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Old 08-09-2013, 07:03 PM   #436
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Originally Posted by mrwwwhite View Post
Sorry about the picture. So far there are some problems in South America and NZ apparently. I think is a KGB/Securitate conspiracy :P.
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Old 08-10-2013, 08:04 AM   #437
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Love it!!

Thank you so much for taking us all along!!
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Old 08-10-2013, 09:00 AM   #438
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Great photos... amazing photos of those houses.
Hmm... I wonder if they could talk?

Were there any old stories or fables of these houses/villages in the past?
Holding off Vikings or ...
"I don't really know, I've been too busy falling down."
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Old 08-10-2013, 08:44 PM   #439
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Thanks guys! we'll try to catch up couse we are quite behind but the modern technology is again against us as our macbook died again so we had a long time without computer. internet cafes are quite a pain...

Originally Posted by TwilightZone View Post
Great photos... amazing photos of those houses.
Hmm... I wonder if they could talk?

Were there any old stories or fables of these houses/villages in the past?
Holding off Vikings or ...
The Svaneti are is quite famous in the area and they always managed to hold their freedom. Not sure about vikings but otoman and such for sure.
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Old 08-10-2013, 09:18 PM   #440
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Across The Caucasus On The Military Road

His left index is missing, he has a scar across his eyebrow and his upper teeth are made of gold. But it s not his appearance that is scary, it's what he says. The road on is closed, he smiles. The svan man waves from behind the wheel of a 4x4, the only type of vehicle that can put up with these dirt roads of Upper Svaneti, in northern Georgia. His kind of car, or a Kamaz, which we have seen plenty, contributing to making this road a stepping stone. What do you mean it's closed? I ask.
There's a dander of avalanche, if you want, you can still go, but nobody will come to search for your body in this weather, he smirks back. My plan was to continue up from Ushguli, and then reach Tbilisi, from where we'd head into Russia. We need to think this through: the last few days have taken the best out of us, we are kind of spent, physically and psychologically.
Ana's DRZ has a crack in the fairing and needs some repairwork, the weather is shit. Its been raining cats and dogs since yesterday, and our host, Tico, looks at teh sky and nods. If you want to go, go now, or in a few days or so. We will not have many dry hours until next week. We are above 2000m altitude, where rain may quickly turn into snow. We must take our chances and go back to Mestia, from where we can rejoin the main road.
Ana is not happy with the new plan, but she has no other way around. Am I going to hate every minute of it because I remember the mud pits, the rocky climbs, the slippery hairpins? she asks. Or is it going to be easier to know that after a certain bridge or a certain river crossing I will reach my destination? I have little to say to comfort her, she just has to suck it up and do it. We pull on the socks that are still wet and while we pack our bags in silence, Hakan & Callum are watching.
They will leave as they came, by 4x4, at least one hour before us. So I have an idea: would they take our spare tires with them, and we'll collect from Tbilisi? That way we could be lighter, so hopefully faster. And the guys agree: that's so nice of them! Khaha will have them in his office until we arrive there.Ok, all is set, we get going, past the Ushguli school...

And the way back it does feel easier. We are confident our pace is good and we are optimistic about arriving in Mestia on time. Yet, we cannot help stopping here and there to take in this untamed beauty.

A soft rain keeps the road wet, but the second bouquet of flowers on Ana's dashboard seems to work its magic. We are riding about twice as fast as before.

The last 10 kms to Mestia, and the last river crossing. I'm so happy to be getting near that I'm in the mood to get some splash up.

We are both quite sorry to return to tarmac. This road has been an awesome ride.

In Mestia we need grab a bite: we go to a different joint this time, but the food is still excellent! You know the drill: khachapuri, filled with that deliciously sticky sulguni, salad, and whatever else they can grab from around the kitchen.

Bellies full, we must go. As she changes to third gear, Ana lets out a sigh that reverberates across the Caucasus. By the end of the day we realize that our idea to ride to the same daffodil infested field we have stayed in a couple of days ago is not going to happen. It's wiser to just pitch and have a rest. The place is sketchy, but it does the job: an abandoned shelter, on the side of the road, about 10 Ks from the daffodils.

The nest day we put more and more kilometers between us and the mighty mountains. We take a hearty breakfast of beef stew in Kutaisi.

