At one stage in our trip we had planned from Pakistan to go to Mongolia, and perhaps Kirgikistan is at this stage a sort of compensation. Out of character, we have chosen the ‘soft’ option, and as much as I muse about our lost route and the high passes of Tajikistan, I feel it is time to bow my head and do the ‘sensible’ thing – stick to the main arteries and return west via Kirgikistan and Kazakhstan. Decision made, I realise the absurdity of my thoughts…..the country is beautiful and ready to be discovered, and savoured. A strange mix of nomadic and sedentary existences, where nomads have cell phones and trailers and city dwellers in their total modernity still can be seen wearing rather comical, tall cylindrical felt hats…as well as felt baseball caps.
For the children it’s a rare chance to get a glimpse of a nomadic culture that is somehow at this moment in time, closer to them. A chance for numerous donkey rides, to witness the milking of horses and the chance (or misfortune.) to see at close quarters in a very natural and spontaneous situation, the slaughtering of animals and the rituals that inevitably accompany the act.
Milk, meat and vodka…. these are the games in the evening. I find Lusira lying on the ground, ready to be made in to ‘Shashlik’ by Giulio the butcher, Gaia milking an imaginary yak, and all three later in the evening united around three small glasses with a flask of ‘vodka’ that they polish off before bed. Everything is absorbed with great ease and stored in their memory for another occasion, where in an association of ideas, it will come floating back to the surface to enrich a different game thousands of kilometres further west.
After sad goodbyes and our agendas fixed with appointments for meeting up in Europe with other nomadic friends met along the road, we relax in the kind company of our friends in the ‘Morpheus’ truck. We will travel together west up to Ukraine where our paths will split. They too must head west in time for the imminent birth of their new child. We exchange ideas and plans, try to imagine our futures. The sweet taste of the end of our trips is savoured with deliberation as we mentally prepare ourselves for a faster pace…. or maybe not. I dream of a similar life at home, where certain little but important rituals are guarded jealously in the confusion of ‘keeping up’. Maybe this time I will really do it!!
For now, the wild cloud formations in this part of the world bring my attention back to the present, the vast horizons makes everything seem close, and I feel exhilarated, as if I could be swept away any minute by the explosive energy hiding inside them.
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