Monday 23rd August
Here I am having just crossed the Ili river, and the smile says it all - I am on the move again! My hat brim is tied to my saddle due to a stiff wind which preceded a rainy afternoon, but it was pleasantly cool for a change, which was a relief. Alimjan is peeking over the horse.
We stopped a little further on for lunch at the Kazakh house below - the sturdy fencing is to protect their sheep from the ravenous wolves which prowl the area. The ravenous horse is tucking into a feed of maize in the yard, while we were fed and watered, or rather 'chaied' inside.The humble exteriors of these houses invariably belie the sumptuous furnishings inside. Below is the luxurious dining room where we tucked into tasty bowls of laghman (noodles topped with spicy meat and vegetables) before a little siesta on the couches in the living room.
Alimjan pushed me to continue to the next small town of Taramgasu, with dire warnings of the monstrous mosquitoes which apparently prowl the swampy banks of the Ili, his exhortations being echoed by Kanat, who needed little persuasion after his insect ridden night in Koktal.
I ended up driving cattle along the road with a cheerfully talkative Kazakh herdsman who came galloping full tilt up the road to check me out - I managed a surprisingly informative conversation with my few words of Russian.