The last couple of days to Shalkar have been increasingly sandy, but for the last twenty kilometres there was a rocky road through the dunes - slow going but better than sand which would have been tough on the horses and impassable for the truck.
Unfortunately Bolashak has been very off colour, seems depressed, and is going slower and slower - we do not know if he is ill, or not coping with the work load. Rowena was reduced to Shank's pony for the last couple of days - leading him to conserve his energy. As she is taking the train home from Shalkar, we have decided to leave him in Shalkar to rest while I ride on to Embi. Baurzhan can then return to fetch him in the truck.
We have been very fortunate to find a place to keep the horses here with Zhanar's sister Bazargul. Here is Bolashak in his quarters for the next few days with bovine companion. Today Bazargul treated us all to a traditional Kazakh beshbarmak. As the local English teacher, she has been most welcoming.
This was a vast improvement on the shashlik I ate last night at a local restaurant, which resulted in my spending the rest of the evening running back and forth emptying my guts in the long drop loo outside our hotel. However before the effects of the shashlik took hold, the evening was considerably enlivened for me at least by a somewhat inebriated aging lothario who repeatedly visited our table to declare his undying passion for Rowena, who seems to hold a fatal attraction for Kazakh men of mature years. No matter that she protested that she had a husband at home that she loved, we were treated to a graphic mime display to indicate that he would hang himself if she did not hand over her mobile phone number pronto.
This morning I was still feeling queasy, so it did not take much to decide to take a day off rather than set out for Embi. Although considering how ill I felt I have made a surprisingly quick recovery, which I can only put down to the Vidazorb probiotics I have been taking.
We have been staying here in a small hotel which has the luxury of a bathroom. However the pathetic trickle which passes for a shower is alternately scalding hot or freezing cold, and my ablutions were disturbed by banging on the door and the light being switched off. At times like this a bowl in a tent seems almost preferable.