Tag Archives: Kazakhstan

MY WORST TRAVEL EXPERIENCES OF 2011

As I often tell my writing students, a good story always starts with something going wrong. So when I caught myself writing a summary post about the best meal, prettiest town, most charming B&B and most spectacular scenery etc of the past five months, I thought, ‘Stop that immediately, Richard! Everyone prefers reading about your disasters.’

So here are my worst travel experiences of the past five months: Continue reading

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Filed under Budget travel, Travel- Europe

SO HOW IS IT REALLY IN KAZAKHSTAN?

A typical street in Atyrau; well surfaced, not too busy, surrounded by apartments.

A coffee table book shows Kazakhstan’s gorgeous snow-capped mountains, spectacular waterfalls, deep forests and fields of wildflowers. I’m sure they’re terrific, but none of them are anywhere near Atyrau.

Kazakhstan is a big country, the ninth largest on earth, and very diverse. Atyrau is 2700km from the old capital Almaty. Everybody says that Almaty is lovely. Continue reading

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Filed under Travel- Europe

CYCLING KAZAKHSTAN – steppes on the pedals

I really don't know what camels do when you get close to them.

‘Richard, we’ve found some guys in Atyrau who’d like to take you cycling after you finish your teaching day. They say bring your own helmet and pedals.’

That could mean that people in Kazakhstan pick up rusty bike frames by the roadside and cobble together a rideable machine by adding bits and pieces.

Or these guys could be rather serious cyclists. Both possibilities are dangerous. Continue reading

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Filed under Cycle touring

THE ROAD AHEAD – our plans for European adventures

We leave Sydney for Amsterdam next week. We’ll be sorry to leave family and friends for a while, but we always look forward to catching up with our other family and friends in the Northern Hemisphere.

Amsterdam is lovely but we won’t be hanging around there all the time. We have other adventures planned:

TEACHING IN KAZAKHSTAN

Mosque, Atyrau, Kazakhstan - Photo: ThereseKL

I’ve been invited to be a visiting author at the Dostyk International School for a few days, and I’m delighted to be going there. I’ve been googling Kazakhstan and Atyrau. Kazakhstan is enormous – the ninth largest country in the world by area, and Atyrau is an oil town on the Caspian Sea. It may not turn out to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, but it’s bound to be interesting. Yes, I’ll be teaching my writing classes in English – I still have a lot of work to do on my Kazakh.

CYCLING THE PIEPERPAD, NETHERLANDS

Who wouldn't enjoy a ride in the Dutch countryside and a few organic spuds?


Mevrouw T and I have ridden a lot of Dutch cycling routes, including the ‘Pieterpad’ which crosses Nederland from north to south (or south to north if your prefer riding uphill).

Recently Dutch organic produce promoters Biologica and Greenpeace have marked out a 1000km ‘Pieperpad’ cycling route across the country, passing by a lot of organic farms, notably those growing organic potatoes (‘piepers’ in Dutch).

Our mission, should we decide to accept it, is to ride the route, eat the produce, meet the farmers and write something interesting about the humble spud. It should take two weeks – maybe three if there’s rain and a headwind!

HIKING THE GR5, FRANCE

It's taken 10 years to hike from Lake Geneva to Nice, but this year we're planning to finish the job.


The Grand Randonnee 5 is one of the world’s greatest hiking trails, though the French manage to keep it secret from most other people. It starts in Belgium, crosses into France, winds beside the Rhine through the Alsace wine region, then climbs the Jura Range and descends to Lake Geneva. From there it heads across the Alps to Nice.

With my Dutch friends I’ve now walked most of the Alpine section, doing it a week at a time over four different years. This year we’ll start at Briancon and walk south for a week, thus filling in the missing link that has been beckoning us since 2005.

FOOD AND CULTURE IN BAGNI DI LUCCA, ITALY

Ponte della Maddalena, Bagni di Lucca. Photo: tryitaly.com

Through this blog I was fortunate to come into cybercontact with Debra and Liz, Australians who, like us, spend some months each year at a base in Europe. Theirs is in the lovely north Tuscan spa town Bagni di Lucca which we’re looking forward to visiting. I heartily recommend their blog Bagni di Lucca and Beyond, for all interested in culture, architecture, photography, food and all good things Italian.

There are bound to be other adventures over the coming months, but this is a pretty damn good start. Stay tuned to this blog for the reports…

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Filed under Cycle touring, Hiking, Holland, Italy, Travel- Europe