RideUnlimited: Leaving Turkey and Reaching Kazakhstan By Motorcycle
My last update was in Turkey, since then we have crossed a lot of borders and adventured to completely unknown lands to us! We are now in Kazakhstan in a city called Aktobe, where we’ll be for at least a week now. This was not the plan, in fact, we are currently meant to be 800 km South crossing the Aral Sea, but we hit an obstacle.
I’ll start back in Turkey, this was a huge country to cross. We had an amazing time in Cappadocia but after that, we really just needed to keep heading East quickly. Due to the route, we are taking through Siberia we need to have done the Old Summer Road before the rainy season starts because of the river crossings required.
If the rivers are too high we’ll be stuck for days trying to find a truck to transport us across, so we have a fairly tight schedule to stick to. Getting across Turkey involved a lot of long days on the motorways, we usually set off about 8 am and started looking for a town to stay in at 7 pm. Turkey had quite a few hotels at petrol stations, which was handy for us. We’d top up in the morning and set off again riding over 2000km to the border.
Something we noticed and commented on was the number of men in these smaller towns! I know that sounds strange, but once we left Istanbul and headed into these little settlements we only saw a tiny handful of females per day. We had no idea why that was and still don’t, I’m sure someone can let us know.
Going into Georgia was a significate day for us, this was the first country neither of us had been to before and where we felt things were going to get really interesting. Everywhere leading up to Georgia was amazing but we had both been to these places before on holiday, so knew what to expect in terms of:
However Georgia marked the first country that we were going into the unknown, and from there on things were only going to get more unfamiliar. It’s an incredible feeling going out of your comfort zone, and it’s the reason why we are on this trip.
The crossing was extremely smooth and all of the border guards were so interested in us, but not in the way I assumed they would be. I thought they’d want us to unpack the bikes to have a look through our luggage, check all of our past entries and exits from countries, ask about when we’d be leaving Georgia and what date... but no! They were fascinated by our trip, almost excited about it. They wanted to know our Facebook page, started to watch our Youtube videos with us and were so enthusiastic. All the guards gathered around to talk to us, it was truly wonderful and a great way to enter Georgia. I created my first edit about the day, showing the crossing and arriving in Tbilisi:[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fbg-AnuIfUc[/embed]
Tbilisi is a lovely city, it’s the capital and the largest city of Georgia. If you have never been and are a fan of York in England, I’d suggest it was your next city break holiday. It has a beautiful cobble-stoned old town full of little cafes and shops, the architecture is made up of Soviet structures, Eastern Orthodox churches and ornate nouveau buildings.
After Tbilisi, we headed North to The Georgian Military Road, which took us to the Russian border. This road was actually closed in 2006 due to bad landslides. However, the border reopened in 2013 as a result of the Armenian demands.
Riding Russia before Kazakhstan
Russia is somewhere we could not wait to reach, but again we had no idea what to expect. There’s only so much googling you can do about somewhere until you need to experience it for yourself.
This crossing wasn’t quite as easy as Georgia. The guards were friendly and welcoming but the process of document checking was long. Very long. It took us 4 hours to get through from start to finish. We had to speak to 11 different officers and explain what we were doing. We did expect this, we had read many travellers stories of crossing into Russia and knew it isn’t something they take lightly. Once we’d completed all of our paperwork and spoken to the relevant people we were on our way!
The sights leaving the border were out of this world, we were at the bottom of a huge valley with winding roads for miles. Perfect. We arrived at our hostel in Vladikavkaz and went out for dinner. Something we instantly noticed was Russian people tend to have quite stern faces when you approach them but as soon as you start speaking they burst into smiles! Everyone we met wanted to help us, almost look after us which was amazing.
The next day we rode into Chechnya. We received quite a lot of messages on our Facebook regarding going into Chechnya. People were saying there is unrest in this area and bikers seemed to avoid riding there. Although we do appreciate and take these messages on board. This is somewhere we wanted to see for ourselves, and can safely say we really enjoyed our time there. We went out of a meal and met some great people who were extremely welcoming.
Following this, we continued up through Russia and stayed mostly on the East coast. We slept in cheap hostels and camped a couple of times. The motorways took us by surprise. We would be going along at 60mph when then we would suddenly turn to complete off-road gravel action! Which was quite a lot of fun and definitely kept us on our toes.
Arriving In Kazakhstan
Which bring us to the country we are currently in. Crossing into Kazakhstan was a smooth and quick process, again the border guards said welcome with big smiles.
We thought the roads were interesting in Russia... we had no idea! Big towns and cities have perfect roads. However, get about 10 miles out anyway and they become so badly potholed that the locals have created tracks on either side of the road to use. Even massive lorries use the sand track rather than the roads. It's amazing to see such big vehicles blasting over sand dunes!
Something else we’ve noticed is the number of wild cattle that roam the lands; cows, camels, horses all just graze together without any fences. We have been covering large distances here, across huge sandy plains, it's tiring but stunning.
Beastie in Kazakhstan
We were riding East through the middle of Kazakhstan and were planning on going South to the Aral Sea. However, my bike (Beastie) started to play up. Beastie not starting has been getting worse. Bump starting isn’t easy when lands are as flat as they are here. Instead of South, we headed to the nearest big city which is Aktobe to have a better chance at finding parts. After further investigation, it turns out the starter motor has gone. We currently have a local mechanic helping us source part but it's not going to arrive for a few days yet.
We are in a hostel, getting a load of work done, catching up on our YouTube episodes. It’s come as a blessing in disguise. We didn’t actually realize how tired we were. Since setting off we haven’t stayed anywhere longer than two nights, this forced rest is probably good for us. It has, however, put us behind schedule. So, as soon as Beastie is ready we’ll have to make up for lost time. I’m already excited to get back on the road and head to the Aral Sea!
21 May 2018