Thursday 14th AprilOr Kazakhstan? Which is where In fact tulips originated from. Spring is the season when they dot the steppe for a short time, though here in the desert steppe they are very different from cultivated tulips, being small, close to the ground and predominantly bright yellow with a black centre.They provide a welcome splash of colour and interest in the otherwise featureless, colourless and endless steppe, as do the wild irises which grow in splendid blue bunches.Spotting tulips has sadly become one of the few highlights of our days, and a pastime which seems to engender an inordinate amount of excitement. One of the only other attractions breaking up the endless monotony of the steppe is the very occasional chaikhana or eating house –they are so rare that Baurzhan is under pain of death to stop any time he comes across one, unless it is under 5kms from our camp site! Here are a tired John and I in a typical example with a couple of Shymkent beers while we wait for our laghmans. John is actually following or more often preceding us on his bike, which accounts for the garish outfit in Kazakhstan colours.