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Old 03-11-2010, 11:06 PM   #121
Camel ADV
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Joined: Mar 2009
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Oddometer: 1,290
August 29th, 2009

Kazakhstan Border

We weren't too worried about this border, it's the main one going into this part of Kazakhstan so it should be fairly straight forward. We arrived at about 9:00 am, where, after waiting at the gate for 15 minutes, the guard finally strolled over to tell us the border wouldn't open "again" until 10:00. Ok, so we laid in the dirt for 45 minutes.





At 10:00 we were ushered in for the now familiar process of:

1. Go to this room, show passport, get paper
2. Fill out paper. Make error. Start over.
3. Present paper to "Passport Control" Get scrutinized, stamp: pass
4. Customs contol. Present paper, stamp, stamp, stamp: Pass
5. Back outside, Vehicle inspection, stamp: pass
6. Final gate. Show them paper, more stamps: pass, now Free from Russia
7. Present passport to Kazakhstan side
8. Fill out paper. Make error. Start over.
9. stamp, paper, stamps, show passport etc. etc. etc.

You get the idea.

When we get asked a question or it looks like they are about to ask something, we shrug our shoulders and look dumb. It's not hard when you don't understand what they are saying. This usually results in them thinking that whatever they were going to ask us isn't likely that important to try, so they just let us go. We learned this one early in our trip. Look dumb, say ":I don't understand" in Russian, and they let you move on.

So after our fastest border crossing yet (1.5 hours, not including the 45 minutes waiting in the dirt), we were through and officially in Kazakhstan!

VERY NICE!!


Just an FYI, most ppl in Kazakhstan HATE Borat!

I've stopped repoting when we get rain, because all the blogs would look the same.

1. Saw cool stuff
2. Got rained on
3. Saw more cool stuff
4. Got rained on.

So, it rained on us again, but this time, we got a nice picture out of it.



We drove a bit more KM's to Semipalatinsk (Semi for short), where we booked into a fairly decent hotel.



Cory and Petar worked on Petars bike, in the dark, which has been having some major cooling issues. I went to bed.

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Old 03-11-2010, 11:19 PM   #122
Camel ADV
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We left "Semi" after working on Petar's cooling system on his bike the night before. After only 10 km out of town, he noticed that coolant was spewing out of his radiator, and realized that his radiator cap was not sealing. Cory and Petar made a rubber washer to shove in, and it seemed to seal the leak. The road was not good, with excellent paved sections broken up with huge potholes. You had to be extra careful riding, as you could suddenly find yourself in a huge hole.

We pulled off the road, and camped in a field, where we thought no one could see us. Within about 20 minutes a Lada drove right up to our camp, and a guy got out and offered us an "arbuse" or watermelon. He was very friendly. We enjoyed the watermelon, had some supper and went to bed. I had cell service in my tent (!) so I texted a few friends who got a kick out of the fact we were having a conversation from the middle of a field in Kazakhstan.

Tim.

572 km today



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Old 03-11-2010, 11:32 PM   #123
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August 31, 2009

The final section of road into Almaty was some of the best road we have seen yet.

We got in to Almaty pretty late in the day, and ended up once again checking in to the first hotel we could find. Which turned out to be an expensive one.

As we were booking in, they called one of the senior staff down who could speak some english to help us, and as we were arranging the room, Cory asked her (innocently) if there was any place close by where we could go to to meet some "cute local girls like her", she didn't miss a beat before cheerfully replying that the hotel staff would be happy to arrange "girls" to come right to our rooms... there was a moment of stunned silence before Cory blurted out... "...ummm I didn't mean hookers" She didn't seem to think his request was weird, and just shrugged her shoulders and smiled.

One of the problems with expensive hotels here, is they still don't seem to get everything right. So you pay North American rates, but get something less. This one didn't have hot water, or internet. Even though it was supposed to have both. We parked our bikes outside the 24 hour carwash out back, it didn't seem to help, as we had our first theft off the bikes.. someone stole Cory's Hula girl. Doesn't sound like much, but we both were pretty upset. The Hula girls mean a lot to us.

585 km today

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Old 03-11-2010, 11:34 PM   #124
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Almaty Day 2:

September 1, 2009

After a good night sleep in our expensive hotel, we needed to try and get a Ukraine Visa for Petar (who needs one). This necessitated a trip to the Ukraine Embassy, which was closed when we got there, so we sat on the street and waited till it opened, then found out he needed an invitation letter before they could proceed.

