We are all leaving Kyrgyzstan today and are headed to Kazakhstan. We are going to Almaty to the KTM. It is 240 km and mostly a back track direction wis. The other guys will start heading north directly to Astana as Orvar has a service booked there July 31.
The ride to the border is 26 km. We left just before 8 and it was 29 degrees. It was 34 by the time we reached the border. You pull up to the control gate and they let 3-4 vehicles in at a time. When you go thru the gate you pull up to passport control and they give you an exit stamp. One guy asked us to open the luggage, but his colleague told him to forget it. Done in 15 min.
You then proceed 200 m to the next control gate. Here they also let a few people in at a time. You ride ahead 200 m to the border zone. There are dogs sniffing all the vehicles. You hand over your passport, and bike registration and they want you to fill in a tourist “card” and a small slip of paper with your bike brand, model, and plate number. All of these get stamps. Then you ride 100 metres and turn left and then 200 meters to “the scanner”. Basically you ride into the customs building. Where they stamp your small scrap of paper after looking at your papers and passport. They sort of looked in Dan’s luggage. They were more interested in how long we were married and why we had no children. All done out and in in under an hour.
We then had 209 km to go and it was 39 degrees. There is nothing to see but flatness and haze.
We were about 70 km from Almaty when 2 bikes pulled up beside us and signaled us to pull over ahead. They had Alberta plates!! Turns out it is Kevin and Carey from Calgary. Kevin is our friend Francis Walsh’s brother. Small world as they are actually also going to the KTM shop for work and then they will store the bikes until next year for Mongolia.
The guys at KTM were awesome and put the bike right into the shop when we arrived.
Getting help with the menu from the girl at the next table!
We got a call at 9 pm to say Dan’s bike was all done and good as new. They changed the shock oil and recharged the gas. The shop did not open until 10 and so we got to sleep and and have breakfast with the guys. Luckily the breakfast menu was translated
Sara’s 650 just does not seem quite right for the last day or so, but we can not put a finger on it. Seems lacklustre.
We had a long hot day planned, but how long we are not sure since looking at the map there is nothing for at least 350 km from Almaty.
There is nothing to see except a straight road, flat land and haze. There were several camel herds. The road was advertised to be horrible and potholed!!! It is not we managed 100 km/ h most of the day.
There are some rough sections and deep grooves occasionally. On one of these sections the 650s speed sensor warning light was on again! We checked seems intact. It is not mission critical so we pressed on. It was 38-40 all day and we had the wind against us, which made for terrible gas milage. Also we had been told how the police here were the worst and pulled you over for any excuse. We did the speed limit especially when signed to be 40-50. We saw some police, but none paid us any attention.
By 4 pm it was gusting crosswind and very strong. There was a gas station with 95 after 300 km and so we filled up. The GPS had a place listed there, but it looked sketch. The next one in 47 km did not look much better. We know the guys stayed in Priozersk by their spot and we did see one guest house on line there. So we had another 80 km in strong wind to deal with. We checked the maps.me for the guest house, but it did not look like much when we got there so we headed down the main road. The main square was blocked off and so we pulled over to the right to ask a taxi driver parked there where we could find a hotel. The police pulled in next and asked if they could help. They escorted us to the hotel via the back roads! Great secure parking. Small apartment with aircon and wifi for 24$. SCORE!! It is the 61 st birthday of this army town and there is a carnival on. There are all sorts of vendors, bouncy castles, singers and dancers. The evening was capped off with a fire works display.
We had heard from Trevor and Orvar that yesterday they were in this same town and arrived at 8 pm. They had then only gone 161 km today to Balkhash. This is mostly because there is a town at 140 km and the next is another 380km. Trevor resorted to white tape on his helmet!
We got up early and it was a lovely 23 degrees. This meant we could arrive to Balkhash by the time the other two were on the road and we met at the turn off. It remained cooler all day and under 26. The ride is maybe slightly more scenic near to Karagandy, but it is mostly just 500 + km of a straight bumpy road thru pretty much nothing.
