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LONG WAY ROUND … KAZAKHSTAN March 1, 2008

Posted by wetalkhablamos in Uncategorized.
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5187mjabp7l_aa240_.jpgIn 2004, Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor began a twenty thousand mile trip by motorcycle around the world, travelling through Europe, Mongolia, Russia, Canada, USA and … Kazakhstan, home of Team Astana’s major sponsors.

On the road to Almaty, Ewan McGregor’s celebrity was big news. For the local officials, this was a photo opportunity too good to miss. The pair were pursued by paparazzi, endured countless local police escorts and were treated to folk singing in national costume.

Fermented camel’s milk was served, “fizzy like carbonated goats’ yoghurt”.

Although the roads invariably disappeared, becoming rocky tracks, or simply mud, the landscape was magnificent.

Their first encounter with local wildlife was camel, standing in the middle of the road, staring at them as they passed by.

Frustrating and, on occasion, dangerous encounters plagued them in Kazakhstan. As they stopped to film the camel, a Lada drove up. Ewan writes,

“The driver opened his door, looked down at the camera, and then up at Claudio [the cameraman] … one of the guys who was hunkered down in the back seat, his jacket riding up around his shoulders, pulled out a gun, pointed it at Charley, then at me. I could see straight down the barrel.”

It was a prank.

The national game in the outback, according to Ewan, is goat polo, “played in a purpose -built arena … (it) involved two teams of four players on horseback, dressed in large hats and wearing leather boots, scrapping over the carcass of a headless goat.”

After a week, Charley and Ewan reach Almaty, a bustling cosmopolitan city, “throning with Hummers and big BMW and Mercedes 4x4s, customised with lots of chrome and dark windows.”

In the city centre, many roads were lined with mature trees, the buildings behind housing designer clothes shops, glitzy nightclubs, good restaurants and high-class hotels.

The hospitality of the Kazakh people was extraordinary, strangers welcomed Charley and Ewan into their homes. They had been well fed, mutton stew, caviar, smoked fish, lots of salads and bread. And finally, the local delicacy – sheep’s head.

An extraordinary place, and despite the challenges of culture and terrain, Ewan admits that he was sad to leave.

Excerpts from Long Way Round – Chasing Shadows Across the World by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman.

Nicky, Edinburgh

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Comments»

1. Martha - March 3, 2008

We didn’t miss an episode of this awesome series. It was well-done, interesting and fun to watch.

If I recall correctly, I believe Ewan and his wife adopted a child from Khazakhstan, a child he met during his journey.

2. LONG WAY ROUND … KAZAKHSTAN.2 « we talk/hablamos - March 22, 2008

[…] I’ve mentioned all this in an earlier post. Long Way Round is certainly worth a viewing, just to catch the atmosphere of this interesting […]


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