Fascinating Kazakhstan, May 08th. 2012 >>> June 5.
2012-05-08 > 107km / 280hm / sunny all day 28°C / Ø 16.6km/h / pedaling time 6:29hrs / day 14 / total 1453km, I left Astrachan about 3pm, did some shopping and a small sight-seeing walk. There were many tourists in the hotel waiting to board the ship for a 14 day cruise up the Volga River, all the way to St. Petersburg. Today it was a bit less windy, The road through the Volga-delta up to the Russian border reminded me of the Danube delta in the Ukraine. Swampy / sandy flat landscape. As I reached the border area after about 60km, the sun was almost gone. Custom / immigration formalities were no problem on the Russian side. This time a very young and good looking lady officer was in charge of the passport section. No checking of my luggage. On the road I noticed a remarkable number of fairly new, big Willi Betz trucks being lined up to enter Kazakhstan. After about 6km the final Russian border post, with no significant interest in an old pedaling man.
Then one has to cross a bridge over another arm of the Volga, to get to the Kazakhstan border post. Again no problem, the officer saw my birthdate and told me that I was as old as his father, so no problem getting across into the new country and into a new time zone. Now I am 3 hours ahead of Central European time. On the other side of the fence the usual lineup of money changers and trucks and some taxis. In the meantime it was fairly dark and the guesthouse that I was hoping to book tonight, did not exist,,, And I did not feel the urge to pitch up my tent in the snake and mosquito infested Volga swamps. The only choice I had, was to pedal the additional 40km to Ganushkino. Kazakhstan’s roads are not exactly suitable for after sunset cycling, so it was a bit of a challenge. Fortunately my head and tail lights are pretty powerful, almost better than some of the local old Ladas. I arrived just before midnight and got a nice room with hot shower and clean linen at a reasonable price. Location: N46°35.831’ E049°12.500’
2012-05-09 > 71km / 494hm / strong headwind / again sunny all day 31°C / Ø 11.1km/h / pedaling time 6:24hrs / day 15 / total 1526km, late start from Ganyushkino, after search for ATM, (Nr.3 accepted VISA) Today is a public holiday in most GUS countries, Victory day over German Nazis and Fascism, 67 years ago! Since the Ukraine I saw posters about the Victory day everywhere, accompanied by lots of WWII movies on TV. Near city hall, the local authorities had setup a pavilion in the shape of a Mongolian Yurt and beside local folk music and performances they played German / Bavarian yodel songs, very bizarre,,, matching the occasion?! After Buddhist temples in Kalmykia, the orthodox churches in Russia, this is a mosques country again. And the typical Dobroe utro has changed to as-salāmu ʿalaikum, After the grand tour of Ganyushkino, I also had a bit of food and water shopping to do, in a small supermarket / magazine, with a bunch of good tempered market ladies. Somehow I could not get into the pedaling mood today, there was just too much wind again. At a gas station I managed to talk to one of the Bulgarian Willi Betz truck drivers and he told me that they are hauling war material for the American and Nato forces from Riga in Latvia to Kabul / Afghanistan, an unbelievable bit of trucking, 6000km on these horrible roads. And they return empty,,, what a waste of tax money,,, every day I see dozens of convoys like that in groups of 3 to 10 trucks. Just after sunset I found a good, well hidden place for my bicycle and tent, trillions of stars, some mosquitoes and the first camels,,, good n cool night rest in the bundu. N46°44.024’ E050°01.420’
2012-05-10 > 114km / 296hm / headwind / again sunny all day 33°C / Ø 14.2km/h / pedaling time 8:03hrs / day 16 / total 1642km, Tent a bit vet this morning, only 11°C , after 12km Zaburun’e, along the way the first oil pumps and more camels. Pretty dreary region, the town was so small that I totally missed it, there were only a few buildings and at a distance some oil tanks / installations. So I turned back to have breakfast at a café’. Nice lady quickly made an omelet, with bread, coffee, and some apples. The usual question came up, “where do you come from?” when I said Germaniya – she replied with a pleasant smile, “Ah!, Fascista, Nazi country” On the wall, she had a huge picture of a waterfall in a lush green setting, which must have been her dream landscape in this dry and barren semi desert. I got my usual 4 Liters