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.
When I raised my light stick, he ran away, only to come back closer some minutes later. I turned the engine on and started to heat water for coffee and tea. My hands were completely frozen from packing, and it took me a while to finish all preparations before hitting the road at 05:43. When I had left the tent the sky had been dark blue and full of stars. Now it was a little lighter already, and over the next hour and a half the daylight appeared as I slowly drove south through the steppe. The villages I crossed became lovelier, with tree lined streets. And a police car that stopped me in the early morning. The officer came to my car, I did the usual trick of “I just speak English.” This time I got a police officer that also spoke a little english, and things got complicated. He mentioned the “straf”, showed me a 50km/h limit sign on his phone and told me to come see his speed measuring camera. He caught me at 52 and 51, and insisted the limit was 40. I told him that in Europe, where I come from” it is 50, hence I drove at that speed. Somehow we started joking, and he wished me safe travel after a while. Shortly after I saw another beautiful light brown fox on a field, looking at me as I drove past.
The further south I drove, the warmer it got. The countryside was hilly, often the road was lined with tall trees, it started to feel like the Central Asian part of this journey some months ago. At Sarkand I fuelled up, and from there on the journey somehow changed. Temperature was close to 20 degrees, there were more cars on the street, villages more frequent, also smaller ones. People sold fruit on the side of the street. At Saryozek I left the main street and drove eastwards, into the Altyn Emel National Park area, crossing a vast stretch of desert. Camels walked along the road, small oasis offered shade sometimes, tombs littered the vast flat land. All around snow covered mountains appeared. After an hour of desert the road led into arid brown mountains, I stopped under some trees for a break. The wind shook the leaves, crating a sense of freshness on this hot day. A little later I stopped at another site for a roadside picnic under trees with a little ditch, before heading for the Charyn Canyon. On the way I crossed two other canyons, that suddenly descended from the vast flat desert around. In the valleys, the river gave enough water for a lush green vegetation to grow. Once on the plateau again, everything got brown and dusty.
The Charyn Canyon was indeed particularly beautiful, with the river gently flowing through a valley lined with trees and grassland. At this time of the year, the leaves were changing colours from green to red and yellow. A beautiful sight to enjoy, even more so with a hot moka coffee from the mobile kitchen. From Charyn the road was pretty straight towards Almaty. The closer I got to the city, the broader the road, and the more frequent the speed controls in the villages. This stretch of road reminded me the day we had left Bishkek, driving towards Issyk Köl. The lake was just on the other side of the mountains on my left, in Kyrgyzstan.
Reaching Almaty, I quickly went to check the location of the Land Rover dealer, to find it better the next morning, and then drove to the hotel. The city made a pretty orderly and modern impression at first sight, compared to Bishkek, and more beautiful and less grandiose then Tashkent. At the hotel, I unpacked the entire car, since it had to go to inspection the next day. And after freshening up, I met Zhannat, a classmate of a colleague in Madrid, that had tried to help when the Evoque had broken down in Bishkek and I had contacted again now that I came to her city.
– Km driven: 874
– Hrs on the road: 12,5
– Diesel l/100km: 8,7
– Daily high: 21 degrees Celsius
– Daily low: -2 degrees Celsius