Our first day of school ended early. The sun was blazing down on Astana, making the buildings shimmer. Time to explore. Time to rock the boat.
This blog is about two boat rides we took within days of one another. The first was on that Wednesday afternoon after the first day of school, and the second was just after the sun set on our first school week, on a Friday evening. Two very different experiences on the same stretch of the Ishim River.
Kazakhstan fun fact: Astana is neatly split down the middle by the Ishim River (also known as the Esil River), with the vast majority of the futuristic buildings on the Left Bank and the Old Town on the Right Bank.
We had spotted rowing boats moored on the side of the river on a previous excursion, so decided to see if they were available at our leisure and for our pleasure. They indeed were, and were very cheap – 1000KZT for half an hour. A wonderful way to relax, you would think. Especially with Enrique Iglesias - sorry, Alisher - rowing our boat for us.
Except that some of us decided to use the oars for an alternative purpose – splashing other boats. Great fun in the Central Asian sun: mainly because we didn’t get that wet. Afterwards we found a bar that serves beer for 220KZT – less than one of your British pounds. We’ll be back.
We’ll be back for the boats, too. At least until the river freezes over, something we have been warned to expect. The Russian word for boat is лодка, lod-ka.
Whilst manoeuvring the rowing boats around the small designated area, we spotted a larger boat docked on the bend in the river. We subsequently found out that this boat travelled serenely towards the Palace of Peace & Accord (the pyramid near the military march) and back, and did so many times, day and night. We decided that this would be a perfect way to start our weekend, so arranged a large group of teachers and assistants to hop aboard.
We were proved right, especially when we found out that we could take our own alcohol on board. Even though they had their own bar on the boat. 700KZT for a forty minute cruise along the Ishim. The change in light as we moved with the slight current was particularly spectacular.
We ended this night in a karaoke club. Bit different from Korea – we were in a large function room which had a stage at one end and a giant screen high up at the other, with several tables inbetween. 100% score on Wonderwall, naturally, but my rendition of Sex Bomb will probably bar me from joining the school choir anytime soon.
It is good to see that we will keep playing just as hard as we are working. It is imperative that we take advantage of this wonderful weather before the cold, soulless grip of winter tears social opportunity and exploration from our numb hands. We are having a fantastic time in Kazakhstan and, just like the Ishim River, long may it continue to move along serenely and smoothly.
Love you all