of water and started heading East again. After a about 1km I had a look at the map and realized how close to the Caspian Sea I was, and it would be a shame not to do this little detour to have a look and perhaps cool of my hot feet, But as it turned out, it wasn’t that easy. The track was extremely sandy and I had to push my bicycle most the time. Nevertheless it was worth it. Very wild romantic setting with dozens of horses and camels, The waterline was far out and unfortunately extremely muddy tidelands, similar to the Wattenmeer in Germany. By the time I returned to the main road again, I had already used up half of my water rations, so I had to return to the café again to get more H2O and a cold coke. This time another guest had stopped there to have lunch. We started talking and because of his perfect English, we had no communication problems. He asked if I would like to join him which I happily accepted. The people of Kazakhstan are very hospitable. He was from Atyrau and had to go to a 20 minute meeting in Ganyushkino. 290km x 2 a full day program. Later in the afternoon he passed me again returning from the meeting. While I was heading towards Aqqistau I passed more and more camels. At one point a herdsman came up with his camel and I was about to ask him if I could take a picture of him with his animal, when he grabbed his mobile phone to take a picture of me and my bike, an amusing situation. All the way along the road, cars are honking in a friendly way, when they pass me. Later in the afternoon I met a troika of Russian BMW bikers in a side road. They had very sophisticated equipment and were very well organized, including support cars. Their plan is to get to the Pamir highway, via Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. On the way, they will stop at the Baikonur Cosmodrome to watch the launch of a satellite. Too bad that I will miss this event, because it will take me at least another 8 days to get to Baikonur. After 114km of pedaling I reached Aqqistau with a small guesthouse, unfortunately right next door to a betting joint with a whole bunch of totally drunk fellows, but I slept OK and had at least a few buckets of water to rinse of the dust of the day,,, N47°13.595’ E051°00.385’
2012-05-11 > 90km / 176hm /strong headwind / again sunny all day 34°C / Ø 14.3km/h / pedaling time 6:20hrs / day 17 / total 1732km, Totally hot and dusty day, used facemask from my friend Ocean in Hong Kong, to keep a bit of moisture on the skin. Eventless day, straight roads, again many Willi Betz trucks. Took some photos with my remote release device also from Hong Kong. Arrived at Ak Zhaik hotel in Atyrau, about 6pm, too late to do the police registration. The hotel wants 60US$ handling charge. I must do it tomorrow. Good buffet dinner at reasonable price. Hotel is just across the Ural River, in the Asian part of Atyrau. N47°06.343’ E051°55.434’
2012-05-12 > 0km / Day 18 /Saturday non pedaling day / police for registration- all screwed up, I think I would have been better off paying the 60US$ to get this paper. Spend the whole morning running from A to B to C and back to A, at the end they told me to come back on Monday, which means I have to stay an extra day…. Plus on Monday I exceed the 5 day limit to register, which means that I might have to pay a 100US$ penalty, what a rip-off,,, Time is running fast,,, and I thought this was going to be an relaxing, old man pedaling trip,,,
2012-05-13 > 0km / day 19 / Sunday / non pedaling day / small repairs and writing day, got KZ SIM card and USB modem, I hope I get it to work, Instructions all in Russian. Hotel has good working WiFi. When doing the www update, I discovered that that the Kalmykian News has published an article on my trip, also in the internet: http://www.kalmykianews.ru/2012/old-man-pedaling-elistu-posetil-puteshestvennik-stephan-werner-iz-germanii/
2012-05-14 > 0km / day 20 / Monday / non pedaling day /
First thing in the morning I went to the Police about my registration, They told me that I can get my passport with the stamp after 5pm. In other words I have to stay another day. Well, the hotel and food is good. There are many Indian technicians from the oilfields living in this hotel. Atyrau has a lot of modern buildings. The oil and gas industry is raising the standard of living in this part of the country. But it looks like there is not much money to improve the road system,,,
As promised, I received my stamp after 5pm and I did not have to pay anything. One just has to be patient.