We will not ride into the capital before doing a bit the tourist trail. In Jvari we visit the monastery, a UNESCO Heritage site. It sits on top of a hill, overlooking the town of Mtskheta. Because of many undated interventions, the origin and age of this structure is quite controversial; it is generally accepted that the outer layer has been erected in the 6th century.
This place used to be a crucial meeting point for Middle Ages peregrins, and the spatial design is one of the earliest examples of orthodox christian architecture. I will not bore you with the details, I'll get show you what it looks like inside. It does remind a lot of our own slightly macabre churches. And it looks like theres' a wedding going on.

In Tbilisi we will be hosted by an Iranian. Bahman is 35. He is working as an expatriate, teaching marketing at the University. We have a chnace to discuss about this country that remains, because of the CpD, off limits. As we start washing the mud of our gear and unpack our stuff, I make an unpleasant discovery. The power adapter for our Mac has died. I try to open it and fix it, but after a few hours of frustration, I give up. Ana rushes to a shop and is lucky to find a new one. For which we pay the hefty price of 100 euro.

In the evening we share with Bahman an iranian dinner of rice and kebap. Pricey again, but delicious. Tbilisi is a swanky capital, where one can find many things, but it all comes at a price. You see, the food in Iran is the best, because food is our entertainment. We can afford to spend two hours over making the perfect rice, says Bahman. Well, I promise myself to one day go there and investigate.

Soon we must leave Tbilisi and its modern and quite daring architecture. And to go to Russia we'll cross again the Caucasus.

The contemporary designs are tough competition for the many churches scattered across the city.

Otherwise the Georgian capital does not disappoint those who are looking for signs of the socialist past. Grandiose statues and wide boulevards, much like the cities we are coming from. So we have little reason to take photos. We'd rather just look at the buidings, and sigh.

The blogs warn that the Military Road isn't the safest way to Russia. Of course that the situation has been blown out of proportion, and the road is as quiet as a... donkey?

As an extra incentive to take it, the road passes the region where the tasty Georgian pig dumplings originated. In this street side joint the lady of the house wraps us a few khinkhali, then bakes the most yummy katchapuri. Wow, we're gonna miss this dishes, or the sweet fruits we have been buying from villagers.

We take a few supplies for the road ahead: nazuki, a type of bread that has honey, vanilla and raisins inside. The baker, Alexey is glad we enjoy his bread.

Another Georgian snack chock full of energy is the churchkhela. Basically it's nuts wrapped in a grape juice and flour concoction. No artificial ingredients here, all natural.

As we start the climb to the Caucasus, the mountainscape becomes ever the more spectacular. This has long been an important road linking two countries that hate each other with ardor. And since Russia has recognized the autonomy of the de facto republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the bilateral relations have been degrading. But life goes on. Villagers still sell their macrame: traditional hats that show how this has always been a melting pot of cultures. We can see kazakh fur hats, but also the eastern hat of the azeri, or the woolen hat of the svan people... a proper mosaic of fashion and tradition.

The trucks with merchandise follow the historical Silk Road route as the caravans once did for centuries. This road has been in continuous use since ancient times, then consolidated by the Russians in the 18th century, only to become a reason for war and separation in our days. It's no wonder the tarmac is often in bad condition, or even disappears altogether, under a thick layer of mud and boulders. Nevertheless, with the snowcapped mountains in the background, it is much fun to ride on.

We pass through a ski resort, now empty, and we meet two Czech cyclists.

As the road becomes a dirt trail marred by potholes and slides, we are lucky to pass over a few trucks that got stuck. So we can take advantage of the clear way ahead.

Finally we catch a glimpse of mother Russia and the Russians. In Romania we have been taught not to like them. We have some nasty things to remember from the past; but hey, it's impossible to hold anything against the first Russians we meet. The officers at the border and the passer byes are uber nice to us. They invite us to cut in line, they fill in our papers for us in Russian, they even treat us with a disarming smile. Perhaps having a church at the border has something to do with this good samaritan attitude?

After waving good bye to the sexy lady officers with long legs and gorgeous eyes, we pass by the citizens of Ingushetia who are all out and about. Because it's a Sunday, their barbecues are smoking, filling up the air with inebrieting smell of roasted meats. I have also a reason to cellebrate: the new number on my dashboard!

