Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Bike Ride

On Saturday morning we woke at 7am.  We had a difficult decision to make, lie in bed and have an relaxed Saturday, or get up and go for a bike ride which was scheduled  for an 8.30 start.  Sandra said we should get some exercise!
The Marriott has a couple of mountain bikes that can be rented so I had no excuse.  The outside temperature was about zero and forecast to get a little warmer.  Unfortunately neither of us really have cold weather cycling gear so we did the best we could, which was not really very effective.

A group of about 10 cyclists met outside the Chevron compound at 8.30.  There is an A team and a B team, we were in the B team, but only because there isn’t a C team!  We were supposed to go about 30km in a desert loop.  Initially it had been 40km and we had declined.  In summer, my first ride for ten years had me extremely saddle sore at 25km, so I knew I would be pushing it.
We cycled out towards the airport on Satpayeva Street, then turned off the road onto one of the levies that run alongside the irrigation canals.  I don’t know what the canals actually irrigate as the desert is all scrub and dust.  It is the kind of dust that turns to very sticky clay when it gets wet, so not much good for agriculture, though we do net our carrots coated in clay.
The desert…not much to it!

We cycled round the periphery of Atyrau International airport.  We even saw a plane land! 
Helicopters did leave fairly frequently to the oil drilling islands
Atyrau Airport terminal building

The B Team taking a break, cemetery in background

Our first stop was by some Muslim graves. There were two or three sites with several graves in each.  They are extremely  crudely constructed out of bricks or breeze blocks, high walls and no roofs. 
Not a very happy looking place, but very quiet!

Camels, some with one hump, others with two

We biked on with Jon leading the way and looking out for camels, which he says he has never failed to find.  This ride was no exception.  We found a small group plodding around.  They seem quite oblivious to us, though I don’t suppose they feel that they have much to fear from “animals” a about a tenth of their size.
One big fellow
The B Team, camel watching

Me, riding back to join the Team after my closer encounter

Cow Herders
As we continued  around in a big loop we encountered some cows being herded by two men in a truck.  They didn’t seem very pleased to see us and responded to Sandra’s greeting with a few blustery words.

We rode on back into town, by this time I was firmly established as the rear marker, and feeling extremely saddle sore, winging at every bump and rut in the trail.  It was a relief to hit the road back into town, though 3km against the wind seemed like hard work to me, not made any easier by the other bikers deciding it was a good opportunity for a sprint.  I was about ready to walk it!

We hit the river by the rusting boats, featured in an earlier blog and another bike ride.
Susan photographing the abandoned ships, probably left when the fish stocks ran out.
The last 5km of what turned out to be about a 38km ride were along the river bank.  By this stage we had sent the rest of the group ahead, and were making our own pace home.  However, in the end even Sandra abandoned me and biked off into the distance.  I had a sleep Saturday afternoon.  In the evening we had a leaving party dinner, so I had to recover!
The B Team. taken by Jon

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