In case I run out of time I might have to take the train or some other means of transport to get to the East of Kazakhstan. The weather continues to be sunny all day, nights are cool.
2012-05-15 > 100km / 244hm / strong headwind / again sunny all day 34°C / Ø 16.6km/h / pedaling time 6:00hrs / day 21 / total 1837km,
Leaving Atyrau in heavy traffic on a good road. Camels have disappeared. Countryside is fairly barren. Reached Dossor near sunset and found guesthouse. Nice room with 4 beds, shower and toilet separate. In the morning the guesthouse lady asked me for an extra 1000 Tenge for the bicycle storage in my room – strange?
Dossor is a very dusty. Running water must not be available, because one can see people lined up with canisters at wells. At the truck stop cafes and in some of the guesthouses people use these water-tank-sink- combos, a clever idea, when there is no running water.
From Dossor the Willi Betz trucks with their war material, are turning south-east towards Uzbekistan, to get to the Hindu Kush via Tajikistan.
Dossor, N47°32.260’ E052°58.668’
2012-05-16 > 81km / 527hm /extremely strong headwind ,getting worse / sunny all day 33°C / Ø 9.8km/h / pedaling time 8:16hrs / day 22 / trip total 1923km,
First part of the road asphalt, but after the natural gas plant in Makat, end of pavement, unbelievable road conditions. Everything one can imagine, really coarse gravel, huge potholes, long, sandy parts and corrugated stretches which are the worst. Most local trucks are driving off-road somewhere. There are dozens of tracks running parallel to the “road” It reminds me of my African trips through the Sahara desert. It’s a really slow day with lots of walking time. Many friendly drivers, offering a ride, they cannot understand why an old man would cycle such a long way.
Along the roads there are lots of big sculptures / statues, either portraying animals or animal like symbols. In many ways the Kazakh display of art, 2and 3dimensional is very unique and different to what I have ever seen. Many graphics have a mysterious touch. That includes also the Tenge money. I Arrived in Zhamansor after sunset, could not find a guesthouse, but at a café some people told me that I could sleep at their house. A Very nice family. The grandmother is 4 years older than me and had 16 children! They have 2 houses, cars, motorcycle, camels, horses, goats and chicken. I wish could speak their language to communicate. I slept well in an empty room. Friendly Kazakhstan!
2012-05-17 > 60km / 382hm / terrible headwind , worse than yesterday / sunny all day 34°C night cool 15°C / Ø 10km/h / pedaling time 5:56hrs / day 23 / trip total 1985km,
Little change in land scape mostly flat endless Kazakh steppe. The wind reduces ones motivation to a minimum. Saw a small thin snake killing a big green lizard. I am not sure how it will get this huge animal into his digestive system. After taking the snake picture looked back to the horizon and saw some moving silhouettes which did not look like camels but almost like cyclists. What a surprise! Two really nice fellows Joep and Pim, from Rotterdam on the way to Mongolia. We had a long chat and I was relieved to hear that their average speed was within the same range as mine – 10km/h So we could boost our motivation by swearing at the wind and cycled together to the next truck stop “café “ which was just a few km down the road. Since it was “Himmelfahrt” in Europe we decided to order a big meal of Sharkoye ? and Borscht with lots of Cola and Chai. When we were about to start eating, another cyclist appeared, what a coincident, after not seeing any cyclists for weeks. His name is Stefan from Kempten in Germany, on the way to Siberia and Vladivostok. A great guy who has already done a 4 year Patagonia-Alaska bike trip. It was an interesting afternoon and we had a lot of stories to share. When we were getting ready to leave and look for a campsite, Pim noticed that my rear tire was flat. Then I decided to stay at the truck-stop to fix the tire. After removing the inner tube I realized that it was a so called “snake bite” from one of the sharp stones, so I also affixed a patch to the inside of the tire.
Fortunately I could get a room there, as it was already getting dark.
Mukur Café @ N48°03.230’ E054°29.056’
Pim & Joep have their www site: tweemongolen.nl
2012-05-18 > 104km / 400hm /strong headwind ,getting less in the evening / sunny all day 31°C / Ø 11.1km/h / pedaling time 9:22hrs / day 24 / trip total, today passed the 2000km mark since Simferopol.
