Samara to Aqtobe
We left Samara on a beautiful cool Sunday morning, with none of the mad and terrifying traffic of the rush hour when we arrived. We got some dirt road detours but all in all the road was very good. The wind gusts we had that day were incredibly strong, even for seasoned Cape Town riders! One was so strong at one point, I screamed – I’m allowed, I’m a girl!!!!
We have to say that, while riding/driving in Russia can be somewhat scary, we have never witnessed any road rage, which sadly has become quite common in Australia. Drivers seem to have very poor judgement of speed/distance and we witnessed so many close shaves… I found that if a car came up fast behind me, I would indicate to let them overtake me, and they would suddenly back off. Then once they were past us, they would flash their lights to thank us.
The Russian to Kazakhstan border crossing, coming from Mashtakov, was very simple and only took 2 hours. The hardest part was negotiating the loose gravel, potholes and bumps at slow speeds. I got spooked when I very nearly dropped my bike after having successfully got through that gravel. I didn’t do so well as I was about to leave the final Russian gate (having handed over the last piece of stamped paper). And over I went – right in front of all the cars and trucks waiting to make they way past the border too!! No real damage done – just a sore knee. Shortly after leaving that border, while in no man’s land, the road was atrocious, with more ravines with loose gravel: I chickened out at that point and asked Anthony to ride my bike over. The crossing into Kazakhstan was very easy. Luckily we knew the process from a most helpful forum on Caravanistan: get one tiny piece of paper (5cm x 2cm) from a helpful border guy in a tiny shack who filled in with our registration number for us, drive a few metres and park and go to another shack and quickly fill out the blank form we’d just been given by another guy while we’re queuing, make sure the first tiny piece of paper got stamped then, then go to yet another building for customs. Once again, another helpful guy came up to us which saved us going into that building. He asked what we had in each bag and top box, asked if we had any guns or knives, and waived us on, saying we didn’t have to go to the big building. Drive on again a few metres to one last little shack, hand over the tiny piece of paper duly stamped and here we were now in Kazakhstan. The hardest part was to hang onto all those pieces of paper, registration documents in the incredible wind!!!
Next we had to find where to get the road insurance. We had heard to look out for unmarked looking buildings immediately after the border. And we found them.
Anthony managed to video one of those crazy overtaking moments. Just over the Kazakhstan border, the queue of trucks waiting to leave Kazakhstan was huge so a mini van decided to overtake them all, coming towards us, but so did a car too so the car squeezed between the trucks and van, forcing the van off the road – with us coming towards them, on a single lane!! Hilarious!!! And we all managed to get through, no problem!!
We got to Uralsk that night, found a road side motel, had dinner at the nearby cafe and slept.
The next day was hard. We covered 450kms, including a few long dirt bits but they were fine, with very little soft sand so far, except where Anthony did a fantastic skid and recovery in a split second and I managed to avoid that soft patch. But the majority of the road was incredible!!!! Very good condition, much less traffic. But the WIND!!!!!!! So so strong, for hours!!! Our necks got sore keeping our head ‘straight’. We finished off the day with a long, bad stretch outside Aqtobe. By the time we got to the city centre and spotted a hotel, we were so glad to stop and find a good bed. We slept for 11 hours!!!
When we woke up and realised how tired we were, we decided to stay over an extra day as we had to register with the police ( as tourists you have to register within 5 days of arrival) and I needed to get my chain adjusted. So we’ve had a leisurely day and we are ready to go to bed ahead of a new day on the road.
We’ll be camping tomorrow somewhere, so until next time…. Enjoy Anthony’s videos 🙂