Kazakhstan (Altai/Tuva) OSM Project 2012

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by mikecbrxx, Jul 2, 2012.

  1. infra80

    infra80 pothole hunter

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    Awesome mate, very nice pics

    ....I like your bike :evil


    Hope you`ll get that brake lever sorted out

    cheers
    #21
  2. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    Me Too :D

    According to Walter, I need an Argon Welder to repair this. Now I just got to find one.

    Glad you like the photos....will post more when I can but am doing these updates over GPRS as wifi is not big out of the major cities.
    #22
  3. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    No off-road today....with brake lever like that and the events of yesterday, decided to get to a largish town/city on my route, cutting out the off-road part.

    Left the hotel, filled up with gas on the outskirts of the town and started towards Koktal as this had a mosque that I wanted to see and I needed to go this way to get to Taldykorgan anyway.
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    The rest of the trip was pretty uneventful. Thought I had got a bit of trouble when a car kept over taking me and then slowing down.....but it turned off eventually.

    Stopped to refuel me, not the bike, at a modern gas station just outside Saryozek and met up with an Almaty biker and girlfriend on their way to the Kazakh Altai for a long weekend.

    Here we are.....after exchanging contact details in case I needed anything.
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    I tried to keep up with them for a short time but they were traveling faster than I wanted to on offroad boots.

    Arrived in Taldykorgan just as my fuel light went on. After a quick calculation, I was surprised at the difference in mileage that the bike did with 92 octane fuel (allegedly) compared to 96 that I got in Almaty.

    Found the hotel I had picked up from GE but it looked way too grand and expensive. However, It was cheaper than the one in Almaty....but no WiFi, which was strange. Was also right next to the center of town.

    Found a good shashlik place later with 1 girls who spoke passable English>Lat 45.019764 Long 78.37924
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    A few photos of the center. In the first one, the building on the left appears to be some sort of night club, judging by the music blasting out of there in the evening.
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    That's pretty much it for now. I am taking a day out here tomorrow and will continue riding on 21st, heading for Ayagoz and then Semmipalatinsk.
    #23
  4. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    Fire alarm went off in the hotel just as I finished posting that. Turned out to be a false alarm though couldn;t undrstand any announcement.

    Hope they get the siren off, will be difficult to sleep if not.

    Aaah, silence.
    #24
  5. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    No internet for a few days now so have not been able to make any updates.

    I have been having a few problems with the transfer of fuel from the X-Tank into my main fuel tank. It has been a bit hit and miss for some reason. Been very lucky though, as when the fuel light has come on unexpectedly early, I have been coming top or just gone past a fuel station. Having to monitor it closely now.

    Lunch stop an the way to Ayagoz
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    Self portrait....the scenery is like this (or flatter) mile after mile. Its interesting to experience and I´m not going to be fully in the steppe for a few days yet, but I sort of understand why this country is more of a pass through place rather than a destination. There simply isn´t that much to see and once you have seen 1 desert cemetary, the hundreds more like it cease to be of interest.
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    There were a lot of roadworks around Ayagoz and all traffic had to go off-road just to get into the town. Managed to find a place to stay right by the very large railway station. Later discovered that this is the main line down from Russia.

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    It looks (and is) a bit run down, but the room was good, and there was a cafe inside that sold everything I needed so it was a good find. btw, I´m waypointing all these places and will add them all into OSM at the end of my trip.

    Outside the hotel was this old soviet steam train. Any enthusiasts able to identify it? By the looks of the sign it was either build or decommissioned in 1930.
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    After leaving in the morning, I bumped into a Yorkshireman on a GSA. He was/is riding UK to Magadan with the Australian tour company Compass Expeditions. The group had bypassed the town but he came through to buy some provisions. I later met up with the rest of the group and stayed for lunch.
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    The group was heading for Semmipalatinsk, ready to cross the border the following day. I wasn´t going to use that crossing point, but one near Ust-Kamenogorsk as Walter advised due to it being quieter, and I wanted to cross today.

    Approaching the Town, I was stopped at a checkpoint and had to produce papers. This wasn´t police on the take, it was a genuine, check area. No problems and was on my way in 5 mins.

