I didn’t have the best of nights sleep last night under the comfort of my own culvert. It’s often really hot at night time and you want to sleep with the tent open. This however is simply an open invitation to the swarms of mosquitoes who tend to camp outside to come and eat you alive.
I was up early though and looking forward to the 100 or so kilometres I needed to cover before arriving in Uralsk.
I’d really like to post up some different pictures of the places that I’m riding through but the fact of the matter is that the scenery just never changes.
The ride dragged on a little bit as it often tends to do when you know you have a rest stop in sight. My addiction for tea meant that I had to stop 20km short of Uralsk to satisfy my need. The cafes here serve tea by the cup but from an economical point of view it makes no sense whatsoever to buy it like this. Instead you should always go for the pot. Sometimes they’ll have a medium sized one which is just about the right size for one person. Today however they only had the gigantic pot, the waitress looked slightly puzzled when I told her that would be okay for me. Never before have I consumed so much tea in such a short space of time. I’ve never counted but you must be able to get a good ten cups out of one of these things! I shall miss my Kazakhstan tea pots.
I arrived in Uralsk at around three. I had sent Sveta, my host a couple of text messages and I’d received an address; now came the hard part of locating just where she lived. I was parked up on the side of the road looking at a map of the city on my phone when all of a sudden a car pulled up in front of me and a man got out, “Paul? Are you Paul?” a man enquired. I was a little surprised but he turned out to be the partner of the lady I’d made the original request to Sophia. “Please follow me I’ll take you to Sveta’s”
He sped off down the road as I tried desperately to keep up with him. After about two kilometres he turned off and before I knew it we were outside an apartment building. Parked outside was the familiar site of a motorbike and I knew then that Derek whom I’d met a couple of days previously was also staying there.
Sveta appeared after a few minutes and helped me carry all my bags into the house. We sat down and she made tea while a whole array of of food miraculously appeared in front of me. She is an orthopedic surgeon who works in the cities one and only hospital. She doesn’t speak perfect English but despite our language barriers we chatted for a good hour.
It was then that I was reunited with Derek who arrived with Sophia. The next thing I knew the kitchen was full of a whole host of people all excitedly chatting away. Despite the fact that I’d only been here for a couple of hours it already felt like I was in the company of good friends.
Two of the guys Pavel and Amir suggested that we all go for a swim in the river and before I knew it we were off a car and down by the river bank. The river seemed a popular spot for many people and I needed no second invitation to dive straight in.
Before heading back to Sveta’s one of Sophia’s friends, a journalist had requested to meet both myself and Derek at the cities main hotel for an interview regarding our respective journey’s. We sat perched at the bar of the hotel as she fired questions at us, busily scribbling down our answers. It occurred to me that Derek’s answers seemed far more elaborate than mine and almost poetic while mine I felt was somewhat mundane and to the point. The interviewer couldn’t comprehend how I’d ridden so far but like I’ve said a hundred times before I’m past thinking too much about it. In some ways there is almost something robotic about it. Wake up, get on bike and ride. It’s as simple as that and thus perhaps that’s the way I came across in the interview.
Interview completed we headed back to Sveta’s apartment where she prepared a delicious meal for us and we whiled away the hours swapping stories. It turns out that Pavel, a light aircraft instructor by trade has a son who is number three in the world at parachute jumping!
It was well after midnight before the last of the people left leaving me with my free sofa in the kitchen and the chance to get my head down for some well earned rest. I was exhausted at the end of what was a very long day but I’d met a whole host of people and was really pleased about that. This is to be my last city in Kazakhstan and I didn’t want to spend it by myself in a hotel room. I can’t thank both Sophia and Sveta enough for the kindness they have shown.