It is pushing thirty-five degrees in Almaty so we have spent the early afternoon with a shisha and iced coffee in order to escape the sun. Now, we are back in our market searching for cherries and cranberries because tonight our plan is to picnic on top of a mountain.
A long walk takes us up the hill to the shopping centre and a supermarket where we get pasta, pesto and treats. I find a litre can of Czech beer and decide to buy it for the craic.
I have never seen anything so obscene.
When I tell Anička this she looks at me as if I have the nose of a frog. Apparently, these tins are very common in the Czech Republic.
Halfway down the hill, we arrive at the Kok Tobe cable car. This will take us up to the base of the tower where we plan to picnic.
We have discovered that the tower is up another hill that will give us views of Almaty and the mountains surrounding it.
The last time we were in a cable car, in Taiwan, I couldn’t deal with the height. That one zig-zagged up through the mountains for four kilometres.
This one is much shorter and doesn’t climb as high by itself. At the top, We find a ferris wheel and theme park.
Quickly, we walk through a fun-park and have a look out over the city. On the other side of the hill we find a patch of grass to sit upon with a view over the snow-topped mountains. We unpack the food and Anička begins to take pictures of our treats – a little pink bird and purple cow. Then a guard tells us we must take a seat instead.
As we finish our picnic, a policeman walks up and speaks to us in Russian. He is clearly asking about our beer. Anička understands him but we play dumb. He forces out his question in English: “Is that beer?” We must throw the tins in the bin unfinished.
No matter – it’s only beer, but now we have half-an-hour of talking to policemen in large Soviet-style caps ahead of us while we try to climb the tower. We walk to the end of the path we are on, which seems to be the quickest way to its base. Standing there is the policeman, bored out of his mind and playing games on his phone. He indicates that we cannot pass.
The carparks on the other side of the hill are our next option. The verge is a little field of clover. We can find none with four leaves to give us luck on our mission.
The tower is fifty metres away but there is no path leading to it. We decide to enquire with a policeman who is guarding a summer party for Almaty’s rich.
He may not have the best grasp of English but the policeman understands our pointing and motions us back to where we started. We had been beginning to wonder if the tower was closed – maybe it’s not.
Back on the mountain path, Candy Crush looks up from his phone for just long enough to shoo us away. Anička tries in Russian. He will not let us through, and nor will he tell us if the tower is ever open or whether it is closed because of the rich people’s party.
Disappointed, we give up and decide to return to our hotel. There will be no sunset from the top of the tower tonight.
Every cloud has a silver lining and when we arrive at the cable car station that lining breaks into view. The crimson sun bursts through the clouds – shooting its rays down upon Almaty. It is an awe-inspiring second best.