|11-25-2014, 04:48 PM||#1|
Joined: Feb 2010
Location: KZ KG UZ TJ
From Almaty to Aktau through Uzbekistan or “Hot shots”
From Almaty to Aktau through Uzbekistan or “Hot shots”
(Through the eyes of motorcycle tour leader.)
I am a group leader of motorcycling tours. This is my job. Sometimes it’s tough, sometimes it’s a lot of fun and sometimes it is quite dangerous, but I love it and I can’t think of doing something else. I’ve been through plenty of different motorcycling tours around Central Asia for the past year and every single tour was unique and unforgettable adventure, all thanks to different participants, interesting personalities, dangerous and hilarious situations, diverse routes, motorcycles, romance and gorgeous nature around. All of that became one big knot called – adventure motorcycle tour.
I would like to share with some of the stories happened during those trips, that I took part in not as a customer, but as an organizer and a group leader. There is a big difference, isn’t there? By your leave I would love to post it here for the very first time. And the story called “(Through the eyes of motorcycle tour leader.)”.
In this report I want to tell about one of our trips, which we had many years ago, at the very start of our business when we have just begun discovering the furthest parts of Central Asia. And this story like nothing else reflects every-day life of our SilkOffRoad Motorcycle Travel Club (Kazakhstan).
So here we go:
Motorbike tour from Almaty to Aktau or “Hot shots”
It hasn’t been two weeks since I came back from my motorcycling info-tour around Pamir, when my colleague called, who is also my partner and just a good friend from Japan – Mr Unno Kazuhitsa or just Kazu san. He said that a Silk Road group was ready to continue its tour. And I realized that I don’t even need to unpack my backpack.
The Silk Road group is 7 amazing people from Japan who are obsessed with their holly idea to get through the Great Silk Road on motorcycles. Thus, during several years they have been methodically realizing their dream: every year they would pack their bags and drive through some parts of the Silk Road. “But why is taking so long?” –some experienced trucker my ask, - “It should take no more than a month”. Let me explain you something. The thing is that for Japanese people vocation time may last not more than one week not including the flight time, so it does not exceed 10 days per year. And it doesn’t even depend on the position, and more over as higher your position or your salary is, the more you are busy and the less time you can find to have some fun.
Thus, every year the Silk Road group gets trough planned part of the Silk Road during their one week of vacations. So how does that actually work? They’ve started the tour three years ago in China and it took them two years of their vacations to pass the Chinese part from the East to the West. They’ve been driving motorcycles of 250cc rented in China with a huge truck behind them carrying nothing else but spare parts for those nice pieces of bikes.))
For the next year during another vacations the group continued their Crusade, which this time had to start here in Kazakhstan at the eastern side of Horgos (border between China and Kazakhstan), leading to the west till Uzbek border, so the route ran through Horgos – Almaty – Taraz – Shymkent – Tashkent. That was the time when we’ve met these guys from the Silk Road group for the first time while organizing Kazakh part of the tour. It was a successful campaign I must say. By the end of the tour everyone was pretty happy and had flown away filled with satisfaction and hope to continue their tour next year.
And now, Kazu san called and asked to support their another tour, but this time the group is going to work their asses of in order to have another adventure and get through the entire Uzbekistan, again from the East to the West, since that is the Great Silk Road. This time the point A was Shymkent, and B – Aktau, but we had to follow Uzbekistan roads.
Here are the following reference points of the route: Shymkent – Jizzakh – Bukhara – Khiva – Nukus – Beineu – Aktau.
Essential information on fuel and route I received from my friend and an expert of the Wild West in Central Asia - Max (MadMax). He told me that the most important thing was to take as more petrol and water as you can. Thank you so much, man, that was one good advice! Thanks to him we decided to buy a trailer just to have additional fuel with us. The only thing we couldn’t predict was the weather. We cherished the thought that it will be cloudy and not so hot. So… the horses are fed and the boys are harnessed !!! Oh, horses are harnessed and boys are fed))
Let the tour begin!!!
Day 1. Almaty - Shymkent. "Cart"
We shipped all motorcycles from Almaty to Shymkent by trucks, where Japanese were supposed to be. Me, my friend and my friend and companion - Sergey (nickname Comandor) took off on our old, but rugged escort car Toyota Land Cruiser with a trailer carrying 12 empty canisters. We were planning to fill it in right before crossing Uzbekistan border since Kazakh petrol is much better and cheaper.
All the way to Shymkent I was hearing some weird squeaking noises. It was coming from the trailer. We had to stop in order to check it. I pushed a wheel for couple of times to check whether everything was fine. And I suddenly found myself holding a broken wheel, which fell off. What the hell is going on!?! Why? We’ve put new bearings just right before the beginning of the trip! We started looking for failure cause and found it. Wheel axis was bent and its geometry was disrupted, so the bearings could not resist this huge side loading. The good thing was that our truck with motorcycles wasn’t that far. We’ve put the broken trailer inside it and went on. “Well, that’s just great!” – I thought, -“The tour hasn’t started yet and we are already having problems. Shoot!”
We arrived in Shymkent at night and until very morning we’ve been repairing the trailer. Even though we still couldn’t fix the axis and make it perfectly straight, yet we could notice some improvements. And went to bed early in the morning.
DAY 2. Shymkent - Jizzakh. "Contraband"
In the morning being still very sleepy, we went to Shymkent airport in order to meet the Japanese group. And we have finally met them all. What an awesome group! All the same faces! As always accompanied by enormous pile of luggage.
We got to the minivan and headed to the appointed start point, where meanwhile Sergey was supposed to unload the truck, set up the bikes and fill it with fuel. The group quickly changed the clothes and was ready to start.
Before we go any further, I would like to introduce participants of this exciting expedition, I think they deserve some special attention.
Shoichiro Irimajiri or just Mr. Iri san - the pack leader, inspirer of this trip and the oldest participant. He is 70 years old. In spite of his modest look, Iri san is a very noble man. He started his career as aeronautical engineer. Then he joined Honda Motor Co and worked there as project manager. Iri san is the father of legendary series of Honda CBX motorcycles. This bike used to be as they say "the killer" of the motorcycles of those times. The bike possessed unique engineering solution and had such an incredible power that rivals almost switched to production of washing machines and vacuum cleaners))
Iri san had been working for Honda Motor Co for the last 20 years as chief engineer and was designing motorcycle engines and racing car engines for Formula 1. And later he became an executive vice president of Honda Motor Co. After that Iri san had some health problems and had to resign. You can easily find bunch of web-sites telling about the history of this bike, and of course Iri san’s name is written there with block letters, as an indivisible part of the history of this sensational model.
Here is a brief link to the history of this motorcycle
And here is young Iri san himself
Today Iri san is retired, however sometimes he visits Honda company as honorable and well-known consultant. But now his every single aspiration and thought is wholly dedicated to traveling and discovering new and interesting places on the Earth, which can be reached on two wheels.
