30/4 2007 Truck-stop, Russia
Lat N 55° 00,16', Long E 74° 36,29'
Today: 68 °F ( 20 °C)
30 Apr 2007
75265 km

Our plan was to skip Kazakhstan. Our SAAB did seem to loudly protest against a visit to Kazakhstan, with one thing after another; axel joints, three times broken exhaust pipe system in less than a week and worn out engine holds, but after yesterdays visit to the garage our SAAB purrs like a cat again.

This morning we decided to go to Kazakhstan anyway. We have been looking long and hard for a guidebook and a map over Kazakhstan, without any luck. Since Samuel and Gabriel decided not to visit Kazakhstan they gave us their map. Great!

It was only 250 kilometers to the border. It took us only an hour and a half to get out of Russia and in to Kazakhstan. The Russians didn’t even bother to collect our immigration paper, and they didn’t say word about our registration, even though we only showed them the one from the rat-hole of a hotel in Ulan-Ude. This registration thing is really confusing, everyone tells us different stories of how it actually works and you never know who to trust.

No problem at all to get in to Kazakhstan, but all the documents were only in Russian and Kazak. We guess this mean they don’t get many tourists in Kazakhstan.

The first thing we noticed was the fleet of cars. Audi is by far the most common car in Kazakhstan, followed by Volkswagen as a clear second. Then the rest of the cars are Mercedes’, Toyota, Lada and some other brands.

In northern Kazakhstan the scenery is like in Siberia, flat, vast mixed with some islands of birch forests. The closer we get to the capital Astana the more coniferous trees we see.

The first 250 kilometers to Astana from Petropavlovsk it was on asphalt road, but it was full of potholes. Along the road there was lots of car fixing flat tires due to the potholes. The final 250 kilometers to Astana the road was just great. It is so reliving to travel a smooth road for a change.

1/5 2007 Truck-stop, Kazakhstan
Lat N 53° 06,82', Long E 69° 50,69'
Today: 75.2 °F ( 24 °C)
01 May 2007
75902 km

The Kazaks looks more like moguls than Russians actually, with their tanned skin, round faces, dark hair and eyes. Kazakhstan reminds us very much of Russia, both in the cities and in the countryside. The only actual difference we can spot is the animals in the fields, and the Kazaks riding like cowboys taking care of their herds.

Today it is first of May, and we thought the capital Astana would be a nice place to be. In an old communist country like Kazakhstan, the day of the workers might be celebrated with parades, demonstrations and may 1st speeches, we thought. But no, we couldn’t find anything like this. Maybe this is a thing of the past.

Instead we just strolled around in the city in the nice warm sunshine eating ice cream and piroshki. The Kazaks are curious and friendly. Those who can speak a few words of English love to approach you to start a conversation. Just as expected the Borat movie came up. Not to annoy the Kazaks, we decided to say that we had not seen the movie. The Borat movie seems to be very a sensible subject for the Kazaks. But we have seen the movie and we just loved it, it is hilarious!

In the evening we headed west for Atbasar. On our way out of town we found two Swedish related things, the first one was a SAAB dealer. But SAAB didn’t seem to be that successful here in Kazakhstan. Outside the dealer there was a bunch of very dusty SAAB cars . The other ting was a local bus from Stockholm, with the destination Nynäshamn. Now we know where all the Swedish crap busses goes. It was just the sam in the Ukraine, where we saw a bunch of old Swedish busses.

In Kazakhstan we have been stopped in every single police check point that we have passed this far. The policemen are usually very friendly, and are just laughing when they realize that they can not make themselves understood. But a couple of times we have being sculled too. The first time we missed a no overtaking sign. The other time we slowed down at a police checkpoint, but they paid no attention to us so we went on. That was a no, no. A police car came after us with the blue lights turned on, to escort us back to the check point and then we got told-off properly in Russian. But we managed without getting fined, both times. Bert is natural in playing stupid.

The first 250 kilometers after Astana it was a shaky asphalt road full of potholes. The rest of the 400 kilometers was like smooth velvet road. We really hope it will be like this all the way to the border.

2/5 2007 Truck-stop, Kazakhstan
Lat N 52° 04,90', Long E 65° 50,83'
Today: 41 °F ( 5 °C)
02 May 2007
76659 km

Already last night it started to get windy and rainy. During the night the already strong wind increased to a storm, with horizontal rain. The storm really gets very strong here where there is nothing to stop it.

The car was swaying hard and the roof window was banging in the storm, so much that we was difficult to go to sleep. It felt like a bunch of men was outside pushing the car back and forth. In the middle of the night Bert had to move the car to get some shelter behind a trailer truck. After that we managed to get some sleep.

When we woke up we could see that several of the houses were shattered from the wind, bits of the roof was gone and satellite dishes broken in to pieces and the still strong wind made the high-voltage cables sing.

The question was; did we dare to hit the road in this storm. But a spring storm like this can take days to ride out. We decided we at least got to give it a try. After just a few kilometers we had to give up. Our Toppola couldn’t take storm winds like this sideways; our surface facing the wind was too great. We took shelter behind a road side café. We just have to wait until the storm die.

We ordered a bowl of borsjtsj to get warm again, this soup we can eat every day. Every cafe has its own borsjtsj , but they taste completely different. But usually it is made of beetroot, potatoes, cabbage, carrots and some meat, all topped of with some smetana.

Late in the afternoon we hit the road again. Can not really tell if the wind had decreased or if it was just less threatening when the dark clouds and rain went away and the sun came out. We took it real easy, only driving 50 km/hour. Everywhere we saw traffic signs broken or bent by the wind . The waves run high in the melt water puddles.

Stopped to have dinner at a road side café where we met some truck drivers. We told them about our journey and asked them about the road ahead. Then they gave us a CD with Russian music as a present.

3/5 2007 Truck-stop, Kazakhstan
Lat N 53° 52,53', Long E 61° 57,51'
Today: 39.2 °F ( 4 °C)
03 May 2007
76659 km

A cold and rainy day, perfect for a day on the road. It had been a short visit to Kazakhstan, but that is okay. Kazakhstan is very much like Russia. The best with Kazakhstan is the endlessness, completely empty planes, that goes on and on for as far as you can see. It is wonderful. We feel free.

Even though some roads in Kazakhstan are full of potholes, the roads are much better than we expected. We where expecting dirt tracks, but everywhere we have been the roads have been paved and most of them smooth and dead strait.

Our picture book is a big help for us. We have been in Russian speaking countries for a month now, but our Russian still isn’t that great. When we can not manage to make ourselves understood we just take out picture book.

At Troitsk we had a quick and uncomplicated border crossing in to Russia again. Since we already had Russian car insurance, we just needed some stamps in our passport and a new Russian registration paper for our car.

After the border we crossed the Ural Mountains, this is where Europe meets Asia. The Ural Mountains stretch across Russia from the sea in the north down to Kazakhstan in the south. But it is really not much of a mountain range. It is surprisingly small to this famous. None of the peaks are higher than 2 000 meters.

The road from the border to Ufa, was like a 400 kilometers long pothole. The road was in a unbelievably bad shape. The truck drivers had warned us about the roads to Moscow. This road M5, was supposed to be the better one, with potholes ankle deep. The M7 road was worse they said, with knee deep potholes. By now we are really sick and tired of shitty roads!