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9 | Almaty Kazakhstan:

Almaty Backpackers

22 - 25 April (Mon - Thu)


I do not often stay at backpacker lodges any longer and I don’t know why. Almaty Backpackers was full of interesting people who helped me plan my journey across Central Asia. It was very pleasant although I did secure a private room.

There is so much that occurred during my four days in Almaty Kazakhstan (KZ) - and so many pictures - that I am going to have to break it up into two parts - the adventure inside Almaty and the adventure outside Almaty.

Bicyclers and Backpackers

Must begin with Almaty Backpackers, as it has been since my early days in Japan that I last stayed in a hostel - and that was a long time ago. The entire experience very much reminded me of the two years I lived at Green Peace House in Tokyo in 1985 - 1987 except the Almaty facilities were much nicer.

So, I arrive at 11.00pm to be greeted by a young man named Jonathan Buckingham - but we call him Jono since he is Australian. Not only is he Australian but he grew-up in the West End, which is a place that Miwa and I often visit on weekends. What a small world... He and another Australian from Ashgrove shipped mountain bikes: Brisbane - Seoul - Almaty, with plans to ride around the Stan countries till they run out of money. Probably in September I was told in parting. They have been planning their journey - like me - for a long time.

We agreed that the four of us (Miwa makes four) would get together in the West End one evening to exchange notes when we return home. They were staying at the hostel without cost for about three weeks - till it gets warmer they said - by working about 4-hours a day (there is some kind of website that matches people that have something to offer with people that need something). I spent several hours talking to these Australians about so many common interests. I learned about the website: which provides useable maps when you have no Internet connection. Now that is really valuable when a long way from home...

Anyway, Jono is one of many interesting characters that I met while at the Hostel. Many, many nationalities but we end up meeting those that are familiar.

Talked one morning with a British fellow who works for the British Council in Jordan that has a month's leave and is travelling around Central Asia by bus. I also met an American fellow from Anchorage, who had not lived in the US for many years, who had been based in Vietnam for the past three years, and who had just sold some kind of university recruitment business to his two partners. He had great success and made some money but felt no passion for that business and wanted to re-direct but was not sure where too next. He thought he might try his luck in Tbilisi Georgia. He had been told that it is easy for a foreigner to start up a business and even gain citizenship. He figured another passport might be useful. Very well-travelled but not sure of his destination.

V Helpful Hostel Managers


The two that were most endearing were the Hostel managers - Aibek and Shamsiya - two charming young ladies of university-age. The more senior of the two, Aibek, was studying to be a veterinarian but had spent three months in Elko Nevada working at a hotel with three other Kazakhstan ladies on some kind of exchange program. They had visited Salt Lake City for a day and so she had lots of questions. She also had lots of questions about life and she directed many to me, as her family wanted her to return to their big-town in rural Kazakhstan and get married to a good KZ boy. I feared she had learned too much in America and at the hostel to ever return home - and I told her so. She occupied a place I visited a long time ago and so I was empathic to her circumstances...

Shamsiya had more real-world understand, as she had travelled extensively and understood the logic of the hostel although she had only been working at Almaty Backpackers for two weeks. She was really helpful in getting my current travel plans organised. She identified destinations consistent with my general plans and the trains I should take, and the next day Aibek helped me buy tickets with my bank card. What a team.

Well, so much already written and I have not even ventured out of the hostel. So maybe Almaty is a three journal-entry city, but just to clarify - the first picture is not the hostel but Zenkov Cathedral. Built in 1904 entirely of wood - not a single nail - the government returned the Cathedral to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1995. The image seems to be a symbol of Almaty - along with an apple.

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