As we hit the outskirts of the first town, we spot dozens of suspicious looking recipients. On the label we read: KVAC, which must be the drink that even Dostoievski mentioned in The Idiot. We must sample:

Cvas is a soft drink of caramelized sugar, sometimes fermented for a day or so. As we drink our cup a few youngsters approach. So far we love these people. They seem rather outgoing and friendly, they come to shake out hand and always ask:
Otkuda vy? (where are you from?) and eve if we barely can say a few words, our sketchy conversations end invariably with a jolly Sčastlivovo puti! (have a safe road ahead!). After all the bad things we've heard about this country, we cannot help but keep our fingers crossed that they were all wrong!
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Old 08-10-2013, 10:29 PM   #441
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Sweat Flies And Caviar In The Volga Delta

It is Europe's longest river and it crosses world's biggest country. Yes, we are in Russia. One month every year - half of May, half of June- the mighty Volga gets mightier. We happen to be here slap in the middle of this flood season, after having spent days into the desert and the dry steppe. In this weeks the Delta is the domain of some nasty sweat flies. These bloody creatures fill up the air, creeping into every available opening into inanimate things or living beings. They enter our eyes, our nose, our mouth. They enter into our helmets even while riding at 70 ks per hour. They sting, bite and suck our blood or whatever they may find in there. This non-stop attack prevents us from enjoying as we'd like the charming canals where the houses look just like in Ana's childhood fairytales books.

We have arrived in Astrakhan, and we are together with Merlin, a German rider who has come here alone, from Hamburg. He is going to Kazakhstan, then back home. We met at a crossroad, while searching for a bite. And in Russia in every such place there is at least one food joint to solve our problem.

We have plenty to share. Merlin tells us about his travels. We, in return, recount how we have camped in a nettle field, overlooking a curious establishment with the Ingushetia flag on top. That was the only sign that we were crossing a separatist republic.

We tell Merlin how lots of critters conquered our tent: snails with fragile shells, overweight bees, short-sighted crickets, cheeky grasshoppers...

We also tell the story of the last night bush-camp: perhaps one of the prettiest ever. Between gently curved hills, their shoulders covered in all the colors of the steppe. Above us, the night spread a black sky and a gazillion stars.

We share our impression of the Russian countryside: clean, organized; difficult to hold on to our Romanian prejudices there, and easy to like.

We discuss with Merlin about the hospitality of these people, no matter their ethnicity. One morning we knocked on the door of this woman, who was making meatballs, and she fixed us a hearty breakfast with some of the best tomatoes we ate in years!

We have crossed many settlements and most still bare the soviet symbols that make us feel uncomfortable. But even so, people are curious about us, and happy to hear where we are coming from, to shake hands, to share a laugh, to teach us a word or two in their language. This is by no means a uniform nation, but rather a mosaic of cultures and ethnicities that have all brought something to the mix.

On our way to where we have met him, we tell Merlin, Ana ran out of gas, and we both ran out of drinking water. It happened right next to a stinky marsh, infested with huge dragonflies and snakes. There was no water there, but there were toilets, even two of them.

But maybe the most touching was the warmth of this family from Dagestan, where Fatima fixed us lunch and showcased here little niece, Jasmine.

While her other daughter, Raia played waitress in their small cantine...

... and while Sveta kept making fresh piroshki.

We must admit though, after all these days in the flat expanse of the steppe, we are starting to miss the Caucasus.

The food of the Russian is simple, but honest, much like our own. There are no spices or sofisticated techniques. Of course the nomads of this area have never had time to think about such things. The Russian fare is nothing to write home about, but it will fill you up for the long road ahead. Merlin could not agree more. And in this caffee, Madina serves us the best example of what I am talking about. Plov (a rice and meat meal widespread in Central Asia), borsh (a soup, really) and mahan (a thick soup with flat noodles).

Madina's face reminds us that we are indeed in Asia. Actually so far we have talked more with the minorities, rather than the Russians with white skin and fair hair we have known from the news. Urajgali (and his g-friend) wants us to take a photo of them. We are happy to oblige, and we print them out a copy. Even Batir, a worker who also asks for a photo, is not quite from around here. He is from Mongolia!

Madina wants to give Ana a present: a fragrant soap. That will come in handy later on :) Then a lady from this small dry fish boutique insists that Ana takes a few pieces. It tastes like caramelized fish, or like a fishy biltong if you want. Ana loves it, but she comes from the Danube area, so she was basically drinking fish from her mum's bosom; she might not give the most impartial testimony about this fish.