Kambayashi san. He is 60. Good friend of Iri san. In the 80-s used to be a part of the Honda RacingTeam management.
Usui san is the president of Sega Corporation. Yes, yes, that’s the company that used to be the leader of video game consoles market. Nowadays Sega Corporation has partially redeveloped into other directions and is called SegaSammy. At home Usui san is driving Honda XR250K and quite happy with it.
Sekine san. He is 56 years old. President of some big record company in Tokyo, which name I couldn’t remember no matter how hard I’ve tried, because I could not even pronounce it.
Hashimoto - the youngest member of the group. He is 40. Mr. Sekine’s assistant.
Kurihara san – even though he tried very hard, he couldn’t say what he did and who he was, since his English was very pour, however as everyone else’s except for Kazu san and Iris. As Kazu san funny commented– they’ve been bad students in school. )
Kazu san - my good friend and colleague. An employee of Japanese Motor-touristic company, the organizer of this trip. The whole year around he is taking part in tours around the globe. His wife was organizing motorcycle tours in Mongolia until 2010, when they had a child and she had to stay at home. We took part in a couple of successful off-road tours in Kazakhstan last year. He is a one funny dude. Riding Honda XR400 and quite happy with it.
Each of them lives in Tokyo.
As one can see these people are not that simple, but still polite, courteous and hilarious.
As I planned, the oldest folks were seated on the most comfortable motorcycles with 650 cc of engine capacity. Iri san provided the most comfortable and a low rider bike Suzuki XF650. It was according to Kazu san’s request he sent right before he arrived. Since everyone still could remember the last year when Iri san could not reach the ground by foot on Yamaha TTR and every time when the entire crew had to take off, we had to literally place Iri san on a motorcycle, and we could move on only after he makes couple of circles around the place, since the stop for him equaled to be down on the ground. When we were driving through some cities at traffic lights we had to perform semi-acrobatics exercises. Before reaching traffic lights we had to support Iri san from both sides trying to keep his bike in balance until the red lights on. So this time Iri san decided not to stick someone and made special shoes with super tall platform, a la “Kiss” band from the 80-s. And he even did not forget to attach specific metal horseshoes to the left shoe in order to be able to switch gear speeds. Tadaaaaaaam!
His friend Kambayashi san was placed on a Yamaha XT600E along with 35 literAsserbis fuel tank, which served as an additional source of fuel supply.
Mr. Sekine san got Honda XR650L also with 25 liter Asserbis fuel tank.
And the rest of the group gladly sat on Honda CRF. And let’s notice that Japanese people unlike the rest of the adventure motorbike world, which thinks that real motorcycles are only those that have engine capacity of minimum 650 cubes, with all satisfaction prefer bikes with 250 cubes of engine capacity. It might be not that comfortable, but quite easy and maneuverable. At their motherland they are not ashamed to drive bikes with 250 cubes and I fully agree with them.
And I ended up with Yamaha WR250. By the way right before the tour we fixed sprockets of smaller size on all the Hondas and my bike as well in order to drive faster and spend less petrol. That was the only upgrade we’ve managed made.
And here we are finally on our way. Flying. Buzzing. 8 motorcycles and a jeep are rushing through southern Kazakhstan one after another in a straight line. I am going the first as the group leader followed by the crew and an escort vehicle rounds out the whole group. I have a radio touch with the jeep. The border is getting closer. We have to hurry up in order not to get there right during the lunch time. Border check points on both Kazakh and Uzbek sides have their meals in different time, and sometimes these feasts may last for hours making the line of people and cars. With strict Japanese requirements every single minute is precious. Having passed not more than twenty kilometers I heard Sergey’s voice in walkie-talkie: “Hey! Stop right there!” My heart dropped. That means that something went wrong. I’m taking off the bike and going to the car. Thank God the bike is standing in a straight position and Kambayshi san is also safely standing, but for some reason with his hands up and wide-opened eyes. Turned out he was all covered with motor oil from top of the head to the bottom of the feet!
The worst thing was that he had white outfit. I couldn’t get it, how come he is covered with motor oil? where did that come from? After troubleshooting we realized that heavy Aserbis fuel tank had broken oil hose, which for some reason was situated right above the bike’s frame on Yamaha. Seems like our customizing turned out to be a failure. We changed the hose and just in case placed a piece of tire as an additional layer. It was ALMOST perfect! Washed the bike and went on. Kambayashi san had to stop couple of times thinking that the hose was broken again. Actually it was oil drops that flew off when the bike was moving. He would stop several times and ask us to eliminate the leak. And we would carefully wipe the bike and apologize for those oil drops flying out of the gaps and say that it’s gonna be alright and we have to hurry up. And he had no choice but to listen to us. Anything can happen on the road. Before reaching the border line we filled all the canisters with Kazakh petrol.
Border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.Yallama check point.
During summer time this building feels like sauna. Very hot and very crowded. Wearing a gear in that room felt like medieval inquisition. Way too hot. And more over you have to fill in some papers and bunch of other forms, which turn into napkins because of sweaty hands. It’s better not to ask the officer to give you another form since that makes them so angry that they will not give you a thing until they chill. It was taking forever. Everyone was nervous. At the end it took us three hours to pass the border. But that was only me and the group, since we passed the border on our bikes with other cars standing in the line. Sergey on his jeep stuck in neutral zone in front of gates to Uzbekistan standing in the line of trucks, they were not moving because someone in the beginning of the line had problems with customs. They all had to stand there and just wait. Our car was trapped as I understood. Me and my crew, we all passed necessary procedures at Uzbek border and here we were standing 300 meters away from our car, but couldn’t do anything to get it out of the line. The escort vehicle during the tour is like our mother. It might be a burden like now, but actually it is our safety net. We have all the spare parts there, as well as petrol, some medicines, personal stuff of the tour participants and even water and food. Its already been five hours since we’ve started passing the border! The shades of evening began to descend. To lead the crew through the darkness on Uzbekistan road is not really cool. The road is full of wagons driving without any flickers, walking cows and donkeys. Expression on our faces said we did not expect that it is going to take so long. We all were exhausted, starving and wanted to get some sleep. We had no choice and I’ve decided to leave the car and wait for it in the hotel in Jizak town. It’s about 200 kilometers from the border. Kazu san had to agree with me. I passed a note with the hotel address to Camandor and we left him waiting in this stupid trap.
