Sunday 10th April
Just to the north of Dzhusaly is a monument and museum complex dedicated to Korkut Ata, a legendary figure credited with inventing the kobyz, a traditional bowl-shaped Kazakh stringed musical instrument played with a bow. The complex is sited near the spot on the banks of the Syr Darya where Korkut Ata is said to have been buried – yet another local figure to expire after being bitten by the dreaded Kazakh snake. As it was on our route it necessitated a visit – the photo below shows Rowena and John by the monument which is sculpted in the form of four kobyzes surrounding an aeolian harp (a series of tubes which sound naturally in the wind) at its centre. Behind is the wide valley of the Syr Darya. The little pimple in the distance is a monument to the sole survivor of 40 maidens who tried to cross the desert steppe to hear Korkut Ata play. Rowena rather caustically observed that if you are dull enough to try and tramp across the desert just to hear an old man play on a fiddle, you probably got was what was coming to you. The maiden who made it had shown enough foresight to equip herself with a goat to provide milk en route.
The speckled top to the walls is apparently to represent the snake that delivered the fatal bite. As borne out by the apparently high death rate from snake bite among local figures, snakes are quite common in Kazakhstan – below is one which I nearly rode over as it looked just like a twig –
The other creatures one has to watch out for in the desert steppe are scorpions. For two mornings running, Rowena found one under her tent, and John found four of them under his one morning. I am now taking a bit more care about bringing my boots right into my tent at night.