Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Oil Road

April 24th . After leaving Aralsk on April 20th, we intended to follow the track along the railway line northwards. However we had a concern about sand covering the route which we had been warned about, particularly nearing the town of Shalkar. Deep sand would merely be tough going for the horses, but could result in the truck becoming stuck in the middle of nowhere.

Arriving at the next town of Saksaul in a dust storm on the second day, Baurzhan got talking to a local lad who told us about an oil pipeline running roughly parallel to the railway with a good earth service track alongside.

So that is what we have been following for the last few days. It has taken us across wild rolling steppe with the occasional low line of hills.

The pipeline is buried so there is nothing to spoil the scenery except the occasional kilometre marker with the distance marked in large characters facing skyward, presumably for the benefit of helicopter patrols.

The track is strictly only open to pipeline officials and local traffic, but Baurzhan soon made firm friends with the pipeline security guards in their patrol jeeps - they were all were most intrigued and eager to help.

At regular intervals we encounter small herds of horses guarded by wiry steppe stallions who invariably gallop over to inspect us, but are usually easily shooed away. We put Bolashak behind Zorbee just in case his male ego gets too much for him.

 The situation is reversed when we come across camels, when I am glad Zorbee can hide behind Bolashak.
Baby camels with little coats on!

A typical steppe camp with passing visitor.

There are also occasional flocks of multicoloured sheep and goats grazing the steppe, always with attendant herder - here is herder's horse with three legged hobbles, outside one of the little railway villages we occasionally encounter.

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