Sasha, who is from Afghanistan (again, not a full blood Russian!), wants us to go stay at his sister's in law in Astrakhan. The next day we will be searching for her address in vain :( It won't be the last allusion to the Afghani people...

On the way to Astrakhan we ride by a strange Fata Morgana in the desert: sea salts. Delicate insect bodies lay entrapped into the translucent layer of salt, like some sort of outlandish jewelry.

Wha'cha reckon? winks Merlin. In the hysteria of midday sun, the mirror of salt makes my head spin. It feels no longer like we're on the same planet. It crosses my mind that perhaps faith is offering my revenge for the fact that I was not able to go to South America this winter, and that I missed the Salar de Uyuni.

Are you coming also?I ask Merlin, as Ana is likely to get stuck in the soft layer of clay and salt, and it's better that we keep the number of vehicles we might need to push out at a minimum. Neah... says the German.

But I give into temptation. I must ride at least few rounds!

Merlin and Ana are waiting patiently while I have some sun in the salty concoction.

As the sun is about to set, we reach the outskirts of the city and of the Delta. We search in vain for a spot without sweat flies. Every second we stop we have million of hungry beasts eating us alive. This damn creatures will not let us be, we have no choice but ride back about 30 Ks to the desert. I'd say this looks much better, ain't it? And the altitude is... -82 below the sea level!

Ana goes for a quick jog through the thorny bushes. Us men enjoy a cold beer. I am looking with pride of what I have done to my bike. Tomorrow I must wash this salty dirt off the KTM< but tonight it looks damn fine.

We dine on fish: canned, dried and souped. After the last bite, we all get back to our respective tents and dreams. In the morning we say good bye to our friend, Merlin, and get back to Astrakhan.

We plan to spend here one more day: for rest, a bit of a walk around town, perhaps a spoon of caviar or two. We know that the numbers of this ancient fish have been plummeting, but even the signs urge us to investigate.

On the banks of the Volga, along the promenade, some ladies are sweeping the sidewalk. In the meantime the kids in town don't seem to be bothered by the fact that some mighty sturgeons the size of an adult male are lurking somewhere in the deep.

My mind is set on cleaning the salt off the bike before it eats it all up. And once again, the Russian generosity saves the day. Andrey, the dude on the right, does an amazing job and flat out refuses to take any money for it. Do you want me to wash yours as well? asks Andrey, looking at Ana's DRZ. Why not, she agrees, blushing.

But as both bikes get the spa works, and as we are ready to move, my KTM won't start... What the hell?

The Russian are all over me. We try to dry the water, to move some bits, to change some other bits. Nothing. Dead. I take out the laptop and the data cable to try a diagnosis. The battery is out, the license for Windows parallels is expired... Man, what have I gotten myself into. And it's hot, and those flies... I find a wifi connection, log in, start updating the software... Two hours pass. I change the exhaust map, I fiddle with it a bit, and hurray, the bike starts.

We can finally start looking for a guest house or something. We gotta take a shower tonight or our skins shall fall. But the hotel rates are outrageous, and we cannot afford to check in. We are not that desperate anyway. Ana asks a few people about gust houses. And a guy, Goof, accompanied by his wife, Lyudmila, and their daughter, Anna, stops and looks like he has an idea. I'll call my friend, he days, she has a room for rent. OK. Soon we meet Tatiana. Ocin priveat Tanea, says Ana as she shakes her hand. Oh, are you Russian? No, that's all I know. So, how much for the room. 1500 rubles, in a soviet "kvartir". Expensive! For us such places do not feel at all retro or cool. They just remind us of the sad looking communist apartment buildings we were born in. Well, we have no choice, if we want to enjoy a few hours in the town and still have some time to wash our stinky clothing. That's what the place looks like:

Showered and with a line of laundry set out in the sun, we hit downtown. The Kremlin in Astrakhan is one of the most beautiful. The hefty walls are a nice background for the exuberant golden crosses on top of the cathedral, for the joggers and horse jockeys, but also for the drunken dudes. Overlooking this lifestyle mosaic, there's an absent looking Lenin.