So off we went to our next stop, which was the Immigration Police, to have our Visa's registered.

This turned in to the most ridiculous 2 hours we have yet spent.

The amount of bureaucracy and corruption was laughable. There were about 100 people there, all trying to get the attention of 1 guy, who all he had to do was stamp and initial an immigration slip in our passports. But to do that you had to fill out another piece of paper requesting this. The stamp and the initial were free, but the piece of paper, well that cost you 804 Tenge (about $6 dollars), but it's written in Kazak, so they shuffled us off to a "helper" who needed $20 each to "process" our passports, a bit more for the photocopy fee. So we paid. Then the line standing started. About every 5 or 10 minutes, he would get up, change windows, so the mass of people would move with him, all the while people are elbowing each other (and us) to get closer in line. We'd be next, and about 5 people would just jam their papers in front of us. We tried not to get frustrated, but this was ridiculous. Each time we would get to the window, he would say "15-20 more minutes" then ignore us. This went on and on. We couldn't get mad, since he had our passports. It was now getting close to closing time, and we were sure he was going to go home, leaving us without our passports (and any way to go on). But right at closing, we were about the last 3 people left in the building, we finally got our passports back, stamped and initialed.

We checked out of the expensive hotel, and into a cheaper one down the road a block. It was a dive, but at least had hot showers. Cory and I went out that night with Fred, a friend we had met from France, who had just spent 7 months working in China, and the last 2 months riding home on a 250 cc Japanese motorcycle he had smuggled in part by part to China.
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Old 03-11-2010, 11:44 PM   #125
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Old 03-11-2010, 11:53 PM   #126
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September 4th, 2009

Good riding day, nice weather, not too hot, no rain. About 24 degrees was the hottest it got. Camped off the road in the desert, all was great till we noticed the ground was covered in these gross looking worms. We named it Camp Tremors after the movie.

We went through a check stop and Cory and I went through fine, but Petar got pulled over. We went back, then one cop said he told Cory to pull over (which he didn't). So he pulled Cory inside and started hitting him up for money, but he didn't realize his partner outside was busy posing for pictures with Petar and I, (we had his hat on), so when his partner called Cory out to pose in the picture, he realized he likely couldn't get any money and reluctantly waved us on.

We camped that night in the desert, but this section ended up being alive with these weird worms. There were thousands of them, that we didn't notice till after we set up camp. And they ended up crawling over everything. We spend the first 15 minutes in our tents going through all our gear to insure none of them came in on anything, and the next hour trying not to imagine them chewing through the tent at night, and laying eggs in our ears.

I slept with my iPod earphones on just in case.

443 KM today











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Old 03-12-2010, 04:56 AM   #127
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really good report guy's. by the way, did you get any pic's of those worm thing's?
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Old 03-12-2010, 05:50 AM   #128
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Great ride report, thanks for sharing
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Old 03-12-2010, 09:51 AM   #129
Camel ADV
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Quote:
Originally Posted by supercub
really good report guy's. by the way, did you get any pic's of those worm thing's?
I though we took a pic or 2 but I can't seem to find them. I'm sure we have some video somewhere. They were striped black and grey, about 1/4" wide and 1/2 long with a shit load of legs (so I guess they weren't really worms...).
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Old 03-13-2010, 09:31 PM   #130
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"September 6, 2009

We started the day with not much hope of reaching Aktobe, as we ran into the worst roads in Kazakhstan. Up to this point, the roads have been ok, paved, with just a few potholes. So we average a good speed of 80-90 km per hour when we are moving. But the road fell apart after our camp, and it was as bad or worse as anything in the Russian Far east. They do the same thing here that they do in Mongolia, which is to branch off into the desert if the road gets bad.

Which turned out to be a problem this time.

Cory branched to the left, Petar to the right, and I stayed in the middle on the main road. So I could see them both, but the main road was the worst, so I started to fall behind. It just happened that the road went Petars way, so I ended up on the same side as him for a bit. After about 10 or 15 minutes keeping Cory in sight, we ended up stopping, as Petar got stuck a bit in some mud. After pushing him out without much problem, we couldn't see Cory. So we drove and drove, but couldn't find him. We made the decision to stop, and since Petar was running low on fuel, I turned back, since we both agreed that Cory would stop, or come back if he was ahead and didn't see us. My worry was that he had a mechanical problem or had fallen. So I went back at least 20 minutes over the terrain we had just covered, but couldn't see him.

