Dependent - Independent Part One
Hotel Aigai Kum
Altyn Emil National Park
Republic of Kazakhstan
October 11, 2018
Nyet! and Da!
I refuse to drive the 50 kilometers (31miles) to the “Singing Sand Dunes.” I anticipate the “road” will be uncomfortable, uneven and rough. In addition to my back brace, I will need a dental mouth guard.
I am thinking, “How many sand dunes do I need to see? I have already climbed the dunes in seven countries. I don’t recall if any of them ‘sang’ or even ‘whistled.’ Regardless, enough is enough.”
“Ali,” I suggest to my driver, “Please take the afternoon off.”
Here in the Almaty Region, I am on a private tour with a pre-determined itinerary. But at this moment, I follow my instincts and acknowledge my genetically encoded mentality of the Independent Traveler.
I wander alone through the village near my hotel. I enjoy a most pleasant afternoon. The farmers’ hay is piled high for the coming winter. A group of school girls playfully sprint away and shriek when I point my camera. Other children and adults are pleased to chat with a stranger.
My tour company recommended a National Parks Tour. But even before I landed in Almaty, I requested an additional stop in the city of Zharkent. I hoped to see the grand, Chinese style Zharkent Mosque and an Ancient Tree, Aulie-Agash, said to be more than 700 years old and to possess magical and medicinal properties. (Out of respect to Aulie-Agash, the other trees in the forest seem to bow in its direction. Could the tree have been planted by one of Genghis Khan’s descendants?)
My instinct proves reliable once again on a drive across the Steppe. The flat and dry terrain dips down towards a narrow valley. In the valley I spot concrete road barriers on each shoulder of the road. My driver stops; I clutch my camera. What will I find beneath the barriers? A rocky trail? A pond? A stream? A waterfall?
A string of horses is a common sight along the Steppe. We drive past them. But after a few minutes I regret my decision. I feel inspired. “Ali, turn around!” When we return, even Ali is delighted at the sight of the single-file string of horses as they slowly migrate across the rolling hills.
I admit it. In the Almaty Region I booked a tour!
Across the empty Steppe I am “Dependent” on my driver.
But I cannot resist my natural travel style.
Da! The insistent urge to be “Independent” must be satisfied.
TO BE CONTINUED