Very rough road after Mukur, so I used some of the many side tracks, they are smoother but sandy in places. In one of these sandy patches I lost control and landed on my knee, No problem or pain at first, but then later in the evening it started to swell into nice big lump. But with a bit of Voltaren ointment I continued to pedal and had no problem.
Later on one of my precious water bottles got a hole from rubbing at the saddle springs.
And then, just before sunset I heard this hated sound: psh – psh – pshà>>from the rear tire. Another puncture, at the same place where I had the snake bite yesterday. So my patch inside the tire did not last very long. This time I changed to a new tire. Fortunately I had just gotten one before I left Germany. Now no more spares, I hope it does not happen again.
After fixing the tire - the sun was already below the horizon – I noticed that the wind had calmed down considerably. Since there was virtually no traffic, I decided to continue up to Zharly, hoping to find a Gastiniza. But no luck. It was already past midnight and there was no guesthouse. Just on the outskirts of this small town I pitched my tent and after looking at all these zillions of stars in a totally black sky, I fell immediately into a deep, dreamless sleep!
Out in the Kazakh Bundu near Zharly @ N48°32.083’ E055°36.873’ cool night 12°C
2012-05-19 > only 49km / 342hm /strong headwind again / sunny all day, high 33°C / Ø 11.6km/h / pedaling time 4:11hrs / day 25
When I woke up in the morning I discovered that I had camped not far behind a cemetery, but there were absolutely no people around. I hope I did not offend anyone.
After pulling down the tent and packing, I returned back to Zharly to get something for breakfast, The guesthouse was nicely organized and had a yurt type of room , which most drivers prefer because of the very relaxed atmosphere and seating arrangement. I took a picture but it’s out of focus.
Just before I was ready to continue, the Dutch / German trio appeared on the horizon with a big heard of goats. I guess I must have passed them last night. They also wanted to eat, but since it was already getting late I drove on, expecting them to catch up with me anyway.The road was sometimes bad, sometimes good, getting more hills and valleys. Most of the car drivers are extremely friendly, they honk and always wave at us, many want to take a picture. Even the trains which in places run parallel to the road are hooting their horns. All these friendly people compensate for the tough road conditions. After about an hour I stopped at a small lake to fix my inner tubes. In the water I could check if there are more punctures.
Then Pim, Joep,& Stefan showed up and we continued as a Dutch-German-Quartet. It was good fun and we laughed a lot. We took it easy and stopped in a small town called Baighnin to get some food for the night. Many helpful people guided us to find water, stores and an ATM that works.
One small incident caused a bit of trouble in town. When a policeman asked Pim to ride his bike, which he did, his boss appeared in a car and I guess he was not amused seeing his staff having fun with foreign tourist. He then asked us to move on and continue our journey. I hope the police guy did not get more problems from his boss after we left.
Those 3 guys are in terms of food and cooking utensils much better organized than me. I tried to keep the weight of all my stuff below 22kg. (beside bicycle and water) I have some emergency rations, but normally I don’t have much food, Even in the remote areas of this trip I have always been able to get something to eat at max 30 / 40 km distance. That’s why I removed my Ortlieb Front Roller Panniers and just have to take care of the 3 rear bags and the front map / camera case. It’s much easier, traveling alone when you can carry everything in one go. But since the Dutch guys are going to Mongolia they might definitely need more supplies to cover longer distances. Stefan also has a long distance plan, Vladivostok, Mongolia, China, Vietnam Thailand and then all the way back to Bavaria again.
Joep who is in charge of cooking, created a delicious meal – spaghetti with cheese & vegetables.
It was really interesting to find out that all 4 of us have many similar ways of thinking and living, Even with the huge age gap, (for instance Joep is 41 years younger than me!..and could almost be my grandson). For instance, neither one of us has a TV!
