot there turned out to be a mosquito infested hell once the sun went down. We had to move the horses across a busy road in the dark to a spot which I doubt was any better, and I slept with a shirt over my head.
However, problems began again today. The chesnut started hyperventilating only a couple of kms after setting out, and then it became apparent that he was also lame from a rope burn. Then to top it all it became obvious that the black pony was hopping lame as well, probably a bruised sole. Luckily a passing local, Jandos, said we could hole up at an empty ‘fazenda’ he owned just down the road, and that is where we are while I decide the next course of action. There is no electricity, but there are two dusty rooms, grass for the horses, running spring water into a cattle`trough outside, and even a long drop loo with no door, so we have the basics to be reasonably comfortable.
An old fridge makes an excellent table, and we even have fanciful posters to brighten up the walls.
Kanat entertains owner Jandos and his three sprogs.