Continuation of Block 10 Azerbaijan/Georgia/ Armenia + Russia for short
shortly before the Russian border we had to cross a pontoon bridge. Everything over 4t has to go a detour of 2x30 km upstream. That has swayed quite badly, the plates move, one must be very careful, since also sharp-edged parts stand upward between the plates.
Welcome to Kazakhstan
when we had crossed the border in the evening, we were totally happy and had a really strong lucky flash, that we have already come this far and Mongolia is no longer so far. We didn't know what to expect the next day.
Secretly photographed, border Kazakhstan, about 10 km after the Russian border. The first words of the border soldiers were a very warm and friendly "Welcome to Kazakhstan", then they asked us where we came from and had to think long and hard about where Germany is ..where Girmani is.
23.04.19 130.682 km Day 273
Crossing the border Kazakhstan, after 10 km in no man's land we stood in front of the Kazakh border and were greeted by a young soldier with a totally cordial "Welcome to Kazakhstan", got a small note in the hand (everyone) and could drive in. Also this border crossing is take it easy. There was a small exception.
I had to get out and walk through the building, Thomas and Jerry drove to the first station, handed in passport and driver's license, took 5 min, short look into the car and both were through. With me it was a bit different. I was also the only one in the hall, gave my identity card. Now the quite nice official required a visa. I tried to explain to him that I don't need a visa to enter since 2017. I could see through the window that Thomas was already through and waiting. In my head started a carousel, why did he just come through and I didn't uud what now? I tried to explain in English that I need a visa, at some point the officer picked up his colleague and he nodded off luckily. Not many Germans seem to have come here yet. By the way, you get a stay in Kazakhstan for 30 days, not only for 15.
Ok, I am through, duration with me 20 min, with Thomas and Jerry 10 min.
Directly behind the border we could take out our car insurance, 30 days 35€. And there was also a mobile phone card for free plus recharging of 4€, but what didn't work, was that all fake now? We don't know, but 4€ can be taken.
After 100 m came a small parking lot, left opposite a police building. There we were allowed to spend the night. We were really happy that we have achieved this now and were already looking forward to it, because now we have the feeling that Mongolia is getting closer and closer.
24.04.19 131.403 km Day 274
We are in Kazakhstan in torture us the road to Atyrau over an endless pothole road over 350km, the road conditions here are a disaster, 1000 worse than in Armenia. also we have thoughts, must this really be, should we really pull this through?
The jerk was also not necessarily good for Thomas Rücken and we think about whether we will really continue these road conditions over 5000 km, or change the route and drive from Atyrau to the north back to Russia and via Russia to Mongolia. When we are in Atyrau we will ask about the road conditions. The road was now 300 km really absolute horror. The Dempster Highway in Canada is really nothing against it.
47°03'46.3 "N 50°46'18.7 "E
a snake we accidentally ran over. That wasn't the only one we saw.
350 km this road goes in this quality, from the border crossing to Atyrau, the next bigger city, which we have to drive to, because we also register there. At the latest 5 days after entry you have to register.
I think these pictures speak for themselves now, there is no other road, we needed the whole day for 200km, 9h drive. You can only really drive between 20 and 30 kmh. That's the A27, a main road.
after 200 km of this Devil's Road/ Hell's Road we really start to wonder whether it makes sense to do what we are doing here. Since the locals told us that it would go on like this. This is normal for Kazakhstan. Do we really want to drive 5000 km on such roads?
After 140km Rudi broke his knee, shock absorber is torn off. 60 km at walking speed to the next village. And when we write village, we mean it like this, it didn't look like there was any help to be found here. With the simplest means a shock absorber was assembled and the demolished one replaced. The whole action lasted approx. 1h, also here one left again, although already long after work, everything lay, helped us, provided a spare part and repaired the car.
here the camels run around like cows on the street and are also not jumpy. You can touch them.
this is the village where Rudi found a doctor. We don't want to experience this here in the rain.
25.04.19 131.403 km Day 275
Now it's 110 km to Atyrau. The first 60 km of it were as bad as the day before, the last 40 km were a bit, but not much more pleasant to drive. We drive in Atyrau directly to the registration, which has to be done within 5 days after entry. This can take several days while the passport is retained, but we hope it will be done the next day. The weather is fortunately very good, 21°C, sun, a few clouds.
47.109902, 51.857845 registration office
When we arrived at the registration office we were told that we already had 2 stamps on the immigration card and that this was not necessary. Now we also remembered that we had read reports on the Internet that if you manage to get 2 stamps on the card at the border when entering the country, you don't need to register any more. It is said that if you leave the country unregistered, it costs a fine of 100$. Let's have a look.