Returning to the point I had left Petar, I turned off the main route and took the route Cory would have taken (it runs parallel to the main road, but there were some large bushes, and I was concerned I may have missed him if he had fallen). This route went almost all the way back to the point I had left Petar, so when I saw him alone, with no Cory, I started to get worried. This likely meant that Cory was still somewhere behind us, and it had been at least 45 minutes to an hour since we had seen him. The problem was I couldn't get back to the main road, but I could see Petar. So I said "Stay There", and again retraced my route back to the main road. This again, took about 20 minutes till I could get back on it, and by the time I had returned to the point I left Petar, he was gone.

So now, I am sitting on a bridge in the middle of Kazakhstan, with neither of my riding partners, and no idea where they are.

Flagging down a car, I inquired in broken Russian, "have you seen a motorcycle" and pointed in the direction we had come from. "Nyet" was the answer. They left, and I sat there till someone showed up (over an hour later), a truck coming from the other direction slowed down, and they motioned that they had seen a motorcycle over the next hill. "Ad-een, I said..one?". "Nyet", they replied... "Dva....Two!" Great news. So up and over the hill I went, where I saw both bikes parked at a Cafe.

It seems Cory had indeed taken the same route I did, and had the same problem, his section of road didn't join up with the main road for a long way. So he kept driving till it did, which just happened to be over the hill. Not seeing us, he sat down to wait. The problem was, so did we, just on the other side of the hill.



Once we had figured out what had happened, all was well, and we were together again.

The terrible road kept going for at least another 120 km like this, however we started to see signs of construction. We came upon a section of road that was finished... beautiful, freshly paved... and closed. All the access points were blocked off. So we continued on the crap road that was vibrating our bikes apart, all the while driving beside this beautiful, freshly completed road. After about 60 km of this, one of my Panniers bounced off on a particularly deep section, and after we put it back on, and collected my gear which was strewn all over the road, we discreetly circumvented the block, and drove up onto the new road. We didn't know how long we would be able to drive on it, but it had to be better then what we were on. So we did, for about 15 km, waving at the odd road construction guy, who didn't seem too concerned we were on the closed road. They just waved back. We then came to the end of the new construction, which was a huge earthen berm across the road, so we drove down into the ditch, came up on the other side, and continued on, this time on the new open road.

It had taken us from 10:30 am to 6:00 pm to cover slightly more than 200 km, and we had over 250 km left to Aktobe, which was our destination when we set out that morning. So, we high tailed it on the now excellent stretch of highway, and with the sun setting on the horizon, pulled into Aktobe that evening.

514 km Today"









The only time on the trip where we got gasoline from a drum rather than a pump.







A pretty average section of road east Aktobe.


A shot of the Baikonur Cosmodrome which is the command center of the Russian space program. In 1991 when the Soviet Union fell, Russia left Kazakhstan but basically said we're keeping this 85km x 90km piece of land, if you don't like it, too bad. We tied to get on with a visitor tour but is very difficult unless you are with an organized group. We contacted a Russian tour company to see if we could tag along but were told we'd have to pay the full $7000US tour price that included flights from Moscow, hotels and Cosmodrome passes even though we didn't need hotels or flights from Moscow. That pretty much sums up our experience with customer service in this part of the world!

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Old 03-13-2010, 10:15 PM   #131
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Road to Aktobe
[IMG][/IMG]
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Old 03-14-2010, 01:56 AM   #132
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"September 8, 2009

We left Aktobe with the sun shining and the road stretching ahead, smooth and new. It didn't last long. The road quickly fell apart to the worst we have seen so far. Potholes 6 feet across and 3 feet deep in the middle of the road.

Then disaster struck.

Before we go any further, everyone is OK. No one hurt.

But Petar had a very bad fall, and destroyed the front end of his bike. I was in the lead, and Cory and Petar were following. They both came over the hill behind me, and my bike kicked up some dust, which caused Petar to miss a series of potholes. He barely made it through the first two while slowing down, but got bounced into the ditch on his head by the huge third one. After insuring he was not hurt after sliding at 60km on his head, we assessed the damage to his bike, and it was not good. The front wheel was destroyed, and the front forks were bent beyond repair.

This was major damage that was not repairable without many new parts. We were now stuck in a very remote section of Kazakhstan with the light fading fast on the horizon.

