Thursday, 14 October 2010

Kazakh road building

There has been an absolute spate of road building in town lately. You never know if a road will be open or closed from one day to the next. If roads are bring re-surfaced, then it is up to you to find your way round the problem. Fortunately, our awesome driver Baktiyar is pretty resourceful about these run-of-the-mill issues on the roads.

The other day, facing a blocked route onto the main road to school, he looked both ways (you can never break the rules if there are policemen about, but if there are none, then you can go for it), put his foot down, and raced the wrong way up a slip road to get onto Al Farabi Avenue, saving us about 20 minutes of traffic jam in the process. I am not a big fan of going the wrong way down a road, but I can also appreciate that there are times when a bit of lateral thinking can pay huge dividends.

Roads here are pretty good compared to lots of other developing world places, but there are a couple of things to look out for:
  • Half-metre deep storm trenches along the edge of new roads with no protective covers at all. If your car goes in one, it will take a crane to remove it
  • Large holes in roads, which may have been dug to fix a drain or to install a new cable system, will not be marked with a warning sign, but will probably have the branch of a nearby tree sticking up as the only hint of impending hazard. 
There has been a worryingly deep hole in a road near our house for months. It is on an unlit stretch of road which we drive along every day, and each morning, I have half expected to see some poor vodka-soaked unfortunate half in half out of the man-sized trap. Last week, a man hole cover was put on it. This small attention to detail (that after all this time, it had been on someone's to do list) made me feel incredibly hopeful and optimistic!

Here is a picture of our road last winter (shortly before my two companions both fell over on the ice):

Our road has been a very rough track since we arrived, getting worse after each winter and not really having any surfacing at all. However, as part of the recent road building frenzy, our road got done last week. It took just two days.

This is our road last week, we weren't sure if they were laying pipes to the building site, or sorting out our surfacing:

This is the top of our road last week as we set off on a walk:

And this is the lovely new road that we found when we came back from our walk!

Fancy, eh?


  1. I suppose you're learning to be happy with small things - like paved roads. Another benefit of moving abroad!

  2. Dear Big Beluga Baby,

    I found your details on your blog, I hope you might be able to help me with my strange request!

    I am a Producer working on a television show called House Hunters International which follows English speaking expats in their quest to purchase a house abroad. I am hoping to find English speaking expats to profile who have recently bought property in Kazakhstan. I wonder if you or any expat contacts might be interested in getting involved?! Please find a little blurb about the show below:

    House Hunters International is a half-hour program currently airing on the Home and Garden Television Network (HGTV). The program is a spin-off of the popular House Hunters and has spent the last several seasons exploring the idiosyncrasies of buying real estate in other countries. HHI is about a personal journey of discovery and the making of life-long dreams.

    The series is designed to de-mystify the international home-buying process by going behind the scenes of a house hunt where buyers and their real estate agents tour 3 homes. At its core, House Hunters International is a travel show concentrating on the idiosyncrasies of the locales and what makes them special and different. A great deal of effort will be made to capture rich visuals and to provide sequences where viewers will be exposed to local vistas, traditions, lifestyles and architecture.

    Please get in touch if you have any more questions about the show. I look forward to hearing from you!

    Best wishes and many thanks,


    Michelle James
    1-3 St Peter's Street, London N1 8JD - +44 20 7704 3300

  3. Sometimes a simple concrete road can mean the difference between progress and poverty in some communities. People can easily commute from one place to another, goods can be transported faster. It's the economic backbone of a community. Of course, building is one thing, maintaining is another. Roads like this must be carefully checked and maintained to ensure they will last for many years.