Atrakhan Opera & Ballet

By night the crowds gather for sweet treats and vodka along the river. We are shocked by the number of gorgeous women in town: is there a Miss Russia conference being secretly organized in here? We debate the issue back in our communist flat, over some of the best fish we've had in a long time. Smoked sturgeon, salmon, mussels, Lithuanian bread, and yes, some caviar. Not the best, just what we could grab from the supermarket, but still very good! Sadly while in Russia one can only buy vodka between 10 am to 10 pm.

Now we should say a few words about the visa: we took it in Bucharest, for 46 USD/pp. We used a LOI from Real Russia (15 euro/pp),and it took 5 days to have the visa ready.There is no fee for your vehicle. We did not register to OVIR, we were not bothered by any policeman, we have nothing bad to report. Ocin spasiba russkaia zemlia! We'll see if the next stop in Russia is as pleasant as the first.
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Old 08-11-2013, 07:38 AM   #442
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Awesome update!

Keep it coming....
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Old 08-11-2013, 12:01 PM   #443
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Thank you for sharing with us your adventures. You guys should be sponsored by a food magazine

04 KTM ADV 950S GO!!!!!
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Old 08-13-2013, 10:20 AM   #444
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I really want to thank you for the effort you have made not only in composing amazing photographs to share with us, but some great tales of your experiences while travelling.

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Old 08-13-2013, 10:35 AM   #445
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It's a GoPro you're using for your helmet shots? If yes, is there much afterwork applied to them or what you see is what you get?

And also: after this time and km with the 690 do you miss the Ténéré or it's just something of your past?
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Old 08-23-2013, 09:53 PM   #446
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Originally Posted by nomad guy View Post
Thank you for sharing with us your adventures. You guys should be sponsored by a food magazine
hehehe, that'd be nice even if they would pay us in meals

Originally Posted by Flys Lo View Post
I really want to thank you for the effort you have made not only in composing amazing photographs to share with us, but some great tales of your experiences while travelling.

cheers, but frankly our RR and pics do little justice to the beautiful world we are lucky to share

Originally Posted by vander View Post
It's a GoPro you're using for your helmet shots? If yes, is there much afterwork applied to them or what you see is what you get?

And also: after this time and km with the 690 do you miss the Ténéré or it's just something of your past?
it s a GoPro Hero 2 with minimal post-processing in lightroom, too little time and no computer at the moment to go further; the gopro it s good little tool to capture the moment, but as you can see it has its limits
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Old 08-24-2013, 01:15 AM   #447
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A Kazakh Wedding

Until the 20th century Kazakhstan was the domain of nomadic horseback animal herders. Except for the south Silk Road that is. And that's the road we're going to take. Most overlanders these days choose to drive or cycle or walk to Azerbaijan, then ferry across the Caspian to Aktau. We avoid ferries if we can - the costs and mess make no logical sense in our case, so we cross a little border, lost at the fringes of Volga Delta. As the last time, the border control is not fast, but courteous and friendly. Being still in the delta, during the dreaded fly season, comes with evident unwanted benefits. While we are waiting for our passports to be registered, Olea, the nice policewoman at the counter, takes pity on our fly-infested faces and offers Ana some mysterious white dust. Rub this on the skin, she says. Soon Ana is sporting a dubious white powder around her nose. For a split second the exchange stirs a bit of emotion among the audience! But soon it is revealed that the powder is not a controlled substance. It is just vanilla sugar!

The road across the Delta allows us to glimpse how the villagers are coping with the seasonal flooding. Their cattle and horses do enjoy the cooling effect of these ephemeric pools, as the summer has been already heating up since weeks ago. To cross certain areas we need to take temporary bridges, which in fact over time - due to poverty and laziness and possibly the poor administration - have become permanent.

Immediately the sights broadcast the news of a dramatically different place. The road is a mess: a layer of melted asphalt interrupted by patchwork of sand, gravel and debris. Our fellow drivers are well equipped. They zoom by, at full throttle, in brand new 4x4s or soviet cars. It's everyone for themselves here, and we go with the flow. So do the camels, layered in their furry coats.

