Friday 26 May
Kuytun to Horgas China
Once again on the road bright and early, ready for a long driving day to Horgas (Korgas) a border city to Kazakhstan. In 2014, Horgas was identified as the linking city of the East and the West and a new growth centre. It is the furthest city from any ocean in the world and is part of the Silk Belt development of expressways and rail links from West and East. It is also recognized as the robotic and automaton development and manufacturing centre in China.
As we drove on, we stopped at beautiful Sailimu Lake which is feed by glacial waters from the surrounding Tian Shan range. Still covered with snow, some peaks were over 5000mt high. The grass was dotted with an array of colourful alpine wild flowers and before we knew it 2 horseman galloped up and offered us a ride on their horses – for a small fee of course. After a walk to the stony shore of this lake we continued to climb into the snow covered mountains, passing through lush verdant forests of conifers.
After arriving in Horgas we enjoyed a delicious Chinese farewell dinner for our guide Green who had been with us for nearly 6 weeks. She was amazing and an asset to our team- she helped with translating, giving us information about the hotel and city and sights we were seeing, finding shampoo or toothpaste or a tyre repair shop. We hope that she can visit us in Australia and we know she will be missed.
Saturday 27 May
Horgas to Shonji (Shonzhy)
As we approached the Kazakhstan border the beautiful Chinese expressways disappeared and were replaced by potholes which could swallow up a small car – break an axle or dismantle a bash plate. By the time we reached the border we were crawling along at about 15 – 20 km max speed. Fortunately the scenery was spectacular which Peter couldn’t enjoy as he carefully negotiated Shamrock over the rocky terrain.
No man’s land between China and Kazakhstan is a very large area of about 3 kms square which we had to drive around before arriving at the Kazakhi border. Here we waited for about 3 hours as the border guards processed the cars. Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world with only a small population, it is rich in oil and minerals.
Finally, the cars were released and we drove to our hotel. Immediately the type of houses changed and the roads deteriorated even more on the Kazakhi side. We met our guides Constantine and Anna and were treated to a traditional lunch of fresh bread and kebabs served outside in an open veranda. The landscape changed as well. Flat, dry and sparse vegetation was to be the scene as we drove to our hotel. A Soviet styled holiday village with hot springs! The accommodation was adequate but the hot water from the springs in the huge swimming pool made up for it. We enjoyed eating dinner outside by the huge pool. The hotel gardens were like a small oasis in the desert, the gardens were filled with the most stunning long stemmed roses of every imaginable colour, the edges of the garden were filled with blue, mauve, pink, white cornflowers. We thought the roses in Beijing were wonderful but the ones here were outstanding.