By Laura Suleimenova
July 11, on a novel bicycle arrived to Atyrau Raf Van Hulle, a globetrotter from Belgium, one of 33 cyclists riding from France to Astana as part of the Sun Trip 2013 bike journey.
What makes the visit unusual is the solar and wind powered bicycle the young man was on. Ak Zhaik used the opportunity to talk to the guest from Belgium during his short stop in the town.
Raf says the ride kicked off in the French city of Savoy at the foot of Alps - from the new office of INES - one of the largest solar power research centers in Europe. Participants represent France, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan.
Crossed the start line together, the cyclists split up in the Saint-Bernard Gorge in the Alps. Many went through hardships, especially during the descend, except Raf who had envisaged a function in his bike that enabled him to disconnect the small engine from solar power supply, a detail the others had missed.
Based on a bike's capacities, each itinerant chose his most convenient route to meet the others at the final in Astana.
The run's objective was to demonstrate what an ecologic transport is to people in the countries en route to the Kazakh capital, the host of international Expo-2017, the logo of which Raf proudly wears on his t-shirt.
His bike reminds of a scooter rather than a bicycle - low and with a hard seat. Though large plain sun panels give it a clumsy look, it can travel at considerable speeds. Under the panels the man has accommodated his baggage including a tent and a small gas bulb for cooking.
The Belgian says he has patented his solar bike. The structure is made of simple details he ordered from Canada and China. Combination of human muscle power and sun batteries helps reach the speed of 50km/h. Given this, the most important feature is it's harmlessness towards nature.
To my admiration "What a fast and noise-free vehicle", Raf with dignity replied "Above all, it is odourless!".
Among the good impressions about our country, the guest mentioned Kazakh cuisine and friendly people:
"Your food gives lots of energy (points index at his leg), not like that in Russia."
What he disliked here is the endless cloud of mosquitoes, which promise him an unforgettable memory of his overnight sleep near the Ganyushkino village. With great astonishment he explained how he used every possible method to fight the bloodsuckers to no effect: he even lit a torch and placed it outside the tent.
In one of the yards in the Avangard District, men mobbed his off-beat bike and long examined the hardware with great interest, before we wished him a safe journey on behalf of Atyrau people.