Soon though, we need to stop, and refuel. All four people and machines. The gas station looks like an UFO in this hazy, dusty, sandy nowhere. It looks and functions just like an ordinary gas station in Europe, except for two small details: there's no toilet (one must use the revolting WC of the chaikhana across the road, where we'll end up for lunch) and if we want to buy the fuel, first we need to go to the counter, say how many litres, pay, come back at the pump, hand the guy the receipt (if there's any, if not, just shout the numbers in Russian my friend) and finally watch as the precious liquid flows into our tanks. This is the blood of this huge country, which has brought upon it - just in any other part of the world - both blessing and doom. Kazakhstan is struggling to cope with the many effects of industrial pollution. Scattered throughout the country there are radioactive or toxic chemical sites, leftovers of former defense industries and test ranges. The soil has been depleted of nutrients from overuse of agricultural chemicals, salination from poor infrastructure and wasteful irrigation practices. The two main rivers that once flowed into the Aral Sea have long been diverted for irrigation of the dreaded cotton fields. The kazakh steppe is in effect drying up at an astonishing rate. The brittle grasses that gave such a charming background to our bushcamps are actually not so charming after all: they are chuck full of chemical pesticides and natural salts. In time the wind picks up these harmful substances and blows them into noxious dust storms, further polluting the Caspian Sea. Well, enough with the environmental propaganda, let's sample some proper central asian cuisine. In our case, plov and chai.

As we chill by a tasty plate of food, we meet a couple (a Polish girl and an Irish guy) who are taking part in one of these "challenges" ("charitable rallies" they call them) that have become the rage among Europe's youth. I guess the "gap year" is so yesterday! Well, they're gonna zoom though the same deserted veld like us. Which appears flat, arid, lifeless.

Unless one takes one of the side trails that winds thru, and up to the shores of the Caspian Sea, where semi-wild horses and people enjoy a bit of tranquility.

While I'm exploring the area in search for a decent camping spot, Ana is waiting for the sun to set. Already the quality of the light has changed: eye-burning, even in the early hours of the morning, and surreally orange at dusk. Well, we longed for it, didn't we? The desert - spanning this huge continent up to the tundra.

But this is no Sahara. The colours, the flora and fauna, everything is different. The thistles have delicate flowers that die at the touch of the sun, only to resurrect by night. The sand bears the evidence of mysterious creatures that crawl in its underbelly: hairy spiders the size of my palm, huge dragonflies, and of course plenty of dung beetles.

It does not deter us from enjoying a sunny breakfast.

The second day deepens our sentiment of the strange. We barely pass any settlement. Villages (or towns?) display of mix of mud brick huts and ultra-new residences that employ almost the same unsustainable materials that we use. The cemeteries though, placed in the immediate vicinity of the villages, are quite interesting. The size and decoration of the tombs suggest a strong desire to invest and hope in the afterlife.

The ethnic Kazakhs are actually a curious a mix of Turkic and Mongol tribes, who migrated into the region in the 13th century. They are one of the last nations to have lost their nomadic lifestyle, having been rarely united in the past as a single people. The name of the Kazakhs comes from a Turkic word meaning free rider, adventurer or outlaw (nomadic). Their territory was eventually conquered in the 18th century by Russia, and later assimilated to the Soviet Union. In 1920’s Stalin began denomadization, but kazakhs slaughtered their herds and died of famine. Those who resisted collectivisation were deported and population fell by two million in a decade. During the controversial agricultural "Virgin Lands" program of the 1950s and 1960s, Soviet citizens (mostly Russians, but also some other deported nationalities) were encouraged to relocate to Kazakhstan's northern pastures. This dramatic influx of immigrants further added to the already confusing ethnic cocktail. Soon non-ethnics started to outnumber natives, and only after the independence, in the mid-1990s through the mid-2000s, the ethnic Kazakhs were repatriated. Since then, Kazakhstan has been struggling to manage Islamic revivalism (the country is more than 70 percent Muslim) and to develop a cohesive national identity.

As for the vibe, we can report that the people are an instant coup de foudre: outgoing, daring, jovial. Stopping in chaikhanas for a refreshment and a chat is a joy! In this particular spot for example, Gulshat is eager to try the bike. Salamat dashes in the back to put on a better shirt so she'll look good in the pics. She practically asks us to photograph her super cute son, Sultan (2 yrs) and Amina (4), the daughter. The women actually seem to like me: I guess I'm kind of exotic around here. Rahmat!

Suddenly the decrepit road evolves into the smoothest tarmac one can desire. With the ubiquitous camels on the horizon, that is.

