Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Well in one sense I am back in Atyrau earlier than expected.  I had planned to return in March and Sandra was going to visit California in January, but by reversing the order I get to enjoy the heart of the Kazakhstan winter, oh joy!

On the other hand I booked my flight back on through Istanbul travelling from Wednesday to Friday.  Unfortunately my visa did not show up from the Kazakhstan Embassy in DC in time and I had to delay a few days and fly into Atyrau on the next Istanbul flight on the Tuesday.  I took the delay to spend an extra day in Istanbul, so it wasn't too painful.

Atyrau is snow covered and a little chilly, about -10C, but fluctuating.  Fortunately there is not much wind.  So on Wednesday I decided to walk to Asia and meet Sandra for lunch at the Riverside Office.  It was harder to get out on foot than it was in summer and fall, before the snow and ice. 

Zheti Kazyna was deep in slow though they have now obtained a small bulldozer and have started piling it up then loading it into a truck to be taken away.  The groaning of the dozer has been going on all day for three days now.

 Out on the roads and side walks the snow has been compacted to ice and the ice sheet is an average of 3 inches deep. 

I walked out on the canal side route, unsure of how easy it would be to climb the bank of the canal.

                                                         It wasn't a problem.  But what was a problem was a three foot ditch that has been dug all the way along the top of the canal with the dirt from it piled up beside it.  I realised this only when I had scaled the bank, I decided not to try and jump/step over it with all the snow and ice so went back down the bank getting into 12 inch deep snow that tripped me up and almost caused me to fall flat on my face!                                                                      

                                                           So enraged was I with my own foolishness that I took a picture of the offending foothole in the snow.  Don't try to figure that out!

I took a more conservative route out  staying on the level ground.

At Tamosha the Christmas tree frame is still up and Santa Claus is sitting there fully inflated, welcoming in the New Year.

Along Satpayeva the summer sweeping crews have morphed into the winter snow moving crews.  The main task is to chip away at the ice coating which breaks off in blocks and is piled beside the side walk. 

For some strange reason piling this ice and snow round the little sapling trees is very popular.

 In the picture on the right you can see where ice has been chipped away.

Below is a detailed picture of the technology used to undertake this chipping task.
On the subject of technology I happened upon a road scraper.  In the summer I encountered a mechanical road sweeper, and now there is a mechanical snow mover.  I need hardly say that this does not bode well for the legions of road workers that sweep in summer and chip in winter.
No prizes for guessing where this piece of equipment came from!

The next day I decided to walk out using the other route, going round the back and taking the footbridge across the canal.  This time I came upon the pipeline layers in action joining the sections of pipe together.  What puzzles me is that the pipes are being joined on the ground at the bottom of the dyke.  The channel that has been cut for the pipe is along the top of the dyke, and the dirt that has been excavated is piled up next to the trench but between the pipe and the trench, making it necessary to haul the connected pipe not only up the bank but over the pile of dirt.  I need and engineer to explain the logic.  If the pipe was laid and joined on the top of the dyke it could simply be rolled into the trench, or so it would seem.

As you can see above the pipe connecting equipment is not very large or bulky.  

The picture on the left is the improvised bridge that has been put in place to cross the trench at the top of the dyke.

The picture below shows the current end of the trench over by Satpayeva, far right is the Zheti Kazyna compound.
On my walks to Asia I had the opportunity to have my first walk of the year on the Ural.  Unfortunately the steps down to the river, straight opposite the Riverside Office of NCPOC, had already become icebound.  The conundrum is that they are clearest in the middle, but by risking the middle route one is unable to hold the hand rails.  On the other hand using the sides and holding the rails puts one on the edge of the steps which are simply a long icy slide with no footholds at all.  I negotiated them using an abseiling technique, whereby one goes down backwards, holding the rail with both hands and leaning back to try and get some traction with ones feet.  It sort of works, I just hope that there are not people watching this Mr Bean type performance from the Riverside Office!

This year with the snow the river surface is very bumpy and rough.

 After lunch I walked home to Zheti Kasyna.  The strange thing is that once the ice has been removed from the side walks the brick surfaces become very slippery and much more difficult to walk on than the ice.  So on my route home I tried to avoid the newly cleared pavement.  

Of course in this weather there are lots of car accidents.  The drivers do not actually go particularly fast, I think because many of the cars can't go particularly fast.  But their ability to go fast is matched by an ability to stop fast, especially on icy roads, and therein, I suspect, lies the problem. Having said that the number of accidents where cars have simply run into the car in front seem to be matched by an equal number where one wonders what they were doing to get into that position in the first place.  This was the accident I saw on my walk home. 
 The highlight of my day!  That says it all, I think.


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