I’m back in the tent most nights now as Kazakhstan unlike China has a real lack of not only cheap hotels but just hotels in general.
I’ve become very adept at finding decent places to bed down for the night and this form of wild camping is really about locating a place where you can essentially ‘hide’
Different people have varying opinions on where you should camp. From a personal point of view I prefer to be close to humans and also to roads. The fact that construction work is being carried out is great as there are always large mounds of sand to get behind and as long as one is up early enough in the morning then there is very little chance of you being scooped up and dumped in a JCB.
Samara, Russia 1945km away
Last night I thought I’d found the perfect place to camp. There are now quite often two roads, one is the shambles which sometimes passes for a road and the other is the often unopened new surface which is blocked off mostly to cars although some SUV’s manage to find their way onto it
That will do nicely!
I often pull my bike up onto the surface and at times, if I’m lucky, can manage to have the whole road to myself. I was on such a stretch of road this day as the day drew to an end and I was looking for a place to pitch the tent for the night. To the side of this road was a large dry river bed with plenty of small bushes and tress growing it in, there was a ‘shelf’ on which I could pitch the tent but also still be hidden by the bank.
Having set up camp and cooked on the stove I got into the tent feeling pretty happy with myself. A good days riding and now a good spot to sleep, I had every reason to feel pleased with my days work. The sun was going down and I lay in my tent reading my book as mosquitoes hummed around me outside. What happened next though almost stopped my heart.
From behind the mound of earth where my tent was came the very distinct howls of an animal, one howl quickly became two until it seemed that there was a whole group of whatever in very close proximity to where I was. The honest truth of the matter is I don’t know what it was; my first thought was wolves as Kazakhstan has one of the highest populations of wolves on the planet. I’ve since considered that it might have been Jackals but for the sake of it sounding better let’s just go with wolves.
In my limited experience of wild camping this was certainly a new experience for me. I decided that the best course of action was to lie there totally still, holding my breathe, something that I managed to achieve for about thirty seconds but thereafter became impossible. The howling went on for a couple of minutes but gradually became more and more distant. Whatever it was that was there had moved on.
I was in two minds what to do. In such a situation one always fears the worst and in my mind at the time I was running through all sorts of scenarios ‘well they must be off to get more before coming back to tear me and my tent apart’
It was too late to up and move and I felt I was close enough to the road to ward off any animals. After about five minutes of lying totally still I decided I had to venture out and see what was what. I reached into one of my panniers and pulled out my own weapon, a spanner! I know, just exactly what I was going to do with that I have no idea but nevertheless it emboldened me enough to go over the top and survey the landscape beyond.
Whatever had been there seemed to have gone as I stood atop this mound of earth, spanner in hand like a gladiator awaiting his next victim. The reality was that I’m sure I looked more like this skinny bloke with a funny two tone tan standing there holding this spanner poised to turn and run at the mere rustle of a bush. I imagined whatever it was that had been there was now looking at me from afar with a puzzled expression thinking ‘what’s that bloke doing’
I returned to my tent after about ten minutes of patrolling the area satisfied that I was in no immediate threat from other wild animals. Ordinarily I might have found it hard to get back to sleep but I was so tired that fatigue eventually took over and I passed out in the sleeping bag.
The drama however didn’t stop there. I awoke at about two in the morning to bright flashes of light outside the tent. I initially thought someone had stumbled upon my hideaway and was now moving around the tent with the aide of a flashlight. It soon became apparent that this wasn’t the case. I unzipped the tent and peered outside. In the distance a large storm was lighting up the night sky. The fact that I was so tired meant that I simply zipped up the tent again and crashed out for a second time.
The next thing I remember was being awoken by the deafening clap of thunder as a storm of almost biblical nature reigned down upon me. My tent is incredibly small and it’s a pretty tight squeeze at the best of times. My next worry was that I’d laid my bike right next to my tent and all I could think was ‘doesn’t steel conduct electricity?’ I always like to keep the tent as close to the bike as possible, almost touching it but now all I could think about was lightning striking the bike and the tent going up in flames. I know it was highly unlikely but at the time it seemed a very real threat. Picture if you will, me bundled up tightly inside my tent and sleeping bag and sort of bouncing my body trying to move sideways from the bike! Looking back now it’s very comical but wasn’t so at the time.
When I woke the next morning the aftermath of the storm was all too clear. It had been a really nice evening so I’d taken the opportunity to dry and air some clothes and my towel on the nearby bushes. During the course of the storm they had been swept off and were now lying soaking wet in sand, it was a disaster.
Needless to say everything was a little slower packing up that morning. I had to move everything over to the unused road and sort it out there. To make matters worse it was still spitting with rain.
The ride to past Tartoghay was nothing itself and despite my camping experience from the night before I once again found some sand dunes off the road to bed down for the night; mind you with no town nearby I had very little choice. Besides it will take more than a little rain and the threat of being torn to shreds to deter this Englishman!
As you can see I do like a sunset