One Giant Steppe for Woman

*** Friends, thank you for all the birthday wishes! What a wonderful gift to make it this far in my journey! But above all, the best gift was to ride along the big Kazakh steppe knowing that I have the most amazing friends and family in the world supporting me.

P1030204Giving you all a BIG HUG. BIG, like the size of Kazakhstan!

Love from Oskemen, Kazakhstan


I didn’t land on the moon and I didn’t make any giant leaps for mankind. But the vast Kazakh steppe inspires big dreams.


From Almaty, I was headed north towards Russia to the city of Oskemen, 1100km across the giant steppe that makes up most of Kazakhstan–the steppe that Marco Polo and Ghengis Khan once traversed. Steppe, grasslands, or prairie, whatever you want to call it, it is a place of large open spaces with not much. Most people say it’s really boring, but for me, it was a place that brought to life the romance of far away lands and a place that makes you believe that anything is possible. (Are you dreaming big yet?)

Highlights of steppe:

– waking up to sunrise and cooking at sunset everyday
– staring at the stars by night
– singing Christmas songs because there are clearly no reindeer
– watching the cloud formations always changing , floating across the big blue sky. Think: Big Sky Country Montana
– feeling a bit like I’m in a Wild West movie

Non-highlights of steppe:

– food is expensive in Kazakhstan. In Kyrgyzstan, a plate of laghman was less than $2. In Kazakhstan, the same costs $5.
– strong headwinds sometimes
– lost iPhone on birthday
– attacked by several aggresive bees who randomly started following me


P1030031To Oskemen

P1030032Boy, I’m going to miss those melons from Central Asia.

P1030034Qapshagay city–big screen TVs and spiffy casinos? not very Central Asian at all.

P1030037Qapshagay solar farm with solar trackers and fixed-tilt panels

P1030048P1030055this is what the Midwest must’ve looked like when it was just prairielands

P1030102Mir Mama sent me off with her homemade concoction of raisins, nuts, and honey–apparently it makes you strong!

P1030053P1030190cool mauseleums

P1030103P1030054car accident memorials (I think). destroyed cars displayed on concrete. maybe to remind drives to be careful.

P1030056met Nicolas, French motorcyclist whose trip seemed to be nothing but major problems–two broken legs, a broken wrist, malaria (maybe), multiple major motorbike breakdowns, etc. He should really write a book. I hope he finds better luck on his journey ahead! I found his spirit to continue onwards rather incredible–I would’ve gone home after the first broken leg. I asked him how he keeps going; he explained that he keeps going because he has sacrificed too much to go on this trip. In France, companies don’t understand people who travel. He felt he sacrificed his career for the traveling life.


P1030061a friendly fruit stand lady gave me 2 pirishkis (fried dough stuffed with potatoes and onions). Also, apples galore…makes me think of apple picking at home!


P1030063cool brick making ovens

P1030066smooth paved road with lines makes me giddy!!!!!!!!!!!! the smooth road only lasted several kms though.

P1030075massive earthen warehouses that looked like airplane hangers made from dirt. don’t know what they store there but it seems very austere…

P1030076more indulging in American products. Pringles and Snickers makes a great lunch in the middle of nowhere Kazakhstan.


P1030083P1030163statues like these remind me that I’m in Kazakhstan and not in American prairielands

P1030092Kazakhstan has tree huggers too

P1030090strange village that looks too eerily like American suburbia

P1030096P1030125this is more of what I expect in Kazakhstan

P1030105this restaurant lady in Sarqan gave me a free lunch!


P1030128looking back at the Tian Shan Mountains bordering China



P1030132“highway patrol” aka road police gave me a huge jar of local honey! mmm…although, this might have been why i got attacked by bees the next day.

P1030134P1030162looks like the WildWest


P1030138P1030137shared a wonderful lunch these gas station workers near Usharal

P1030148rocketship (of water). filled up 10 liters.

P1030166P1030169P1030173P1030170also what reminds me I’m in Kazakhstan and not American Wild West–Soviet style buildings. Desert town Ayagoz.

P1030185wind was blowing too strong so panda had to be sideways.

P1030176quaint chaixanas (teahouses)


P1030201decorated bus stops. blue is the color of Kazakhstan. everything in the villages are painted blue and white.

P1030229P1030200also in Kazakhstan– mosques.

P1030198P1030197Big Sky Country

P1030232P1030234more abandoned Soviet blocs

P1030235Trees exist! And they’re changing color!