But like most of the trip, we only had to wait a short time, till the friendly locals came by, helped us lift the bike from the ditch, and loaded the broken bike into the back of a passing truck, where they took us to the next town.

When we got there, they said, "Money", and as we were diggining into our pockets to gratefully pay them for the ride, we realized they were offering us money, to buy water or supplies, since they were not going any further on this road.

We gratefully declined their touching offer, and unloaded the bike onto the side of the road, and settled down for a long night.

We couldn't set up camp and go to sleep, as the bike was right on the side of the road, and we didn't want to leave it (or ours) unattended during the night, so we sat down under our bikes to wait. At about 3:30 am, a truck came by and stopped in the darkness. It sat there for about 20 minutes before we realized they hadn't seen us, but had just stopped to have a bite to eat in the night. So we turned on our lights, and the driver and his helper came over. After a short conversation, with much gesturing, we were able to communicate that we were stuck, so they offered to load the bike into their truck, and take us all the way to the next large town, which was our destination.

The only issue was that they had a full load of box after box of Vodka. They opened the door of the trailer and started moving boxes around to find room for the bike. We jury rigged a ramp, and lifted the dead bike into the truck, then set out with Cory and Tim following on the bikes, behind the truck, broken Yamaha and boxes of Vodka, into the dead of the Kazakhstan night.

We made about 10 km when the truck driver indicated he was tired and wanted to sleep. We didn't want to leave the bikes unsupervised, so instead of setting up the tents, we (all 3) slept in back of the Kamaz truck on 1000's of bottles of Vodka. It was a mostly miserable sleep.

When we woke in the morning, we were faced with the reality that the Kamaz, with the load of Vodka, could travel at approximately 10-15 km per hour on these roads, so barring any kind of problem, the 300 km we had left to the next town, would be from dawn till dusk at this rate."























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Old 03-14-2010, 07:11 PM   #133
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Absolutely amazing!!!
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Old 03-15-2010, 06:56 PM   #134
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"September 9, 2009

Long day, terrible road. Took off early, on awful road. Would ride for 10 minutes then stop for 10 minutes to wait for Petar and the Kamaz.

20 km/hour on the bike is minimum, Kamaz was doing 15 km. 70 km took 5 hours. Then the Kamaz broke down, needed to change tire. 1.5 hours sitting in the dirt. Continue.



Pull into Atyrau at 9:00 pm. Make arrangements to put bike on different truck, unload/load,

Petar stays with bike, Cory and Tim go into Atyrau to find a Hotel. Check into worst hotel of the trip. No sheets, no Toilet Paper, no towels, No hot water, $100 per night.

This was a long, hot, dusty, crappy day, topped off by a terrible, crappy hotel. Blah.

I didn't take any pictures of the hotel because it sucked so bad.

During the long drive to Atyrau driving for a bit, then waiting for the truck, Cory and I played a game called, "Guess when the Kamaz will Arrive", mostly because it beat the other games, like "Count the Rocks" or "See if you can hit that Goat with a stick"

The first time, Cory guessed about 45 minutes from when we stopped, and I guessed about 32. The Kamaz pulled up in exactly 32 minutes. We were all suitably amazed that I guessed it exactly.

The second time we played, he asked for my time, and I said "7:33". He laughed, and said "my guess was "7:32". So, about 45 minutes later, at about 7:32, the Kamaz comes into view, and rolls up to our bikes at exactly 7:33.

Bang on, twice in a row. To the minute.

If there was a way to turn my talent into profit, I would.

Sept 10th

Wake up early to go meet Petar, can't leave the hotel because we are locked in. Spend 10 minutes yelling for someone, till cleaning lady finally shows up, wait 10 minutes while she finds keys. Now we need to wait again while she finds keys for the garage area where we left bikes.

Open the door to the garage area to find a huge Dog. Good thing he's nice.

Go and meet Petar, find out the truck he slept in last night is NOT going to Astrakan after all, even though 5 minutes before it was. Now we have to negotiate a new truck, and now the price goes up to $300.00, which is still not a bad deal for taking the bike across an international border. We split with Petar for a day, as Cory and I had planned to see more thing here before leaving for Astrakan.

Spent the next hour looking for an internet Cafe, finally found one, only to find out the thing we wanted to see, was about 1500 km back the way we had come. We likely passed it within 20 km of the road. D'oh!

