Instalment 1: It’s as far from me to you as it is from you to me.
I tagged along with a group of Dutch guys and a couple of Brits sharing a container to get my bike to Central Asia. This saved the ball (and ar$e) ache of riding across 1000s of miles of nothing to get to where the fun starts. I never was an iron butt rider type who likes enduring miles for the sake of it. The older I get, the more I seem to like smelling the flowers.
In contrast to the worrying that took place in the run up to, and during the shipping of the container from Rotterdam in the Netherlands to Almaty in Kazakhstan everything actually went really smoothly. I had ridden my bike from the UK to Ad’s, the organiser of the container shipping from the Dutch biker’s site www.allroadmaniacs.nl
, in Holland and he was kind enough to crate it and transport it to the Dutch shipping company warehouse (http://www.mainport-rotterdam.com/
) for me. The Agent in Almaty ( www.moryldi.com
) was very efficient too and there were no “hidden extras” in terms of costs upon arrival.
Almaty seemed like a fun city with lots rich people (it has one of only 2 Bentley car dealerships in the entire ex-Soviet Union (there other is in Moscow). The people seemed pleasant enough, but not speaking a word of Kazakh or Russian wasn’t good. The girls are pretty too, but I was too jetlagged to be in the mood to take many pictures of Floraova and Faunaova.
Here’s a few pics:
Just like it says on the tin. The second heaviest pallet in the container. In my (meagre) defence all my riding gear, camping stuff etc as well as a spare tyre were in the box too. The weight is inclusive of the pallet itself.
Despite the bike being freshly spray painted matt black (Halfords own brand), this is the shiniest the bike has ever been (or ever will be). Started first push of the button.
The war memorial to the dead from the Great Patriotic War in Almaty was very impressive. It’s also a popular locations for wedding photos.
Many Kazakhs died in 1941. Locals say that it was only the arrival of the Kazakh army divisions at the siege of Moscow that persuaded the Germans to p!ss off back where they came from.
Melons anyone? (Illegal?) street sellers outside the hotel.
Do apricots give you the sh!ts or constipation?
Bent coppers are the scum of the earth,the world over. In my less than empirical study of police corruption, 100% of Kazakhstan police are corrupt. I didn’t once get stopped by any coppers in Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan nor Russia. The fat pig in the picture was trying to pull a cunning stunt to extract money for alleged speeding, but he got no money from any of us.
After riding in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan for 2 weeks I returned to Almaty and then continued towards Semey and Russia. Riding through a town that was so unforgettable (I recall it had lots of casinos) I got pulled over by another fat cnutstable. The “dialog” went something like this:
Copper: Random bollox probably along the likes of give me money, you were speeding.
Brighty: What? Do you speak English?
Copper: more bollox, straf straf.
Copper: more bollocks, dollar dollar
(Other copper sitting in crap looking police car 10 yards away waves me over to him.)
Brighty waves to other copper to come to him, saying: It’s as far from me to you as it is from you to me. And you need the exercise you fat pig.
Copper: more bollox, euro, euro
Brighty: niet. Excuse me, what’s that number on your badge. B151. I’m just going to give my friend the chief of police in Almaty a call (Brighty gets his phone out and pretends to call: He couldn’t, the phone battery was flat).
Copper then wanders off to pester another car driver.
Brighty rides off.
Conveniently English wasn’t taught when plod uno y dos were at skool….
Many hours later and after dark (I rode 750km that day: what was that about not doing iron butts… I had had enough of crap Kazakh roads that just go on for ever and needed to leave the country) on the way into Semeh, I see a Star-Wars-like light sabre waving at me (all the plod have these sticks and at night they do Ewan McG impressions). This time the following thought process went through my head: There’s no benefit from me stopping to engage this plod in intellectual chit chat, so I’ll just ride by without stopping.
Nobody drove after me, nobody shot me.