The M-32 road from the north of Kazakhstan had proved to be in better condition than those in previous years had experienced, and judging from the state of the upgrades this will still be a good road in 2015 for those who wish to undertake such a journey to the heart of the “Stans”. Today did prove to be our first challenging riding day in terms of the road conditions. We reached
Baikonur, the launch site for the former Soviet Union space program, and leased to Russia for space launches. Special permits are required to enter the area until early 2015 we understand, so we by-passed the area.
This was the start of the roadworks between Baikonur to Kyzylorda which has many bridge & culvert replacements underway, with appropriate dirt roads and dusty detours. The dust in places is so deep you can bury the toes of your boots in it. With both transit and construction traffic, it can be quite interesting to ride, especially as even though we are relatively novice dirt riders, we are still faster than the trucks and most cars which do not have the flexibility of the motorcyclen (faster on gravel and in bull dust but not sand which still spooks me and I find totally exhausting – Anne). What is a newly opened road seems to be determined by how you can get past the earth barriers and whether the bridge or culvert crossing is in place. We were encouraged in one instance to use an unopened section by the construction truck drivers. It saved us a couple of kilometres of dirt.
So finally to Kyzylorda, we had been travelling for about 10 hours with breaks. We had plugged hotels into the GPS and were heading in that direction, when a young local on a small Honda motorcycle offered to guide us. The first location did not seem to be a hotel anymore, but our guide took us to another hotel – it was now 9pm – it had showers, water, air-conditioning; all the essentials after three days on the road. I think we got our value in water alone! (At 5pm, I thought we were going to have to camp by the side of the road as I was so exhausted from the sand sections, but after a 30′ break, Anthony pouring water over my head, I recovered and was so glad we had made it all the way to Kyzylorda!! – Anne)
Today was maintenance day and a time to check over the bikes after all the dirt had been washed off them. While we give the bikes a daily check this is time for a more detailed inspection. We had decided that the enthusiastic mechanics chain adjustment was a little tighter than we liked so a small adjustment there, tyre pressures ok and a small object lodged in Anne’s rear tyre. A pair of pliers produced a 40 mm nail and a pronounced hissing sound. A chance to test the tyre repair kit, we were both thrilled! Better to fix in the car park of a nice hotel than at the side of a dusty road. The instructions were simple to follow and execute and we will see tomorrow how the repair stands up to the rigours of the road.
Our recovery time has been spent doing washing, emails and shopping. We found a fantastic supermarket called “Small” which is the largest we’ve seen since leaving the UK!!! It even has an extensive choice of cooked meats and salads which we sampled for dinner tonight. Didn’t sample any of the vodka on offer:
As we were walking ‘home’ to our bizarre hotel, we crossed the road at the same time as 3 cops. Once on the other side, one of them decided to ask us questions – where are you going, where are you from, where are your documents? Documents?! We hadn’t thought to take them with us for a 10′ walk – oops. Where are you staying – at the hotel over there. So off he comes with us until he asks which hotel – the Nomad Palace hotel. To which he waved a hand in disgust as it was too hot and too far for him to walk to at the end of his day. So off we went. The only other time we have been stopped by police in Kazakhstan, was coming into a little village – he just wanted a chat. Never even asked about documents.
Pedestrian crossings in Kazakhstan are respected by everyone – whether on the highway or towns. And the first car , truck or bus to approach you stops for you! Quite surreal considering how they drive!! Surreal like our hotel – we think we are the only guests here tonight but it is full of staff to attend to your every need!! I couldn’t even bring the 2 plates which I asked to borrow from the dining room up to our room – the sweet waitress had to do that for me, so we walked up the flight of stairs together.
Tomorrow we start towards Bishkek, a 1000kms away, and a few nights’ camping along the road, so really no more updates until we arrive there.
– Anthony then Anne