    Once through Ust-Kamenogorsk, the road deteriorated until it became difficult to ride at any sort of speed. There is about a 40km section of road that is under repair (I hope). For anyone traveling to the border crossing near Shamanaikha, I suggest you try the road that runs through Pervomayskiy.

    I was getting a little worried in case the border post closed. Got there about 6pm and was pleased to find that it was both open and there was only about 6 other vehicles waiting. To cut a long story short, crossing through the 2 borders took about 2 hrs.....the Kazakh one taking the longest.

    On the Russian side, I forgot to change money or buy insurance. Perhaps there was somewhere to do that, but I didn't see anywhere....and as I said, I forgot anyway.

    The road immediately after the border was a little rough for about 6kms then I hit tarmac and the road into Zmeinogorsk was not to bad......about 40kms. As it turned out, I passed the hotel I was to stay in on the approach to the town.....more later. With the help of a man who spoke some English, I found a cash-point to get some rubles and the first hotel I tried was just down the road from that. I don´t know if it was because I looked so rough or whether they genuinely were full (1 car in car park) but they said they had no rooms.

    The same guy who helped my before pointed by back the way I had come to another hotel near the police post. When I got there, there was no one about. Looks like I was going to have to camp somewhere. After about 20 mins, someone showed up from the (closed) shop downstairs and called the owner out. They had a room so I was sorted for the night. What I hadn't realised that with crossing the border, I was a further 1 hour ahead so it was 10 already and no shops were open. Dried fruit and nuts for dinner then !

    To find this hotel, as you approach the town, there is a gas station on the left immediately followed by a left bend in the road with a large (police) compound on the right. New looking. Just past that on the Left side is a smaller garage and the hotel is the next building to that garage. See photos below.

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    Looking south from the hotel, large police compound on the left.
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    The next day I pushed on on some very reasonable B roads to the A349 and Barnaul City. I had co-ordinates of Bikecity22 which is run by Viktor. Arrived there about 2pm and could see no sign of the workshop. There was a line of shops down an unpaved road but no bike shop. A man must have realised what I wanted and took me round the back of the shops (to the left side), along the back to an enclosed ramp up to a set of units above the line of shops. The workshop is to the left once up the ramp.

    Everyone there was very helpful. There was an aluminum welder a little further along the units that fixed my break lever. One of the bikers went out and found me an H9 bulb for my headlights, and I did some much needed maintenance on the bike.

    In the photos, Viktor is the one in a cast having had a bike accident. The younger biker took me to a hotel in the centre and found me a secure place (guarded) to park my bike. He then took me to the Barnaul Biker Bar, home to a largish biker group. They were all very friendly and I spent a very beery evening there, getting back to the hotel around 2am. Will be going again this evening, only not so much beer as I will be traveling back to Kazakhstan tomorrow, via a different route. I have done 1 border, now I am going to try the busy one on the A349 south of Rubtsovsk, just for comparison.

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    Scottoiler Russian style. This is the Africa Twin of Aliaksei, from Vladivostok. He has been traveling for a month through Mongolia.
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    The guy who helped me find a hotel and the Biker bar....
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    Before and after shots of the brake lever
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    Erik'shard-part.....slightly bent !
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    Andre and Larissa, who speaks very good English. The bar staff work 24hr shifts..... midday to midday.
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    Leanna (with her boyfriend Dennis) holding the Barnaul biker festival poster which I had unfortunately missed. However, it was the only 2 days rain that Barnaul has seen for a month! There is another bike festival in Novosibirsk in early August, and there is something going on in Irkutsk this coming weekend. The website for the bar is: www.motoclub.su

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    I will get some outside shots of the biker bar this evening as its quite interesting, and post them later of next time.
    #25
  6. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    Just a quick update on progress then a load of photos.

    Started back to Kazakhstan (Semmipalatinsk) but nearly ran out of fuel. It appears that my main tank is not being topped up by my X-tank. Tried everything to correct but with such a limited range, I decided to turn round and go visit Viktor again and see what he could do.

