Back to Russia

It was a short day. We woke up in the small valley we had pitched camp in, now with a little bit more sun!

  
Today we would cross the border to Russia. From earlier experiences, we decided to eat before, as you never know how long it will take.

  
The border went exceptionally fast and after 2.5 hours we were through. We met a Kazakh guy who talked cleaner than we did; apparently he had lived in USA for a time.
When we went through our papers and passport. Pontus was talking to Fredrik. The border control guards said ”Pontus?”, and when Pontus looked to them, and they started laughing! We did not understand bout what, but they laughed so they got tears in their eyes, literally! Before, they would hush us, but now their colleague had to hush them instead. We still do not know what this is about.
We drove 40 kilometres from the border and pitched camp. We even had the time to cook food and start eating, before the border control and police appeared. We were too close to the border, and they wanted us to drive another 50 kilometres to a hotel. As it was pretty late and the police seemed to freeze, he drove us to the city where he lived, told us to continue to the city and said good bye. We drove a bit more before pitching camp at a new spot. 

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Abandoned airport

This morning was the second time I switched car, now over to Öken. Earlier I had been in Gecko, and started in Deffis. Defies is a Land Rover Defender, while Öken and Gecko are Toyota Landcruisers.

The morning had a really nice sky, and with the steppe, it looked like a great opportunity to take a good photo!

  
We had some museums and monuments in mind this day. The museum did not open, so we skipped that in the end, and moved on to some monuments. First, we saw a monument which we did not really now what it was about. It was close to the river, where a fisherman were walking out.

  
After that we visited the monuments which were in honour of the ones suffering after the test bombings with nuclear weapons. The park looked great, but it kind of felt like they put too much money into this, when the country felt poor.

   
 For lunch we tried some pirogues which tasted terrific. It was probably also the cheapest lunch yet! After some shopping, the journey continued.
When at the hostel, we had found a big abandoned airport where we now were headed. We started by driving out on the large airstrip.

  
We then continued with looking at some of the hangars, which some of them were dug out, while others were more intact. None were in good condition inside, though.

   
 We continued to a couple of houses, one in which we found a hole to an underground walk, maybe 50 metres long. The second house seemed to be industrial, maybe coal.

   
           Then we started exploring the houses looking more like homes, or maybe schools and working quarters. We managed to find our way up to the second level on one of them, but saw through a window how there were a building you could probably get up on the roof at!

   
         Driving to the next part, we met a guy who was waiting for the rain to stop. He had a cool Ural motorbike!

  
After we had been running around for a few hours we continued to the next city, where there would be another museum. The place we had our GPS at were some sort of military place, though, so we started looking for dinner instead. This was a really small village, and when the only police we met saw us, he came and started talking with us. He was really nice and showed us to a restaurant, probably where he eats lunch sometimes, as it was really close to the police station.

  
When trying to get out of the city, there were a train on the train crossing which seemed to have some problems with getting where it should. It drove a little bit to the left, and then back to the right, to the left again, and to the right. I think we were standing there more than ten minutes, until the train managed to drive by!

  

Merry go round!

This was mainly a transport day. When we stopped for food, we met some small children from the kindergarten wall-to-wall. First, they was photographed, before getting angry at Michael.
We found a really fun playground outside, though, where I and Joakim (the new Joakim) played for a while, spinning round and round!

  
At lunch, there were a river which looked really nice. This was the first time we ate porridge this trip, probably as it was really easy to clean afterwards. We met two local guys whom we treated some porridge, but the guy who tried it did not seem pleased, even though he said it was nice.
We stopped at another tank, like the one we saw the first days in Russia.

  
Other than that, not much happened. Two policemen looked really happy while waving us further instead of stopping us, and in the evening we had lots of lightning. 

China and railroad cars

We were the closest to China that we would ever be during this trip, with only 40 kilometres between us and the pretty high border.

  
There was time to stop at a market to buy more groceries. On our way, we saw a guy who looked like he was trying to open a package by throwing it at the ground. I think a scissor would have been easier!

  
As usual, we found people who wanted us to take photos of them, or with them. I was in for buying something in a small shop, and it did not take long before they asked me to take their photo! They were nice to try to speak with at least, and they wanted me to send them the photo. I gave them my e-mail so maybe they will contact me to get it in the future.

  
During the afternoon, we were going to drive on some smaller roads. They appeared to sometimes be no roads at all, and we drove ”the wrong way” at least once.