We watched many airplanes, falling stars and lots of satellites that night. The wind had calmed down again and there were almost no mosquitoes, at a cool 11°C near Baighnin @ N48°47.300’ E055°59.976’
2012-05-20 > 116km / 427hm / light wind from the East / sunny all day, beautiful clear view, almost no dust, 30°C / Ø 16,3km/h / pedaling time 7:02hrs / day 26
I can tell that my companions have a lot more experience in pitching & packing their tents, they were done in a very short time The day was nice and clear and we could cycle at a decent speed. On most of the hills I would fall back bit, but then on the plains I could catch up again. Last night we discussed our situation with the visa, Stefan has no problem because his is good for 3 month, but the Dutch guys and myself are running out of time. So we decided to take the train from Qandiaghash. Plus the fact that everybody tells me that the road which I wanted to take is impassable at the moment. I still have about 1500km to go to the eastern border.
Kazakhstan is such a gigantic country, the steppe is rally endless. The size is almost 8 times bigger than Germany with a population which is less than NRW. (16.7Mio). Under Soviet rule, religion did not play an important role, but now we see many newly build mosques along the way.
We got as far as Prokrovkiy about 30km south of Qandiaghash. After some food shopping, a number of young kids showed us the way to the village well and they also helped us hauling the bucket from 19m water level. In these remote areas there are no running water systems installed. But everywhere one can see gas lines, because it can get as cold as minus -40°C and in the summer above+40°C, extreme desert climate conditions.
After we found our camp site, Pim discovered on his brothers rear wheel a big hump, so they had to fix that. Schwalbe Mondial is realy not the kind of tire for these roads. Their sides are just too soft. Stefan also helped to get rid of the strange noise from Joep’s bottom bracket. I used their big Allen key to tighten my chain.
Joep made a lot of wonderful pancakes with apple slices and honey. Cool night ,12°C near Prokrovkiy @ N49°20.859’ E057°06.301
2012-05-21 > only 32 km / 152hm / light wind from the East / sunny all day, beautiful clear view, no dust except in town, 32°C / Ø 17,6km/h / pedaling time 1:47hrs / day 27 total trip 2293 / so far only 883km in Kazakhstan.
Short and easy ride to Qandiaghash, on a good road. We went straight to the train station to inquire about tickets and schedules. Stefan was of great help because he speaks Russian, but there was still a lot of confusion. I only want to go as far as Aral’sk but the Dutch brothers want to get to Shimkent.
I got the ticket and also had to fill in forms for the bike. Passport had to be copied. Additionally a passport check by the police. My train is scheduled for about 4pm, we have enough time to eat lunch at a nearby restaurant which turns out to be also a Gastiniza. Stefan decides to stay there for the night.
At 3:30pm we went to the station to get my train. But they tell us, its gone. The reason is that all train schedules are based on Astana time which is one hour ahead of Western Kazakhstan. I learned something, but lost about 15Euro because I had to buy a new ticket.
The next train was the same which will be used by the Pim & Joep. When we first asked they told us I cannot go on the same train. Or maybe a misunderstanding. For the bike I had to pay 500Tenge (about 2.50€) it was supposed to go on a different train. We still had time so we used Stefan’s shower at the Guesthouse
At 6:10pm local time we were heading for the train and stopped to get some water and food, when a lady from the station came to look for us to make sure we will not miss this train again. Now, that’s what I would call customer oriented service.
For an unknown reason the Dutch brothers did not have to do anything for their bikes. Although the lady conductor kept asking for something,,,, in the end they just placed them at the end of the passageway and everything was fine.I was in a cabin with 2 big ladies and a man from Uzbekistan. After lots of chatting and laughing by the ladies everybody went to bed, snoring happily. We arrived in Aralsk about 4:15am and I was woken up by the conductor. Pim & Joep still had more than 1000km to go.
2012-05-22> roughly 450km by train / sunny all day, 30°C / day 28Now in Aral’sk, I had to search for my bike. The lady at the ticket counter did not have anything to do with freight, so she referred me to another guy who unfortunately was not what I would call sober, as a matter of fact he had a hard time keeping his balance standing and walking. I was supposed to come back to him in 2 hours. He then disappeared. After another passport / police check they told me to stay in the waiting hall and get some sleep, which I did, there was nothing else to do at 4:45am.Around 7:00am the station became busier and I started to search for the freight man, but he could not be found. Then a nice guy in uniform managed to find him snoring away in the storage room where my bike was laying on the floor. Then everything was OK and I started heading for the legendary Aral Hotel. In the meantime my Garmin GPS had swallowed all my tracks including the one with hotel location, but Aral is a small town and the hotel is not far from the train station.