There is the odd gas station or truck stop. We did stop at an abandoned station to hide in the shade. Trevor left the station and turned left, when we were going right….it took him 8 km to stop and wait for us before he realized he had gone the wrong way…too funny. Just goes to tell you it is a lot of nothing out here. We stopped for some food about 120 km from Karagandy, but none of us really feels all that hungry in general. Karagandy is a surprisingly big place in the middle of no where. The hotel we had in the GPS and saw on bookings was the Ozz. This turns out to be a very chic. The town itself is nothing to see, but we did a bit of a walk to find something to eat…Donar are usual fall back.
Astana is the capital and it is only 213 Km. It is still over the mostly flat steppe with little of interest.
The road the whole way is 4 lanes under construction and they are for unknown reasons mostly only using 2 lanes on one side and you switch sides every 30-40 km. It is humid and 29 as well and so we are all not feeling that great. Astana is a very expensive city and we are lucky to get a hotel for 65$USD, which is quite nice. The “Expo” is on here for “Future Energy” and our hotel is on the “free shuttle route” if we need it. We did take a taxi down to the centre where it is a bit disney-ish. There is the Bayterek tower and singing fountains.
It is much better after dark with all the lights. We walked to the main street and a few guys were waiting there as “taxi’s” they however wanted double the real rate and we said forget it. We walked 2 blocks over to the Hilton garden inn , where the concierge kindly booked us a driver for the normal price (6$).
Today Orvar headed over to “BMW” where they said they were ready for his service. This is not a motored dealer, they do not service bikes, and they do not have any parts. HMMMM. Well I guess it is a day at the Astana Expo 2017 for us. We grabbed a cab over there since the supposed free shuttle never arrived here. In fact the guys at the desk despite the huge banner sign in the lobby were a bit stunned when we asked about it. (the sign was gone the next morning). Well 45 min ride was 3$ in a cab. The entry was 4000 T (12USD). The huge ball in the centre that looks like the death star is the Kazakhstan pavilion.
We stopped for hot dogs and then visited Israel and Japan for a little energy propaganda. We wanted to go to Korea, but the line was over an hour.
The Kazakstan pavilion is 8 floors of interactive and educational fun. There was a crazy circus act too.
Leaving the park we set out for the taxi stand. There are very few real taxi’s here as most are regular people with a “uber-like” app. The guys at the stand told us the price was 3 times what we paid to get there and we only planned to go 1/2 way back. A local women overheard our conversation with the drivers and she came over to us. She said she would book us a cab on her app and even walked 200 m over to the main road to make sure we got the right car. She took quite a bit of verbal abuse from the drivers, but shook it off. We were headed to the “famous” (not sure why it is just a mall) Khan Shatyr mall. Lots of high end shops and not much else. There is a beach on the top floor with sand from the Maldives. Now back to the hotel for Monday night Game of Thrones fix!
It is August 1 today and we can enter Russia on the second. We are headed to Omsk, but we have to make a detour to Petropavl since the border south of Omsk is open only to Nationals of Russia and Kazakhstan.
So we want to get as far north as possible today. It is 497 km to Petropavl, but if the road is terrible we will get as far as Kokshetau in 310 km.
It turns out the first 200 km are on a perfect 6 lane toll (not for bikes) highway. Just before Kokshetau is turns to 4 lanes, but after it is a good 2 lane road.
As usual we did draw a bit of attention when we stopped for lunch!
It was stating to get a bit warm at 29 again and about 70 km from Petropavl Sara noted her voltage meter (always at 14.2) was at 13.4 and dropping steadily. Finally the stator has had it. Well we managed to get to the city, drive around for 45 minutes trying to find a non by the hours hotel, and not have the bike die. I did wait in one spot while 2 of the guys rode about and finally found a nice place with a good spot to work on the bike and I managed to get there without the fan turning on and killing the bike. We let the bike cool off and then hooked up the GS 911 to confirm the issue. Dan is an expert now #7 for stator changes and 2 in the last month. It all went smoothly luckily and on start up charge is 14.2!
We found a surprisingly good Chinese place for dinner and then walked the pedestrian zone. It was packed with people on a Tuesday night.