  
At a small waterhole we found what looked like a part from an airplane, which now were used to fill up with ground water for animals to drink.

  
When we arrived at the bigger lake we aimed at, it started raining, which made us run bak into the cars for cover. There were not really a beach there, and so we drove further. We stopped another time, where it started raining again, and continued again. At the next stop we saw something that would really make us stop, though!

  
There were an old railroad car, laying by the lake. We also found an old car, and what looked like a part of a boat. We decided to stop here for the night instead of trying to driver further after bathing, and therefore had much time for bathing and cooking food.

   
   We had a really nice view, and everything were well, until the wind started. Chairs tipped over and we had problems keeping our stuff on the tables, and put the Defender as a wind screen. It helped against the wind but instead the turbulence made the sand whirl up and into everything. We decided to move a couple of hundred metres inland to get some less wind, which at least helped a bit!

  
Hej lilla Fridis! 

Circles and moons

In the morning, we visited a lake to bath. The view was really nice, with cool mountains in the background!

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The first bath place we found, which looked nice, we were showed away from as someone having a restaurant up the beach wanted 10000 som for us to bath there (140 euro). We went to a more stony place, and no further problem arose!

As we continued, we found a place which seemed good for lunch. While Fredrik was in to check the place, Birte started driving in a circle. Soon, all the cars followed, which gave Fredrik a laugh when he came out again.

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From the lunch place, we got a good view of the lake. There were also some small dogs who seemed to live around that place, and they were so small and cute!

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While driving further, we passed an airbase. Their hangars looked pretty cool, but I did not manage to catch any planes on camera.

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As usual, we had to buy food during the day. I, Pontus and Michael went around to get some fruits and greens,  which were pretty easy.

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I saw a “DVD player and mobile phone” shop, and though maybe they had more technical stuff. My keyboard on the notebook is not always functioning properly, and I have been thinking of buying an external keyboard. I asked in there, even though they could not speak english, and at least got to know I should ask for a “claviatur”, and also that there is another shop where I maybe could find one. I ran there,and the woman behind the counter had four different keyboards laying around. I bought a small one, which also was the cheapest, for only 7 euro. Really nice!

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We drove the rest of the day until it was getting late, and we went out on the steppe to set up camp.

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, and in the evening we had a beautiful moon rise over the horizon.

Fast-track register

This was another border-pass day. As they looked through my pictures last time, I switched SD-cards this time, and took some really bad pictures by just photographing everything I could in two minutes, which gave me 48 bad pictures. This it the ones looking best, one of Catharina and Henrik, and one of the border (kind of):

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We had to walk over again, which went by half an hour or something. The cars got stuck behind someone though, as they checked the car before really throughly; they took everything apart and looked in all the bags, while they did not check us that much. It took some time, but after a long wait the cars came through!

We drove to Almaty, where we would register us. We were pretty lucky, it seems; Fredrik went in to check, and left his passport, followed by a few more. As it seems they though it was just a couple, they did it pretty fast, while they saw other passports lying in big boxes in the background. They did seem to get less and less happy when we added more and more passports, though. but it went by really fast!

After a dinner at the place on the opposite side of the street, we drove north for a while before stopping for the night.

Living with strangers

  
Now, we aimed for the border to Kyrgyzstan! On the way there we got stopped by the police, and the one checking me was also born in 1991, which he thought was really funny!

While driving though a city, we drove past a really tight road. We really had to crush some bushes to come thorugh!

  
When we arrived at the border everyone but the ones driving the cars had to walk over. It went pretty quick, but on the other side we had to wait for the cars instead. I bought a Pepsi and a Snickers while trying to spend the time. I also called home to my parents to get an update from home, as I haven’t talked with them since I left. At least they are taking caring of themselves and my apartment!
When the cars had passed, we got to hear that the guards had checked our cameras, and they found some pictures really funny; more specific, the ones with five of us without pants on the peak we had climbed. No problem with the missile base-pictures or anything, at least!

  
We took out money, and discovered that most ATMs don’t take MasterCard. Too bad my bank switched earlier, so I have two banks with MasterCard. We went and ate lunch anyway, planning to solve it later. They had glasses with badly written motivators on it!

  

I went outside and asked some older ladies about an ATM. The closest one were apparently the one we had visited, so I had to wait.