This hotel is something hard to describe and I don’t want to waste my time writing about it.
The town of Aral used to be the port city of the Aral sea, with a thriving fishing Industry, but since the Soviets cut of the water supply by diverting the main rivers in Uzbekistan for cotton field irrigation, the lake has almost dried out and is now less than 1/3 what it used to be before the 70ies. With the help of the World Bank they are trying to raise the water level and one day Aral might have a port again. In the internet one can find a lot of stuff about the sad story of the Aral Sea. The Soviets also used some of the islands to test their chemical and biological weapon systems,,, The cancer rate in the area is extremely high and the WHO is running several AID programs, Aral is among the poorest areas of Kazakhstan, with a high unemployment rate.
Aral Hotel @ N46°47.771’ E061°39.734
2012-05-23> 2km in the city of Aral / 30°C / day off / ,,,,a bit of sightseeing,,,
,,,, when ordering breakfast at a restaurant across the street from the hotel, my order did not quite arrive as I expected it. I wanted an omelet, made with 4 eggs , but got 4 omelets with 3 eggs each,,,, my communication problem again,,,
2012-05-24 > 124km / 305hm / light wind from the East / my road is going south / sunny all day, beautiful clear view, almost no dust, 36°C / Ø 17km/h / pedaling time 7:31hrs / day 30
Shortly after leaving Aral I am entering another time-zone, now on Astana time 4hrs diff. to Central European Time. Many nice people along the way, one driver stopped and gave me a small Kazakhstan flag as a present. From here all the way to the Eastern border of KZ (about 1000km) the road will be rebuild. It is a world-bank project, planning a road all the way from Western China to Western Europe, this section is supposed to be finished in March 2013. Large sections are already done; the rest is just horrible, dusty and bumpy, because of the many construction sites and detours. The quality of the new road is excellent, many parts like a 4 lane Autobahn, some are asphalt but many sections also concrete. It is an extremely hot day again with only a few places to get something to drink. There were lots of horses and camels along the way. After sunset I find a nice gastiniza near the railway station. Even the kitchen was already closed; the ladies prepared a delicious meal for me.
Qazhalinski @ N45°51.049’ E062°09.420
2012-05-25 > 107km / 316hm / strong head wind from the East / hot & sunny all day, 37°C / Ø 13km/h / pedaling time 8:15hrs / day 31
Partly the new CN-EU road but also many bad old sections and detours, with extremely rough and corrugated surface. Today a lot of problems with the extra battery for the GPS system, it keeps turning off as soon as I go below 7kmh. Due to the vibrations on the bad road, the steering stabilizer lost a nut. There were not many places to get water on the way, so I had to turn off into a village near the railroad, where I could get some sweet Russian Lemonade and water from a well. Very sandy road, so I lost about 1 hour.
As I get closer to Baikonur, I was hoping the roads would be better, since this is such a high-tech space center, but it seems like it is getting much worse. No need to have good roads because the Astronauts do not have to use them,,,
After sunset I found a truck-stop with gastiniza and shower. The lady told me to take the bike into my room because many drivers stop at this place – days and nights. Nice food with a big salad.
Tyuratam / Baikonur @ N45°40.542’ E063°18.503
2012-05-26 > 75km / 345hm / extreme strong head wind / sunny all day, 34°C / Ø 11.9km/h / pedaling time 6:15hrs / day 32
After leaving the gastiniza I passed Baikonur, but I only saw some antenna installations from a distance. I guess one needs a permit to get closer to the actual site. Just when I was packing my bike I saw another single cyclist heading West, but he was too far away from me to stop him. Later I talked to a driver along the way and he told me about a French fellow going to Europe, it might have been him. Near a small roadside café I talked to some Turkish truckers who were also on the way to Afghanistan, they got their military cargo from a US base in Germersheim Germany. They said that they have a lot of problems with the corruption of the police. What a trip! and they do this every 3 weeks!!! Landscape still the same, steppe, steppe, steppe,,, but getting a bit more hilly. In one of the really bad sections of the road one big gravel lorry stopped me to give me some camel milk, refreshing taste, a bit like butter milk.
