Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Camping in Kazakhstan


We had 1000km to do to get from Almaty to the Russian border close to the Kazakh town of Semey (or CEMEH depending on your alphabet), and no idea on the condition of the roads.

Not only that but despite our best efforts yesterday we couldn't find a roadmap for this section of Kazakhstan. Therefore all we had to navigate us across the country was,  a compass, the name of the town (1000km away) and a rough understanding of where the town was in our heads. We had tried to screenshot the maps to the desktop of our Macbook, but with Mike being Mac-illiterate that failed miserably.



Telling ourselves that you can't let such little problems, as not knowing where you are, get in the way of where you're going, we headed north.

It was hard to imagine that being on the east side of Kazakhstan we were actually really close to China. This didn't seem like the same landscape as any Chinese pictures we'd seen. If we're honest, it could have been a drive through rural England... a very big hot rural England mind.

After 8 hours and about 500km we found ourselves close to Lake Sasyqkol just south of the town ARre3. There was only one a single building around for miles, and that was looking very derelict with no doors and a herd of goats jumping out the windows. As we got closer  though an old Kazakh man and his wife came out and reassured us that we could camp close to the lake.





Fantastic, the sun was setting and we were close to a beautiful lake. How romantic we thought. Then the bugs arrived.

Kazakhstan Lake Mosquitos are a form of terror previously unknown to us. Appearing to be the size of a small TV remote control they left a shadow in the moonlight when they flew past. I swear you could hear their wings beating when they took off from whatever hell hole they came from.

We ate our camp stove pasta and drank our beers in hoodies and pyjama bottoms but we were still getting bitten! Seriously what kind of mosquito can bite you through a hoodie! Not even camp fire smoke could deter these bad boys so we didn't waste any time getting to bed for an early night.




That was when the rain started! Rain and gail force winds. Fortunately we had tied our tent to the car as a clothes line, so even though our clothes were wetter than they were before at least we weren't going to fly over the border.

It was a hot, wet, windy, noisy and cold night so neither of us got too much sleep but you can't let these things get you down. We still had each other and were constantly making each other laugh. That said, breakfast was brief, we ate our porridge a with our trusty compass guiding us we headed north again.

We got back to the main road and every time we got over 50km/hour we could hear this clanking sound coming from under the car. Bugger.  We stopped to have a look but everything seemed ok.
Fortunately the car made it to the next town, Arre3 (Areo to us!), and we found a garage.  The guys took one look underneath and realised that the sump-guard was loose.





They were fantastic guys, laughing with us about the trip.  All of their mates came over to take a look at our car as we tried to convince the mechanic to do the rally next year but drive from Mongolia to London. I think it would be really something to see 300 Mongolian and Kazakh teams driving through Italy, but I wonder if they would receive the same levels of hospitality as we've been privy to. Anyway, twenty minuets later and after a little test drive the car was good as new.

With 300km to go we wanted to make a move.  The road after here deteriorated rapidly and it became the game of dodge the pot holes.  Even throwing in road work diversions with endless amounts of muddy pot holed tracks for us to drive down.  How car has seen cleaner days!


Tomorrow we hit Siberian Russia before finally getting to Mongolia in the next day or two.

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