Monthly Archives: October 2013

Moscow

Moscow (Russia), 28.10.2013

Leaving Volgograd on a dizzy morning, the day ahead promised many km – and delivered more then expected. There is not much to write about the day on the road. Bad weather, low visibility, OK roads, and just a lot of time driving on flat land with trees and occasional ditches or hills. The more interesting part came in the evening, approaching Moscow. The last 150km I drove in the dark, and only the last hour or so there was some kind of motorway. From a country of this size and richness I would have expected more bigger roads, especially because for once there was traffic, enough cars for bigger roads. Continue reading

Volgograd

Volgograd (Russia), 26.10.2013

Leaving Atyrau in the morning the sun was shining, although temperatures reached just 2 degrees. The road out of town towards the Russian border was in bad shape, with frequent potholes and bumps, but time went by quickly and before I even realised it a couple of hours had passed and I reached the border. This was the last stretch of steppe, with camels and cows strolling across it. Continue reading

Back to Europe

Atyrau (Kazakhstan), 24.10.2013

After Aralsk there is nothing to see for hundreds of kilometers. The LP guide mentions no town, no hotel. Since I couldn’t drive across the desert from Zhalanash to the Caspian See (if I got stuck in sand on the first meters there was simply no chance to do a couple of hundred kilometers), I had to take the main roads to the north. At 09:00 in the morning I left town. The gas station of the previous day gave me another 20l of diesel, and then I drove for hours across the usual flat steppe. The sky was grey today, bad weather loomed in the sky ahead, and temperatures didn’t get over 11 degrees in the morning. Continue reading

Space and the Lake

Aralsk (Russia), 22.10.2013

Today I saw two soviet relics in the desert of what today is Kazakhstan. The first one of scientific and technical significance, the second one a an ecological disaster on a staggering scale. The morning started with no water and a “shower” with a small bucket of water plus the 5 liter tank I had bought the night before. Shortly before 09:00 the phone rang and somebody asked me something in Russian. I just understood “lunch bag”. Then the phone rang again while I was in the bathroom, then again. Now it was Yana, my translator: “Do you want breakfast?”. “Of course, but I was told to be downstairs at 09:00, and I am leaving the room now.” I walked down the stairs to the hotel restaurant. The corridors smelling of cigarette smoke in the morning, the big empty halls with cheap sofas and decorations, the concrete stairs in rough cement and bad manufacturing, the restaurant with fake privè corners and real disco lights – this place was a fine example of a soviet relic adapting to modern times without hiding its past. Continue reading

Mausoleum Day

Baikonur (Kazakhstan or Russia, it depends on who you ask), 21.10.2013

The day started with a geography test and socializing lesson with a Kazakh youngster who admired the map on the Evoque while I made breakfast in the mobile kitchen. Among the milestone pins on the red route across Asia he marked his city Taraz with his finger on the dirt that covered the map. A friend came and marked the next town, Shu. In the meanwhile I focussed on coffee and sandwiches in the sun. Continue reading

The Last Rough Stretch

Taraz (Kazakhstan), 20.10.2013

Waking up late (the wine of the previous night seemed to have nocked me out), the day started slow, I packed, checked out, and somehow didn’t want to leave Almaty. The first stop was a nearby supermarket to buy food for the next days. Then I had to fuel up. I wanted a full tank of diesel, but for a reason I couldn’t understand the guys at the gas station wouldn’t sell me more then 40l of diesel. In Russia and sometimes also in Kazakhstan they have this incomprehensible habit of prepaying a specific amount of liters of fuel. The concept of a full tank is something they don’t get. I tried to explain I wanted more diesel, without success. I left frustrated.

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Chilling in Almaty

Almaty (Kazakhstan), 19.10.2013

Of the two days I spent in Almaty the first one went to getting the car checked by the local Land Rover service center (Caspian Motors), that had already helped by sending a service car to Bishkek in the summer when the Evoque had broken down there. I also washed some 20kg of laundry in a shady place in the courtyard of a hospital. My new friend Zhannat had found the place somehow, and they did indeed wash everything properly, although the location didn’t inspire too much confidence. They even put some extra socks in the bag when I got my stuff back. Continue reading

Back to Central Asian Vibe

Almaty (Kazakhstan), 17.10.2013

The whole night long I couldn’t sleep, it was too cold. I woke up three times, thinking it must be in the early morning, but it wasn’t. At 05:00 I gave up and started to pack. The tent was covered in frost, -2 degrees. As I put the camping gear into the car I saw two eyes staring at me in the dark. A fox stood at a couple of meters distance and watched. Continue reading

Moonlight on a Field

45 48’56’N 80 31’15″E (Kazakhstan), 16.10.2013

1200km from Almaty with not much in between, and close to a former Soviet atom bomb test site, I spent some time in the morning to decide where to go today. The LP guide offers close to no sights between Semey and Almaty, so I decided to just drive south and see how far I could get. After a good sleep I left Semey late in bright sunshine, the few clouds quickly disappeared and I spent the next 7 hours driving over flat land with not much on it. Continue reading

Towards Kazakhstan

Semey (Kazakhstan), 15.10.2013

The first sunlight woke me up on the day that marked six months on the road. The showers of the “gostiniza” were indeed hot, the heating warmed the room, thinking about the last two nights in Mongolia everything was good. In no rush I washed my food containers, made sandwiches with the delicacies from the supermarket in Ulaan Baatar, prepared tea and coffee, peeled apples. The host handed me back my passport and the registration papers that are needed for every night in Russia, and wished me “good travel” with a smile. Continue reading