I made the decision to leave Uralsk today and ride the seventy kilometres to the border with Russia. My reason for doing so was that I wanted to be at the Russian border at the crack of dawn the following day and therefore able to cross and have a whole day of cycling ahead of me.
This did mean though that there was no immediate hurry to leave Uralsk early in the morning. I woke up early to say goodbye to Sveta who had to head off to work. What a remarkable lady she is and once again I cannot thank her enough for the hospitality she has shown me.
One thing that I did forget to mention in my previous blog was after we visited the Dacha last night we all went back to Sveta’s kitchen (and my temporary bedroom) for more refreshments. In addition Sveta also got out her guitar and another instrument the name of which escapes me at the moment and played some traditional songs for us. It was incredible as we all sat around and were basically given our very own private concert.
Gallina, another member of this close knit community of friends came over in the morning to say goodbye but to also take me to the bank and help me exchange some money. It was also time to say goodbye to Derek. Over the past few days we’ve gotten to know each other fairly well and shared endless stories and cups of tea discussing a variety of subjects from the relative merits of different chocolate bars to the state of local roads. I’m really happy to have met such an interesting guy and I very much hope to catch up with him again when I return to the UK.
The Intrepid motorcyclist, Derek
Bony butt maybe
Kazakhstan also gearing up for the Olympics
Once again on my own I decided to take a quick tour of the city on my bike. Uralsk like most cities in Kazakhstan is very small and almost has a town like feel to it. With its close proximity to Russia it certainly has more of a ‘Russian’ feel to it.
I was once again interviewed by a local newspaper, who knows it might even have been the same paper that interviewed me on my first day here. Fame in Uralsk it would seem.
I headed out of Uralsk knowing that this was goodbye to my last city in Kazakhstan. I told everyone over the last couple of days that I’d love to return one day but in winter to see the extreme contrast in weather conditions. Perhaps I will get the chance to one day, who knows? It seems so long ago that I entered the country from China and now I’ve spanned almost the entire width of it on my bike, it doesn’t quite seem possible.
The road to the border wasn’t too bad. I’d shown everyone my cycling jacket in the morning as I left and joked to them that in recent months I’ve not needed it. It wasn’t long into the ride today that I was off the bike and reaching back into the bag to pull it out. It was certainly one of the coldest days I’ve experienced recently and the smattering of rain also meant I needed some extra protection.
I knew that I would get to the border early and that’s just how it turned out. There is a small town ten kilometers before called Pogodayevo but very little there in terms of places to stay. I choose instead to ride the final ten kilometers down to the border to get the lie of the land as it were.
The beauty of travelling by bike is that when you approach, like I did a huge line of trucks all waiting in line you can simply whizz around the side of them and straight to the front. I knew it was impossible for me to cross today but I just wanted to see how it all worked. I showed the guard at the first gate my passport and he indicated that going over the border just on the bike would be impossible and that I’d have to put it on the back of a truck, that old chestnut I thought!
There wasn’t really a lot of choice for places to camp but just off the side of the road there were a small collection of portacabins which were home to a three money changers. I got chatting to the people there and explained my situation to them. One of the guys, who knew nothing in English except every swear word under the sun told me it was too dangerous for me to sleep outside and he took me to one of the disused portacabins and told me I could sleep on the floor there. It seemed to be the dumping ground for all the rubbish that nobody wanted but it had a door, a roof and four walls and I’ve certainly slept in worse places. It was an added bonus for me not to have to put the tent up once again.
So tomorrow, goodbye Kazakhstan and hello country number four…..Russia!