18-Aug-2007 – This was the first visit to N45°E65° and for me the first time I visited two confluences in one day! Making an attempt at this confluence that day was a rather spontaneous decision. Sure, I had planned to visit it during my stay at Kzyl-Orda but it was already late afternoon and I just had come back to Kzyl-Orda from my visit to N45°E66° a few hours earlier. I originally just went out to buy some groceries. On the way to the shop I noticed a decrepit yellow bus with the sign "Terengözek" waiting for passengers. Terengözek happens to be one of the two small towns (the other one is called Shagan) reachable via public transport, which are closest to the confluence. The bus was still there when I came back. My GPS receiver, the camera and all the printouts of old Soviet military maps were still in my bag. This was very tempting. So I hopped on the bus although I was tired, and 4:00 pm was too late for risky experiments. I took the smooth confluence visit earlier that day
as an auspicious sign and felt like nothing could go wrong.
The bus was stuffed with people heading back to their home from work or
shopping. The old machine needed almost an hour for the forty something
kilometers to Terengözek. I got of the bus right when it turned from the
road to Shalangash at the intersection with the connecting road to
Shagan. I followed it for about three kilometers before I got to one of
the arms of the Syr Darya.
Additionally to studying maps of the area I checked with before Google
Earth that there was indeed a bridge over the river and that none of the
many irrigation canals are cutting off the way to the confluence,
before I decided to approach it from northern side. Sure there was a
bridge visible in the satellite images, but it looked a little weird.
Something was off, but the quality of the images was not good enough to
identify what irritated me. The mystery was solved as soon as I reached the riverbanks. It was a pontoon bridge, a swimming construction, consisting of chunky iron floats. I got almost run over by a car convoy on that bridge, consisting of a police escort and an vehicle with an „OSCE observer“ sign behind the windshield. Kazakhstan held her 2007 general elections on that
Sunday. Those passing cars where the only glimpse I caught of the elections by the way. Despite the media hype state television and newspapers created around the event, this day was just another workday for most Kazakhs.
The distance from right riverbank to the confluence was only about two
kilometers. Someone gave me a lift from the bridge to the point where I had to leave the road, which spared me half an hour of walking. The last 700 meters I had to walk through fallow fields overgrown with weeds or and large patches of bare soil covered with a strange white powder (I guess salt or some pesticide). I stirred up some foxes and cows, apart from that the area was empty.
After taking the photos at the confluence I started worrying about how to get back to Kzyl-Orda. I calculated that the sun would go down in another hour, and that I needed at least 90 minutes to get back to Terengözek on foot. It was unlikely that there would be a bus going to Kzyl-Orda at that time. But my luck held up. Two nice guys picked me up just a few minutes after I reached the paved road. They brought me back to the intersection where I had started my hike. They initially thought that I was an engineer or geologist, because in Kazakhstan foreigners running around with maps in unlikely places usually fall in this
category. I tried to explain to them what I had been doing out there. They were not inclined to believe that someone would do something like this in his free time. Immediately after climbing out of the car a bus going from Shalagash to Kzyl-Orda went by. I instantly ran after it and was barely able to stop it. It was another one of those rickety forty years old Russian vehicles stuffed with people. I don’t know how I managed to fall asleep in it, but I spent most of the bus ride to Kzyl-Orda in a exhausted coma.