By chance there were 3 people in the registration office who spoke English, so that we could get rid of questions, e.g. whether there is a laundromat here or a hotel that does laundry. First of all nobody knew where and if there was such a thing here, then, when we were already at the car, a man came to us who had heard this conversation and said he knew a launderette, he would drive ahead of us and take us there. Unfortunately this turned out to be a cleaning, which wanted 2€ per piece and wanted to need a total of 2 days, in order to make the laundry then washed available. That would be much too expensive with the quantity, which we collected and takes us also too long. It really looks as if there are no laundrettes here. So hand washing is the order of the day. Then we went to the workshop to check if we could get on with the shock absorber or if we needed a new one. There was a lot going on at the workshop. Nevertheless they immediately took care of our problem, all mechanics interrupted their work and dedicated themselves to our problem. It would take about 1 week to order a new shock absorber, but the built-in one was considered to be functional, so from their point of view an exchange would not be necessary.
Our next topic was the road conditions, we took out the map and showed which border and road we crossed and they beat their hands over their heads, it was such a bad road that it could only be driven on with 4x4 cars. They showed us photos of broken cars they took off the road. Now they asked us where we wanted to go and began to mark the roads on our road map that were okay. But that also means detours of 200-400km, because we have to drive partly against our direction in order to reach good roads. So much in advance, we have stuck to the council, detour 400km, but a brand-new road, not a single pothole, we are making good progress, so it works. On the map it is marked yellow, parallel there is a red road. We should take the yellow one because it is better. We would have done exactly the opposite without asking. Kazakhstan is 6x as big as Germany, but there are not so many roads here that go across the country, actually only 2-3 pieces. Now we were invited for dinner, but since we still want to leave the city and not drive at night, we refused.
Thomas then asked the mechanics if the car could be jacked up at the front to control the steering. It was found that it was worn out and we were advised to drive to Uralsk near the Russian border to a Bosch workshop that could check it more closely and repair it if necessary. This is wear and tear that had to come at some point, because we don't always drive on the highway.
We had another experience with our first corrupt policeman. While Thomas alone fetched the car to the workshop, to this 100m to the next roundabout drove to turn, I stood at the time already in the workshop with the mechanics, he was stopped by an approaching police car and this policeman made on bitterly angry. Since we had definitely done nothing wrong, the policeman was literally looking for arguments on how to get money out of our pockets. When he checked the car he saw a pack of cigarettes. Pointing and saying: protocol, punishment. Thomas would have smoked in the car and that would be a ban, but he never does. And what here also no offence would be. When the mechanics saw that the policeman had stopped Thomas, they ran off, I followed them and they screamed: Ohjee. Arriving at the car, they talked to the policeman and Thomas got the papers back and the matter was settled. When we asked them what was wrong, they said: corrupt.
So this policeman had probably tried it, but we would like to say quite clearly that we have already met many policemen here who were friendly. We were also told by the mechanics that if we park, we would have to straighten the tires, which would also be a popular trick to collect money when the tires are smashed. Or throwing a cigarette on the floor. You are very petty here. So: change of plans, road north, direction Russia, as described by the locals, direction Uralsk. Of these 500 km we managed 100 km today, the road was flawless. When it dawned, we drove off the road again into the steppe, sat down in front of the car. The weather was perfect the whole day, always between 20 and 25°C. We thought about what to do in the next confrontation with some kind of policeman, and decided to ask for a protocol, ask for the name and the name of his superior, and explain to him that at the border there is a sign with a telephone number to turn to if you have problems with corruption.
Overnight stay here: 47.96279 51.68244
26.04.19 131.634 km Day 276
on the way ah Uralsk
According to the advice we drove the yellow road (P 103) up to the place Inderbor, there we changed to the red (A 28) road, it was good to drive the whole distance. Landscape remained flat, the weather very pleasant, 25°C, blue sky. Around 16h we reached Uralsk and they immediately took time for us, Rudi was driven up on a lifting platform. One noticed that on the right side of the front wheel suspension is defective and must be exchanged. Otherwise everything is ok. We decided to have the provisional rear shock absorber replaced right away, i.e. the two rear ones, as they are delivered as a double pack, to have an oil change done and to replace the rear wheel brakes, which were quite low in the meantime. All this will be changed incl. working time. 209€ and we had an appointment the next day at 10h. The shock absorbers are to be delivered from Samara, Russia in the course of the morning. We parked the car in the backyard, from 20h there is nothing going on here, it became quiet. We are very happy and relieved that nothing bigger is broken.
What has to be mentioned, the day was that every policeman who saw us, be it coming towards us, from behind, right or left, accelerated to stop us and somehow tried to find something to pull money out of our pockets. We were stopped 9 times, 3 times shaking hands and the rest was really corrupt. Once the situation went so far that despite Thomas persistence the policeman tried to squeeze money out of us. We were accused of smoking in the car, which didn't happen at all. And by the way, it is not forbidden. Only when the rushing passers-by, who noticed this, gathered at our place, became more and more, this policeman gave in and disappeared without another word.
Discussion, which roads are in better condition, but which also means, we have a detour of 300 km.
