Day 79. From Bishkek – to 80k’s into Kazakstan.

Saturday. The day of the Super 15 (18) Rugby Championship Grand Final (Southern Hemisphere). It’s a crazy system but the two finalists are The Crusaders from Canterbury and the Lions from Cape Town South Africa, I believe. The result will be established at this time of writing but parked under a tree in the small Kazak town of Aktepe with no wifi, I have no idea of how much the Crusaders have won by…:). Arrogance? No, just confidence!  Sadly the Hurricanes great mid season form, fell away and they ended up in 3rd place.

Our night in a hostel last night was great. Yes the bed was hard and there wasn’t a huge amount of space, but for the shower and aircon, along with the included breakfast, was worth it,

Jen has already mentioned that as we arrived in Bishkek last afternoon close to closing time (5pm), for the Mongolian Embassy, where we need to apply for a visa. The Embassy was already closed. Who knows how soon before, but that is immaterial. It’s Saturday today and we had a decision. Stay in Bishkek for the day and drive on to Almaty Sunday, or head towards Almaty and find somewhere to stop over, so we arrive in Almaty late Sunday, to make application first thing Monday. As you will have surmised, we have done the latter.
Bishkek is an uninspiring city though it has a spectacular mosque, that we missed photographing on the way out. It looks more like a rocket launch site.  It is a city that was a Russian frontier fortification from the late 1800’s and has grown from that. It’s population is close to 1m now.

We cashed in our last Som’s 240 for 5L of diesel, not far from the border. Leaving Kyrgyzstan was pretty easy, 10min is all it took. Getting back into Kazakstan was less easy. They wanted to open everything, including the boxes on the roof. The customs officer asked me if we were carrying a gun, or knife….I laughed and gesticulated that I didn’t need those and showed him my fist…then it was his turn to laugh..:). He saw the wrapped parcel of the ‘magic carpet’ and asked me if it was boots, thumbs up he got, and we moved on. Whew! No big deal I am sure but the drama of unwrapping it being so tightly wrapped and taped, would have been a pain to re do.
Back into Kazakstan and the first job, buy some insurance. It’s compulsory. That done the road to Almaty beckoned. A well marked and maintained road. Very different to it’s western counterpart. One of the most disastrous pieces of road anywhere you could find. Lets hope that remains. Landy is having troubles starting again, when hot. It’s dry and hot today, probably 38 – 40deg again. It’s your fault Colin, you forgot to keep your fingers crossed…:)
Where to find a place to stop for the night. We are in a wide grassy plain, probably 30k’s across with modest mountains on each north and southern fringe. Not much shade so we head for a small village in the distance close to the northern hills where we can see tress growing. We might find some shade and a place to set up camp. It’s a scruffy little settlement of perhaps 1000 of soviet vintage.
Once it got close to sundown we moved from under our shady trees and drove up the road a bit further to an open sloping grass plain. It didn’t take long for the locals to start cycling and pushing barrows and coming past to see what these aliens were up to. Young girls pushing each other to make contact with, “hello. how are you”? “Fine thank you, how are you” which met with incredulity…:). They all had mobile phones and were using google translate to find a phrase.
With dinner out of the way and bed sorted the dogs stared. First from across the valley, then more nearby and so it went, all night. Marvellous..:(!! It didn’t help that I could hear a car tyres crunching over the gravel close by, where cars don’t go, and kept my hand on a piece of hickory shovel handle I had cut off, as some sort of defence. At one point Jen said, everything alright and went back to sleep. As I must have too, in time.

No photos from today but I thought it appropriate to include one from a previous day. Timeless…:)

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