    Got to his place around 3pm and by 5 was back on the road again. Not sure if it was fixed, and so sick of the road south to Semmipalatinsk so decided to head for Novosibirsk. I drove a total of 560kms that day to progress only about 220kms. Hard day.

    As I entered the city, I saw a local biker by the side of the road and stopped to ask directions. To cut a long story short, I ended up being invited back to his home for the night. This turned out to be a soviet style tenement block. Really small, locks after locks to get in, and an orphanage right in the middle. It was a real experience. It turns out that Viktor used to be a speedway rider and had spend many years in Germany. His English was not good, but sufficient for us to communicate. I had the privilege of seeing many really old family photos from Siberia where his father was a mid level policeman during the war.

    Barnaul Biker Bar shots....front with summer bar behind the bike.
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    Stables for club members and regulars
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    Entrance to the inside (winter) bar
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    Inside bar....1 of the rooms
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    Every time you go in, there is something else to notice
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    Alexsei, from Vladivostok, and his bike...
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    Other shots of Barnaul, including the war memorial opposite my hotel,
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    Viktor outside his tenement
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    The Tenement at night from Viktors apartment
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    And the Orphanage....
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    I left Viktors around 9am and rode 600kms of some of the most mind numbing roads I have ever been on, to Omsk. There is a smoke haze over the whole area, Novosibirsk to Omsk, due to the forest fires 300kms to the north around Tomsk.

    These next shots are from Omsk. Looks like a really good place and I´d must come back sometime for a longer visit. As it is, I am moving on to Petrapavlosk (Kazakhstan) tomorrow.
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    The tower block is the ´Tourist´hotel. Right on the river front.
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    Bridge over the Irtysh River in Omsk.
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    As I said, back into Kazakhstan tomorrow.
    #26
  7. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    The border croossing between Omsk and Petropavlovsk was very straight forward and appears to be a quiet crossing point. As usual, it took about 2 hours start to finish.

    The route itself was standard Russian Steppe so I´ll just pput up some photos.

    This is the road a few kms inside Kazakhstan
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    The cheaper of the 2 main hotels in Petropavlovsk....3500 tenge for a night. No air-con and very Russian. However, also very central so a good option. The other hotel is 10.000 tenge upwards. I did see some smaller places but didn't look like good bike parking. At this hotel, there was the usual guard on duty though it is expected to pay him. 300 tenge.

    As an aside, the park in front of this hotel is also a wedding photo must have, like Panfilov park in Almaty.
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    In the park opposite the hotel
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    As I got the hotel, a guy came over and said he was a rider (ktm it turns out) and invited me over to his place, just by the hotel. Well.... why not!

    Slava (his name) did not speak English but his wife, Anastasia, did so he called her to the restaurant.....
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    With nails like these......ouch!. Apparently, Zwarovski crystals embeded in them.
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    I tried to register at the local immigration police, but because I was only stopping 1 night, they either wouldn't or couldn't do it. So, It looks like I have to go to Astana after all.....
    #27
  8. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    The ride to Astana was about 500kms. In the more northern part, there were sections of major road building going on so off-road routes were provided for 5+kms at a time. No problem for an enduro bike but a sports bike rider would have a problem. The no overtaking signs on these sections are ignored by everyone.

    As I got to 100kms from Astana, the roads became western motorway standard. Just as well because a massive storm arrived and I got drowned before I could pull of to get waterproofs on. It was so bad, that the rain was just like Holland, horizontal, and I've only seen lightening and wind like it once before. I stayed put and waited it out in some protection that was anything but. The bike almost blew over at one point so I had to change its position to head into the wind..... of course, then the wind direction changed!

    As it was the weekend, and I knew there would be no registration before Monday, I had booked a hotel for 3 nights. I ended up in a good hotel, for the money, by Astana standards. The hotel is arranging the registration for me on Monday so I have 2 days in which to be a tourist. Hence the photo blitz below. btw, will also do some bike maintenance as I forgot to check Viktors work in Barnaul and it looks like my chain is far too loose. No problem, just a minor job.