27.04.19 132.056 km Day 277 ---back to russia---
Today we have half a rest day because we are waiting for Rudi to get fit again and used the time to think about the next route. The last few days have been very exhausting, both from the road quality and from the police controls, and we also need a vet for Jerry. Under his right eyelid grows a wart that has grown rapidly in the last few days, which rubs and the eye is slightly inflamed. Since there is a larger veterinary clinic in Omsk, the decision was made at Ilek to drive back over Russia and through Russia, parallel to the Kazakh border, towards Mongolia. If we come back from Mongolia, if we have time and desire to go back through Kazakhstan, the option remains. But the hunt yesterday by the police for us has taken away our desire to continue through Kazakhstan for the first time. Yes, even in Russia there were many controls, but we never had the feeling that they wanted to take money out of our pockets and never were we treated so arrogantly and unfriendly by policemen like here.
Around 14h we got Rudi back again and we drove towards Ilek, a very small border, 130km from here. You won't believe it, the road conditions were catastrophic again. It was a pure hopping and slalom driving. I asked the friendly, English-speaking Kazakh in the garage how the road to Ilek is, he said grinning, Oh, after the border it will be good. That was the case.
As we leave Kazakhstan a little earlier than planned, we would like to say a few words about Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is the ninth largest country in the world, but with only 18 million inhabitants (6.5 inhabitants/km2), it is sparsely populated. Kazakhstan has a length of 12000 km. The capital is Astana, a kind of artificial city, which was built because the president found that the former capital, Almaty, is too far to the east. The president has been in power since 1990, a rule for life (but there is a change).
The route we drove in Kazakhstan was completely flat, you could always see the horizon in all directions. Which brought also beautiful sunsets with itself, actually like at the sea. Partly the steppe was green, but mostly desert-like, sandy. We also had a windier day, the wind drove the sand ahead and it burned in the eyes. Landscape however something unusual and worth seeing for us Europeans.
The animal world in Kazakhstan has us very beiendruckent. Already shortly after the border we saw the first camel, and we saw so many in our time there that one could not count them. This was the first time we saw camels in the wild. In addition there are always large herds of free-range horses, cows, sheep and goats. We also saw a desert fox, which visited us directly at the car. The people live with and from the animals, in the evenings the animals, including the camels, run home to their stables, one hears long loud mooing and blocks until everyone has arrived where they want to go.
The bigger cities hardly differ from ours, but as soon as one is out of them, the country seems to be set back 100 years, everything is simple, the people are very reserved and it takes time, but when they are thawed out, they are above averagely helpful and talkative. The outward appearance of the people is predominantly Asian here.
As far as sleeping was concerned, everything was very easy, either there were bushes in the steppe behind which we could hide a bit, or it was also possible to spend the night at one or other of the resting places, which are very spartanly equipped here. Only the road condition and the corrupt police rob us of a little fun and serenity. What one should mention when we entered Russia, we got a Russian customs document for Rudi with 2 stamps, which is also valid in Kazakhstan. Which means, if you cross the border from Russia to Kazakhstan, no further action is necessary, because the car is already imported in and Russia and Kazakhstan have an agreement. Important, this form is needed again when leaving the Russian Federation, you really have to make sure that it is not kept at one of the border crossings (which almost happened to us), because we noticed that at the small border crossings, which we chose, the processing was super fast, sometimes took no longer than 10 minutes (and that here in Russia/Kazakhstan), but you were overwhelmed with Europeans and did not really know which formalities could be different. e.g. the vehicle control consisted of the fact that a border official looked into the car, when he saw our television, the toilet, was completely surprised, fetched his colleagues, showed them this and the actual control was forgotten. We could hardly believe it, but it really made the impression as if we had never seen such cars before, which we, on the other hand, can hardly imagine.
Kazakhstan is the first country where we hardly found any dogs and Jerry had a bit more space and we didn't have to pay attention all the time.
The toilet disposal is difficult, we used our toilet without chemicals and disposed daily in nature.
Washing clothes, it is more difficult than we know it, there are no washing machines that you can use, but only from time to time cleanings, which are much too expensive and take too long (2 days).
In the big cities there are gigantic supermarkets, one gets everything, quite a lot also deep-frozen, but unpacked, so one can pack e.g. french fries, broccoli, shrimps, pies like on the rummage table into a bag and let weigh. But nevertheless, after the long dry spell with often only small village shops and a completely limited selection, this is like a land of milk and honey.
Every 2nd gas station had Euro 5 diesel, whereby one should pay attention to refuel early enough, then we had also gas stations, at which the fuel ran out. The liter costs umger. approx. 0,40€.
As already mentioned in the travel report, the police here are very focused on tourists and not all, but most have tried to use the slightest violation, such as that the tire is not straight when you park, throw cigarettes on the ground, or touch the line with the tires, to ease the purse. We have managed to get around it by extreme perseverance and by pointing out that we want a protocol so that we can make it available to the embassy for examination. But we have had a lot of attempts.
The usual garbage on the roadside does not exist here, as it does in many other countries.
Internet: worked quite well, sometimes weakly. We had a map of Beeline, 5GB for 6€.
Visa: none necessary, just drive in, 30 days stay possible
The border crossing from Kazakhstan to Russia (near Ilek) was easy going, lasted less than 10 minutes, was also quite polite. And we were out of Kazakhstan.
Rest of the day, the onward trip to Russia: see Russia Blog
Picture 1: Adeus, Kazakhstan!
Picture 2 and 3: Customs declaration car