The darkness reached us on the road. The traffic was still pretty active and we had to maneuver between trucks and car in the total darkness. One thing that was killing the most was that our escort vehicle wasn't there behind us as it always used to be. And I couldn’t see the end of our line. That was just awful. If something went wrong (we are out of the petrol, the bike is broken or some accident) the car would always report me by walkie-talkie, we would all stop and move on only when the problem was solved. We even call the escort vehicle “a broom” since it’s kinda “sweeping” those who got behind. Without the car I had to look back all the time while I was driving in order to count the bikes. If you have ever been the tour leader you should know what it feels like. I would call it some kind of an art and of course it’s a huge responsibility. Every single minute you have to be aware and feel your crew. It’s like a snake’s body, where a group leader is its eyes and head. And before making any move (over taking or stop) you have to be sure that your “body” (the crew) is still there, it didn’t fell off and did not break into pieces, because of that we may lose our confidence or even one of the members. You have to be aware of every single factor: participants’ mood, their individual driving experience, physical strength, the road condition, traffic, weather conditions and etc. As I said it’s a huge responsibility. Oh, sorry, I may have lost the line of my story.))
So here we are on the road. Sometimes I could see that some car would reach and follow us. I would truly believe that it was Sergey, but it wasn’t him. The walkie-talkie was silent. The phone wasn’t ringing.
We reached Jizak in the middle of the night. Checked in, hardly walking. Got some food. No one was talking. Everyone knew that Sergey still wasn’t there, so as the car, and that means that there is no luggage, no petrol, no tools and bunch of other important shit.
It was just the beginning and we had hundreds of kilometers in front of us.
I had the only thought in my mind. Am I ready..or even.. will I be able to lead the group without the escort vehicle. Maybe it was crazy, but I felt like I was ready. We all had our documents, some money and some necessary tools to change the tires. But if we don’t make it and the tour is over, that will be a disaster. I would lose my face in front of anyone, but not in front of these Japanese people. And “hara-kiri” wouldn't even help me.))) we all finished the dinner, everyone headed to their rooms and I was still sitting, with my head full of sad thoughts.
I could turn around and come back, but I couldn’t leave the group, and to be honest I had no power. So I’ve decided to wait till the morning. I went to bed and put the walkie-talkie under my pillow. It took me quite long time before I fell asleep. Suddenly I caught off. I had a dream about Sergey. Seemed like he was asking me: “Where are you? What’s your room number?”
At first I didn’t get that it was actually coming from walkie-talkie. I’ve answered. Oh my God! He was back. I looked at the clocks. 4 am. Sergey came in the room. He didn’t look good, all covered with mud, angry and exhausted. I realized that he cannot talk and he is just fucking surprised with something. I went to get some beer and got him talking.
- What happened man? – I asked
- I was arrested by Uzbek customs officers – he said swearing as he could
- What the hell? Why?
- They found canisters with fuel in our trailer and thought that I was smuggling it! Turned out that according to local legislation it is not allowed to have more than 20 liters of petrol per one vehicle. And there is a petrol crisis here in Uzbekistan now!!! We have more than 12 canisters in our trailer.
Shiiit, - was my first thought. 240 liters is a great reason to get some easy money for Uzbek customs. Knowing Sergey’s hot temper I understood that he wasn’t giving out the petrol and just told them to get the fuck off him! And they’ve just put him in a jail.
- What happened next?
- Well...then they made a kind of performance, pretending that they got the head of smuggling racket and held me in a jail until I found another way to bribe them. And after, those bastards took out all the petrol and poured it in a hole. So now we have 12 fucking empty canisters! – Comandor was drinking beer and slowly coming to himself.
- But why are you so dirty? – I was dying to know
- Fuck that shit…don’t even ask me…!!! I don’t give a shit about that fucking trailer…why the fuck we’ve decided to buy it…its fucking wheel…shit….fell off and rolled down to the fucking field…with corn or some other shit…and I couldn’t find it in the darkness…and there was a fucking swamp or something else…and when I finally found it, no cunt would stop to help me out to fix it…
Comandor was about to cry because of that annoyance, and I was about to laugh of happiness. It wasn’t all that bad – everyone was alive, in a good health, free and we were finally reunited. He finished the beer and we went to bed.
|11-25-2014, 04:49 PM||#2|
Joined: Feb 2010
Location: KZ KG UZ TJ
From Almaty to Aktau through Uzbekistan or “Hot shots
DAY 3. Jizzakh - Samarqand - Bukhara."Sunstroke"
Every morning we would start with bikes proving: oil, chains, lubrication and other troubleshooting. But today the only thing that bothered us the most was fucking trailer. The wheel was fixed with two bents screws, Sergey couldn’t find the rest of the screws when the wheel rolled down the field, but we had to reach Bukhara today – about 400 kilometers to go. The road to Bukhara went through Samarkand – quite a big city, which was the only chance to find suitable screws and fix this trailer.
Not far from Samarkand
In Samarkand we had some time to get to the auto market and find screws. The crew tried some nice and hearty Samarkand pilaf and got the taxi. We gave some money to the driver and ordered them to go sightseeing and be back in three hours. And I went to the auto market to buy some screws.
Hearty Samarkand pilaf is forth to be shot with good Japanese cameras.
Memory photo with a family of wonderful Oshkhany – aka the pilaf maker
Samarkand auto market
Auto market in Uzbekistan is like an Eastern bazar – even solid oil and gearbox oil look just like nice jam. Yummy ))
Curiously enough, but we found exactly what we needed at Samarkand market – some firm file-hard Russian screws of suitable size. Everyone at the market was walking around with big bags or packs, sometimes in both hands. There was Uzbekistan money in those bags. The have single banknote with 1000 summ of nominal volume. There are no other banknotes at all. It’s about 40 cents. For instance, if you want to buy a wheel costing$200 you will have to bring the whole bag with 2 – 3 big bricks o money. And if someone wants to buy a car you gotta come to the market on two cars, one for yourself and another one for the money. It’s enough to make a cat laugh as some people say. But really, it’s impossible to carry such a pile of money. You won’t find one fair wallet that would be big enough for Uzbek money and you won’t be able to fit in even $50 in your pocket, especially if you are wearing jeans. Some people say that the government did it on purpose, something like anticorruption measures, because one won’t be able to hide a bribe. So we were walking around carrying those bags too.))
When we have just fixed the trailer our Japanese people were back with happy faces - they loved Samarkand. We got on the bikes and moved forward.
The day was very hot. The sun was worse than a megavoltage lamp. It was hot everywhere. So we were not very surprised when someone got the sunstroke. The first was Kurihara san. He got off the bike almost fainting and lay down near the road. His nose was bleeding. We started spraying water on his face, putting compress on his forehead, saying some cheerful words, so eventually he was back to life.
