Sunrise in the canyon was a spectacular affair – but we were all asleep for it. We arose an hour later in the baking sun to pack up camp for the last time on the expedition. As we left, the team had some fun driving through the canyon and getting some excellent photos of the Land Rovers in action. After a quick lunch and blog-sending stop, we completed the 160km drive to the city of Almaty where the Land Rover dealer was awaiting our arrival.
Almaty was the capital of Kazakhstan until ithe honour was bestowed on Astana in 1998. It remains, however, the commercial, cultural and social capital of the country with its cafes in tree-lined streets and upmarket shops. Its other principal attraction is that it nestles at the foot of a dramatic mountain range with ski slopes and sporting venues allowing it to bid for the Winter Olympics.
We were given a huge welcome by the entire Land Rover team at the dealership and greatly appreciated the food and drink laid out for us. The porcelain toilet, however, was enough of a treat for many of us. Once we had agreed that the vehicles were to be left with them overnight to service them and to repair the two flat tyres, the staff ferried us to our hotel in their own cars. After a rapid turn around within the hour, we met up with them and their boss at The Guinness Pub (you can't escape them!) across the road. Strangely, there was none of the black stuff available and we washed down our horse sausage and mixed grill with repeated toasts of large measures of local vodka. The heartburn that I had not had for a long while suddenly returned for some reason.
We retired to our rooms assured that we would have a more comfortable night's sleep but swapping the sound of running water for that of speeding cars was not a good deal.