Friday, 21 October 2011

High as a Kite.




I pull back the curtains in my son's apartment, and this is what I see.

These mountains curve into the great Tien Shan range, which in turn climbs into the Himalayas. Afghanistan is nearer to me here than Scotland is when I'm at home. Kabul is but a few mountain peaks away.

A few days later we go so much higher that I cannot talk and walk at the same time (something of a temporary respite for my son, I think). We go up here:



(Chimbulak, site of the Asian Winter Games last year.)

and from here you can look across into Kyrgyzstan, and then on and on and on into China.

I am so aware of the immensity of this landlocked place. It is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded, enclosed by huge mountain ranges and seemingly limitless plains. I have experienced vast landscapes before, and mountainous ones as well, but when the two collide, as they do here in Kazakhstan, their power is awe-inspiring.

There was a heavy snowfall on the mountains a few days before I arrived, but now the snow is melting from the lower slopes, the water rushing down into the town of Almaty, where there are fountains and cascades and the greenest grass I have ever seen.




I am enchanted afresh by Almaty. I visited at the same time last year, when it seemed exotic and remote. This year it feels friendly and almost familiar. I begin to feel at home here.
It is the cleanest place I have ever seen, immaculate, cared for, burnished. At a very personal level I am enchanted by the fact that within hours my arthritis has apparently disappeared, and I can (almost) bound up the marble staircases without touching the handrails. (Alas, this state of affairs is not to continue, but I make the most of it while it does.) The mountain air is so clean it tingles in the lungs, and I am as high as a kite. Almaty itself is high - a thousand metres above sea-level before you start on the mountains which are only minutes away from the town centre.

I fantasise about buying one of the little wooden houses, just off each of the main streets. I could have an orchard and a cow and some chickens, and perhaps do English teas in the garden. Then my son reminds me that the glorious colours will fall from the tree-lined streets and the fountains will be turned off before they freeze. The arthritis kicks in again, and I'm not quite so confident about skating and skiing.
But I still find this place delightful, in every sense of the word.

8 comments:

Mouse said...

how delightful, and such a lovely post when I least expecting it!

I would love to live with mountains as neighbours, I would sit in a chair and gaze at them all day and at night, when the moon is high in the sky and stars twinkling in that fresh air, I would sit in the chair and gaze some more...

Jenny Woolf said...

What a wonderful looking place. And how very lucky to have your son there, so you have someone to visit that you want to be with. It's always so delightful visiting friends and loved ones in exotic places. I'm going to look this place up on the map, as I have no idea where it actually is....

Zhoen said...

Lovely adventuring. I do not handle high elevation very well. Took me over a year to get used to 4K".

Relatively Retiring said...

Mouse: thank you. My son does exactly that (only not all day). He has a special chair from which he can look out on to this view while he has his breakfast. On my previous visit I did a lot of sketching and realised how the light on the mountains changes with every minute. Really compulsive viewing.

Jenny: yes, I had to look it up when I heard my son was going to be there. If Almaty was in Europe it would probably be swamped by tourism. but the distance keeps it safe.

Zhoen: I found the mountains totally captivating this year, no doubt because the weather was glorious - a different story in dense cloud and snow.

gz said...

beautiful

Relatively Retiring said...

gz: yes, both the place and my time there. There is a window of perfection in October. A few weeks earlier and the heat would be too much, a few weeks later and ditto the cold.

Molly said...

I remember you writing about your visit last year and how you communicated with the local children and their mothers! Looks just as beautiuful this year!

Relatively Retiring said...

Molly: thank you, how kind of you to remember. I'll put up more about people again soon.