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TULIP TRIP

Автор Добавил в Lifestyle | Колонки | Tara Bond 25 июня 2014 г.

There I was, helping my mother in law onto the train. No, it was not the kind of gentle assistance that one normally extends to people of a certain age, the train had pulled into the station but not at the platform. The first step was at the height of her waist and she has had two hip replacements so her agility is somewhat impaired. With the best possible intentions and as politely as I could manage, I had to place my shoulder under her arse and push. The conductor had opted for the more sociable end and grasped her by the wrists to pull her and us other slightly more agile passengers up into the train. This glorious moment in my dutiful life as a daughter in law, was at Tyulkubas station near Shymkent and we were coming back from Aksu-Zhabagly nature reserve.

 

As avid gardeners four of us had been to see the home of the tulip. For those of you from this region it is normal, of course it is, it’s what you grew up seeing, tulips in the wild. For me a tulip was a bulb that you buy in a garden centre, all the shapes and colours you can now get that add such beauty to the spring time garden. Tulips, they caused the first ever financial crisis and having lived through our own more recent one here, I was especially interested to go see them in their oldest habitat.

 

My friend and I had been planning and organizing our first adventure without the husbands and children in Kazakhstan, instead in our wisdom we were taking my mother in law and her mother. My Russian is still appalling but I had booked the guest house and felt confident about our itinerary. The only thing we could not get a clear answer on was, were the tulips in bloom or not. So travelling friend and I guesstimated and decided to go. A week before our appointed departure my husband returned from work and, in what he thought was a helpful manner and I took as a, showing off and inconsiderate manner, told me that according to a colleagues brother, all the tulips had already flowered and there was not much point in going. So after a meaningful marital row that started with the blooming times of wild flowers and ended with “I’m going to Shymkent and I may never come back”. I was doubly determined to go find the wild tulip.

 

We arrived at our charming guest house in Zhabagly and went for a walk around the outskirts of the village. The sun was shining, the wind was blowing, but we were so excited to set off into  the mountains the following day. After enjoying a carefully transported bottle of wine we sat watching the cowboys return the cows to the village after a day’s grazing. I was so surprised to see the whole herd returning down the central street of the village and the that each cow with no prompting went into it’s own house. Amazing! After a very filling supper of gretchka with a strange gelatinous meat… no way I could identify what animal it came from. We tucked ourselves up into bed to be well rested for the full day ahead. We had been promised a trip in the Uaz out into the reserve, so when we woke up, we were excited to set off. Our great adventure to see the famous tulips, which I truly hoped were still in flower, was about to begin. Well that was the itinerary, however the Uaz was broken. The other Uaz was broken too and no one could find a car that was permitted to go into the park! But it would be fixed for the next day. We even volunteered to ride on a tractor but that was not allowed…. so it had to be horses. 

 

By this time the weather had turned, the glorious spring sunshine had gone behind rather dark clouds and as we were hoisted onto our trusty four legged friends the heavens had opened and the rain was coming down horizontally. We had barely made it out of the village and even the Kazakh horses were in revolt. So we turned back and dismounted. Soaking wet and dejected we went back to the guest house. Were we ever going to see a tulip? Never give up, as true Brits we borrowed some very unfashionable coats and set off on foot. Before we even got to the start of the mountains we were soaked through and not a tulip in sight. At the foot of the mountain a small hut with a ranger in it beckoned for a brief respite from the rain. We took refuge and great solace from the fact he assured us there were some of these now mythical flowers not too far away. So after a short rest we ventured out and set off into the mountains. Before long we saw a tulip then another, then another. A whole three tulips, large red beauties which we scrambled up the side of the mountain to take a look at. It was hardly the fields of wild flowers I had been imagining but we had at least seen some. I had started to loose hope completely and the last thing I wanted was for my husband to be proved right!!! Satisfied that we had at least seen the ever elusive Greig’s Tulip we went back to the guest house, stuffed newspaper in our boots, pretended everything was wonderful. Cold and tired went to bed, hoping the Uaz had been fixed and our final day would be  more a little more flower filled. To my immense relief we awoke the next day to sunshine. After breakfast my mother in law was especially eager to take a ride in the Uaz into the park. Of course the Uaz was still broken as was apparently every other vehicle permitted into the park. On the bright side, it was sunny. So off we went on the most amazing walk into the mountains to a waterfall. We enjoyed a picnic with breathtaking views into the valley and climbed a long way up the mountain to view a stunning waterfall. We met some very adventurous Russian tourists who had been camping and stuck out in the awful weather all night, however they were very nonchalant about it and made me feel like the townie that I am. But what we did see were tulips. Stunning big fat red tulips, growing in the wild with incongruously large garish blooms, dotted all over the mountainside. There were also small star shaped white beauties and yellow pink apparitions nodding their heads in the breeze. These native Kazakh jewels decorating the mountainside were a wonder to behold. Exhilarated we returned down the mountain ready to catch the train home to Almaty.

 

After the elegant arrival into the train carriage we found our beds which had been temporarily squatted by a rather smelly young man who politely moved out when we came in. A liberal spraying of Chanel No.5 instantly made our bunks much more agreeable as did the final bottle of well-travelled wine. We chatted to our fellow train companions and tucked ourselves up for the night. As we pulled into Almaty the next morning I was so pleased to be home. The warm shower when I got home was one of the best I’ve had for a long time. Putting on freshly ironed clothes and sitting down to a piping hot cappuccino is what coming home is all about. It was great to be back.

 

Every time I make the effort to get out of the city and see more of Kazakhstan I am so glad. I want to make memories. A simple picnic at the Illy river, or a trip to the petroglyphs at Tamgaly Tas can be as exciting as an all costuming tulip trip. We have world heritage sites on our doorstep and I love it. Getting out and about in the Kazakh countryside feeds the soul. The wide open spaces the crystal clear light these are very special places we have such easy access to. I am packing my suitcases for summer soon, however I look forward to unpacking them and packing up the car for an adventure closer to home.

 

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