Friday, 28 August 2009
The curse of Tsum, the department store which has reduced me to tears before now, seems to affect the whole block in which it is located.
Planning a one night camping trip to the wilds with friends this weekend, I set off at 10am today to buy a gas canister for our lantern, a tarpauline and poles to give shade and some camping chairs. Possibly, even, I dared to imagine, I might buy a plug into the car cool box for the beers.
Walking into the town's largest camp store Robinson, 50 metres down the road from Tsum, which oddly enough has two large suits of armour standing at the front door, I make my way inside.
By means of my poor russian, a pen and paper and much talking, the shop assistants and I manage to ascertain that they:
1. Sell lanterns but there no gas canisters for sale in the whole of Almaty until September
2. It will be almost impossible to find fuel for our trangia cookers (Swedish made, used all over the world) here. They do not even understand the concept of liquid non-gas fuel, but suggest I use petrol instead.
3. Do not sell tarpaulins to give shade. They do have a ground sheet which we could perhaps string up. They sell poles, but not the little pointy bits that allow you to use them through a metal eyelet - totally useless poles.
4. Do not have chairs in stock.
5. They do sell rope - well done!!
I can feel the familiar rage rising but keep my cool, although I cannot help myself from asking what is the point of having about 20 different lanterns for sale if you do not sell the fuel to make them give light? What is the point? Agh! This is still very post-soviet, and people are so used to products not always being available that they can hardly understand the question. They do not expect to have all the necessary components for anything easily available to them.
I head to Limpopo, the classiest of Almaty's outdoor stores but with limited stock also, and find a really nice guy who agrees that the Trangia looks like an excellent piece of kit, but that of course, in Kazakhstan nothing like that is available. He agrees that it is frustrating not to be able to get the right kit. As a keen climber he has to make do with what he can find. But he is able to tell me what is probably the russian term for methylated spirits, the fuel required by Trangia cookers. I will set Baktiyar the driver to the test of finding and buying a litre of purple fuel and see what he can find this afternoon.
My friend calls and our camping trip is cancelled as her husband has to work all weekend.
So picnic at Big Almaty Lake instead. Fine.