Day 51. Saturday 7 July. Kazakhstan.

Not a great night’s sleep. So hot and to allow air flow through the vehicle, the back door was left open into the Caranex. Trouble was the wind got up and the tent rustled all night!!

Like Jen said, we had discussed the idea of having a dip in the Caspian before hitting the road. Well, fourteen k’s and still no sign of water, so we turned around and headed back to the main road. It was lovely driving in the sand though.

This is a very different country to Russia. As Jen mentioned, the population, by and large, very Mongolian featured people. Fascinating to be reading about Genghis Khan and seeing the legacy of his conquests, 1000 years later. We encounter large herds of wild horses and camels too. We are of course, at the western end of the Silk Route. Marco Polo was one of the early beneficiary’s of the Genghis and later Kublai, period. Being able to travel vast distances under the protection of one ruler made this journey more easily achievable. It’s staggering to think that people wandered these trackless, inhospitable lands.

We pass large oilfields and an early attempt at wind power and emptiness, mainly emptiness. The heat is oppressive. Guide Books say it’s not wise to travel through these parts in July and August. We don’t have the luxury of picking the time though. The wind is so strong and hot, it’s cooler to wind the windows up. Our first major town Atyrau with a population of just over 170,000 is a mixture of modern and ramshackle but dusty I think, sums it up. Diesel is cheap. approx 50c/l so we top up with 40L to get us to the next major town of Beynau tomorrow. There are lots of trucks on the road but nothing compared to Russia. It’s interesting to see the traffic coming towards you at all angles with cars passing trucks and everyone trying to find a pothole free path.

It’s a free-for-all!

Some just blast through ignoring the surface but its not long before you see them stopped further up the road looking under their vehicle to see whats wrong with it. Punctures are often and many cars have a second spare wheel strapped to a roof rack. Trucks are mainly Kamaz from Russia. It was interesting going through the Kazakh border the other day with two of these vehicles, one towing the other and the trailer wheels on the rear vehicle locked. That didn’t deter them, and the trailer was jumping up and down with the resistance. Perhaps the first big change when crossing the border from Russia was the cemeteries. It seems everyone is trying to outdo the other with the most ostentatious domed tomb

They look like towns! Well, I guess they are, for the departed.

.As we are again a couple of days behind our plan, we drove on passed our normal camp time motivated also by the lack of suitable camp sites. By 6.30, and it’s still hovering around 40deg C we were spying the odd bush, looking for shade, even someone’s shack, till the answer appeared. An abandoned warehouse of concrete block structure. Perfect. It not only provided shade but a barrier between us and the traffic which we knew would be going all night, especially the trucks. Night time is by far the best time to drive but we have to sleep some time! Mileage for the day was 271. Not a bad effort when considering the dreadful road surface in the earlier part of the day, when 30mph is about all thats possible for long periods. It’s telling too. With sore tired eyes. Jen’s going to be doing some driving tomorrow..:). She will squeal, but will do it! 🙂 We are trying to catch up to a young Dutch family, Roland, Iris and two young children that we met in the camp at Moscow. They are driving a 4×4 Toyota van and took a much earlier route south from there. They are going to Vladivostok too and plan to take their van to Japan. You can follow them on lovetheworl.nl’

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