    Anyway....here come the photos. No particular order. There may be ome more tomorrow.

    Astana from my Hotel at night....
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    Looking along the ´Mall´towards the presidential palace..... a few photos at different points, this is a long and very beautiful walking area
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    Additional shots off to 1 side but at the palace end of the mall´´.....from the tower.

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    The ministry of defense....
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    Ministry of the Interior
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    The famous tower. Queues today (Sunday) were huge. Hope to get up there tomorrow when the fog is gone. For orientation, the presidential palace is behind it in a straight line.
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    Impressive shopping center off to one side....
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    Inside
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    Buildings off to the side...
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    Looking away from the palace towards this impressive structure and the equally impressive shopping mall beyond.
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    Approaching the shopping mall in the ´tent´
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    No Idea how this is pronounced....
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    This is what the area is expected to look like when it is finished...
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    Inside
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    The whole building on the roght is the Radisson Hotel. You need a mortgage to stay there in this town!
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    Opposite my hotel is the Museum of the first president of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
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    The Grand park Esil Hotel. Not a bad price for the city and not a bad location. 700 tenge taxi to the ´Mall´.
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    More photos to follow tomorrow....
    #28
  9. AlpineGuerrilla

    AlpineGuerrilla Been here awhile

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    Wow, Astana seems to be a nice City. But why does it seem so empty? Were your pictures taken in scorching heat at noon? You'd guess the traffic is a mess with 700'000 inhabitants. :evil
    #29
  10. Johnnyboxer

    Johnnyboxer Long timer

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    I shall read with interest:D
    #30
  11. beat

    beat Double Dutchie

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    good to see the pic's Mike!
    i'm back in almaty, and the MCC motors almaty guy's did some welding.
    i think their mechanic is a better welder than a mechanic...

    heading for russia on monday, thinking about taking the same border but skipping your bad 40 km and doing the other road.
    #31
  12. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    I Atyrau now having a rest day in a place with wireless so..... more pics and update coming today.

    For my reference as have been moving so much...

    Astana to Zhezqazghan (pron. zez-kaz-gan)
    Zhezqazghan to Qyzlylorda (meet up with Nick)
    Qyzylorda to Aral
    Aral to Aktobe
    Aktobe to Atyrau (last stop in Kazakhstan)
    #32
  13. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    More about the hotel....

    I can recommend this hotel for anyone staying in Almaty, It is not the cheapest, but is a long way from the most expensive. All the staff go out of their way to be helpful and all the reception staff speak good English. They can also arrange police registration for you.....it takes about a day. You have 5 days from entering the country to register with the immigration police or you won´t get out without paying a hefty fine. I suspect, but I´m not sure, that the fine cannot be paid at your exit point. btw, this applies to those entering on land borders. If you fly in and state you will be staying more than 5 days, you will get the second all important stamp on your immigration card as standard. I did the first time.

    Back to the hotel....

    positives, secure parking for bikes at the back of the hotel. Shopping mall 200 metres away with good pizza and cheap cold beer. As stated, about 700 tenge to the tower in the middle of the mall. A good tourist start point. Not far from the main shopping street and other facilities. Breakfast buffet is fine except to the most picky. Its clean!

    negatives, air-con not very effective and hotel beer and food prices are expensive (European prices). The food is good though and there is an outside terrace at street level to eat and drink.

    Ali-Baba night spot....short walk from the hotel.
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    Statue by the river which is about 10 mins walk from hotel
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    The river itself.....
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    Me and head cameras from Dogcam
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    That about wraps up Almaty. Moving on south now towards Qyzylorda.
    #33
  14. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    This seems like a long time ago now but really, its only a few days. I opted to take the longer rout via Qaraghandy (Karagandy) rather than trying the shorter ´'yellow' road as these are long distances and fuel stations cannot be relied on to exist.....even if marked.

