It hadn't felt like ten minutes since I went to bed when the alarm went off for an early start with the Land Rover dealer. We were collected from the centrally located hotel and returned to the garage where we collected our serviced vehicles and headed in convoy to the top of the hill on the outskirts of the city. At the top where the cable car from the city terminates, we lined the vehicles up while the tables and chairs were set up for our press conference. The team was joined by the owner of the dealership (and owner of quite a lot else it would appear) as well as a translator. Following the opening introduction to the thirty or so journalists and television cameras, we were subject to a Q&A session.
Fortunately, the provision of comprehensive medical support was not on the agenda but we each had to provide a 'favourite moment' of Kazakhstan. Top tip - do not sit at the end of the table as all the sensible answers are used up by the time it is your turn! I mentioned something about Hereford cattle from home, encountering so many cows on the Kazakhstan roads and using the Land Rover bull bars to good effect (thought that the dealer may like that to increase sales of this optional extra). I suspect something was lost in translation but got some laughter from those that spoke English - probably 'at' and not 'with'! Painful as it was, it was greatly appreciated by the dealer as the country is a new and emerging market for Land Rover.
After lunch, we were led up into the mountains past the bottom of the ski slopes and ice stadium. Unfortunately, it was raining and the views of the city were not as impressive as hoped for and we soon returned to the city to visit the large central park with its impressive war memorials and wooden cathedral. The city certainly has a more European feel to it than and anywhere we had previously encountered and it would make a good based from which to explore the country further. I suspect that tourism is firmly on the agenda and we were indeed asked some advice about potential British visitors to Kazakhstan by one of the journalists earlier in the day. We were getting jaded by now and the hour back in the hotel was all too brief with a co-ordinated vehicle clean and tidy before heading out for dinner again. The fare was different but the horse meat and repeated toasts with refilled vodka glasses were on the menu again. Even though it was our last night, we welcomed a return to our rooms after a final toast in the hotel bar.
Dr David Houston