In a while the same thing happened to Kambayashi san. The good thing was that they had enough of will power in order not to faint and fall off the bike. He just stopped, refused from cold compress and got a plastic case out if his pocket. Then took out some shiny Japanese pills and put it in his mouth. First he got very pale, then turned blue and after back to normal color. Saying nothing he got on the bike, made “let’s move on!” move with his hand and took off. To be honest those stops we took to get some water and rest made it even worse. When you stop you can feel that there is absolutely no wind and as hot as in hell, so you turn into some slow-moving lizard. We could barely speak. And believe me, it’s better to move than become an amphibian in less than a second. When it was getting unbearable, we would pour some water on our faces and it felt great, but not too long, 5 seconds and you are dehydrated. And after you are sweaty again and everything starts to swim before the eyes…
We haven’t reached the point yet, but the sun touched the horizon already. During these moments you feel absolute joy. The temperature drops and the coolness comes. Our mood is getting better, faces are smiling, we start to make jokes and talk again. I felt myself damn good. There is nothing more important than crew’s positive attitude.
whenever we stopped for a while there some curious people would come out of nowhere, sometimes way too many. But what I like in Uzbek character the most, unlike in Kazakhs, is that they were just watching us not bothering at all. Sometimes we would be politely asked whether they could take I picture with one of our bikes.
Ancient Karavansaray – a source of shadow, coziness and water on the Silk Road. Even though it is a monument of architecture there is still a whole swimming pool inside.
Cardboard police cars on the roads scare anyone
We reached Bukhara around 9 pm. Tall prayer towers and cupolas of Bukhara appeared far in front of us with dark blue sky and few stars at the background. Evening Bukhara is a true miracle! Seems like “The Thousand and One Night” tails come alive.
Despite late hour and fatigue we had to provide some food and drinks for everyone and get them to sleep. It was quite hard to do it in Bukhara at 1 am, but I finally found nice restaurant, where we had some pizza and cold beer. The oldest and the youngest one – Iri san and Hashimoto – fell asleep right on the table. Even noisy company of young people next to their table could not wake them up. It was a bachelor party. One of the guys was getting married soon and they were having some fun. I actually loved the way they were doing it. First they were drinking vodka for about 10 minutes, laughing and talking, and then ordered the music – some Uzbek folk music – groovy, dynamic and very loud. They would all come out to the dance floor and start dancing in a very cheerful and Uzbek way, with all the moves, tricks and spinning. Then they would come back to their table and continue drinking altogether apologizing at the same time for being so loud and bothering. And it was all the way long while we were having our late dinner. That’s the way civilized people should party.)
|11-25-2014, 04:51 PM||#3|
Joined: Feb 2010
Location: KZ KG UZ TJ
From Almaty to Aktau through Uzbekistan or “Hot shots
DAY 4. Bukhara - Khiva. "Petrol disagreement".
Today we had 500 kilometers ahead. We had to cover one of the biggest deserts in the world – Kyzylkum. Once I started thinking about it, I could feel as my mouth dried out, lips stuck together and my helmet started to squeeze my head three times harder. That was the reason why I was trying to convince Kazu san to start early in the morning in order to avoid hot sun as long as it was possible. “My people want to see Bukhara”, - Kazu san said. “So please give us couple of hours”. I could do nothing but say “No problem!” Before we’ve started the trip I advised to take two days to see one of the most beautiful and amazing places – Bukhara. To be honest even two days wouldn’t be enough for it. But of course they couldn’t afford even couple of days thanks to Japanese vacations. The crew took express tour around famous Bukhara. We had nothing to do but to follow them, become tourist and buy some souvenirs.
Bukhara. Morning in a guest house.
Lyabi Hauz – ancient pool. Even now it is a favorite place to relax in the shadow, get some green tea, just to chat and chill.)
The old Soviet design milk bottles. On the aluminum cap. I remember childhood
The Ark fort
Entrance to it
Iri san had already bought a Turkmen hat and was so happy with it
|11-25-2014, 04:53 PM||#4|
Joined: Feb 2010
Location: KZ KG UZ TJ
From Almaty to Aktau through Uzbekistan or “Hot shots
Me and Sergey thought that it was a smoking pipe and we started counting to whom out of smoking friends we could bring such a present, which is not too expensive and very useful device. A seller was just about the time to tell us that it wasn’t actually what we thought it was – “Oh no, no!!!” – he seemed to be very surprised – “it is not for that! It is for babies! When they’ve just been born and are lying in their beds, this wide end of the tube, where you though you would put the weed, goes actually on their penis, so when the child is peeing all the liquid comes out of the tube leading out of the bed through a hole…well it is something like a re-usable diaper… understood?” We changed with looks and started to laugh crying our eyes out!)) yeah, nice present)))…
Collective photo at the Miri-Arab Midrise square
And off we go!!!
In order to cover planned distance we had to get some petrol, but the bad news was that there was no fuel at the station. We were not very surprised since we’ve been told before that we might face this kind of problem.
- “You had no idea?” – locals were quite surprised. “It’s been a week since the crisis started all around the country”.
- “But we got some petrol in Samarkand!” – we answered
- “Well, it is going to reach them too very soon. And the western part of Uzbekistan, the place where you are headed to, they have the same situation since looooong time ago”. – he looked pretty sure in what he was saying
Of course we were not very happy. Actually, there was no fuel crisis in the country. The government made it up in purpose in order to resell the petrol through their sources with higher price. And more over, local authorities are planning to introduce propane gas as the fuel for transportation, because it is quite cheap and they have lots of it in Uzbekistan, unlike imported overpriced Kazakhstan petrol.
We’ve lost almost an hour till we found a tiny station with endless queue standing for 76 th octan petrol.
Here me and Comandor are having an argument. He was told by some local that in Khiva we would be able to find smuggled Turkmen petrol of high quality and Sergey proposed to fill in only the half of empty canisters!!!
- Why don’t we fill in all the canisters!!! – I was furious
- So the trailer won’t be so loaded and there won’t be any pressure on its wheels, what if bearings will break again. – Comandor was quite firm.
- Oh come oooon!!! – I’ve started to yell, - “We’ve been rolling around with 12 empty canisters and no we are going to fill in only the half of them? It’s insane! I don’t give a shit about this fucking trailer!!! If it breaks again, I don’t know, we will put canisters behind our backs. In the worst scenario, we can just leave it right there and take it on our way back” - I was trying to convince Comandor.
Of course I was worried about the trailer too. But there was no room in the car. It was full of huge bags. Yes we’ve fixed the wheel with new screws, but the axis was still bent and it would still be giving some pressure on the bearings. But the most I was worried about was the desert, where we could get stuck with 8 bikes out of the petrol. And I heard that there were no stations all the way through the desert. Even if we find one, there might be no fuel. I was insisting on 10 canisters minimum, but Comandor was inexorable. We entered Kyzyl-kum desert still fighting.
It was like in hell. Hot air was burning the skin even through the clothes. We could feel hot wind on our faces. Bottles with water were flying out of the escort vehicle and were driven in with such a strength as shells of a stutterer. I would take off the helmet, pour half bottle of the water in it and put it back on. The Japanese were laughing at me first. But after some time they’ve started doing the same. Eventually everyone found it really helpful. For 20-30 minutes the head was like in oasis, the brain was cooling off for a while and the view of the road wasn't swimming in front of the eyes. But it wasn't frequent. The water was disappearing way too fast and the car was full of way too empty bottles. Some random driver said that it was fucking +50C.!!!
