Posting Aug. 20, 2017—After meeting him at the wedding in Kazakhstan, Darkhan wanted to show us his village about 200 km (120 mi) east of Kostany. He’d spent two years living in the eastern U.S. but decided to come home, where he feels he has more opportunity to grow in his life.
At the moment, Darkhan helps run his family’s wheat farm in the village of Timiryazev. He speaks of both the farm and his village with great pride. The farm is the largest employer in the small town and is a major supplier of wheat to the country.
Dave and I spent a night here on the farm, very much enjoying getting to better know Darkhan and those who work on his farm. Dave got to drive one of their big farm trucks and we asked the resident machinist to make us some extra 10 mm bolts that seem to easily vibrate off our bikes. Watching them make the bolts was very impressive as was the dedication these men have to their jobs and to their employer. Darkhan treats them all like friends and spent a lot of time introducing us to everyone. He would make a point of saying something nice about each of them and would ask them to show us their work, which they did with pride and a big smile. It was a very heartwarming experience to stay here.
One very curious event we saw was when a guy on a horse brings in the cows in the evening. He herds them out to pastures to graze all day then brings them back in, like some sort of equestrian cow-walker. We went out to the road to watch people claiming their cows, who were like a bunch of kindergarten kids streaming from the schoolhouse running to their parents. In our travels in Kazakhstan we saw many men on horses surrounded by cows but we always thought all the cows were his, so this was an enlightening experience. While we were standing on the muddy road watching the cows, a woman came over and asked Darkhan in Kazak who we were. When he told her we were travellers she smiled. Together they discussed more and then, incredibly, Darkhan told us they figured the last time the village saw tourists was 30 years ago!
Darkhan then took us to the village store, which his father named after him, and explained that everything people buy there gets put in a booklet on credit. This means they only pay once a month or even at the end of the year! I couldn’t help but think what if the store burned down? How would they collect the money owing? And how do they pay for stuff ahead of time if no one’s paid their bill for a month? Just before we left the store, Darkhan bought us two souvenirs we could keep to remember him by.
The next day, July 16, Dave and I left Darkhan’s farm and rode to Kotchetal, a decent-sized city where we called one of Darkhan’s friends, Aiza, to meet us at a gas station and give us a hand finding a hotel, which was much appreciated as it was pouring. We had hoped to go about another 100 km (60 mi) to a lake where we could camp for free but that was no longer attractive with the rain. While we waited for Aiza to find us, the woman working inside the station came out with hot tea and cookies for us. A bunch of guys also stopped and came over to ask for a photo with us. Kazakhstan is such a friendly country.
Aiza pulled up and asked what we wanted to do. We asked her if she could take us to a hotel. Her English is excellent as she teaches the language at the local university. After we got settled into a hotel, we walked to a nearby pub with Aiza and her friend. The pub was a surprise with its North American-style concept of a large patio serving beer and food. We stayed here for a few hours then walked around the city with Aiza showing us some of the sights.
Both Darkhan and Aiza urged us to stay longer so they could show us more and it’s always tough to have to decline in order to stay on track for our end goal, which involves completing certain sections before winter sets in. We’re lucky to meet so many awesome folks during our travels and won’t forget any of them.
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