|We have been blessed with some fabulous days in Astana that we wouldn’t have had and been introduced to so many lovely people. We went out for a ride with the local bike club one of who lives near lake Bikal in Russia so we had some insider info on roads petrol etc. We tried to by some post cards but tourism isn’t high in Kazakhstan so finding any was virtually impossible. There are some bizzar road rules here, for example on the motorway with three lanes about 30km out of town signs slow you down to a complete stop just because there is a manned police station, this seems to be normal outside major towns. Also half way up a hill in the middle of no where you find a speed sign with a slow speed and a copper or by a pedestrian crossing again in the wilderness.
We were informed by our biker friends that we had 1000km of good road and 200km of bad they weren’t wrong. We did our usual of camping 3 days, catch up “hotel” on the 4th.
We had an unusal encounter at one of our lunch stops, this for us was a rather boring bus stop in the middle of nowhere but it had shade something we hadn’t seen for 200km. Just finishing lunch a car screeches to a halt almost hitting the bike and we clock four people emerge, one in shorts who starts the usual where are you from routine, it’s only when they all start babbling together we notice they are cops including one grumpy one brandishing a klashnikov to his chest, I don’t know whether we’re suffering slight heat stroke or what but he gets a little upset at our blarsay attiude and demands papers, meanwhile the one in shorts has jumped on the bike and is twisting the throttle so we ignor gun boy a while longer. Eventually he says do you speak english and I reply in the best queens I can muster “I am English” to this he then says papers, documents so I dig out the passports which then get written in a book and they all dissapear, surreal!
Arriving in Almaty on Wed 14th July we try to find a guest house to no avail but we are shown to a very respectible hotel. The next day we find the Mongolian embassy a breeze after following detailed instructions off a travellers site. The official is lovely and says it will be ready tomorrow at ten. Next stop the bikers shop for spares here we try to source a tyre. We need a front, the only one we can get is a nearly new Dunlop rear tyre but it’s all they have. They offer to change it there but ours still has a bit of life left in it so we will try to eak it out till the end of Mongolia. We are just about to leave when a kiwi turns up on his bike so we stop for a natter and exchange of notes and roads, he’s in a group that have just come from Vladivostok so it’s good timing.
Next day dawns and we collect the Mongolian visa if only they were all this relaxed. We head out of town bound for Russia.