Nothing much to say. Fairly average day just covering miles heading for Russia. Kazakhstan is big. Big and flat and stormy. Watched some fighter jets doing aerobatics near a military base, found somewhere to camp, changed another tyre, had dinner, and that’s about it. No drama, barely even a photo opportunity.
The new satnav works great for getting us out of the city. A cop stops us, but fortunately just wants to chat and have a look at the bikes, and soon we’re on our way without any fine. Dave’s bike seems to be running ok but looks to be seeping oil from numerous places. After a short ride we find a camp site and stop at lunchtime because we need to do tyre changes etc. A big thunderstorm hits when we’re half way through the first tyre change and we get soaked, but an hour later the tyre changes are done, the sun is out and we can relax. I go for wine and bread while Dave makes more temporary air filters, then we have a rather nice pasta dish with a rather unpleasant wine, followed by chocolate and a roaring camp fire with a lightening storm in the distance, then bed, back in the familiar cozyness of the tent after 5 days luxury in Almaty.
It’s annoying that we’re still waiting for Dave’s bike to be rebuilt, but if you’re going to be stuck anywhere then Almaty is the place. It is incredible. The day starts well with peanut butter on toast for breakfast for the first time in 53 days, and I manage to successfully transfer maps and waypoints to the new satnav. Arriving at MyTownMoto we discover Dave’s bike has been rebuilt and so for the rest of the day we can relax, enjoying Almaty and not really wanting to leave.
Practicalites today. Manage to find a MapSource compatible satnav in a department store. If I can actually transfer maps and waypoints to it, it will be very useful and i’ll be pleased not to have to look at an empty satnav mount for the rest of the trip. Get some cash, do some internet research. Change the rear tyre on my bike back to road rubber to save the dirt one for Mongolia. Then to pick up Dave’s bike from MyTownMoto, hoping it’s been re-built. It hasn’t, so it looks like we’ll be here another night. And then we find out the replacement piston dave ordered from wemoto is not available. So we go out for a drink.
5 course breakfast. Lazy wander around Almaty. Take advantage of free wi-fi in the cafe. Just a relaxing day of doing nothing, thinking that i should really be changing my tyres back to the road tyres for the next leg to Russia but not actually doing it. Then we go to MyTownMoto to see about Dave’s bike. Damaged cylinder, needs a re-bore and a new piston. Looks like we’ll have to try to get parts sent from england to Russia, there’s a bike shop in Novosibirsk and his bike should make it that far. Getting ready to ride back to the hotel i notice that my satnav has been nicked off the bike, right outside MyTownMoto. Bloody annoying. It will make the next part of the trip very difficult to navigate, and on top of my sunglasses going walkabout i’m out of pocket by well over 600 quid. Very annoying. Still, fish and chips in Mad Murphy’s Irish Pub helps ease the pain, even if it’s nothing like real fish and chips.
Good breakfast in the hotel, best for a while. Then we go looking for MyTownMoto. Manage to find it with the help of a passing biker, and hang around for a while till the owners turn up. Another local helps translate and we leave Dave’s bike for an inspection to see what’s wrong, and i give Dave a pillion back to the hotel. Then a long walk and a cable car ride up the hill before returning to town for more nighttime entertainment.
A quick of easy ride and we’re in Almaty. Find an internet cafe and hunt a hotel. A bit of guesswork and we find the hotel. Seems nice enough. Check in for 4 nights assuming that Dave’s bike needs attention and this is our last chance to enjoy civilisation until Ulaan Bataar.
First impression of Kazakhstan? Big. Very, very big. Fairly uneventful day, not much happening apart from the border crossing. Kyrgystan customs causes a fuss as we don’t have a customs declaration form. We weren’t given one on the way in at the remote, not often used, disorganised border post in the mountains. Customs guy today makes a fuss, says we’ll have to go back to where we came in. After a while, he suddenly says that if we were to give him a knife as a present, then he would let us through. He rejects my multi-tool but seems happy with Dave’s christmas cracker penknife and we’re through. Kazakhstan entry procedure is pretty simple, they have computers, it’s a far cry from Turkmenistan. A fairly long day in the saddle, covering 200 miles, but all seems easy. Dave’s bike continues to drink oil and turn it into white exhaust smoke, but seems to be running normally. Tomorrow, Almaty, hopefully for a few days of civilisation after 10 days of wild camping and homestays with even worse facilities than wild camping…
Dave’s bike is now smoking badly and burning about a litre of oil per 100 miles. It’s a bit of a worry but hopefully it will make it to Almaty and a bike shop. We’re just 2 days away and with luck can get there with 3 days in hand. Today was a fairly uneventful ride apart from stopping every half hour to check and refill dave’s oil. Made it to the lake, not as far as I’d planned but still good progress and a really enjoyable ride. Great to be back on tarmac. 50mph feels so fast when you’ve spent a couple of days doing 30 max on gravel, sand and mud. Picked up some more wine for dinner. This time it’s Jessica Alba wine. Very wierd, but all the wine here seems to have pictures of celebrities on the bottle, is really sweet and foul tasting, and claims to be 17% alcohol. Camp site is a very quiet spot with a view of the lake, the mountains to the south from where we’ve just come, and the mountains to the north beyond which lies Kazakhstan, the last of the stans. Kyrgyzstan has been brilliant. Stunning landscapes, friendly people, thrilling dirt roads over mountain passes, plentiful wild camping opportunities, and comfortable weather bar a few evening storms. Today we saw 2 seperate european cyclists and 4 GS riders from Switzerland, it’s obviously a popular place and easy to see why. But now i’m eager to get to Kazakhstan and one step closer to Russia and the big one – Mongolia.
We spend the whole day riding a dirt road over a mountain, gravel all the way. Superb fun on the way up, scary on the way down. Dave’s bike gives out near the top, and we have to remove and clean the carb. The road is like the stelvio pass and goes about as high, but it’s dirt all the way and we hardly see another person all day. Lunch of noodles by a river. On the way down the other side we suddenly get the most incredible view of the whole trip. We’ve been through too many countries to remember and done way more than 7000 miles, but this view beats all others. It’s astonishing, unforgettable. Distant snow capped mountains circling the horizon, and the foothills spread out across everywhere we can see, looking like a painting of an alien landscape. Indescribable, jaw dropping, breath taking. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life, and there must only be a very small number of people who have ever come over that pass and seen that view. It is a sight i will never forget. Later we set up camp after a hard day’s ride, just as a storm comes in and threatens to destroy my tent. When it passes, we enjoy more wine and pasta, and a game of rocky throw throw (throwing rocks at other rocks, but with japanese accents). When it gets dark we retire, and the wine does a good job of helping me ignore that i’ve parked my tent right on a very lumpy bit.