Sunday, March 23, 2014

Kazakhstan, Hong Kong, and Mel and Brendan's Wedding

A week ago I spent a week in Kazakhstan for work gathering some information about some machines and processes used at a few of the underground mine sites around the country. It was an amazing trip and a great opportunity - I think very few people can say they've been in an underground mine site, let alone one in Kazakhstan!

For anyone wondering what an underground mine site is like, it's an extremely physically demanding environment to be in. I came prepared with notes, drawings, and documents expecting that I could whip out my pen and paper and take notes down there, but that was SO not possible. My video camera was the only thing I could use as a tool, and even that was difficult because you always had to have your hands free when moving for safety.

It wasn't at all claustrophobic, but it was very uncomfortable in almost every other way. The temperature varied from very hot (around machines) to very cold (due to air being pumped in from above ground), and it was wet (sometimes almost to the top of our gumboots), dusty (we had to wear dust masks which were absolutely filthy when we finished our shift), extremely loud (a jumbo drill operating is fucking terrifying), and our mining outfit (is it called an outfit?) was heavy, hot and constrictive. Before we went I was worried that there wouldn't be any access to bathrooms down there (I drink a lot of water…), which there weren't, but it was so not an issue, peeing was definitely the last thing on my body's agenda! What an experience!

I even have a little souvenir of copper ore: the Perth customs officer thought it was an awesome bit of potential contraband, but luckily I got to keep it :)

On the way back we had two 7h stopovers; one in Almaty and one in Hong Kong. In Almaty we took a dodgy taxi ride into town (500 tenge became 500 tenge/km, the ropes decorating the taxi seats should have been a warning sign…) to go see the beautiful Zenkov Cathedral - one of the only wooden cathedrals in the world, and it's made entirely without the use of nails! Scott insisted there's no way anyone would be able to know, so it's probably not true… he has a point.

We stayed a while and enjoyed the beautiful Russian Orthodox service out of the cold, it was so beautiful I didn't even mind I had to wear a head scarf (tolerance disclaimer - the bit that bothered me wasn't the head scarf, it was that I had to borrow one from a communal box and I'm a germaphobe).

After a terrible sleep on the flight to Hong Kong we sucked it up (along with a Berrocca) and went into town to go see The Peak. It was a really busy Sunday, so that's pretty much the only thing we got to do before we had to go back to the airport, but we took a detour through some markets on the way where I bought some awesome chopsticks with little ducks as the chopstick rests.

Our trip was really successful, but man o man it was exhausting. I took Friday off and spent the weekend relaxing and celebrating Mel and Brendan's wedding down south at Laurence's winery and Pullman resort in Bunker Bay. Congratulations Mel and Brendan!

The wedding was beautiful, Mel looked stunning and Brendan looked very handsome, the speeches and videos were touching and witty, and the reception was really really fun! Maybe a little bit too fun (my head is still hurting a bit today).

Down south is a beautiful place for a wedding. Andrew and I enjoyed the most of our rare time off by having lunch at Knee Deep winery on the drive down on Friday (the butternut medley was amazing), and lunch at Bootleg Brewery on the drive back, which I would have appreciated much more on a less fuzzy brain/tummy.

Congratulations again to Mel and Brendan!

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