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Lugging Horse 50kg horse meat 800km(9/3/05)

9/3/05 (Click here to view the complete list of diary entries. And don’t forget to check the photo gallery which is updated weekly as well. Feeling frail and frazzled. Thought I would write to let you know that the adventure doesn’t stop on the steppe. In fact, riding horses seems simple in comparison to the past two days. It began at 4.30am in the morning in Akbakai just before my taxi arrived. “Would you mind delivering a little bit of horsemeat for me to my relatives in Akbakai?” asked Roza a little sheepishly. “Sure.” My stomach twisted up however when she and Baitak dragged out a huge sack weighing about 50kg. Bloody liquid was already seeping away, and the thought of towing it 800km to Almaty was a little terrifying. I had agreed though, and her relatives would be waiting at the station. In short, the taxi driver was infuriated and I had to pay a lot extra when he noticed the pool of blood in his car boot, and only with considerable help did I lug all my baggage to the station platform in the town of Chu. It had been a 300km trip already, and my pants and boots were caked in mud after pushing the car out of bogs on numerous occasions. It was ‘woman’s day’ of course, and I hadn’t counted on the mad struggle for a seat on the train. Although I had bought a ticket for a sleeping cabin I found the only space available was in the corridor at the end of the carriage. The train was packed with passengers standing in the isles, sitting in the conductors seat, and generally swarming all over the place. Perhaps the national holiday would be better known as ‘Conductors Day.’ The train conductors were ecstatic, running here and there, stuffing baggage in every little nook and cranny, and filling their pockets with wads of cash. They were really disappointed when they discovered that I had a ticket. “Why did you buy a ticket you fool! This is my train! The station has no business selling tickets for my carriage!” Seven hours of hell ensued. The train was overheated to about 40 degrees ‘because the winter rules dictate that the furnace must be stoked, and the windows locked shut until 21st of March.’ The passengers were all beetroot red, and I found myself in a cabin with two lovestruck Ukrainians who had just decided to marry. The man was a squat fellow with a huge gut and greasy moustache- a crane driver from Almaty. His to be wife was wailing from her bed: “Oh! I am boiled! I am cooked! I am ready to be eaten! Please darling, tell the conductors to open the windows!” Sweat ran off the man’s face in rivers, coming to a slow around the huge slope of his gut. “No honey, we must equalise the temperature! We must drink more!” With that he would pour another glass of vodka or beer, and it occurred to me that this was a train hurtling out of control. “This is a sign that we will have eternal love darling! An Australian! An Australian!” Meanwhile my sack of meat had melted and little streams of watery blood were making their way down the isle beneath passengers feet. No one seemed to care though, all with glazed eyes, desperate for fresh air and this ride from hell to end. It did end, but it was excruciating. In the end the conductor and the Ukranian tried to squeeze cash out of me for sitting in the cabin for a few hours. I hotly contested this one, waving my ticket around. And after off-loading the meat at the station, it seemed that I was destined for a day of drama. The taxi driver hadn’t a clue where ‘Almagul’ was, the suburb where I needed to go. What’s more, he was a Chechen who had just moved from Grozny, and knew the Russian language, and Almaty worse than I. “And you know those Russians, those pigs! I will show you video that I took! I will show you how they kill women and children! And how we cut off heads! Those bloody Russians, they think that every Chechen is a terrorist! What do you think? Can it really be true that we are all terrorists, of course not!” The more we became lost, the more irate he became. What should have taken half an hour took and hour and a half, and by this time it was very dark. I cannot describe the elation of finally arriving at the door of Tour Asia where I would be staying for the night. To be honest, perhaps a little bit of luxury in London is truly in order! I fly out on the 12th for the big event at the Royal Geographi Society on the 15th. Should be incredible, with explorers from all over the world coming to meet, apart from the honour of being received as a fellow of the society. Long, deep breaths……. Don’t want to think about the return journey when I will have to retrace my footsteps to Akbakai. (Click here to view the complete list of diary entries. And don’t forget to check the photo gallery which is updated weekly as well.