The petrol we got in Bukhara was quite shitty. If the quality of petrol is very bad the fuel consumption rises. Same thing happened to us. We haven’t passed even 100 kilometers when the fuel tanks on five bikes got empty. We’ve put some more. After another 100 kilometers the same thing happened. And we loaded it with petrol again. Passed a bit more. We shared the last drops of fuel among each other including the car. So we were officially out of the petrol and still far from our point of destination. Comandor started to look very worried. He finally got it. I was trying to go very slowly in order to spend less petrol. After some time those who were driving bikes of 250 cc reached me one after another and showed that they’be switched to RESERVE tanks.
No cars, no people around – just sand.
Comandor feeling his guilt was somewhere out there in the end of the line, trying to avoid our sights. But I was swearing out loud in my helmet that I’ve almost become deaf. I was cursing myself that I haven’t done the way I wanted. After some time Kazu san reached me and gestured that someone’s bike died out and we had to stop. Canisters were empty. So the whole way after I was taking some petrol from other Hondas XR650 and Yamahas XT600 and shared it with other bikes. But we were still on our way God knows how. Our brains were boiling and the petrol was hopelessly disappearing. On our way we’ve met 5 – 6 cars and asked the drivers to sell some petrol. But, unfortunately, like other cars they were all using gas and couldn’t help us out.
The landscape started to change rapidly: green trees and village houses were getting visible. We were reaching the biggest river in Central Asia – Amudariya. And beautiful oasis was all around us..
However it wasn’t very helpful, actually it was getting even worse. We made hundred stops at random petrol stations and lost bunch of time. They were all closed. Every bike was using auxiliary tanks by that time and Khiva was still quite far away. “It could have been worse”, - I was comforting myself. Even if we get stuck in here, we won’t be surrounded by endless desert. Suddenly couple of bikes died out and stopped. We had no one to take petrol from. Even the car. Seemed like it was using the air, but not petrol anymore. So we stopped and started praying for the miracle to happen. Suddenly, a young man appeared out of nowhere and very quietly asked: “Want some petrol?”
- Do you have any? – me and Sergey asked as one man
- Give me a sec
And next thing we know he pulled out a three liters bottle with petrol.
- Is that all??? Do you have some more? – we were about to cry
- I may find..how much do you need?
- Get everything you have!!!
- Ok, gotta ask my neighbors.
We were dying of curiosity. How much will he get? In less than half an hour another man brought a cart with big milk can on it and said:
- You were damn lucky you got stuck in here, in other places there is no petrol at all. Like seriously.
We shared 50 liters of petrol among each other. Actually we could hardly believe it was petrol, it didn’t have typical smell. I heard they might fob off some gas condensate. They somehow use it for big trucks or buses. But with bikes, there might be some troubles. Yep, it was exactly what I thought and we had no choice.
But the view around was just gorgeous. Water in the desert makes wonderful things. Rice fields, fruit trees. After lifeless desert it all seemed as tropical forest, through which we couldn’t define pontoon bridge over Amudariya. But we finally found it.
It was a toll bridge. Bikes were free of charge. We had to pay just for the car, but not so much. We passed Urgench town when it was getting darker. There was no petrol as well. From Urgench to Khiva we had to go in total darkness. But suddenly it seemed to me that I have passed a trolley bus. Is that for real? I looked carefully. Huh, there was no mistake! Transmission line was up in there and it was leading right to Khiva. I found out later. Turned out it was one of the rarest types of transportation in the world: intercity trolley bus, Urgench – Khiva route! About 35 kilometers long.
If Bukhara seemed to be as ancient Bagdad, evening Khiva to the opposite looked like a picture copied from the pages of “The Thousand and One Night” fairytales. This ancient city hasn’t changed for the past thousand years. It’s a pure museum. I’ve booked a hotel here, where I’ve never been before, and it was the best choice. The building is situated right in the center of Khiva. It used to be Mukhammed Amin Khan Midrise, which was built in the middle of 19th century (1851-1853). It used to serve as the biggest midrise of the city, more than 250 students were studying and living there till the beginning of the 20th century.
I have to admit that I was always fond of Uzbek hospitality. And fond of designers, who with all the grace and elegance easily mixed all the necessary blessings of civilization such as television, air conditioners, fridges and etc. with ancient eastern interior and century-old stonework. They managed to keep the atmosphere of the eastern antique with different interior design items.
interior of the ancient midrise
But more over I love the way they treat their visitors. Discreet attention of the personnel turns to individual provenance if you wish so. I don’t really know all the cool hotels of Almaty, but I’m pretty sure that here is much cooler. In Almaty no receptionist would go out of his desk and show you your room, politely asking about your traveling and whether there is anything they could do for you.
And of course every single local is talking up his city. Which one is higher? Older? More beautiful? Citizens of Uzbekistan will not be able to avoid these topics. There is a big competition between Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva. They can have endless and pointless arguments concerning beauty of their cities, as we know every man to his own taste. But there are some obvious facts that everyone has to put up with. For instance, Samarkand is much older than Bukhara and Khiva, and it is actually one of the most ancient cities on the planet. It is about 3 000 years old, but the atmosphere of old times is gone due to modern looks of new buildings, structures and etc. Bukhara is younger, but still has its ancient look. But citizens of Khiva are proud of their famous prayer tower Islam-Khodji. It’s 10 meters higher than famous Kalyan prayer tower in Bukhara and is 56.6 meters tall. However Bukharians have something to confront with. They believe that Kalyan has multimeter base hidden under century-old layers of the ground. And if to count that level, Islam-Khodji tower will be far away from the title of the tallest one. It’s quite fun to watch those debates.
Our bikes are peacefully sleeping near prayer tower.
|11-25-2014, 04:54 PM||#5|
Joined: Feb 2010
Location: KZ KG UZ TJ
From Almaty to Aktau through Uzbekistan or “Hot shots
DAY 5. Khiva - Nukus. "Petrol hunger"
Early in the morning, when everyone was having their breakfasts, I and Segey were trying to solve a problem with petrol, which became quite typical already. But we managed to solve it very fast. Thanks to great service again! Receptionist named Mukhit left his assistance at the desk and hopped in our car to show “the hole” (hole is a secret place, where you can sell illegal products). And we actually found that backstreet Turkmen petrol. One woman came out of a pretty and prosperous yard and took care of everything. We measured all the stuff using gage tank – should be enough for today.
An hour tour around Khiva. Small old town.
The biggest prayer tower of Central Asia. Islam-Khoji prayer tower. 57 m
And then the lowest - it turned out that the unfinished minaret tower, called Cook or Kalta Minor (short tower), was conceived as the biggest in Asia. Ambitions Khiva khan broke battle with the Turkmens in 1855, after which he did not return to Khiva. Minaret, promises to be the largest known in the cities of Central Asia, the result remained the runt (its diameter at the base of 14.2 meters, the height of the built 26metrov). Life is unpredictable ...
from yard of the hotel
from same side
Today we were heading to Nukus. Capital of the Republic of Karakalpakstan. Its independency is still unclear to me since it looked exactly like Uzbekistan – same money, same vehicle registration numbers, same uniform for officers, but they had their own flag and independency.
