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Elusive Permits, still in Atrau 28/11/05

(CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE COMPLETE LIST OF DIARY ENTRIES) Well, I never thought I would be saying this, but I am nearing my fifteenth month in Kazakhstan. Things have come full circle as the days shorten and again the whistle of winter winds roar across the steppe. Funny thing is that in the last four months I have spent less than a month in the saddle due to bureaucratic delays. Still during this time I am meeting many people and continuing to learn the secrets of Kazak culture, their links to the nomad way of life, the Mongols, and how the present day country is being run. There will be a general election here on December the fourth by the way. In reality the election it would seem is just to provide a veneer of genuinely free elections- for starters the publicity given to the opposition candidates is miniscule. Nursultan Nazarbaev the president (and one of richest men on earth) has done much good for the country, but his paranoia about opposition, and high level of corruption are arguably hampering the development of the country. Anyway, not to get distracted. Since returning from the failed border crossing I have done all I can to get the required permits and am now sitting tight. It’s all a bit unpredictable, but the ministry of agriculture in Astana expects the permits to arrive by this Friday (I am not holding my breath though). Meanwhile, my difficulties here were somewhat lessened when I made friends with a local named Dauren. He was quick to hand over the keys to his apartment when he heard about my predicament! In a city known as Kazakhstan’s ‘oil capital’ it has provided much needed financial relief. Thanks so much to Dauren who’s spontaneous generosity has made the world of difference in these circumstances. He also lent me his grandfathers book of traditional Kazak songs. Some of these are ancient legends told by the music of the dombra. Many of the messages and stories are closely attached to the nomadic way of life and bare very close resemblance to Mongol tales. One such tale relates to the wild donkey/horse, the ‘Kulan’ and how a herd of these killed the grandson of Ghengis Khaan. Anyway, its been a bit of a stressful period but I at least had to give it a shot at getting the permits. It will be a personal disaster if the permits don’t come, but I will have to accept it and get on with it. My Kazakhstan visa runs out on December 12, so that is a very near limit! Best wishes to all, Tim. (CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE COMPLETE LIST OF DIARY ENTRIES)