    There isn´t much to say about this day except the main road, as normal, is more like an english country lane for tarmac quality......on good sections! I arrived about 8pm and was lucky enough to find the Business Centre Hotel on almost the first try. Excellent haven of quiet and safe parking as it is away from everything by a river. There is also an onsite bar and cafe serving good food. Cost for the night was 5500 tenge or about €30. Soome English spoken but menu has an attempt at English. Trat descriptions lightly. Food was tasty and beer was cold. What more does anyone need?

    Some views during the day....
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    As you can see, big horizons and lots of nothing. This is pretty standard for the next few days and 2000 kms. Just nothing!

    These desert cemeteries are all over Kazakhstan and vary greatly in size and remoteness.
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    The Hotel
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    Rundown and apparently disused sports facilities between the hotel and the road.
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    Early start tomorrow.....on to Qyzylorda and, it turns out, to meet up with a British rider, Nick Schofield, one of the original group in Almaty.
    #34
  15. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    This was an interesting and shortish days ride.....or should have been.

    On the map, its approx 450kms to Qyzylorda so I filled up my tanks and headed out. This chap I met at the fuel station and, with broken ENglish and German mixed, found out he runs a car repair shop in the town. By the looks of him., a good one too.
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    This statue was on the outskirts of town
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    After about 90kms, and having seen nothing, by some good fortune I decided to flag down a passing motorist to ask where the next benzine was. To my shock, he told me it was in Qyzylorda. Judging by my fuel consumption in this heat and on these roads, I was not going to make it. I had no alternative but to turn back.

    So, I get back to the very same fuel station at 12:30 having done 180kms and ggne nowhere. This time I filled my tanks to the brim and also my fuel bladder that I had brought, fortunately. This should give me the range I needed provided I kept to about 80kms. The manager came out to talk to me, in very good English. Apparently 'everyone' knows there is no fuel on that road Doh....silly me:lol3
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    Anyway, I left Zhezgazghan about 12:45, on a long slow ride. This next photo is taken at the 365kms mark and my fuel light had been on for 20kms. Time to take of that bladder and refill my tank.
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    I forgot, I had txt to Nick that there may be a fuel issue and that If I wasn´t in Qyzylorda by 7pm, he should start looking for me. As it turns out, I made it with fuel to spare. BUT, even at slow speeds, I was at least 100kms short on my normal dual tank range. This would normally give me 450kms before the warning light, today I got 340 kms.

    We met at the hotel we had agreed at....don´t remember the name but its in my GPS so will edit later.
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    Shot taken the following morning.

    We were only allowed (?) a luxury room between us at 12600 tenge €70) and managed to get some food and drink before turning in. Another long day tomorrow up to Aral and the Aral Sea.

    Sorry not so many photos at the moment but there is not much to see and just long distances to ride.

    EDIT: I forgot to mention, the first 100kms of tarmac out of Zhezgazghan is not very good. Badly cut up in places by trucks. Then there is a 30kms section of washboard gravel surface, then some more tarmac, then 140kms section of washboard gravel surface with some soft sections, before rejoining some reasonable tarmac into Qyzylorda. I thought this was bad at the time.....but read the next updates !
    #35
  16. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    This border is quiet. Was a total of 4 cars and me waiting. Not sure if it closes but I arrived at 6pm and no problem, Watch out for the other side though as you lose an hour going into Siberia. I made it to Zmeinogorsk but was late arriving.
    #36
  17. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    Actually, yes, they were taken in the middle of the day and there aren´t many idiots around like me.:D

    However, most of the indoor shopping places with aircon were busy.
    #37
  18. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

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    We didn't rush away from the hotel in the morning, instead, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast. I guess we got on the road by about 10:30. This was a mistake as it turned out.

    The road to Aral is very tiring at the moment. By next year, it will be a dream new tarmac surface, but right now, the road doesn't really exist. The day consisted of about 5kms of tarmac followed by 20kms of gravel and potholes, alternating for the entire day. Loads of heavy lorries and you take your life into your own hands when overtaking because you simply can´t see passed them due to the dust they kick up.

    Unopened sections of tarmac are simply a challenge to all the drivers to get onto it and use it. It was ok for us but we saw numerous lorries stuck in some amazing places simply to save themselves a few kms of slow driving. No pictures of this unfortunately.....we had other things to do, it was hard work.