“We are not the same” – say Karakalpakstan people about themselves and Uzbeks.
The road from Khiva went to the west through many different villages, rice fields and of course over Amudariya and pontoon bridge.
Clay stoves on old car for cooking SAMSA (very tasty uzbek pies)
It took us not so long to reach Nukus. The city is surrounded by Kyzyl kum desert and it was a bit surprising to see nice and clean city with real districts and high buildings. We checked in a hotel. Small and nice building with its private yard. There were almost no people, might be due to pour publicity and remoteness. There are not so many tourists visiting western Uzbekistan at all, because it is quite far and the trip is exhausting and not very interesting, but here they have something to show. We’ve noticed two more bikers here parking their Suzuki and some other old stuff.
We all had some beer together. These guys wanted to join us on the way to Munaik and after, back to Kyrgyzstan, then Kazakhstan and further, further and further. I got a message from them later, that they’ve dropped dying bikes in Almaty and flew back home. Guess they had enough.
Turkmenian petrol wasn’t that bad as it turned out. Bikes were going pretty fast with it. But we definitely had to get some more petrol somewhere else. Here at the west the petrol situation has started earlier than at the other places and some people left their cars. By the way, we still couldn’t find out the actual reason of the petrol crisis – seemed like it was a murky mystery. But we knew one thing – someone made it on purpose.
Line at the petrol station. Some people wait here for two days in a row. They load only tanks, no canisters.
Asima – a girl at the reception desk - was a real helper. She called to her every single friend and found what we needed. Someone of her folks was the head of the motor pool and with his order we got full tanks but for much higher price. But we were happy enough that we got petrol at all. We decided not to load the canisters. The border was very close and we knew that we won’t be allowed to take through more than one canister; otherwise we will have to pour it out.
|11-25-2014, 04:57 PM||#6|
Joined: Feb 2010
Location: KZ KG UZ TJ
From Almaty to Aktau through Uzbekistan or “Hot shots
DAY 6. Nukus - Beyneu. "Uncle Lesha"
We were up at 5 am. Checked the bikes, got some quick breakfast, packed lunch boxes from the hotel and took off.
Those two foreigners, who decided to join us couldn't handle our rhythm and less than in an hour went far behind us, that we even lost their view. Sorry guys…we gotta take our guys out of here.
The first 100 kilometer was the dirt road and after a sealed road began, but it was quite short. The sun was getting higher heating up the air. But if there is only sand between Bukhara and Khiva, here was just empty land. Absolutely empty!!! Flat land, the sun and the road. Water break, fuel load, move forward. Flat land, the sun and the road. Water break, fuel load, move forward. And not changing view for hours – Horizons of Salvador Dali((
So we reached the border with Kazakhstan. Holly shit…I’ve never seen such a primeval international border crossing point. Officers and soldiers are just impudent fellows. They are all sitting in their booths and want something from you. And those booths are standing right and left without any signs or markings. We had no idea who was the customs officer and who was the border patrol. Covered with dust we had to go through these procedures under scalding sun. Only Kamaz drivers were standing in line to those booths. And there are no melons or watermelons in their trucks, but Uzbeks! They all are headed to Russia to find a job, because in Uzbekistan there is only slave job for a song or no work at all. Uzbek people are ready to reach Russia in any conditions as in this case: hot metal containers with tiny ventilation windows. That’s the only way they can earn 200 dollars a month in Russia in order to send 150 of them to their family in Uzbekistan. And those money will be barely enough for family out of 15 people. Illegal emigration is flourishing here.
Sleeping in the shade
Our Japanese got under one tiny shelter to hide in its shadow as small lambs, and started filling in the forms trying to find any flat surface – own knees, someone’s back, palms, backpacks, since there were no tables for that. The thing I liked in our Japanese the most was that for the past tours we had together in Central Asia, it’s hard to surprise them. They would quietly do whatever we wanted them to and they even had enough of will to make some jokes between each other. I’ve noticed couple of foreign tourists, who were passing border with us. According to vehicle registration numbers and equipped Land Rover those guys were English. I wish you could see their faces. They were standing there with their mouth wide opened, holding own documents not knowing what to do. Where should they go, what should they write, whom to give to? None of those officers spoke any English even though they had to. They actually didn’t give a shit about anyone. I wouldn’t pay any attention to those folks if they were not travellers, but I felt some sympathy to them. I went over and tried to explain them where, why and whom they should go to. They were about to jump for happiness and offered to come with them as their guide, they also wanted to run over to their car and bring some presents. But I was busy enough since I wanted to take my guys out of here as fast as I could. And we finally made it.
On the border
We had to cover about 50 kilometers from border with Beineu. The sun wasn’t that bad so we flew over to Beineu quite fast. There was one fellow named Lesha expecting us, the only Russian, who lived there since forever and didn’t want to leave this God forsaken place. Uncle Lesha had to help us out with accommodation. I had no idea who he was. I got his contact number from my friend MadMax. All I knew about him was that he used to do motocross during USSR times. At the beginning of the tour I called to uncle Lesha and asked him to provide us comfortable accommodation for our honorary guests from the Land of the Rising Sun. At those times there were no hotels, no guest houses in Beineu town. And uncle Lesha replied something like:”Don’t fret, man..ya come and I’ll take care of everything”. I told to the Japanese that there was a nice place prepared for us, which I thought was true. When we got there it was pretty easy to find uncle Lesha. As the locals saw our bikes they knew that we were looking for uncle Lesha. “You gotta go that way!”, - they said.
I’ve heard about Beyneu long time ago, local people call it Bombay for some reason. Beyneu is well known as the edge of the Earth. Uncle Lesha was the only Russian left living here, what created pretty sad picture in my head when I was in Almaty. Something like this: small jack-deuce wooden house with broken gates, where lonely uncle Lesha is doing nothing, but drinking vodka surrounded with awards and prizes for motor cross.
People and the road brought us to a fenced territory. The gates got opened and we came in. Then we heard: “Welcome fellas, my name is uncle Lesha, park your bikes here – it’s all my territory”. “All my” was the following: 1 hectare square surrounded with 2 meters brick fence, with buses, trucks and minivans standing alongside of the fence with lines of illegal Uzbeks coming in and out. There were also big repair bays, couple of single story buildings, one of which had a “Canteen” sign, huge barking wolf dogs on a leash. It was all under control of that uncle Lesha, who was standing there and giving out the orders here and there. “Call me Sebastian Pereiro – a black wood seller”, - the first association reappeared in my head, a quote from one old movie about slaveholder.)
