I arrived in Atyrau to the sad news that Zorbee, my horse that I saved from a sausage fate, and who carried me faithfully right across Kazakhstan, died two days earlier from colic. Rowena thinks it may have been something he ate, as another horse he was kept with also died. Very upsetting as he was a character and a good horse well up to the job and I had intended to ride him all the way to London, but these things happen with horses.
At least I still have two horses to carry on with - Big Bolashak the laid back Anglo-Trakener stallion who came with us from Kyzlorda, and also the original Bolashak ('little' Bolashak) who was ill in the spring and unable to come. He is hardly a beauty, but handsome is as handsome does, and he is a tough little Kazakh steppe stallion of the 'Zhaba' breed with an excellent temperament. Rowena could not understand why the Russian translator rolled about laughing when his breed was mentioned - it turns out 'zhaba' means toad in Russian - so apparently we are now the proud possesors of a genuine pure-bred Kazakh toad horse. Hopefully he will not behave like one. Here he is with Anthony.
The rest of the week has been spent sorting out border crossing documents for the horses, ownership documents for me, registration documents for Bauyrzhan to drive the lorry, insurance for the lorry, contacts in Astrakhan and Rostov etc etc. This has involved an inordinate amount of time in lawyers offices getting the necessary important looking official stamps on anything that rustled.
Anthony flew home on Wednesday - I think he had a lovely time enjoying Matt and Rowena's hospitality ...(below having breakfast outside their house on the banks of the Ural river)...
.....riding on the steppe with Rowena, talking to baby camels (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjo_ztXUsMk ) and sampling Atyrau nightlife (do you think he actually got in? - surprisingly yes)....and of course the obligatory visit to the Atyrau Indoor Hovercraft Club. As you can see, the hovercraft has come on by leaps and bounds over the last year with the help of several containers full of beer, and the fan has been tested successfully. Whether it is a death trap or not remains to be seen - I will not be around to find out.