Monday, August 12th.
We had arrived Sunday afternoon and after exploring less expensive hotels settled on the Kazhol, which was just fine. It was a good to chalk off another border but sad to be there as we lost Charles who had to return to London, as planned, to pursue academics.
We had planned to stay a day or two to look around but after hearing the Russians had tightened their borders because of the fighting with Georgia and knowing the Russian-Mongolian border closes Friday night, we left Almaty at 1100 for the 1200 kilometer drive.
The first 400 kilometers were easy with some good, recently paved roads. But then came the Kazak steppe, flat with sweeping barren lake beds with roads with potholes which forced us to maneuver the old girl.. Unfortunately, as it was pitch black, the pot holes generally won. We managed to overtake three teams who were having more difficulty then us because of their inferior ground clearance. One team’s rear shock absorber had punched a hole though their wheel arch. We quickly left them behind
At 11pm, too exhausted to go on, we pulled over, at some mystery location. No signs, one or two lights and a very dim outline of what looked like a single family home. Dawn broke to find Max had parked us beside the village outhouse. A melange of wooden shacks and concrete monstrosities seemingly populated solely by stray dogs and malnourished livestock. Straight out of Borat.
But enough of that. The big news and bad news for us was the cold.. We had dressed expecting more of the 40 degree Celsius (104) heat and instead it plunged to 13c (55f). It was not nice. Max started behind the wheel but ended up in a sleeping bag outside the car. Edward took the floor covered by a hotel towel which he swears he’ll return. and Jimmy was part time on the back seat and part time in the hammock.
We have 350 kilometers to the border which we’d like to cross today. then hopefully find a place to stay in Russia….but that’s unlikely.