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Beastly Blog
Thursday, 6 January 2005
Skiing or a Chinese Visa???
Frostbite: Keep your feet warm and bring them back to normal temperature as slowly as possible. Do not put them directly into warm or hot water as you will cause a change in the metabolic rate of the tissues and have a surplus of toxins in the area which will accumulate due to poor blood supply. In old or 'at risk people' this can cause ulcers that don?t heal. Make sure you wear a lot of layers over areas that are likely to suffer from frost bite. It is important to check your feet and hands (or any extremity!!!!) for little black dots, like full stops with a biro, as these could be vasculitic infarcts (people who have raynauds suffer from these). They are areas where the cold has caused constriction of the small blood vessels and the tissue has died; if you see these, keep a close eye on them and go and see a doctor if no improvement. Obviously if the whole digit goes black or purply blue, very painful and ice cold then urgently see a doctor ? that is a possible case of gangrene or the need for amputation. The numbness that we are suffering from is temporary, but beware that if the sensation of pain has gone check your feet really carefully and don?t over tighten your boots or drop anything on your feet as it can cause damage that you won?t notice until it is too late.

Thank you to also for the compliments that we have received on brightening up your exhilarating days in the office, they are very much appreciated! I am glad that we can be of service with our worldy antics!

Please keep your emails coming as to what is going on in your part of the world? we love hearing about what you are up to and it is a great connection with home that we don?t always get with our snatched expensive phone calls.

6th January ? 15th January 2005

Almaty - Chymbulak - Almaty? Zharkent ? Horgas Pass (Kazakhstan)

We spent a few days in the mountains above Almaty where Tom and Adrian went snowboarding. We were fairly limited as we were 40km from Almaty, had a small amount of cash between us all and the ski resort only had a currency exchange and no cash point! Who has heard of a ski resort, just as expensive as any in Europe, not having a cash point!! The ski resort of Chymbulak is the only snow resort in Kazakhstan, located at 2650m and is incredibly beautiful with views (if ever clear) over the Medeu ice rink (the largest in Central Asia) and Almaty. Whilst in the mountains the electrics on the Beast went and we had the joy of driving down the mountain with no brake lights, head lights, indicators, horn or alarm! Yelena our Kazak friend recommended a local garage mechanic who worked wonders and sorted our lights, alarm and the more essential element of radio which had blown in Chelyabinsk in Russia. So a newly prepared vehicle we are ready for China.

In order to drive your private foreign vehicle into China you must have an escort in the form of a Chinaman who organises your visas, your car paperwork, your Chinese driving license, your insurance for your journey across the country and your new car number plates as well as planning your router and following you everywhere. Our Chinaman is He Liang (or Jimmy his British pseudonym) who runs the service (have a look at the section for self drive and his geology trip). This process takes three months from start to finish and He Liang has had to jump through bureaucratic hoops to get us in. It isn?t that easy to get a large red travelling brick through most countries but he managed to get it all sorted for us. It costs a fair whack to get into China by car as well so if you are contemplating driving then plan your budget well.

We received our date for China on the 5th January confirming that we could cross over the border on the 15th January 2005, due to the borders being closed for the Chinese New Year between the 10th and 15th February. After trying to work out our departure date from Almaty we decided to confirm with our Chinese agents, He Liang and Steven as to how we cross over the military zones of Kazakhstan and China to get to the border to meet him. ?You show them your passport with your visa in? was the reply. ?But you have sorted out our visas. How are we going to get them from you?? ?errrr no? you will have to sort that out!??. We couldn?t have done anything until we got the confirmation of dates so an emergency visit to the Chinese Embassy was in order! Chinese visas obtained from a very friendly and speedy Chinese Embassy and we were on our way off to China.

We travelled up to the border town of Zharkent the day before our crossing just to make sure that the Beast was behaving. We stopped off for a few sashliks and celebratory drinks and then crawled back to our cockroach hotel (a bargain at #3 for 2 rooms).

Horgas Pass (Kazakhstan into China)

Then the dreaded border crossing. Border crossings are very stressful as you don?t know whether the border guards will let you across, what documents you need to obtain, how long the process will take and whether unbeknownst to you you have had something planted on your vehicle and are about to be hauled off to prison. We had been warned that we would need to take everything out of the car and put it through an x ray machine? not an easy task! We had spent the previous day taking everything out of the Beast and repacking so we knew what was in there; all the documents He Liang had and we had had nothing planted on us. We didn?t even have to unpack anything to put through the x ray machine.

We arrived at one military checkpoint that took over an hour just to get through the gates after jostling with buses just to crawl through to another checkpoint. A slight paranoia on the part of the Kazaks. We got to the Kazak border crossing and we were separated off. Alexis got the dubious joy of the Kazak border guards and the crowd that slowly started to assemble around the Beast as she was bombarded by questions about where we had been, what we were doing with a cursory question from the border guard about whether our 40litre water cans contained vodka!!! After 3 hours we crossed the Chinese border and went forward 2 hours and managed to get hundreds of smiles from the border guards and again collected a small crowd of inquisitive watchers. We had to wait 2 ? hours for the border guards to have lunch before, after a 6 hour border crossing, we were stamped into China and on our way.

Notes of Interest:
Kazakhstan has a huge number of stray dogs on the streets ? all willing to be your best friend for any kind of food. China on the other hand has no stray dogs and I think your best friend is the food? We passed one restaurant that had pictures of golden retrievers on the window!

Chinese food is quite spicy and not like the stuff we get in the UK which is laden with MSG. If you want chicken, it is a rarity to get any of the breast meat; you usually receive the bones, head and feet. If you want fish, you can either chose it from the tank or it will be brought to your table in a plastic bag still flapping for you to inspect.

Posted by Alexis at 12:01 AM GMT
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