June 29: We are now slightly more than half way between Beijing and Paris and have a day off in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan only since 1997. Almaty was the capital before that. According to our guide, Alexander, the president made this decision based on natural threats-Almaty has twice been destroyed by earthquakes and once by flooding-and man-made threats since Almaty is very close to the border with China. Anyway, like Almaty, this is a beautiful, clean, modern city. We walked through the city center yesterday afternoon.
I have been surprised at how much English is spoken here. I had assumed a second language would be Russian since they were part of the Soviet Union for so long. Those we speak to ask us if we like the city and like Kazakhstan. They are proud of their country’s progress and are curious if we see it the same way. I am happy to say we do. I don’t know what I expected, but this county is certainly a place to watch. They have their act together.
So, today for some was a tour of the city, for us, a tour of the parking lot. Ed had to adjust valves and lubricate the car. We were in early enough to do this yesterday, but this job must be done when the engine is cold, so, it was a job for this morning. Ed borrowed Jack’s grease gun and his blue blanket to make things more comfortable. I helped, well sort-of. I played go-for and washed the exterior and straighten up the interior. Seems car maintenance is the way all the drivers spend any day off- which brings me to Clay’s Ford.
Here’s the scoop. Last evening we learned he had the engine torn-down. He has ordered new bearings from the US and has taken the crankshaft to a local machine shop to be re-ground. He still thinks the cause of the oil spill was the dip-stick not being secured. I hope this is right. So, the question remains, when will he join us? Right now, Clay thinks 3-4 days before he can catch up. We have a border crossing before that. I have no idea how that will be handled but I am guessing that Clay will have an interpreter with him.
Tomorrow we are back on the road to Paris a run of 368 miles to the border town of Petropavlovsk. It will be an early start to be sure. We have enjoyed our time in Kazakhstan. This county I would happily return to.