Leaving Aralsk into the Kazakh Steppe also called the Great Dala.
Serik Dusenbayev, my guide on one of the salt lakes surrounding the Aralsk region on what used to be the Aral lake. The ground, still covered in seashells, is heavily polluted due to fertilisers that were used in the cotton industry. In the background the clifs of the former lake.
On our way to Tastubek after driving through the village of Zhalanash. Ahead of us a Russian built WAZ, model Hunter. These type of jeeps are used all over Russia and will get you anywhere
in any kind of weather. They prefer to drive with two 4x4s so when one gets stuck the other might get him out.
One of the last remaining boats that became symbolic for one of the greatest ecological disasters of the 20th century. The drying up of the Aral Sea. In the background another boat cut into pieces for scrap metal.
Night falling over Tastubek where brick houses have replaced the traditional yurds when they were still nomads.
A small mosque outside Zhalanash. A fomer fishing village on the way to Tastubek.
Goats observing a christmas tree that was left in the middle of the main road of the village in Tastubek. Kazachs are predominantly muslim. How a christmas
tree, a symbol of christianity, ended up in the middle of the street remains a mistery.
A boy is watching pigeons in the sky while his grandmother is gathering dead branches for firing up the stove inside the house.
Tastubek children having a great time in -25. Their isolation from the rest of the world doesn’t bother them at all.
A fisherman from Tastubek, Aral Lake, showing of his horse riding skills. Horses still play an important role in these communities. In winter it is the only way to go and fetch your herd of camels as the snow makes it impossible to reach most of the places.
Camels in the early morning covered in snow after a brutal cold night. Camels form the main staple of food and are used in almost all the dishes.
When the going gets tough the tough gets going. In a place where everything
is scarce everyone helps everyone.
Rubbing his head after working the whole afternoon on ‘the beast’ - the SUV that
broke down on our way to one of the last remaining boats that became symbolic
for one of the greatest ecological disasters of the 20th century.
Serzhan Seitbenbetova (1987) happy and fooling around with his friend after he
helped him out fixing ‘the beast’ - the suv that broke down after trying to reach one
of the boats that became symbolic for one of the greatest ecological disasters
of the 20th century.
There is no garage or any kind of supply shop so everything has to be fixed on the spot with existing materials.
Although they lead quite a tough life, happyness is as natural to them
as breathing air.
Aibolat Seitbenbetov (1990) giving nature a small push. Camel meat forms the basis of their food supply and are almost used in every meal.
Bayan Seitbenbetova caressing her youngest grandchild Asemgul Seitbenbetova on her tradional kazakh carpet that belonged to her grandparents when they were still roaming the Kazakh Steppe.
Aiaru Seitbenbetova, daughter of Aibolat and Ainur, angry and frustrated because she wasn’t allowed to go out.
Dilnaz Seitbenbetov (2013) daughter of Akerke and Nurzhan.
Ainur, wife of Eibolar (brother of Nurzhan) in the kitchen preparing the food. There is no running water. On the menu, camel meat with homemade pasta.
Akerke in one of her more mysterious moods, dreaming of having fun and dancing in Aralsk. She still struggles every now and then with the simple life in Tastubek.
Eibolar Seitbenbetova herding his camels.
The toilet outside the Seitbenbetova's house.
As there are no supply shops, nothing is thrown away and most of the hardware is being recycled. Aibolat trying to get the WAZ jeep up and running again before
they head off to go fishing on the ice.
Reedland close to the shore of the frozen Aral Sea. The water of the Aral Sea would in the past reach all the way up to the top of the cliff.
An abandoned fishing boat at the shore of the Aral Sea waiting for spring to arrive.
Heading off into the great white open. On their way to their fishing nets on the frozen Aral lake.
Aibolat Seitbenbetov (1990) checking on his Russian built WAZ jeep in the middle of the frozen Aral lake. You can see the steam coming from the overheated engine.
As there is no connection to the outside world and with temperatures of up to -30 at night these kind of situations are not without risk.
After clearing the snow Aibolat Seitbenbetov is trying to break the newly formed ice.
Serzhan Seitbenbetova (1987) the oldest of the broters Seitbenbetova pulling the net back in its place.
Aibolat Seitbenbetov (1990) holding on to his daily catch.
After one hour of rough driving with the Russian built WAZ on the frozen lake we finally arrive at the fishing spot. These jeeps will get you anywhere. No matter what you throw at them.
Ensepbai Balbeketov (1960) picking through the ice to get to their fishing nets.
Nurgisa (1980) together with fellow fisherman Musabek Mahshatov (1962) pulling the fish from their nets.
Ensepbai Balbeketov (1960) pulling the fishing net back in its place.
Alash Irzagaziyev (1950) pulling the fishing fishing net back in its place. He decides when they will go fishing as he is the boss. Also because he is the one with the most experience. Crucial if you want to read the ice.
Ensepbai Balbeketov (1960) fixing the fishing net after it has been emptied.
Six feet under. The underground shed close to the shore of the Aral lake where the fishermen will live for as long as the ice lasts. The place is smaller then an average kitchen. And yet here is where they cook, eat, drink, sleep, laugh and play cards.
Ice is being melted to make for tea.
Six feet under. The underground shed close to the shore of the Aral lake where the fishermen will live for as long as the ice lasts. The place is smaller then an average kitchen. And yet here is where they cook, eat, drink, sleep, laugh and play cards. From left to right. Nurgisa (1980),
Alash Irzagaziyev (1950), Kogambai Omarov (1960), Ensepbai Balbeketov (1960), Musabek Mahshatov (1962)
A delicious and rich pasta meal after some hard labour. The plate of food is
surrounded by sweets out of respect for me as a guest.
A watertruck returning to Tastubek after getting stuck in the snow just outside the village. The truck was supposed to fetch water in the village of Zhalanash. Trucks like these will take fish from Tastubek to Aralsk. Although the distance is only 90 km it will take the truck more then 8 hours in normal conditions to reach Aralsk.
Frozen fish in the small facility in Tastubek. Once the volume is big enough the fish is taken to the local fish factory where it will be sorted and prepared for export to Aralsk.Waiting to be taken to the fish factory Kambala Balik in Aralsk.
Women working at the Kambala Balik fish factory in Aralsk. The fish comes from the Aral lake and villages like Tastubek. Most of the fish is destined for Russia.
The smoked fish is very often sold at little shops like this one in Aralsk.