What a nice surprise it was to finally drive in Kazakhstan. Even though we drove the first the 3 hours in no man’s land, the feeling we had was so much better than in Turkmenistan. Kazakhstan will be the place where the Suzuki and the rooftop tent will be stored during the winter months. We will store it in Almaty to have some more overland adventures next year in other countries in Central Asia. But first we have to drive 3.250 kilometers to Almaty. Kazakhstan is enormous it’s 2,724,900 km2 and has only 18 million inhabitants, maybe now you can imagine that we sometimes drive for hours in no man’s land. Kazakhstan shares borders with the following five countries: Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and China. The biggest part of the population speaks Russian and Kazakh. English speaking Kazakh people are scarce definitely outside the big cities where nobody can speak English. But this will change soon because all kids get English education at school.
The border crossings between Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan went smooth. Since we slept next door we were with the first cars crossing the border. In Turkmenistan we had to fill in some papers and hand in the GPS system. After approximately one and half hour we finished all formalities and were good to leave Turkmenistan. Over a horrible road between wired fences we drove to the Kazakh border gate. We got our passports checked and drove the car through the gate parked it and went the passenger hall, got our entry stamp there and then we had to fix the car stuff. We’re starting to get pros with this border crossing thing. This time the car had to temporarily imported in the Russian federation, which is cost less. With some help of google translate we filled in the import papers and after we finished this Tom had to bring the car to the next station. The car got checked with some dogs for any narcotics we might carry and we had a friendly chat with the border officials. After this we were good to go.
This is our first milestone of our journey. From Holland to Kazakhstan that’s how we described our trip and now we’re finally there. Fortunately Kazakhstan is not where our trip will end. On the 8th of November we’ll fly from Almaty to Hong Kong and on the 15 of November we fly into Japan. What we’re going to do after Japan and before our return to Kazakhstan is something we have to figure out. From the beginning of March we will continue the overland adventure. Anyway this is in a few month so let’s first talk about our impressions of Kazakhstan. As mentioned the first part of the road was through no man’s land. After three hours we reached the dessert city Zhanaozen, a city in the middle of nowhere.
With help of our navigation we found a shopping center and in no time we had all the needed groceries and we were in possession of a Kazakh SIM card. The only thing we had to arrange was a full tank. This is where the problem started. Somehow in this part of Kazakhstan it’s very hard to find the petrol with a right octane level for our car. Petrol with an octane level of 80 is possible to find, Gas you can find everywhere but petrol wit octane levels for modern cars is almost impossible to find. In the end we found a fuel station where they were filling the pumps with the petrol we needed. But we were not the only people in need. The whole village was waiting for the petrol. You can imagine in what kind of situation we were in when they opened the gate of the fuel station. Fortunately there was one very friendly guy who already filled up his tank and somehow felt responsible to help us in this madness. He was directing us to the right pump and helped us with the payment (you have to pay in advance). He helped us filling up the tank and then paying again, because Tom made a little mistake in his calculations and we only had filled one half of the two jerry cans we are carrying. And since getting the right petrol for our car was so difficult we thought it might be a good idea to fill them both. When both were filled and we thanked the guy a thousand times for his help we were exactly two hours further. Good fun filling up your car in Kazakhstan was what we thought. In the end it appeared that the only problem with finding petrol was in ZHanaozen. Anyway the sunset already started after this adventure and the air in the city colored beautiful pink, time for us to find a spot to stay for the night.
In the middle of some dry bushes, dry bottom and even dryer camel poo we found a beautiful spot. The next morning was not warm but the sun was shining and temperatures were pleasant. Since we didn’t know when we were near a washing machine we decided that it might be a good idea to wash some underwear. While this was drying in the sun, Tom did some minor repairs on the car and Dani reorganized some stuff in the car. A very welcome nice and relaxed first morning in Kazakhstan. Fortunately the whole day the weather stayed like this. After everything was finished we drove to Shetpe for some shopping. Because the nights were getting colder and colder we were on the hunt for a warm blanket. Armed with a picture of a blanket we went into shops asking for it and in the second shop we had a hit. Not that we could find a blanket there but the lady of the shop knew where re could find one. To get there she told a few local kids to guide us. They felt definitely cool helping two foreigners buying a blanket. So the guided us to the place and waited outside till we got the blanket. We bought a very interesting warm blanket the interesting part is the beautiful tiger print it came with. And then we walk together with the boys back to our car. At the car we gave them these keychain wooden shoes for their help. After a few high fives and a picture with Tom it was time to go. Or not? The lady from the shop hurried outside of course she must be captured with Tom as well and of course she wanted one of these wooden shoes key chains . After this it was time to leave one of the nicest towns in the middle of the Kazakh dessert.
From Shetpe we drove about 20 kilometers to arrive at Sherkale to so called Lion Rock. A huge stone formation in the middle of the dessert. We found ourselves a good spot with a view on this Sherkale and opened a bottle of wine to enjoy the sunset.