Getting up at 2.45 AM is never a strong point of mine, unless I have a sleepless night! Of course this particular night I was in a deep sleep when the alarm went off. It took exactly FIVE minutes, from waking to being in the taxi! A record, I am sure! At this time of the morning, there was barely any traffic on the road, the occasional stray car, so we arrived at the railway station in record time.
Here in Central Asia, catching the train is like flying, countless passport checkers, luggage gets X- rayed at least twice, sometimes more. Finally I was on the train. I had forgotten to mention first class, when I booked, so I was in the third class! It was a sleeper, a thin mattress was provided, with sheets and a pillow case. My bed was rackety, broken and very uncomfortable! No longer at an age that I keep my mouth shut, I spoke up and received another bed! Made it with the thin, threadbare, often mended sheets, and promptly fell asleep!
Such a deep sleep, that I had a vivid dream of being at the border, meeting with Lucia and Lisa, I was so happy to see my friends, we laughed so much, it was so real, that when I was woken up, I had no idea where I was, who I was, and where were my friends?? Completely confused, I had to open my bag, hand over my passport, I still thought I was at the border! Not really it was just a ticket and ID check. Okay, back to sleep.
Finally we reached the border, as my passport was already collected, I thought it would be fast and easy, no such luck! Altogether it took over four hours. The Kazakhstan border patrol carries portable ID checking kits. Photos were taken, bags were searched, and just when I thought we would move on, an incident happened. A young woman with a two year old child, was crying and screaming. All I understood was the ” please,please” bit! Her two year old was crying, it was all very emotional and loud. There were no English under titles, so it was like watching a foreign movie without translation! It couldn’t be that she had no passport as they were checked more than three times before one can board the train! In the end , we went on, but the police sat with her. So something was obviously not right!
Just over the border the train stopped again, and again a bag check! Personally I thought it was overkill, and a lot of people agreed with me as the grumbling got louder and louder! When we arrived at Beyneu, the police insisted in taking photos of each and every passport on his mobile phone! The doors stayed locked, commands were given, and suddenly, this pimply, never shaven face of this young cop looked panic stricken! There was mutiny on the Bounty, people forced their way over him, the doors opened, and the whole train steamed out! Scary to see such behaviour, kids screaming, this woman detained by the police still crying, all very strange to watch!
I was the last one of the train, as I could see no valid reason why I should put myself in danger of being squashed, I just waited till the mob dispersed, and quietly left the train! There was one taxi, I went to the hotel, booked a lovely room with private bath for two nights, showered, changed and slept like a babe till the next morning! Welcome to Kazakhstan!