P1030246colorful village cemetery

P1030249strange complex outside of Oskemen that looks like a palace

P1030255Oskemen!! quaint houses on the outskirts


Suddenly, after so many kilometers of flat grasslands, appeared a city! The city of Oskemen. Upon arriving, it felt like I was already in Russia. Most of the people on the streets were Russian and everyone was speaking Russian. There was hardly any Central Asian thing about it!

In Oskemen, I met with Dasha, a couchsurfing host who couldn’t host me, but was really great and arranged for my stay here. She was well-connected with the couchsurfing community in Oskemen. She invited me to her goodbye party the next day where I would meet all her friends and they all spoke very good English. Dasha went to the Kazakh-American University here in Oskemen and has been to the US several times for internships. Like most people who live here, her and her friends are ethnic Russians, but they were born and raised in Kazakhstan. They explained that sometimes they feel more “Asian” than “Russian”. For one, they don’t care that much about vodka.

In the evening I met Alexey, my actual couchsurfing host. I found out he works as an operator at a new solar-cell manufacturing plant in Oskemen. The plant was only built 2 years ago, and is part of a Kazakh government initiative (with partners in France) to develop a solar manufacturing industry in Kazakhstan. The silicon manufacturing plant is in Ushtobe; then the solar cells are made in Oskemen; finally the solar panels are made in Astana (capital of Kazakhstan).

Oskemen has always been an industrial town focused on manufacturing. In the second world war, the factories were moved from other parts of Russia to Oskemen. Nowadays, the manufacturing plans produce tin and other metals. Because of all the industry, Oskemen has a particularly bad reputation for air pollution. I didn’t find the air quality that bad though. In fact, I thought the city was very beautiful and I enjoyed the parks and riverwalks.

P1030258futuristic mosque

P1030259BIG shops

P1030264P1030266Oskemen, a beautiful more-Russian-than-Kazakh city! i was particularly excited about the classical music being played in the parks.

P1030268Dasha’s goodbye party at Pizza Blues (not very good pizza and no blues) but really cool people!


9/2 Almaty -> Qapshagay

9/3 Qapshagay -> Arkhaly Pass

9/4 Arkhaly Pass -> Balpyq Bi (camp with French motorcyclist)

9/5 Balpyq Bi -> Qyzylaghash

9/6 Qyzylaghash ->Qoylyk (km marker 432)

9/7 Qoylyk ->Qyzylashy (km marker 536)

9/8 Qyzylashy ->Karakol (km marker 655)

9/9 Karakol -> Ayagoz (km marker 779)

9/10 Ayagoz -> km marker 880

9/11 km marker 880 -> Kalbatau -> km marker 1004

9/12 km marker 1004 -> Oskemen


Headed off to Russia tomorrow. Unfortunately, my Russia visa expires soon so I might not have time to update again until Mongolia. What–Mongolia! That’s the last country!

6 Thoughts on “One Giant Steppe for Woman

  1. So many clouds and so much sky! No wonder they like to paint everything blue to match. I am also amused by the “cheesy cheese” flavored pringles. Good luck on your last leg to Russia- you have already made it so far!

    • Your answer was just what I neeedd. It’s made my day!

    • The Herd in jail!!!! Horrors – just think how much they could have helped you.Glad all is “well” again, but what a nuisance.Woos ~ Phantom, Thunder, and Ciara

    • monnaie bancaire n’est que ça. Mais la monnaie étatique est différente : elle est un avoir sur de futures taxes. Un chèque de 100 euros peut faire défaut au moment de son paiement contre la volonté de l’émetteur du chèque. Un billet de 100 euros ne peut pas faire défaut auprès du Trésor contre la volonté de ce dernier. La monnaie souveraine est donc beaucoup plus stable que la monnaie bancaire. Elle est même indispensable au fonctionnement de cette dernière, alors que la réciproque n’est pas vraie.

    • tinta daie12 July 2011salambagi kes sebegini baik laporkan kepada polis..memiliki gambar lucah dan menyerbarkannya merupakan 1 kesalahan ( gmbar lucah: agak kasar penggunaannya mungkin..kerana sy phm drpd penggunaan gambar tidak berpakaian dikira lucah la, maaflah)kemudian saudari putuskan hubungan dgn dia..selebihnya saudari bertaubat kepada Allah dan mohon perlindungan daripadanya..ada beberapa doa yg boleh diamalkan untuk mohon perlindungan daripada kejhatan manusia..untuk info selanjutnya..boleh kunjungi blog tinta..

  2. Those were some big tree-huggers!
    The white and blue color scheme seems pretty popular. many public buildings/things in egypt are also blue and white!
    Good luck in the coming stretch!

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