Sunday 15th August
Marat the guide has managed to find a nice young Kyrgyz guide Kanat for me, and he travelled to Almaty to meet up with us and stay the first night at Marat and Valentina’s guesthouse - here is Kanat, Valentina and daughter Yana at our last supper in Almaty with a bottle of Kazakh wine. The only person missing is Marat himself, who was out taking a group of trekkers.
If you want somewhere reasonable to stay in exorbitantly priced Almaty, Valentina guesthouse http://valentina-gh.narod.ru
is not a bad choice. It is rather out of town and somewhat quirky, as befits a homestay in Kazakhstan, but spotlessly clean, comfortable and has convenient bus services to the city. The breakfasts are generous, and you have the advantage of friendly hosts who speak fluent English - as they work in the tourist business, they can give advice and sort out excursions, treks, guides etc on site. There is also internet connection and airport pickup.
In the morning I am travelling ahead on the truck with the horses to Zharkent, 30 kms from the border, and Kanat is following by bus in the evening when he has finished sorting out his registration papers for Kazakhstan. The truck driver will then truck horses and us up to the border in the morning to make a start.