Let’s go to Kyrgyzstan!

Right now, I am sitting on the train to Stockholm.  Today, I am starting my next trip!

This time it won’t be by bicycle, though. Me and eleven other are taking three cars with us on the ferry to Riga this afternoon. We are headed for Kyrgyzstan through Russia and Kazakstan, and will be back on July 22. My plan is to write a few posts when possible, so feel free to follow this small vacation adventure!

  

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First night out

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When everyone had showed up, we presented ourselves. Fredrik started telling us about the cars and the gear, and Joakim and Jakob showed us how to pitch the roof tents.

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We spent yesterday evening getting to know each other, eating dinner and made some shopping in the tax free, and I went to bed after watching two episodes of Breaking Bad.

After showering and eating the breakfast buffet we gathered at the cars, and slowly made it into Riga!

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Our first stop was at a food store so we could buy the basic wares. Then, we started driving, with a small stop for change of driver.

We had a food place in mind for “lunch”/dinner, but at 1700 when arriving there, they said that we were too many to be served. We continued until we saw a small city, where we found a restaurant/pizzeria in the basement. We don’t think they know the difference of basilica and dill (English word?), as we got dill on all the food, inclusive the pizza. Would be better without the dill.

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As it was pretty late, we decided to find a place for the night, and continue into Russia tomorrow. After going around with the cars we found a place by a lake where we made a fire and put up camp.

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Before going to bed, Jakob had a small fire show!

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To Russia and back

We woke up at 0700 after a good nights sleep.The plan were to go to the border as early as possible, so that we could start driving into Russia.

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One hour driving later, we were at the border. Everyone knew it was going to take some time, and we managed all the normal procedures. Soon, we  had left Latvia, and actually entered into Russia. We just encountered one small problem.

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Even though we had the papers for one drive per car, that was not enough. As we had one owner for all the cars, we needed some special papers from a notary, and that, we needed from Latvia. We actually were in Russia, but had to turn back, annulate our entrance and pass the border and toll into Latvia again. After a total of around eight hours, we were back where we started.

During the queuing, I found a guy who could help us found an adress, and also call to the notary, so we knew the opening times. Really helpful and nice guy!

When we arrived at the notary in Rezekne, the time was 1620. Apparently, that was too late, as she was going home at 1700 whatever we said. She did not have the time to help us after five, and was not interested in extra pay. She helped us get in touch with some other places, though, so we went to another house, where no one even opened. We tried to call another one, and finally found one which at least could help us the next day. Better than Monday, so we started planning for that.

As we now had time, and for the second day in a row did not have time or place for lunch, we went out for dinner. We tried another place, which was closed, and therefore went back to the pizza place. After making sure the waitress had understood we did not want any dill, greenery or basil (as it all was dill), we got some pizzas tasting much better than yesterday.

After that, we went back to the same camping spot as yesterday, as it was already pretty late, and it was on the way to Ludza, where we were going first thing next day. We played some volleyball (isch), made a fire and some people bathed.

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Hopefully we will be able to enter Russia for real tomorrow!

Into Russia (second attempt)

While eating breakfast, some Russian guy backed down to the water for some reason. We pulled him up, off course, which was no problem with those cars.

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After the morning routine we went to Ludza to get the papers. I stayed with the cars, and the others managed to find a guy from Russia, Alexander, who could help us translate. He was moving to Germany apparently, and he was good help for us!

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As we waited for the papers, we went around in the city. We found a small flea market, and then continued to an old ruin from a castle.

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We ate lunch on the way back, and then managed to get our papers after twelve. Hopefully this would be what we needed to get into Russia!

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We fueled the cars and bought some more food before trying at the border again. We met one woman from yesterday in the toll, who laughing told us “Good luck!”.

After some hassle, we got through! Now, we tried to take as many kilometres as possible with stops to withdraw money, fill the tanks (cheap diesel here) and to eat dinner. We had to point, but managed to get the food we wanted in the end, more or less.

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When it started to get dark we went looking for a place to sleep at, sadly with no lake, but still many mosquitos.

Passing Moscow

We continued, and as the away-trip would mostly be focusing on Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan we tried to get there more or less as fast as possible.

By the road we saw a monument we stopped and looked at. The sign told us that this tank was one of the tanks which got the ”fascist Germans” out of the city.

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When we came closer to Moscow, there had been an accident on the highway, and the traffic moved really slowly. As I needed to go and pee, I took my chances and went out of the car. The traffic started letting up, so I got myself a good cardio session on my way back to the car!

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Then plan was to drive by Moscow by the ”inner circle”, but because of the street signs (or our skills) we managed to take the wrong exit on the highway. The right one went over and to the left, so we got ourselves a small sightseeing in the outskirts of Moscow!