End up driving to Astrakan anyway, an easy 350 km on good road.

Halfway to the border, we see a truck flashing it's lights on and off. It's the Kamaz and our guys from the night before, who saved us in the desert, and transported Petar's bike. We stop and say hi.



No issues with the border, other than having our luggage searched by drug dog for the first time. Book into cool hotel complex, that is pool, hotel, Banya, Snooker, and Cinema all in one. $60 for the first night, only $15.00 for the next night, and we didn't have to pay for supper, as the General Manager was a really nice guy."

Day 62: Astrakan
Day 2 in Astrakan, same hotel, which didn't turn out as nice as we had hoped.

The "nice" General Manager from the night before took our passports to "register" them, and ended up keeping them all day.

Then we got charged 1000 rubles for the registration (it should be free).

That's when we realized the "discount" he supposedly gave us the night before for the second night, was the 1000 rubles to "register" our visa's, and that the second night was the same as the first. We also realized that nothing was included. The pool was 200 rubles, the weight room was 200 rubles.

We got woken up at 3:30 am by the night clerk to tell us that the bikes had been vandalized. We ran out, and someone had pushed over my bike, which pushed it into Cory's causing some damage to the windscreen. We propped it back up, and asked about the security guard and video camera's that were supposedly on our bikes at all times. He shrugged his shoulders. So much for security.

We spent the rest of the night in fitful sleep, worried about the bikes.

In the morning we realized that we had a decision to make. Petar's bike parts would be a few weeks plus a couple days to install everything barring any unforeseen issue. We were on a schedule having to be back home on a specific date to begin work again. We decided that there was no way that we could wait with Petar to get his bike fixed and still make it home in time. Petar had come to the same conclusion. Since he only had a few days ride home to Croatia it was agreed that we would carry on without him. It was tough leaving, after all we had been through over the last 10 weeks."
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Old 03-15-2010, 07:09 PM   #135
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WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2009

Day 63: Volgograd
Petar met us at the hotel this morning, and we said our final goodbye's.

The parts for his bike won't be in Astrakan for several days, so he is staying, and we must continue on.

Petar had become such a big part of the trip, that we both felt of him as a member of Terranova.

We were sad he was not continuing with us for the remainder of the trip as planned.

After leaving Petar, we drove from Astrakan to Volgograd in one day, but got there late, which meant we were driving through an unfamiliar (and very large) city, in the dark. This is something we had promised ourselves we wouldn't do. We also both had on dark view-screens on our helmets, so we had to ride with them up, which is not fun with all the bugs.





After driving by the standard 60's era Soviet Nuclear Power Plant on the way in to town, we still hadn't seen a hotel, so we used our trick of hiring a cab for a few hundred rubles and have him drive us to a hotel.

We found a cabby who seemed friendly, and he quickly agreed to drive us to a good hotel, so he jumped in the cab, and this is when we realized it was full of girls. So off we went, the cab full of girls, which we realized were all hookers, and the two of us, following behind.

We've gotten quite used to just following people in the dark, who we have just met, through winding side roads, down dark alleys to finally emerge at some hotel. It always seems to work out. Still, the thought that they may be taking us somewhere to harvest our organs does cross one's mind... from time to time.

The cab full of hookers took us to an interesting "hotel" which was a not too bad looking series of chalets and buildings, full of cars and people having dinner. Looked like a good place. So we pulled in and looked over at the cafe, and the table at the front was full of about 10 more hookers. So we had stumbled upon a "businessman hotel" for traveling men from Moscow.

We didn't care, as long as the room was ok, and it had a shower. In fact the hookers spoke the best English, so they ended up helping us get the room organized.

In the time it took to set up the room, record our passports and get the bikes unloaded, we had been asked if we wanted "sexy girls" about 15 times by various people. We kept politly answering... "Actually no, we would just like a shower and some food please".

After getting settled in our room, we had supper with some guys from Moscow who were on a Fishing road trip. After they went to bed we stayed up till 2:00 or 3:00 am talking to Nataly (23), her husband, and Natasha (14) and her father, the husband and step-daughter of our waitress. No one seemed to even acknowledge that there were hookers everywhere, but we had a great time talking to Natasha's dad about politics, our trip, Russia and Canada, with Natasha providing some basic translation, as she had the best English.





We woke up the next morning, and the bikes were exactly as we had left them. We concluded the hookers were probably very honest. :)
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