I think uncle Lesha forgot that there were 9 of us about to come and was scratching his head thinking “Where the hell to place all of you?..” We followed him to a small house. Me and the Japanese, all dusty, dirty and exhausted went after him with our bags, hoping to take a shower and go to bed. We entered a dark smelling room, where we’ve seen nothing else, but two-story board beds. There were some other people, who fearfully glanced at us throughout the darkness.
- “Well, I think it’s quite alright here?” – uncle Lesha cheerfully asked.
- “What about them?” – I’ve asked and pointed to the people in the room with my mouth opened of such a surprise.
- “Ah, it’s not a big deal! Get the fuck outta here!!” – he groaned. And the shades with opened eyes disappeared in a second just like in bad black-and-white movies.
- “So, is it ok now?” – uncle Lesha asked hopefully.
Even me and Sergey were quite shocked. I didn't even want to know what our Japanese had in their heads now. I got uncle Lesha outside and said: “Uncle Lesha, if you don’t want to be the reason of an international scandal and shame, you gotta find something more suitable for them, or just for the oldest folks!!!”
- “Alright, let’s go and see something else, I’ve got a place for women, maybe they could stay in there? – he asked
Once we entered other building we got almost deaf of hysterical female screaming mixed with some Uzbek speech.
Oh my God! There were living two women who were changing right when we came in. We had to turn around feeling huge embarrassment. Uncle Lesha yelled out his magical phrase again and the room emptied.
“Alright?” – uncle Lesha asked feeling pretty satisfied with that scene. It was actually quite “alright”. It was a light room with clean sheets on the board beds, the floor was covered with carpet and I’ve noticed even a TV set and an AC. Iri san nodded his head, came in and placed his huge bag. Two more of his older friends followed him.
The weather was abnormally hot even for this region as uncle Lesha said. For me it seemed to be even worse than when we were standing at the border cross checking point . My colleague Kazu san wanted to put a tent outside of the building, but then Sekine san came out with a bottle of whisky in his hand, sat on the ground and strictly said to him something in Japanese. I suppose it was something like: “What a clever you are!! Wanted to rest your smart ass in here and get some fresh air? ...…you will be sleeping on those board beds just as we will…you wish…” – and took a swig from the bottle.
Kazu san sadly took his tent and wend back to the room. Sekine san was the only one out of older folks, who didn’t stay at the comfy females’ room. He was quite pissed. I and Comandor changed with looks – gotta join that grandpa. We sat on the ground near by him and finished that bottle of whisky in “Japanese way” – straight from the bottle with no snacks.
“Where are you gonna sleep?” – Sekine san asked calmly
“have no idea…but it doesn’t really matter, most important that you have somewhere to put your head on” – we replied. Sekine san father like tapped our shoulders, smiled and said: “You are real men” and wiggling went to the men’s room looking pretty satisfied.
At the end of the day when everyone is alive, safe and full, when everyone is sleeping and our bikes are fine, comes peaceful time for me and Sergey. We took some beer and made a visit to uncle Lesha, who was living in his VIP room. He had everything in there, even Internet connection. Turned out that uncle Lesha is very kind and interesting person, just a good man. As my friend MadMax precisely said: “Uncle Lesha will give you some food and water, and after he will send you fuck out of there”))
We were drinking beer and uncle Lesha was telling about himself. He was a good teller. He told us about his wild youth during soviet union times, when he was driving bikes. He also spoke about bloody times, when the government opened hunting period for saigas. He with his friends from motorcycling team were working in folds and gazing thousand head of animals. They were making pretty good money with it. At those times there were bunch of saigas and motor cross fans. Everything has changed since then. Uncle Lesha showed pictures of motorcycling travellers, who lived at his place, some of them for quite a long time. I recognized every single face since we hosted them at the office of our SilkOffRoad club in Almaty. And of course uncle Lesha told us about the road that was expecting us tomorrow. “There is about 50 kilometers of sealed road from Beineu and about 200 kilometers of bladed road after. Try to drive on the edge of the bladed road, its much softer. Then there is a sealed road starts again and you are in Aktau”. “Hella the road…you will be fucked up..”
DAY 7. Beyneu - Aktau."Hellish road"
We woke up early. Everyone was pretty tired since no one could sleep because the night was too hot. At KazMunaiGas station we loaded our tanks with Kazakhstan petrol, got some water and took off. 50 kilometers of sealed road we covered very fast and after started that damn bladed road.
Fucking bladed road! The road was washboard as accordion with huge pockets here and there. Then it was humping in the center and it was impossible to drive in the middle of the road, because the bike was vibrating too much and slipping to the side road. As uncle Lesha said, driving on the edges felt much better, but the dust started to cover wheels and it was kicking up so high, that those at the back were blinded and had to go far behind each other in order to be able to see the road. If I could collect all the bad roads during my tours when I was shaking like crazy and put it in one tour, even that wouldn’t be such a torture as these silly 200 kilometers of gravel road. I will not forget it. Ever. In a while I couldn’t hold the handle bar and place my feet. Sitting was beyond of our abilities, since the ass was in such a pain. We moved with speed 50-60 kilometer per hour. If you drive faster there is a big chance to fall off the seat or in a better case – broke the wheel. The body was still shaking even when we were having stops. Hot weather, mouth covered with dust. We lost vehicle numbers on our bikes. I’ve never seen anything like that. I’ve seen when vehicle registration numbers were hanging on the screws. But nothing like that. Simply tattered! Fell off every single bike.
I’ve been in tours with so many people from different countries, but what I like Japanese people for is that they are samurais. Pure samurais. Samurais to the very roots. They will follow you over glowing avalanche and ice water, but they will always stay still and calm and will never show their pain. They will never say “let’s stay a bit more and get rest” or something like “Let’s make a stop I’m thirsty” or even “wait! I gotta piss” or “you are driving too fast”. The do not say that. They will never show even if it is very bad. They will follow the group leader with their mouth shut, gritting own teeth, one after another just no to lose their faces in front of other samurais. We wouldn’t be able to pass this road if there were some other people with us.
We haven’t even realized that empty canisters and reserve tires fell off the trailer while Sergey was driving. They were tied up with a rope but the belts were torn with the corners of the trailer. Trailer borders were about to fall off. The good thing was that we didn’t have to turn around and get those canisters back. Turned out that there was a truck going behind us, the driver has noticed falling canisters, collected it and gave it back to us when we stopped to take a break. We were about to lose our mind when we’ve seen that the canisters were missing. We gave a big bottle of water to that kind fellow. He didn’t ask for more.
There was only one though rolling around my head. “When is the sealed road going to start?” “Where is that?” “Where is that?” “Where is that?”…The only good thing was that this damn landscape has changed. We went down and were driving on the bottom of the sea, that dried up million years ago, surrounded with canyon like coast. Just like views in Arizona or as we call it -Ustyurt plateau.