    At one point we came across a solo rider on a heavy loaded Yamaha TDM. Completely wrong for these roads but he was managing remarkably well, albeit slowly. We actually bumped into him a few times as he sometimes caught us up when we stopped. The last time we saw him was at we left Aktobe (later thread) because he was heading out into Russia rather than south to Atyrau.

    Here are a few photos....not many again today. Us and the German rider at a short stop.
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    On the approach to Aral town, I got stopped by the police. All they wanted was to ride the bike. One didn't have a clue so no chance but 1 could ride so I let him have a quick go.

    We found the only hotel in Aral....I think, and checked in. There was a party (music dancing) starting up so the owner would only allow us a shared room. It was not a good hotel. most windows were broken BUT the air-con worked, albeit as noisy as an old diesel generator.
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    There was secure parking, so that was another benefit. I´m struggling to find any more.
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    The room had a great bathroom!
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    We bumped into 2 young Canadians (well, from Quebec), 3 guys from Hungary, 1 solo Italian with a CARAVAN !!!!, and a young couple from Almaty on a tour who spoke good English.

    We had dinner with the Canadians and the Hungarians and then split as they were catching a night train to Almaty. We ended up chatting to the Italian and the people from Almaty for a while.

    The Canadians are the 2 on the left.
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    In the morning, while shopping for water and finding a cash point, we saw the Germans Yamaha....he made it, but he must have arrived very late.
    #38
  19. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2008
    Oddometer:
    245
    Location:
    English expat in The Hague
    In the morning we met a couple of. Polish GS riders who had arrived late the previous evening. They were planning on going to the ship cemetary, as we were.....but we missed the turn. Its not obvious and actually (I think) has a no entry sign posted on it, at least, thats the only ´road´I saw.

    So, we contunued up the main road, and again, I use the term loosly.
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    The first 120kms were OK, with a few off-road sections. We bumped into out German/Yamaha friend again at a rest point.

    We got to a junction where the GPS´s wanted us to follow the A26 off to the left. They showed the road ahead as óffroad´but the map shows it as the M32. We had been told by the polish riders, and local truckers confirmed it, that the M32 was the best route now as it had been laid to good tarmac.....all the way to Aktobe.

    The junction I refer to is just to the west of Yrghyz. There is an air-conditioned transport stop there (no fuel though) and the staff and truckers were very friendly. Cold coke was very welcome and the noodle soup was great.

    btw, one IMPORTANT point I forgot. The last fuel available on this road is about 3lms out of Aral with the next fuel just west of Qarabutaq.....about 370-400kms. There are signs for fuel BUT, there isn't any, yet anyway.

    Staff and truckers
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    We pushed on and we had been informed correctly, the tarmac was there and mostly good. We made the fuel stop OK and then did as fast as possible run into Aktobe, arriving around 9pm. We bumped into a guy in a 4x4 who led us to the Aktobe hotel. It looked expensive but we found it was actually quite reasonable at 5900 tenge for a single room. There was also shashlik and Ice cold beer to be had right outside with secure parking at the back. Just what a tired traveler needs!
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    Next to the hotel...photo from the following morning.
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    Preparing to leave for Atyrau and, unknown to us at the time, the hardest ´road´day we were to have.

    As a side note, we met up with some young English guys doing the Mongolian rally. They had 2 cars and were heading, unsurprisingly for Mongolia. We told them about the roads and the major towns (Almaty vs Astana) so they decided to go to Astana over Almaty. For some reason, they had no idea about registration with the immigration police (5 day limit) and being Friday, and having been in Kazakhstan for 3 days already, they were going to get fined. They decided to do it in Astana and would just have to accept the fine.

    As another side note, in this cafe out front of the hotel, even the beer glasses were iced so the beer was super cold. I had to have a few more than usual and eventually got to bed around 01:30. The shashlik was excellent too.