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On the highway we saw some black smoke in the distance. Luckily, it was not an accident, but someone seemed tired of the persons tire.

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For lunch we stopped at a petrol station to just buy some sandwiches. Just before that, we passed two touring bicyclists!

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They came into the same petrol station as us for a pause. Apparently they were going home from a short vacation at their summer house. They biked 125 kilometres on the highway to get there, stayed for two days and went back.

Fredrik had a place planned for the night. When going on the road, someone had built a rail road right over the way, blocking our possibility to pass. We stayed at the place we were at, as we didn’t want to spend the night trying to find a way to the lake, and decided we could bath tomorrow instead. For dinner, we cooked food ourselves, a first for this trip! The dinner was made of what we had in stock, which was pasta, tuna, mushrooms and some other vegetables.

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See where we are (link at end of post)

Same morning as usual, starting with breakfast, and continuing with me driving pre noon. Our first stop for the day was at a small lake where we bathed.   

 

We drove through a really small village with lots of food places along the road. There were also cows along the road, and I am pretty sure that is where our food came from.

 
   

  

In the village, I happened to see a strange fix of a roof. I guess if it works, it is good!

  
At the next big super market, we did a re-stock of our food, and also tried to buy hand sanitiser. After being to a pharmacy, where we got a no, we tried another shop. Then back to the pharmacy, where we managed to find three small bottles of different brands. We took them all, so you could say we emptied the stock.

As we continued, I saw another bicycle tourer along the road. Did not have time to stop and talk with him, though! 

  
In the evening, we had the same routine as usual. We are two ”food teams” which alter from day to day, so this night we had the evening off, more or less.

I have to admit it gets a little bit on my nerves, more or less the same routine everyday. It is understandable, as this first part of the expedition concentrates on Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, so we are driving pretty long distances every day. Also, I am obviously not feeling as free as I did while biking, as we are a group of eleven people with limited time, and an actual destination we have to get to.

  
When I felt like not doing something while biking, the only person that would feel the consequences of my actions would be myself. That is a really easy way to live, as I could sleep when tired, cook when hungry and also eat whatever I wanted to. If I didn’t want to cook a ”real” meal, I didn’t have to. I could simply buy some fresh tortellini and eat it straight out of the package.
It will really be interesting to continue this trip, and test this way of traveling!

 

Also, a link to see where we are, more or less updated!

http://trackmytour.com/gJRJQ

Small problems and small fractures

While driving in the pre noon, I heard a strange sound from the car, which I am sure is not supposed to be there. We told Fredrik over the walkie talkie, and stopped to try and localise the sound. It seemed to be from the shock absorbers, and we needed some shims to get the sound go away. It was nothing serious, though, just a really small problem, so nothing we had to prioritise.

We ate a pizza lunch at a cool restaurant, which sadly had pretty small pizzas. They said five would be enough, but I think they underestimate how much we eat.

  The small place we were seated at

  

They also had a boxing machine, which Pontus managed to damage his hand on. Probably a small fracture in his hand, which went pretty swollen, but at least he got the highest score (821, versus Jakob’s 820).

   
Fotat av Henric Fröberg 

When we came to Samara, we tried to get to the parking of the rocket museum. On our way there, we more or less went around in a circle, and had to turn back before coming out on the main road again.

  
The museum was about the rockets which they use to send material and food to the ISS, and they also had a rocket standing outside. What we understood was interesting, and we used the Google Translate app with the camera, which translates the text you point the camera at in real time, offline! Really helpful at many places.

  
  
After the rocket museum, we went back to where me had made the u-turn earlier to get some shims, as there happened to be a garage there! They pointed us to their ”everything small” boxes, which had everything in it (including an axe). We managed to find some shims, which they tried to drill big enough holes in, but as they failed, we went to the next place with only one shim good enough to start with.

While the others went shopping for food, Jakob, Fredrik and I tried to get the nut loose to place one more shim and get the sound away. We could not do it without risking breaking something for good, which would place us without a shock absorber, and therefore without the possibility to drive further. We decided to try later, when we would have more time.

   
 At the next place, Fredrik went shopping for some tools and shims, while some of us went to MediaMarkt. We bought some batteries, a frying pan and a tool that is made as a spoon with huge forks on it, designed to grab spaghetti from a big pot, and to transport it onto your plate. (English word?) It was not really as at home, because everything was pink!

  
We came to the place we were planning to spend the night at, made some sort of chicken dinner and set camp.

   
Fotat av Henric Fröberg 

Even though the problem itself is a bad thing, I really like to try and fix things like that. It is not always fun when everything goes as planned, and this makes everything more spontaneous and adventurous.

  
 Tomorrow we will try to cross the border to Kazakstan, and I think the trip will start ”for real”, I really look forward to it!

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!

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!

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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.

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!