  
There were a national park we had in mind to check out but as we came there we saw what we anticipated: no camping allowed. We drove down the road a bit and tried one of the smaller roads, but it did not seem to go anywhere else than to people’s houses. There were two elder people who came walking, and I tried to ask for a place to sleep at. They signed that they would show us, and we took them with us in the cars and drove to their home.
They offered us to sleep inside (probably for a pay) but we managed to tell them we have the tents and the cars. We spent the afternoon with their two children, and also a guy on a horse appeared, and offered us some horseback riding for a small amount. Jakob did a fireshow!

I had a really great time, and I am glad I talked with those people, as we otherwise don’t get interaction with the locals in the same way.

    

  

 
   

  

  

   

                         

Punctures and burned shirts

After a beautiful morning we went over the mountain pass. We passed a ruin which we drove to check out, and met a family who lived down from the ruin. They told us about a waterfall nearby, and after checking out the ruin we continued along the road until we came to an end. Jakob went looking for the waterfall, but as he could not find anything, we decided to drive back.

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We had lunch on the steppe, and actually got some rain and thunder today. It was pretty chilly, but I would not define it as cold, before the rain came down upon us.
The roads were better than expected and we got ahead pretty fast. As it started raining even more we decided to eat out instead of cooking our own food.

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We met a couple of drunkards at the place, and one of them were pretty annoying, trying to talk with us all the time while waiting for the food.

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When backing out, it went pretty slow, and we discovered a puncture in the rear-left tire of the defender.

DSC_6615We started to change the tire, and found out we had a mechanic on the other side. While changing tire, we rolled over the punctured tire to get it fixed on the other side. They did it pretty fast and pretty cheap, and we tried to talk with them in the meantime!

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The spot we decided to camp at for the night had a really nice background view to look at while playing some card games.
My shirt had started to rip too much, which was understandable. I got it second hand from one of my hosts during the bike trip, who I lived at in Belgium. I think the sun during those trips has not been nice to it, and weakened it during all this time. I gave it a nice end at least! (Thank you for the shirt, Anne and Didier! The shirt has been a really good travel companion!)

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Dragonflies, high peaks and rainbows

First thing this morning, we drove by a ruin city named Sauran. The city were used during the Silk Road, being a capital city of the Mongols during the 1500s. It was not well taken care of, and I think some parts are re-built afterwards, but it was pretty cool to see.DSC_6416 DSC_6419 DSC_6429

The next stop were in Turkistan, where we first bought more food and wate. Next, we went to a pharmacy for hand sanitiser and also new earrings for me as I managed to lose one. The guy answered yes on all the questions (Do you speak english? How much are these?), but seemed to know more or less no english. He went to another place to buy earrings, and the second time I followed him there so I could get what I needed. We also bought grilled chicken and bread outside, before a police told us we could not park there, and we had to drive to another place to eat.

One of our later plans were to live in a Yurt camp, so we tried to find a place with wifi so we could book. While filling up gas, I went over to a big Hyundai car saloon to look for wifi, and actually managed to find some. We booked while the locals were talking loudly with us, one of them wanting to guide us to Kyrgyzstan. Michael got to taste fermented horse milk of some friendly local!

When we finally were on our way again, we went outside the city to eat without being disturbed. We managed to find a really good place for bathing, so we could wash ourselves, and also do a quick wash of some clothes! We had a great time, playing in the streams and just relaxing.

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Our plan were to take a short cut over the mountains. On the way we saw a really good-looking spot, and after driving around a little we settled down there. The afternoon were spent climbing the mountains, which was really cool. We managed to get to a pretty nice peak, which opened up for some fine photography possibilities!

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During dinner, we got swarmed again, but this time by dragonflies! We also got a rainbow for dinner, which showed up really neatly.

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Baikonur Cosmodrome

We did not do much today, as the earlier days of bad roads took longer than expected. Therefore, this day was more of a transport day!
At lunch time we were close to the Russian rent part of Kazakstan, Baykonur, where every space launch from Russia and Soviet was launched. We ate lunch at the kind of Russian city close by, and drove by close enough to get some photos!

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We had some problems buying gas in Kyzylorda, but at the third try we found a petrol station, which of course has a big line as everyone wanted to fill up gas there.
When we tried to find a camp, we first found ourselves following a canal and then going in a circle back to the highway. The second time we went off, we managed to find a secluded place in between some dunes!

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When Jakob is too tired to drive, Jackiie takes over!