Went into Uralsk town centre to try and find the OVIR office (immigration). Found an official looking place and parked up outside. As I was dismounting a man came out and I asked him for Immigration Registration and showed him my passport. He seemd to understand and arranged for the office security guard to provide me with a taxi service to the police station and said he would look after my bike.
We went to one police station but were told it was the wrong one. The officer spoke to my driver and told him where we had to go. He took me there and waited while I got it sorted. The guy on reception and his sidekick wanted some money for basically doing nothing but I told them no chance and they gave up.
I was shown into a small office and the man there told me to sit down while he did the paperwork. He asked where I was staying and I explained I had no hotel and told him where I had come from etc. He showed me photos of himself driving through Beyneu and eventually gave me the stamp I needed.
I thanked the guys who had helped and paid the security guard for the taxi service. He was really cool and had been a great help. I set off for Aktobe and got as far as I could but the road turned bad so I slept next to the bike until the early hours.
Sunday 17 June, Day 45 - Aktobe, KazakhstanStopped at a cafe for a drink and a pair of beggars gave me a bit of hassle but I was in no mood and told them to get lost. Further up the road I spotted a cyclist stopped for a rest and pulled over. He was a 26 year old from Cologne called Axel who was making his way from Beijing back home. We got talking and then a 4wd pulled up and 4 Kazak guys got out to talk to us. They were in high spirits and were going fishing and insisted we drink some schnapps and beer.
Axel told me he had been stopped by the Police a couple of days earlier and they had taken $200 dollars from him. His bike only had one gear and it must have been tough going into the wind. He asked if I was smoking weed as there was a whole field of it just down the road.
I wanted a good nights sleep after the previous night so I pulled off early at a small village and asked a farmer if it was ok to camp next to his house. He said ok and the local boys helped me put my tent up. I asked if there was a café and they said no but there was a Magazine (shop). It just happened to be in the farmer’s house. We all went in and I bought some peach juice and left it in the freezer to chill.I bought the boys some boiled sweets for helping and they seemed chuffed. As we walked out of the shop my tent was flying across the village in the wind. The boys chased after it and brought it back. The farmer told me I could move my bike and the tent inside the high steel wall of his garden. Once I had settled in a younger guy came round who turned out to be the son and he invited me in for some food. I accepted and we sat with his wife and had noodle and meat soup followed by tea with the family. The Kazaks take their tea with milk and this feels strange now after drinking so much black Chai. I thanked them for their hospitality and retired to my tent.
A few of the locals had gathered and I showed them around the bike and let them rev it etc. They were interested in the technical side of things and were looking at the suspension and drive chain. They asked the usual questions about how much it had cost and I have got so used to this I have written it on a piece of paper to bring out each time I get asked.
Monday 18 June, Day 46 - Kazakhstan
I was woken by the cockerels as usual and left the village at about 7.30am after saying my goodbyes. The father would not take any cash for letting me stay and wished me good luck. Later on I was sure I saw an eagle. I have seen plenty of birds of prey but this was huge and so impressive to watch. I also saw plenty of strange badger like creatures that keep running out of the steppe onto the road. There are millions of flying grasshoppers on the road and I can hear them crunching on my boots.
Every so often a swarm of them launch and cause me to duck as low as possible behind the screen. The road here is good so I am riding in my t-shirt as it is so hot. The grasshoppers are splattered everywhere and make a hell of a noise on my visor.
Not as hot today and I can tell I am heading north. I stopped and went for a swim in a lake about 30 miles south of Kostanay. Passed straight through Kostanay, too many Police hanging around. I try not to look at them. Found the road for Petropavlovsk easily and set off. Stopped at a fuel station and 3 guys got talking then gave me a bottle of brandy.The countryside is stunning north of Kostanay with elm tree forests and meadows on either side of the road. Pulled off to look for a camp site and a 4wd pulled alongside to say hello. I stopped and told them I was looking for somewhere to put my tent to sleep. The man said to follow him to his house and I thought ‘Why not!’.
His name was Uskulen and he had a fantastic place with a huge lake and a campsite in the process of being built. Uskelen disappeared for a while and the lady he had been with prepared a light meal for me consisting of cold meat and salad with plenty of tea. Interestingly, the Kazaks drink their tea with milk, which is different to Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, where I only saw it taken black.
Uskelen returned and some guests turned up, it seemed he had invited people around to meet me and to have dinner. The chef is a big guy called Askar who seems to be everything from builder to minder and Uskelen told me he had built the sauna and the house.
The other guests were a young couple called OJ and his girlfriend Assel, and an older couple with 2 young children. The lady was very quiet but the guy told me he was the local prosecutor. Uskelen seems to be well connected and I think it must be useful out here.
We had a lovely meal of lamb stew with potatoes and various other treats. The vodka toasts were many and I was treated as very much the guest of honour. Assel had trained as an interpreter and this came in very useful. Her boyfriend, OJ, also spoke fairly good English and had travelled quite extensively around the states.He told me he and Uskelen were planning a road trip to Europe and I invited them to come and stay with me anytime they can make it. OJ asked where I would like to sleep and said I could go to the campsite by the lake and sleep in a Yurt if I would like to. This sounded interesting so I agreed and Uskelen said he would also sleep there. He drove me in his 4wd across some rugged terrain for 10 minutes in complete darkness to the campsite.
The place is great with three log cabins, tents, and one large traditional yurt. We ate the leftovers from tonight’s meal and drank some more vodka toasts then turned in.
Tuesday 19 June, Day 47 - KazakhstanWoke up in the Yurt after a great sleep and went for a swim in the lake. This place is absolutely stunning with green meadows and woods sloping down to the water.
Uskelen took me back to his house and 2 journalists turned up to take photos and interview me. This was all new to me and I have never been interviewed on tape before. They asked some searching questions and I had to think carefully about my answers.We ate some cold meats and I drank tea but they all drank vodka toasts and wished me luck and a safe journey. I left Uskelen and OJ at about midday and headed for Petropavlovsk and the border with Russia.
Stopped at a café about 20km short of Petropavlovsk quite early and had a good meal of soup with some bread stuffed with meat, followed by pasta and bifshteks (a sort of hamburger). The food in the small roadside cafes is quite cheap and excellent.
I befriended the owners son and daughter and they practiced their English on me using a mobile phone translater. I explained I was going to sleep close by and head for Omsk tomorrow (zaftra). The owner of the haulage yard next door turned up and he was really friendly. I think he had been on the Piva (beer) all day. He insisted I stay and sleep in his home.
I would have preferred to sleep outside but didn’t want to offend as he was so friendly so I took a shower and slept on the floor of his office.
Wednesday 20 June, Day 48 - Russian border
Reached the border at about 14.00 and queued up to cross. Had no problems and I was through in less than an hour and on my way to Omsk. I was expecting the third degree but the crossing was so much easier than getting into Kazakhstan and the first Russian face I saw was a pretty blonde Russian guard who smiled and was helpful with the immigration paperwork. This is what all border crossings should be like.
Passed straight through Omsk as there was a sign for Novosibirsk that seemed to avoid the centre and I still had daylight. The countryside is stunning and I decided to pull off and find a free campsite.
Checked the price of fuel and it is 27.2 Roubles a litre for the 95 Octane. The exchange rate is currently about 48.3 Roubles to the Pound so this makes the fuel about 57 pence a litre. This is good news and will help to keep my costs down for the next few weeks.