Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Kazakhstan – The first dip in the Caspian Sea

Kazakhstan – The first dip in the Caspian Sea

April 28-May 1

Kazakhstan is a country that isn’t particularly easy to locate on a map. One reason for this is that it doesn’t have an Ocean along its long borders. The country is the biggest landlocked country in the world, which means that a trip to the seaside is rendered impossible.

It should be impossible. However, the west of this massive land mass is flanked by the Caspian Sea. It is the largest inland body of water in the world, and the northeast of it is bounded by Kazakhstan. The basin also contains a lot of oil – recent estimates value the oil reserves in the Caspian at over $12trillion.

Consequently, some major development is taking place in cities on the western coast of Kazakhstan. The biggest of these is called Aktau, and we took advantage of a long weekend to investigate and relax on the beach.

The latter objective was difficult to accomplish. It does have sandy beaches – the only problem is that there are lots of other materials in and on the beach, such numerous shards of glass. Luckily, there are several flat, low-lying rocks adjacent to the water which were perfect for the four of us to lounge on.

 The gentle lapping of the waves onto the rocks was a peaceful sound. On one of the days it was interrupted by a group of young boys deciding to madly divebomb into the water right next to us. They were clearly trying to impress the girls in our group, but they were cute and some had wonderful smiles which could radiate across any sea.

One of the boys was larger than most and was trying to push the other lads into the chilly waters, but we managed to persuade him that he also needed to jump in. needless to say, he immediately regretted that as he was soon stood shivering on the side. All good-natured fun.

These boys weren’t the only people to brave the sea. We even saw a man snorkelling, although the fact that he was wearing a full diving suit was a clue about the temperature. We had sworn to ourselves that we would enter the water at some stage during our long weekend. This seemed unlikely after the first day, when we merely dipped our feet into the Caspian and found that they turned numb.

Nevertheless we were determined to achieve our goal. Before the kids were busy goading themselves into jumping in we had managed to dunk ourselves into a small lagoon. On the Monday, we finally managed to swim in the Caspian. Less of a swim and more of a thrash, admittedly, but mission was accomplished.

I could talk about sunbathing and ten seconds of swimming at length as we didn’t do too much else. Aktau is a town that is in the embryonic stages of development. There are a couple of statues – the one of a MiG plane overlooking the beach is spectacular – but aside from that there isn’t too much to see. We enjoyed our evenings, and spent the final night watching the sun set on the beach.

 We came out here with the intention of recharging our batteries before taking on the final six weeks of the school year. We have definitely achieved that goal. Aktau has what most of Kazakhstan simply cannot offer – sun, sand and (a very cold) sea.

Love you all


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