Sand dunes and hot springs

DSC_6271

During the morning we passed really close to the Arak lake. We walked to the salty water, and I have to admit that before yesterday I thought it would be much smaller.

DSC_6289

Close to lunch, we passed some sand dunes, and took the chance to drive through them instead of around. It was some fun off road driving, and we stopped for lunch in the middle.

DSC_6295

After passing a small town we found a hot spring, which we did not know about! Apparently, the hot water would heal you if you swam 30 minutes in it, or something like that, but you were not supposed to drink it. We met lots of people there, and one of them could speak English. If I recall correctly she were there with her class from school, 11th form. Everyone wanted us to be on photos with them, so I got to take many pictures!

DSC_6300

DSC_6315

Later, we were closing in on one of the consequences of the rapidly shrinking Aral lake, the ships left stranded when the lake disappeared. On our way out there a motorbike chased us, to tell us to follow them and swim somewhere, we think. They left soon, though.

DSC_6336

We got ourselves really cool photos of the ship, and also the camels underneath it!

DSC_6349

In the evening I tried myself against Hampus in some wrestling, but of course, I lost. It was fun, at least!

Advertisements

Bad stomaches everywhere

I woke up with a little rumbling in my stomach, and had to go out pretty fast. Apparently it was not only me; more than half the camp were bad. Our thoughts were of the lunch yesterday. As we got served really fast, it may have been pretty bad grilled.

We are pretty used to people coming by and saying hello, even though we don’t understand each other at all. Today, there were a guy on a motorbike driving over the steppe. He even gave me a ride around, which just made me want to take my own motorbike somewhere even more.

DSC_6221

CIMG3503

We finally arrived at the Aral lake, or what is left of it at least. We had dinner at a small peak with something that looked like a memorial, where you could also spot what looked like old ships. There would be too much of a reroute to visit them, though.

DSC_6249

DSC_6254DSC_6262

The rest of the day, I just tried to sleep, with the stomach making me well aware of it.

I woke up when we arrived at the stay for the night, at the bottom of a small hill. We went up to take a look, but you could not really see anything. I felt pretty exhausted by that small trip, though. Daniel made a small art piece while on the top.

DSC_6268

We ended the evening with discussing the worst/most stupidly things we had done in our lives. It was a great evening, even if I didn’t feel really well.

Dust and grilled chicken

 I drove down from the mountain, and we continued on the pretty bad road. We passed a small river, so that was the first eye I drove through here!

  
There were not really much to do or see on the way, so we drove until we arrived in a city where we were going to eat lunch, shop and fill up gas in. As we wanted to save on time, we split in three groups; I and Mikael went to order food at a place we saw on the way. On the way there, we saw a pretty cool mosque.

  
We managed to order food for ten people, and then the two guys at the place started talking with us. They wanted to take photos of us with our cameras, and to take selfies with their cameras.

   
We got the food pretty quick, to our surprise. So far, we always had to wait at least half an hour, but today it was fifteen minutes. We contacted the others through radio and SMS so that they would know the lunch was ready.

  
The only small problem, is that we only seemed to get three plates for ten people, which would be nowhere as much as we needed. We tried to order two big plates more, but got one smaller plate, probably for two people. After a third order, we thought it would at least be food enough, and gave up on ordering more.
When we were done eating, we took the chance to fill up our ”shower bags” with tap water, a total of 80 litres of water.
We continued on (or the side of) the not-so-good road. On the way, we picked up every bigger piece of wood we could find, as we were going to grill tonight!

  
As it does not rain much down here, there were dust everywhere in the air, and while driving it really went everywhere.

   
 
When we arrived at our camp for the night out in the nowhere, we started collecting whatever burning material we could find. Emil and I found a big log, pretty dry, which we also brought to the camp. It was really easy to find easy-burning material to start with, which also makes you look like an elk!

  
I started the fire, and then me and Emil grilled the chicken the others had cut up. The log didn’t really burn, but the other material we had were enough! 

Soviet missile silos

According to Fredrik, we had apparently missed the main attraction. As some of us had to make dinner yesterday, we all went out on a tour again. This time, we got even more spectacular views than yesterday!

  
 The main attraction, the silos, were really cool to see. As this is not a tourist place, you are free to walk everywhere, and we found our way down under the ground, with exits out into the silos, many, many rooms, and new exits!