    Tomorrow, we move onto Atyrau, our last stop in Kazakhstan.
    #39
  20. mikecbrxx

    mikecbrxx Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2008
    Oddometer:
    245
    Location:
    English expat in The Hague
    As we were leaving Atyrau, nick spotted what appeared to be an aircraft museum....or something. I actually think it was a display area attached to a military college of barracks of some sort as there appeared to be no way in. Still, we fired off a few photos before moving on.

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    The road via Qandyagash to Bayghanin was reasonable,. Its after this that it started to go pear shaped.

    btw, before I go on, fuel available (main road) in Shubarqadyq, Bayghanin, Saghyz, and Dossor. There may be fuel in Magat but its off to the main road a few kms and a trucker told us not to bother as Dossor was only a few kms further.

    The road deteriorated gradually to a bombing range. There were potholes shoulder height across 100% of the road in places and not one hole you can drive through (car/truck I´m thinking off, bikes OK), the holes are staggered. You may get down this road in a seriously high truck/military vehicle, but its only a ´may´. We were the only vehicles that stayed on the road and honestly, a 2 wheeled vehicle is, I´m sure, all that could. All other traffic used a sand road a few hundred meters to one side. Visible in some photos.

    This really bad road continues for about 250kms, then is sections after. It really did not want to let us through :evil

    About 10kms from Dossor, the road took a detour and started to improve. After we had refueled, the last 100kms into Atyrau was quite good tarmac, which was lucky as it was completely dark by this time.

    There are no photos of the really bad sections as we were too busy trying to stay on the bikes. We were so conscious of the time/daylight and the distance, that we rode too fast along much of this road and the bikes suffered. It turned out that I lost a sub-frame bolt at some point, my swing arms collided with the frame quite badly, possibly the same time that my rear sprocket collided with the inset in my X-Tank....and won. I was leaking fuel quite badly.

    I didn't find out about this until we made a short stop about 50kms short of Dossor and a trucker pulled up to see if we needed help.:clap Fortunately, I managed to salvage enough fuel out of the x-tank and got it into my main tank that I got to Dossor ok. It was this trucker who gave us the good news about fuel and that there was only about 40kms to good tarmac.

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    It doesn't look it but that hole Nick is in is over a meter deep.
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    One upside to this route and being the only people on the road was that we were able to get up close to some of the wildlife. The baby camel in this photoy at first ran off the road with its father while the mother remained. However, it soon returned, without dad. We were about 3 metres away and these animals were not hobbled so probably wild.
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    There were some sort of post stuck in the ground every km or so and on each on we came across and eagle perched. Most flew off once we got within about 10 meters but one stayed till we got to about 3 meters before leaving. Did not manage to get any still images, but did get one this one on my helmet camera. I will try and post this later.

    Anyway, as with everything, the bad road ended and we rolled into Atyrau around 11pm. I had a route to the Green Hotel. It turned out to be in rather a run down area of the town, similar, but not to big, as the Russian tenements in Novosibirsk.. There were large heating(?) pipes running on the surface of the streets and routed in square arches, over the streets.

    The hotel itself, however, was really good. It was well air-conditioned, usual bar and food available, and the rooms were comfortable. We were charged about 8000 tenge per night. We decided to stop 2 nights and do some maintenance after the Road of Holes.

    This was when I found out a sub-frame bolt had gone missing....I had a spare fortunately. We even managed to wash the bikes a little in some drainage water.....cleanish though.

    I took a taxi into the town center on the following day but didn't stay long. Its really spread out and was like a blast furnace in the heat. I snapped a few photos and had some Kazakh fast food consisting of a Lamb burger thing with some fries and coke for 1000 tenge. Not bad at all!

    Shopping center with fast food
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    Smart and expensive hotel nearby
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    Mosque next to that.
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    Our Hotel
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    Later on that day, while preparing for the ride to Astrakhan, the Russian border crossing, and how to get our boots into the Caspian sea, we decided that what I wanted to do in Astrakhan was not the same as Nick. I wanted to stay a couple of days and take a good look around at the ´Kremlin´and the water front while Nick only wanted a quick look around at to move on. So, we agreed to ride together to the city and then part company, maybe to join again later in Auschwitz....one of my later stops on the route back to home.

    To be continued....
    #40