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.
When I write “flat”, it is actually totally so, for hours there were almost no hills. Different from Mongolia, the fields were cultivated and not just plain steppe. But the picture of the day was yellow and light blue as far as the eye could see on 360 degrees. The roads kept changing from Turkmenistan-horror to fresh tar, with many variations in between. The fuel stop and a police officer halting me for alleged speeding (a joke, given the road conditions) were the two breaks of the day. I escaped the police with again not speaking Russian. In the few villages I passed, abandoned ruins of Soviet concrete constructions (housing blocks, gas stations, bus stops, factories) in all states of decay were omnipresent. In a military compound, the gates decorated with two tanks, half the multi story buildings were given up, the windows closed with bricks, the rest was still in use in deplorable conditions.
As it got dark, I needed to find a place to stay. Apart from a roadsigns with a bed and fork on it I saw not the slightest hint at accommodation for the night, and until I had reached some hills and trees it had already gotten dark. I didn’t want to camp on a plain field with no visual protection from the road. Suddenly I found a spot, stopped and left the main road. Behind some trees, 20m off the street, was a field facing East, where the sun would rise tomorrow morning. In the dark I set up the tent, the almost full moon shed a clear silver light between the clouds. Apart from the vehicles passing by on the street there was complete silence, no wind, nothing else – like in the Mongolian steppe. The sky was partially covered with fluffy white clouds. Every now and then they let the moon and the stars shine through, a magic atmosphere. A day low on action came to a calm end. Tomorrow I planned to start the day early and see some places before reaching Almaty.
– Km driven: 640
– Hrs on the road: 7,5
– Diesel l/100km: 9,2
Temperatures were back to normal throughout the day, over 10 degrees Celsius.