 
   

     

When we left, we had a grasshopper invasion. Every small dot you see is a grasshopper, they were really swarming! 

  
The roads were still bad, and we continued going on- and off road, depending on the quality on the tarmac and dirt road.
More or less everywhere, you could see groups of graves along the road. We stopped and took a look at one of the places, with all the different graves in it.

   
 Something else we have got used to is all the animals crossing or standing around the road. Sometimes there are someone looking after the herd, sometimes it looks like the animals are just free walking.

  
We found a small mountain for the night, which we drove upon. There were good views of the surroundings, and really nice nature. There were a good breeze, so that it would not be too hot in the tent.

  
After the dinner, I went up to the top to write some more and also called Eli and talked a bit, which was really nice. The way down was a little bit scary, though, as I went a little bit too much north. I had the road to stop me if I would walk too far, but I did not want to have to walk down and road. After doing a sharp right-turn I managed to get to the right hill, and suddenly I had the cars in front of me again.

I like the turns the trip has done, and even if there are some downs, the ups greatly outweigh them! 

Deporting Pontus

I woke up by the voices of strangers. There were two Kazakh men out on their morning training, who stumbled upon our camp. They could speak pretty good english, and lived in the village we had passed on our way here. They got some selfies with some of us, and then they wanted Jakob to talk with one of the guys sister. She more or less asked the same questions, and sounded like a journalist writing down the answers. Not to be paranoid, but it sounds like they checked our story!
On our way onto the big road we had to pass another couple of kilometres of sand road. We met a small car, and instead of us going off road, he just backed up on a sand dune like nothing. Cool to see what ordinary cars can do!

After lunch we arrived at the registration office, as you have to register in this country within five days. We were really lucky as we met a lady who were an english teacher and would help us filling out the forms, finding a copy machine for the documents and speak with the people at the registration hall. Now, we stumbled upon a small problem.

Apparently, she had experience of the same problem Pontus had with his visa, and that did not end well. As we had no possibility to get a new visa in time, our only choice were to deport Pontus before the five days had ended. Therefore, the best choice we had were to put him on a flight here in Aktobe, as we would not pass an airport the next coming days. We split into three groups; one escorting Pontus to the airport where he would fly to Bishkek, one shopping food and one group, including me, waiting to get the remaining passports back from the registration hall. Joakim, Birte and I took a small walk around the neighbourhood before waiting at the registration hall, where I used the time to put up another blog post.

While shopping, Jakob did a ”Russian” as they were out of time and there were really big lines. By doing a Russian, he went off the road on the right side, and drove past everything.

When all the parts were done, we left the city. On the way out Jakob worked on the public relations, and high-fived a Kazakh who gave us place to get out to the main road, even though he had right of way. The traffic is so much friendlier here in Kazakhstan!

After driving for a bit, the road went really bad, worse than anything we had ever drove so far. There were usually small dirt roads on the side of the main road, which were better than the long ago asphalted roads, which now consists of pot holes and cracked tarmac.

When we turned into the last road, we had a really long distance of straight road ahead of us. There, we started surfing the cars, while driving both on the tarmac and the dirt road. We had a really good time, even though it did not really go that fast.

  
In the end, we arrived at the wheel tracks which would lead us to our camp. We were now really close to an old soviet nuclear missile base. Before dinner, we went out and explored for an hour, and we will probably return tomorrow for more sightseeing.

 
   

  

  

  

  

This was also the darkest place we had camped on so far, with a really good look- out over falling stars, satellites and a nice, bright sky!

  

Attack of the mosquitoes!

I think this was the first morning I woke up without having an exceedingly warm tent. We had opened the ventilation a bit more, and there were also a bit windy outside, so you could actually sleep until breakfast! (And maybe oversleep a bit.)

    
 Photo by Fredrik Arnell 

As we lived on a steppe, we did not really have any good, private places for bathrooms. Therefore, first thing after breakfast, we stopped before the main road at a place which had some trees so people could go.

