Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Borovoe Day 2 - A Hike, A Spring, and A Camel

Friday, 24 June 2011

The town of Borovoe is full of tour agencies, and people in booths on the side of the street, offering tours. You can take a tour to a cave where the famous khan Kenessary once hid; go to Astana and take a tour of the new capital; go to a place which offers mud baths; go on various hikes.

We signed up for a 2-hour tour. We were driven through the town of Borovoe into the National Park area. Then we went on a short yet steep hike to the top of a rocky hill, from which we could view the entire area. It was a lovely view; we could see Lake Borovoe, many mountains, another lake across from Lake Borovoe. A wonderful place for picture-taking, after a hike that's suitable for children.

(Disclaimer: really, the "mountains" are just steep and beautiful hills, but they look like mountains, especially compared to the surrounding steppe.)

Then we traveled further into the park and hiked to a spring, where the water is said to be very fresh and drinkable. Alas, we had no empty water bottle to fill up, so we cupped our hands and drank.

That was the tour. The girls enjoyed running uphill and through the woods and scrambling over rocks. I enjoyed the views and the fresh air. The tour guide also gave us information about the area and legends as to how Borovoe was formed, which my friend translated for me. (In sum: when God created the world, he gave mountains to some people, forests to other people, and the flat steppe to the Kazakhs. They were upset, and so he granted them Borovoe.)

After that, we ate lunch and then decided to go back to Shchuchinsk to ride horses. There are many horseback riding tours in Borovoe, but a woman staying at our guest house had recommended this one.

Since there aren't that many cars in Borovoe, it was hard to get a taxi, but after standing for a while, waving down cars, we finally found someone willing to drive us. (My friend didn't want to drive her car over the mud-filled potholes again, understandable.) It was an old man, in an even older car. As he sped through the winding road to Shchuchinsk, he warned us not to touch the doors, he wasn't sure how sturdy they were. The car had no seatbelts in the back, and so I held onto the girls and made sure they didn't touch the doors! Scary!

The horse place was about a kilometer off the main road, through muddy, pothole-filled, windy roads. Finally, we arrived, but there was another group of people there about to ride all the horses—no horses available for about 45 minutes.

But there were donkeys and a camel nearby. One donkey was wandering free; a mother and baby were in an enclosure with the camel. I had carried croutons with me (Sophia likes them), and soon discovered that donkeys love croutons. We fed the donkeys and an elderly man offered to have the girls ride the camel.

First Sophia's friend rode the camel. She posed for the camera by hugging its hump. Then it was Sophia's turn, but the man said that the camel would not sit down again and be willing to get back up. So she had to climb the fence to the top of a dumpster-like thing and from there get onto the camel. This was a bit too scary for her, so I got on the camel and rode for a bit.

The man was extremely friendly and understanding of Sophia's fears, so he found a small pony. First, her friend rode, and then Sophia. He even had the pony rear up on its hind legs for the friend (but not for Sophia).

Then we fed the donkeys and the camel some more (even camels like croutons). The girls also got on the donkeys to ride. The donkey Sophia was on refused to move, so I tried offering it croutons to move, and it moved a little.

Then it was time to ride the horses. We were worried about the girls' ability to control a horse, and so we convinced them to ride in a trailer pulled by a black horse. My friend and I got on horses and we had a nice 40-minute walk through the woods. It was very pretty and pleasant, except the woman guide kept yelling at me, something about my legs that my friend (who translated for me) couldn't understand. It was also very slow, as the horses were well-trained to only walk for strangers. They will only move quickly when told so by their owner. (Smart horses, smart owners, I think.)

Then the man who'd helped us with the camel and donkeys drove us back to Borovoe.

That evening our host took out a telescope and the girls got to look at the stars. They saw Saturn and its rings. Sophia was very excited about that.

So it was a very good and very exciting day! I'm so happy I got to ride a camel, although walking around a small enclosure isn't too exciting, but at least it was on a camel!

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