A bit about Kazakhstan and Ust-Kamenogorsk
Kazakhstan is in Central Asia, a seven hour flight south east of London, five or six hours ahead of GMT depending on which part of the country you are in.  It was previously part of the USSR and gained independance in 1991, since when it has become one of the most stable of the ex-Soviet countries in Central Asia.

It is the 9th largest country in the world about the same size as India (as shown by the list at the bottom of the page).  It's longest border is with Russia to the north followed by Uzbekistan to the south, China to the East and the Caspian sea to the West.  It also shares borders with various other "stans".  Despite being a similar size to India, Kazakhstan's population almost 100 times smaller with only 15 million people compared to India's 1.4 billion.

Russia leases 6,000 sq kms of land in Kazakhstan, the Baikonur Cosmodrome, for their space programme.  Yuri Gagarin took off from Kazakh soil in 1961 on the first ever manned space flight.
The Kazakh Flag
Ethnically, the country is as diverse, with the Kazakhs making up over half the population, the Russians comprising just over a quarter, and smaller minorities of Ukrainians, Germans, Chechens, Kurds, Koreans and Central Asian ethnic groups accounting for the restKazakhstan takes pride in its mutlicultural make-up, though I understand that ethnic Russians resent the lack of dual citizenship and having to pass a Kazakh language test in order to work for government or state bodies.  Although Kazakh is the official state language, Russian is the language of inter-ethnic communication and 95% of the people speak Russian whatever their origins.
Kazkahstan is the large country you never noticed before!
Ust-Kamenogorsk's Kazakh (and official) name is Oskemen but it seems to be referred to as Ust-Kamenogorsk by just about everyone and is the capital of the Eastern Kazakhstan Region.  It lies in the foothills of the Rudnyy Altai Mountains and at the junction of the Ulba and Irtysh rivers. Founded as a Russian fort in 1720, it later became a centre of trade with Mongolia and China and the gateway to the mineral wealth of the Rudnyy Altai.

On old maps you may not find this city listed at all as, until the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was a "closed city". Foreigners were not welcome as there were a number of things going on there which they (the Russians) just weren't all that excited about letting us (anyone not Russian) know about.

Ust-Kamenogorsk a city of about 350,000, about as far east as you can get on the Steppes before you start your climb into the mountains. It's not all that far to Mongolia (also bordered by the Altai) and is a hop, skip and a jump to Russia. It's a dozen hours or so south of Novosibirsk in Siberia, depending on the weather, time of day, the age and make of the car and Formula One ambitions of the driver.

I gather that Ust is the only city in Kazakhstan which is mad on ice hockey and their team, the Torpedoes, have won the Kazakhstan championship each year since the Championship was set up in 1993 except for one year (what happened in 1999, guys?).  I think it's ice hockey season whilst I'm there, so I'll be trying to get to see a game.

There are a few more photos of Ust in the photo sections.

Mosque in Ust-Kamenogorsk
Largest Countries (by land mass)
Russia               6,592,846 sq miles
Canada             3,602,707 sq miles
China                 3,600,947 sq miles
USA                   3,539,242 sq miles
Brazil                  3,265,075 sq miles
Australia            2,941,283 sq miles
India                   1,147,949 sq miles
Argentina          1,056,636 sq miles
Kazakhstan     1,049,150 sq miles
What's the time and how's the weather?

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Latest comments

10.07 | 13:22

We all have heard that dogs love to chew bones, Bones are a good source of minerals and other essential nutrients to satisfy the dog’s appetite.

07.06 | 16:37

Thank you so much for sharing. Makes me want to be there. We have told Ben and Ruthie we too will make a trip back and I hope it's soon!

03.06 | 11:35

Tears are flowing and laughter ensuing.

31.05 | 00:14

We're loving following your adventures!!! In Kew at the mo with my I laws. We have explained to Harry where you are but he says he misses Daniel!! Xx

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