Arrived in Zhosaly, but could not find a gastiniza. So I stayed at a truck-stop and shared a room with one of the employees, fortunately they had a sauna type washroom with buckets full of hot and cold water. That was great after such a sticky and dusty day. Paid only 600T about 2.50€, and the breakfast was good.
Zhosaly @ N45°30.555’ E064°03.844‘
2012-05-27> 96km / 232hm / head wind / sunny all day, 35°C / Ø 13.1km/h / pedaling time 7:25hrs / day 33
From Zhosaly on, I left the M32, because everybody told me how bad it was. I took a smaller road via Zhalaghash.
The first part was very bad too, unpaved, corrugated and extremely dusty, some sections with bad asphalt and some with good pavement for the last 40km, there were few shops to get supplies, people told me that there was a place to stay in Zhalaghash so I rode until about 10:30pm and found a nice room and shower on the same floor, toilet did not work at first, but then they fixed it. The lady who was running the gastiniza even gave me a piece of bread, cheese and some tomatoes. Along this road were lots of small rivers and swampy lakes, so I could at least wash the dust off, every once in a while. Because there is less traffic on these roads, almost every car stops and asks about, the where from, where to, how many km’s, how many days, how old …I have never been in a country where people are so interested in cycling travelers,
Zhalaghash @ N45°04.488’ E064°41.211‘
2012-05-27> 84km / 99hm / light wind / sunny, cloudy, rain, 20° / 33°C / Ø 18.5km/h / pedaling time 4:25hrs / day 34
Good paved road all the way, In a small village a fellow followed me on a mountain bike and was all excited because his wife just had baby daughter, he was so happy and laughing the whole time baby, baby,,,baby,,, Since yesterday the steppe has become more greener with trees and bushes. In the afternoon the first clouds appeared and within a few minutes it was pouring down heavily, I pulled off the road to get my rain gear organized, when I noticed that in no time this patch where I stood had turned into a terribly sticky, muddy swamp, Although it was only about 30 meters back to the pavement, I had a hell of a time to push my bike through this muck. After about 1 hour the whole game was over and the sun dried everything off quickly and a beautiful rainbow was the grand finale. QyzylOrda had some kind of fun fair with lots of little attractions and game booths, not much different from Germany.
QyzylOrda @ N44°50.647’ E065°29.715‘
2012-05-29> 133km / 240hm / partly tail wind / sunny, cloudy, rain, 20° / 36°C / Ø 19,5.km/h / pedaling time 6:50hrs / day 35
First 60km non-stop pedaling, good road, wind from the west. Rode in a freshly paved road which was still closed, which was not a good idea, because I then had sticky bits of asphalt all over me and the bike, stupid, because this had happened to me before, a few years ago in Germany on the way to work… Then it rained, like yesterday, wind turned into headwind again. After the rain I was totally dirty and asked some road workers if I could use their water to rinse the mud off my legs and feet. No problem! They came and helped me with the water gave a litre of milk and a big bottle of drinking water. A really nice bunch of guys. Very helpful. Later on, they passed me in their bus, with a lot of honking and waving.
The gastiniza in Chiili is in the middle of a run-down residential “Plattenbau” complex, very dirty and run by a very strange lady,,, I have a swallow sleeping in the corner of my room. Did not sleep too well, the bed was extremely hard and the building very noisy.
Chiili @ N44°11.858’ E066°43.769
2012-05-30> 174km / 246hm / mostly tail wind / sunny all day/ 35°C / Ø 22,3.km/h / pedaling time 7:53hrs / day 36
This was one of the best pedaling days, wind and road perfect, 1st stop after 60km for a nice omelet with salad. Today I was passed by an old truck from Smurfit Kappa Herzberger Papierfabrik, I could not believe my eyes, unfortunately, it was too fast for me to take a picture, just 2 days ago I saw one from WESA Bad Sachsa. I would say that almost 80% of all the cars and trucks are from Germany and most of them still have the original advertising. Busses are mostly from France.
