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Friday, July 30, 2010

"We're on the highway to hell"

Russia II
Distance: 1102.7kms
Distance from Vladivostok: 8,590.3kms
Max speeed: 119kph
Average speed: 63.4kph
Riding time: 17hrs 56'

Crossing into Kazakhstan from Russia was a breeze, our quickest border crossing yet, all done in under 1 ½ hours. The Kazaks are warm, friendly people. Just beautiful. Unlike the Mongolians, they understand what personal space means. They don't want to sit on the bikes and play with the controls.

Most of the Kazakhstan roads are shit! They are potholes joined together by strips of asphalt.Some are big enough to park the bike in. Very hard to ride, I can't get into a rhythm. It is just a pain in the arse, and it makes my back hurt like hell. There are dips in the road every 10 metres or so, Adam reckons they are like speed humps in reverse. The “Rooney” does not like them either. Frequently we leave the “asphalt” and ride the tracks beside the road. I now remember why I was not keen to ride here again. I hope the guy that builds the roads here is not the same guy who builds the railway tracks and airport runways. Kazaks drive their cars like they have stolen them. They all seem to be second hand Audis from Germany, so maybe they have stolen them

In Russia they have many, many road signs. Unfortunately most are in the Cyrillic alphabet, only one or two in English. This makes navigation interesting. In Mongolia they don't have road signs at all. This makes navigation damned near impossible. In Kazakhstan they have many road signs, on the main roads they are in English as well as Cyrillic. Navigation is a breeze and we didn't get lost today. This is not something we are used to.

The rivers here are very clean, we don't have trouble finding somewhere to swim and wash our socks & jocks most days. The camp-sites have all been exceptional. Last night probably our best of the trip. Our first without mossies. Adam and I are concerned we might be both turning into poofs, as nights we don't have a cold beer, we have a cup of green tea after we strike camp. We are both normally non tea drinkers

I really did not enjoy the last 2 days ride. Last night, after 1.5 litres of cold Kazak beer and sharing half a bottle of magnificent vodka, I slept like a log. In the morning my back didn't hurt any more. Most of today’s ride was dirt, about 250km, the “Rooney” and I loved it. We find we can ride much faster on the dirt than the tar. Even the asphalt was bearable today.

One of the main reasons to do this trip was to ride the Pamir Highway through “The Stans”. We have talked it to death, and decided, due to a bloody revolution taking place there, we will give it a miss. I am more than a little disappointed. Our Finnish mates, Sakke and Esa have bigger kahuna's than us and are going to try it. We are riding across southern Kazakhstan towards Aral Lake. The country is quite scenic. Not as flat and boring like it is further north.

Hopefully we will catch up with Val and Jason in Astana, although they are now separated as one of them fell in love with a Russian goddess in Banaul. Mark is in Europe with his family, his bike made the ship to America with 4 minutes to spare. Yes, 4 bloody minutes! Ron, Dave and Whitey are at Sakke's home in Finland. Ron has had to rip his engine out and perform some open heart surgery on it. The DR will live to fight another day. Adam's V Strom is an incredible bike, almost bog standard, it takes anything he throws at it. Very economical as well. Paul got it right with the “Rooney's” new frame. It is a dream, all I will change next time is to fit a much heavier spring in the shock. I can't seem to wear out the tires! My front TKC80 is a ripsnorter. The steering head bearings on Jason’s KLR are rooted, the engine appears to have a terminal illness and the radiator is cracked. Val’s KTM 990 is not healthy in the engine department, probably not long for this world, the rear subframe cracked through in 2 places, one front disc is about to part company.

We stopped at a lovely secluded lake for a swim and to do our laundry. In the middle of it all 2 carloads of Kazaks turned up to swim, BBQ shashlyks and drink beer. They stripped down to they jocks and joined us in the lake. The girls, of course, wanted photos with the bikes. We camped adjacent to some railway tracks, so went for a tour of inspection. Unfortunately, I think the bloke who built the roads also built the rail tracks!

STOP PRESS!!! MAGNIFICIENT ROADS IN KAZAKHSTAN!!! Things have changed, no the locals are still driving like lunatics, but the road is terrific. We are on the main Almati to Astana highway, probably the busiest in the country, but we can cruise at 110kph. To us it seems like 210kph.
Things have looked up, after 5 nights in a tent we have rented an apartment in Astana, on the 16th floor, 100 metres from the “Grand Centre” in town and 5 minutes walk to the Ukrainian Embassy. Cable TV, beer in the fridge, only 2 years old and we even bought some vegies. Our new best mate, whose name escapes me, found us us on the side of the road, adopted us, took us on a tour of his city, found wifi and our flat. A bloody good bloke. We even got to see Casey beat Valentino into 3rd place in the German Moto GP. Our Land Lady, Nina, is another lovely Russian Babushka. Astana is a little like Canberra, a scratch built capital, but still under construction. I liked it more than the last time I was here. I suppose not getting the runs this time helped. There is massive construction and most things are modern and clean. We even have a sit down toilet.

We pick up Adam's Ukrainian visa this afternoon and head west, should cross back into Russia in a 10 days or so. Today we do the internet and skype thing and play tourist. Bad luck with the Blog, it seems they are banned in Kazakhstan, so I could not post this one.

The best news is, Kelly, Doug & Christina have a new brother, Connor. That must mean Scottie & Lillian have had a baby. How good is that!!!!!!


  1. Chris mate
    Good to see you are still with us, well, sort of.
    Also glad to see the new Rooney frame seems to have gone the distance.
    I was concerned about that.
    Were you referring to the beer being two years old, or the building?
    Don't worry about turning poof,you're too old and ugly.
    As am I.
    Though, judging by the vodka consumption so far, a couple of days off the piss would do your liver the world of good.
    All is well this end.
    We move to the mountains on Thursday, and Neutral Bay will go on the market in September sometime.
    Alister Richards has left SFC and been replaced by an ex-navy bloke.
    Surprize surprize!
    Take care, and see you later.
    Cheers Errol

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