For lunch, we ate at a restaurant with a funny looking animal on the wall inside. I had an idea of trying to wash my clothes in my water bag. It may be an bad idea, as I do not know if i can get it 100% clean when I come home, but it may be a good idea, as I never use it as a water bag but would need an easy way to wash my clothes. This way, I put my underwear inside, filled it with hot water and some washing detergent, sealed it and shook it. After an hour, I changed to clean water, and put it in the back of the car as we went. 

   
When driving, this is the usual view, as the steppe off Kazakstan really is scarce.

   
We had a place in mind for the night, and the road out there were really bad. As it did not go fast, we took the chance to surf on the outside of the cars. It was really fun, and made the time go a little bit faster, as the few kilometres suddenly took an hour. I also got the chance to drive off-road ”for real” for the first time, testing the low gear and driving through sand. The cars are real beasts, and I don’t think they will be any problem during this trip!

  

  
Out on the steppe, we saw a small part of a ruin. There were not many parts of the house left!

 Edit   
It looked like there had been electrical poles here before, and Jakob took the opportunity to style!

   

After driving through a small village we found a tiny lake. As we went for a bath, we discovered what seemed to be turtles in the water, popping up their heads above the water every now and then. Some in the group said they saw shells, so turtles would be the right guess!

  

  
I hanged the clothes, which seemed to be at least more clean than before. There is a chance this actually worked well, without having to do too much work!

Suddenly, we got attacked by an tremendous amount of mosquitos. From nowhere, there were suddenly thousands, and panic unfolded. Everyone packed everything we had to as fast as possible, before heading into their tents respective cars. We did not get many mosquitos inside, which some else did, but we did hear the sound of them all night.

Illegally crossing the border

First thing in the morning, we took a bath. I don’t know how clean you get by trying to wash in those lakes, but we probably won’t see a shower in a couple of weeks.

We were headed for the border now, and made a small stop right before. Fredrik wanted to make sure all the screws was tightened, and we also wanted to eat lunch before trying to get over the border, as you never know how long it will take. Some military/border police people showed up and wanted to see our passports and car registration, but seemed pretty happy and nice overall.

   
Photo by Henric Fröberg

 

Photo by Joakim Johansson

Getting over the border was pretty easy, and did not take that long at all. When asking a really hard-looking military what we would do next, as we wasn’t sure of the process, he waved at us and said ”bye-bye”.

After we crossed the border, we had to get insurance for the cars. I do learn many things about getting vehicles over the border, as I did not know there is green card countries where the insurance from home is valid, and countries where you need a local insurance.

Back at the cars, the others had found a small problem. Pontus, who is going both trips, had applied for a visa with two entries, but had only gotten the same as the ones coming on the second trip. The dates started at 1 of July, but we guessed they did not look really close, as he was illegally standing in Kazakstan now. We decided not to go back to the border, but to solve it in another way, as he may have gotten kicked out back to Russia otherwise. Now, worst case scenario, he will stay in Kazakstan while we pop into Kyrgyzstan for a few days, and then we will meet him in another city again. First, we will of course try to fix this!

It was time to refill diesel again, and as it now was even cheaper, we also refilled the gas canisters on the roof so we had diesel for many kilometres! Tha gas station looked pretty nice and “vintage”.

  
We headed into the city Uralsk, where we first went to get money and I also bought a SIM card. Hopefully, I will be able to blog more frequently, and not have to try to upload four posts in the same time. It is a little bit slow, though, so the pictures will be a little lower quality! When buying the SIM card the cashier had problem with the SIM cutter, and therefore used a scissor and a nail sharpener to get it small enough.

When finally done we went out on a small walk on the city’s main street.

  
Photo by Joakim Johansson

We tried to find a place to eat dinner at, and it seemed pretty hard to find a normal, cheap place. We ended up on a really fancy expensive places, which meant the prices were as normal McDonalds price at home. All of us felt really dirty when placing ourselves in the chairs, and also ”showering” in the basin in the bathroom. We really are hobos!

   
Photo by Fredrik Arnell

 As everything is flat and there is not many trees we took our chances and went out to a place with a small collection of trees. Someone seemed to live in there, though, so we went back a kilometre and just set camp in the open. There were no mosquitos, but some small bugs.

Everyone is actually nicer here in Kazakstan, and there are less cars. People are driving more sane, and seems to be smiling here. I like it more already, and if I make a new try on biking to Japan, I think I will still try to pass through here. The adventure mood is up!