Sunday 22nd August
….which is what I have been in for the last three days while we wait and decide what to do next. It is obvious that the chestnut horse is not anywhere close to being fit enough to cope with the work I expect of him in the following weeks, and the black pony is still very lame. I am already over two weeks behind schedule, with the clock on my visa allowance ticking away inexorably.
The weather is blisteringly hot, and we quietly swelter in our little house, drenched in sweat during the day. The treeless steppe may have lovely views, but there is little privacy….
… and I long for a decent shower rather than a splash of my extremities from the cattle trough. I have tried waiting until nightfall to wash outside in the dark from the Ortlieb bucket, but that is when the mosquitoes come out in force. My solar chargers do not seem to be working properly, and the batteries on my laptop and our mobile phones have run out, so we are stranded without communication unless Jandos turns up. Kanat can only stay with me another few days, and then I will be completely on my own. All thoroughly frustrating and depressing when there appears to be no way forward, and I admit to a tear or three.
So I have come to the regretful conclusion that the only real solution is to abandon the idea of horse packing for the moment, and continue with the remaining sound horse (the one with a hole in its side) and a back-up taxi and driver, in the form of Alimjan who rescued me at the beginning of the week. The two lame horses are staying at Jandos’ house prior to being trucked back to Almaty (more expense), and I will set off alone tomorrow while Kanat and baggage travel with Alimjan.
The only welcome distractions in the last few days have been the constant stream of visitors we have attracted, mainly in the form of neighbouring herdsmen Talgat and Mirma who hang around hopefully for an invitation to join us for morning coffee. But Talgat and wife returned the favour with a delicious meal of plov (traditional rice fricassee) , chai (milky tea) and nan bread at their house.