I Arrived in Turkistan before 7pm checked into a nice hotel and went to a gas station to clean my bicycle from all the tar and mud. On the way I met an interesting Italian couple traveling with a Ford Camper, they drove from Torino to here and will continue to Uzbekistan and then back to Italy.
Turkistan is the historical center of Southern Kazakhstan, the city became an important focus of spirituality and Islamic learning for the peoples of the Kazakh steppe. One of the most important historical buildings of Kazakhstan is the mausoleum of Khwaja Ahmad Yasavi in Turkistan..
Turkistan hotel @ N43°18.216’ E068°16.229‘
2012-05-31> 161km / 424hm / neutral wind / sunny all day/ 35°C / Ø 18,9.km/h / pedaling time 8:30hrs / day 37
After almost 2000km Kazakh steppe, now the first mountains appear at the Eastern horizon, partly Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kirgizstan. There are also a lot more trees along the road, no more camels, mostly goats, cows and horses. The 161kms today were not easy, too many dusty detours, heavy traffic and another realy hot day.
Halfway to Shimkent I turned off the main road to look for a place to get something for lunch. I found a nice little place and started to talk to the owner, he used to be in Potsdam, Schwerin and Brandenburg with the Soviet Army back in the late 70ies he served me a nice meal with salad and bread, tea and coke, when I wanted to settle the bill he refused to take any money, he said it was an honor for him that I stopped at his place. Great people here in Kazakhstan
Now my SIGMA speedometer is giving me trouble - Battery almost empty -, appears on the display, Since they are supposed to last for at least a year I did not bring any spares. The size of this battery is not a standard size and after checking in lots of shops in Shimkent, I am sure, it cannot be found in this part of the world. Bad choice!
Shimkent Gastiniza @ N42°21.242’ E069°31.654‘
2012-06-01> 68km / 414hm / neutral wind / sunny all day/ 36°C / Ø 14.km/h / pedaling time 4:51hrs / day 38
Breakfast in Hotel not so good also the dinner the night before, In the morning searching for SIGMA battery, no luck. Not feeling too good today, there must have been something wrong with the food. I take a long rest in a Beer-garden type of restaurant, drinking lots of tea. Meeting a BMW biker from Finland, he’s on the way to Siberia. After it has cooled off a bit, I continue slowly until I find a small restaurant which also rents rooms. First there was bit of confusion about the price – I understood 6000T (30€) inkl. Shower,and I said that is too expensive, then he agreed on 5000T. As it was already dark I did not want to continue, I accepted. Then he wrote it down and it turned out that he had meant 600T(3€) including shower and breakfast, I was then a bit embarrassed when he actually only took 500T(2.50€)
Gastiniza near Vannovka @ N42°33.281’ E070°14.340‘
2012-06-02> 115km / 448hm / no wind / sunny all day/ 33°C / Ø 16,9.km/h / pedaling time 6:50hrs / day 38
Beautiful landscape rolling hills and snow covered mountains in the background. I am feeling a bit better, eating only bananas, drinking lots of tea. Many stops. The road is also under construction but mostly very good like a 4 lane Freeway. Many hills on the way, the highest elevation is 1142m . I arrived in Taraz at about 8pm and checked into an old Soviet style hotel. I decided to take a day of rest tomorrow, after cycling for 10 days and 1160km.The Kirgizstan border is only about 15km from Taraz, So far, I have been pedaling more than 2000km in the Kazakhstan steppe and my KZ visa is almost running out. Slowly I have to think about finding a way to get back to Germany,,, But first I want to see a bit of Kirgistan,,,
Taraz Hotel @ N42°45.767’ E071°22.334‘
2012-06-03> 0km / sunny all day/ 33°C / day 39 – Total cycling distance since Simferopol/ Ukraine 3444 km
Taraz looks like a nice city, many parks, trees, lots of flowers, a huge bazar, (but no SIGMA batteries!) many sculptures, interesting mosques, approx. 406.000 inhabitants ,,,