Bare with me here, the following photos are all pretty boring and poor quality because they're mostly cell phone images. The past week has been a grinding effort to put this thing together!! I flew out last Wednesday and John the morning after. Since then we have been spending every waking hour trying to keep the ball rolling. I landed in Astana after 30+ hours of flying, 3 layovers with barely enough time in between each one to make connecting flights. Nothing like being in a "post 13 hour flight zombie state" and then be expected to figure out where to go, do I need to recheck bag, where the fuck do I line up next, security, customs, and do I even get a chance for a beer here, all the while no one speaks any usefull English. It's a tall order. I hate flying. For reasons not worth discussing (dumb decision making by myself) my bike was in Kazakhstan with no battery. I knew that finding a battery in Rudny where it is parked would be impossible, and finding one in the capital city where I was flying to would be unlikely... and annoying. I did a bit of research and found that sealed AGM batteries under a certain capacity are safe to fly with. I emailed the airline, they seemed to think as long as it wasn't lithium ion it would be fine. Sweet. I stuffed the small battery into my bag and checked my luggage. I flew from Vancouver to somewhere in China, then to somewhere else in China for an unscheduled landing due to weather, then to Urumchi China, where I needed to connect for my last flight to Kazakhstan. I had to recheck my luggage. It was here, after flying all the way around the planet that they decided that this battery wasn't safe to be in my luggage. When he pulled it from my bag, it even had a "safe for flight" sticker attached to it and a document from Canadian customs stating that they'd inspected it but it met requirements to be checked onboard. He threw it in the garbage bin and send me on my way. (I kick and screamed... and begged but it didn't work) That battery travelled 15 000kms and got thrown in the bin 500 kms away from my final destination. This annoying experience earned me a 3 hour cab ride in Astana while I went to every autoparts and moto shop looking for a battery with the specs to fit my bike.... no luck. I did find one that was close but just too big physically. After the battery search I passed out in a hotel for the night, then i was up early and on a 10 hour train ride back to Rudny in the north west of Kaz. Pasha, the guy who runs the garage that is attached to the hospital where I was laid up, agreed to pick me up at 10 from my hotel the following morning. Pasha brought his daughter and was very proud to introduce her to me! He drove me to the garage and unwrapped my bike which was in a small closet, just as I left it, SWEET! He was very keen to help me attach my new battery and confirm that it would run. We installed a Kazah battery relocation kit and turned it over. Nothing. I wasn't confident that the starter was seeing enough voltage with the extra long thin gauge wire we had used so I got Pasha to pull his car up and jump the connections... success!! It was a hard start, but a start nonetheless. While it idled for a bit it was photo time! Pasha loves hockey, he doesn't speak any English but when I parked my bike last year he was able to ask me if I knew Ovechkin. I thought he would like a jersey from our home team so I brought him one to say thank you for keeping my bike safe and giving it a place to rest while I healed up at home. At this stage it was time to figure out how to fit the huge bag of crap I had brought all into my panniers. I also wanted to see some friends and pay a visit to the hospital. I rode to the gas station and topped up the fuel, then grabbed another room for the night and set to checking over the bike and repacking everything. Once the bike was set I went to the hospital and got a warm welcome from all my nurses, big hugs all around. I also got to see my surgeon who seemed a nervous when I greeted him. Maybe he though I wasn't a satisfied customer? When I was checked in last year, an Uzbek girl came to visit me once in awhile to practice her English. She organizes an English group in town and asked if I would meet them for dinner that night so they could meet the famous Canadian and practice english. We went for Shashlik and chai. Next up it was the 800km asphalt push to Astana. I couldn't believe how great my bike felt. I hit the vertical side of a ditch at 90+ kms an hour, the bike and I cartwheeling down the steppe to a crushing halt in the dirt. I get multiple injuries and 5 weeks in hospital. My trusty WR gets a broken fairing mount and a superficial bend in the luggage rack, unbelievable. I was nervous the night before riding it out after not riding a bike since I was last on it, but words can't possibly explain how good it felt to get back on it! On the way to Astana, a man gave me a new sweet sticker to christen the next leg of the ride. The reason for visiting Astana again was to pick up a parts cache that I had setup last year. Mishutka and Pate (of TheOffroad People) had organized a delivery of parts, fluids and tires to a friend of his just outside of town. John picked up his share of the cache last year before he rolled into the Altai. Not only was my stuff still waiting for me when I arrived, I met Andre's Dad, his cousin Nigmat and Nigmat's wife and kids, and Andre, one of the famous Off Road people. They were repairing Nigmat's sons "Ukraine" model bicycle. (If you don't know these crazy Russians... here you go) Nigmat's oldest boy Nigmat and Andre insisted they should take me for lunch. I tried to pay the bill to show my appreciation for their help but was quickly told that "Guests of our Kazakhstan don''t pay for lunch!". I wish I could really do the Russian/Kazahk hospitality and food food justice, but I suggest a visit by anyone who has the chance to experience it first hand!! Thanks boys! Meanwhile John has been rolling through Russia and has crossed into Kaz today. Hes managed to run into some more 2 wheel celebrities! looks like we should be able to touch beers in the next couple days. It's all coming together after a lot of hard work, win!