This is a country of vast natural resources (it belongs to top 5 nations for oil reserves) after all! We are flying on the highway of this unknown Kazakhstan, stopping only to tea-up and sleep. Some are a hit and some are, unavoidably, a miss. We sleep on the bottom of a dried-out seasonal lake. We have developed by now a habit of carrying extra water for showering at the tent. So we can both fully enjoy a short jog and a relaxing evening in our quiet little spot in the steppe.

The tea drinking business is another matter. Surprisingly in a fancy tea-house lost in the desert, everything is impersonal, but cheap (decor, service, flavor).

While in this charming tea-house with the most horrendous toilet I've even seen but one of the best cup of teas ever brewed, the lady rips us off with a disarming smile: 500 tenge for three servings, go figure! Her sun, Ilsgur (8), looks a bit spaced out. It might be difficult to grow up in this isolated place, while his dad is working across the border in Uzbekistan.

In most places though there is no reason to ask for prices or a menu. We simply sit down and enjoy a teapot full of strong, dark, aromatic liquid.

As I am thinking about the next cup of tea, I see Ana breaking violently. What the...? I'm out of gas, she says. You were doing 90! You gotta pay more attention, I scold her. She turns the reserve on, and takes off. And soon stops again. Now, you gotta be kidding me... but I notice the reason for this impromptu stop. And it makes me smile. You see, Perizat and Aidos are getting married :)

We are outside the town of Beyneu. For some reason, the bride and groom and their closest friends have gathered here, out of all venues, to enjoy a glass of vodka, while the most talented guy is serenading. Come on, join us! They wave vigorously, and frankly, it's not a call to dismiss. Well, you've been looking forward to attend a wedding, haven't you? I tell Ana, and she nods joyfully. Kuanish, the brother of the bride, sporting a generous set of golden teeth and a strong vodka breath, invites us to toast for the newlyweds. Thankfully we are handed glasses of grape juice! Perizat is demure in her white dress and heavy jewellery, but the rest of the ladies are far from shy. Soon we start dancing, clapping and chanting.

Now we go at the house to feast. You must come, da? Well, how can we say no to this? You ride in front, next to our cars, ok? It's going to be beautiful, says Kuanish, who is the director of the convoy of party-goers. He drives in front, while the other 9 cars follow, with us in tow. The driving is chaotic: drifts, horning, the lot! Before entering town Kuanish stops again: you need to horn also, and drive parallel to me, it's nice like that. So we drive all over town, horning like mad men, passing the red light and waving at the police, to let everyone know that the wedding is here, starring exotic guests from abroad, on bikes! At the compound there's a huge yurt where tables of goodies have been laid. As we are called to ride into the garden, a DJ shouts over the microphone something about the Romanian bikers. That's us! And so the party ensues: bride dances, candy and gifts are thrown in the air for good luck, songs are sang, amazing food, hugs and warm handshakes are shared.

Over the next hours we manage to discuss about the aspects of life in Romania versus Kazakhstan: prices for an apartment, wages, taxes for small businesses and stuff like that. In all this meantime, women keep bringing finger-licking dishes to our table: plov, mutton, soup, dried fruits, salads, cakes and candy. The men are busy getting us drunk. Soon we realise that we we don't leave soon, we risk getting smashed: we manage to split after enough vodka to keep us going. Or so we hope...

While the alcohol starts settling in our system, we need to navigate around town for fuel. Or should I say around camels?

The next 80 kilometers to the border aren't tarred. It's not easy.

We both have dusts in every pore and every nasty place you can imagine. And the passing trucks do us no favor.

But I guess the vodka helps. The booze feeds our confidence that we can still make it to the Uzbek border today, and we roll through clouds of dusts and gravel. Rumour has it that this is how the roads will be from now on. Well, I guess there's only one way to find out...

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Old 08-24-2013, 05:13 AM   #448
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Joined: May 2011
Location: palm harbor, fla
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just amazing!......

lemme tell 'ya boss... that's a good girl you got there!....
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Old 08-24-2013, 09:22 AM   #449
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Location: Gardnerville NV
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Great report.... thanks for putting the time in to post it.
My screen name is kind of long. I am the "ME" part, my name is Cory.

Jimmy Lewis quote: "Those KLRs are full of potential. Just takes a rider..."
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Old 08-24-2013, 12:36 PM   #450
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Extraordinary report and ride.. GREAT..
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