We’ve met a car on our way – Audi of the last model with Russian registration numbers. There was a couple inside, a girl and a boy. They were crawling in the same direction. As we got closer we were shocked – the car had no tires and was going on its rims . The bottom of the car was touching the ground at every hillock. Their speed was about 5 kilometers per hour. And they haven’t covered even the half of the road. There was nothing we could do except to take them with us as passengers. But they refused and asked just for some water. They said there was a car going from Aktau to help them. But I thought if they never met us or if there was no car, they would die in this desert for sure.
Eventually we reached the sealed road!!! Everyone was more than happy!! Japanese got off their bikes, fell on their knees and started kissing asphalted road. Symbolically of course. If someone saw us, they would think that we are insane.
But to be honest we were so exhausted that the sealed road was also a torcher for us, since we had no power at all. Now we had another thought in our heads. “Where is the sea?” “Where is the sea?” “I need to get to the sea” “The sea…” “The sea…” “The sea…”
But there was still nothing. The sea appeared only when we’ve reached Aktau. We were soooo happy. Red color of the sunset made the sea view magically beautiful. Seemed like we were in the dream.
There was another unknown friend in Aktau who was supposed to meet us – Aleksey Melchagov. We had only phone talks with him. Once, , he found my phone number in the Internet and called me: “there is one foreigner got stuck in here, but he is heading to Almaty now, his bike is dying because of the roads quality. We welded up side-car from Ural motorbike to his bike, so he could get some rest on the road. Could you take care of him if he reaches Almaty with God’s help?”
The following story is a bit out of the topic. That guy’s name was Vincent (France). And he reached Almaty. He was driving old BMW police bike. In Aktau Aleksey and his friends welded side-car to his bike. After Aktau he stayed at uncle Lesha’s place for quite a long time and reached Almaty later and he lived in our office for quite a time. He was one cool, awesome dude. I’ve met may travellers. But that one…For me that guy was a living image of selfless travelling biker. He could barely pay for the petrol, but he would never ask for help – everyone was helping him just for nothing. He was one peaceful, smiling guy, who was always joking. I think his easy-going character was his engine during those trips. But what he valued the most was people, those he’s met on his way and talked to. He spoke no Russian, but somehow everyone could understand him. After Kazakhstan he went around all other stan countries, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and he has never reported about it. It’s a pity..When he was living in Pakistan he wrote me a message on the tablet and send it through a mobile phone of some warlord. Then he got lost again and appeared somewhere in Bangladesh. And each time he would talk up the side-car from Ural motorcycle that they’ve connected to his bike. When he was leaving Kazakhstan, he was smiling through the tears (seriously): “You are great people, you have real life inside. I hope with God’s help I will come back”.
Vincent Klotre in Almaty with his bike.
Yeah, man, it’s gonna take some time when I cover the distance you have passed, but thanks to you I have understood one very simple idea: “With the heart opened, kind sole and easy character you can reach any place, even the Moon on the bike, because the stars will always be on your side”. Good luck to you, Vincent!!! And to everyone else who is on the way!
So here we are, in Aktau
We were standing on the road in the middle of super modern city and were waiting for Aleksey. There he was: good looking, wearing his cool gear, driving awesome bike. He didn’t keep us waiting too long. But while we were expecting him Kazu san came up to me and asked with fright on his face: ”Marat san, I know you’ve booked a hotel for us, of course we can spend a night there, but for the next day maybe you could help us out to book a room in a good hotel? Don’t worry, we will cover that”. And I understood that this situation in Beyneu just got him and he wanted to be sure. I also understood that the group wasn’t complaining but they’ve commented. Eventually me and Kazu san, we both lost half of the face in front of them.)) To be honest I had no idea where Lesha was going to place us and of course I said yes. But Alex, as new group leader, led us to the sea and pointed to a brand new small hotel on the coast, which he booked for us. Almost empty hotel built for captains of seldom ships was like a paradise to us. The most important thing - it was so close to the fabulous beach andthe blue sea. Everyone was absolutely happy, got in their beds and needed nothing else.
DAY 8. Aktau. " Nirvana"
I and Sergey were woken up by Alex a very late hour. Japanese went to the sea. We finally got enough of sleep and what is more important we didn't need to touch our dirty bikes. All we needed were shorts, flip-flops and Hawaii style shirt! We got up and went to the Caspian Sea. I was slowly coming up to it and couldn't believe myself that it is actually going to happen. I was waiting for this moment the whole week. I came up to warm, turquoise, clean water and just jumped in it. How was it? No, it is impossible to explain. It was..I would say: “imagine your the most intense orgasm ever, multiply it thousand times and you won’t still be able to understand it!” I was floating on the surface for hours, but I wanted this moment to last forever. It was unbelievable! I felt myself more than happy! We’ve made it! We finished the tour! The bikes were alright and everyone was safely back! The other thing didn't matter – details common for any adventure, base for my report.
God bless the Caspian sea
We had the whole day ahead. Lesha booked a water craft for us. As we found out, citizens of the Land of Rising Sun have never tried driving a personal water craft, which was actually made in Japan!!!)) Only Kazu san and Usui san were brave enough to test it. Their childish faces were so happy, so they looked like Pokemons. And after our Japanese decided to buy some black caviar, which here serves as good source of money. Some of the group members have never tried it. Me and Comandor got interested with this idea and we decided to give a can with caviar to every group member as the present for the accomplished tour. We asked Lesha to help us finding it. As any other local, who didn’t care about local delicatessens he said: ”I don’t even know, let’s go to the supermarket”. Well, actually it was logical that here black caviar should be in every single shop. Cans with caviar were carefully lined up on the shells topped with blue cover with sturgeon on it. This drawing reminded me carless childhood times.
One can coasted about 2 – 3 thousand tenge (about $20) in the supermarket. We were quite happy with such price as we had enough of money to present a can to every member and get one for ourselves. Lesha got a bit suspicious so as we did. Way too cheap.. – he said. We decided to call for a manager. He reassured us that it was good caviar. So we bought one can and tried it in order not to lose face again. We went outside with caviar in one hand and a baguette in another hand and started to test it. To be honest I forgot the real taste of black caviar, but what we got was some kind of shitty stuff.
Suddenly we’ve met Alex’s friend:
- Are you eating caviar there? Tough guys))
- Yep, bought it at the supermarket and decided to try
- You shouldn’t try that one)) you better go to..
So we went there. It was a tiny fish shop. Sellers proudly pulled out three cans of different sizes and announced the price. The smallest one with less than a teaspoon of caviar coasted $300, the middle one - $500 and half of kilogram coasted about a thousand bucks. And every can was followed with export permit. With these prices we had to forget about presents. As we came back we told everything to our Japanese. They started discussing something and then I could almost see as they all collectively had a greed attack, and even the most prosperous vice-president of Sega corporation couldn’t resist it.
We had a good bye diner late in the evening, which turned to good bye open air party on the road.
And by the way, Japanese people can DRINK! They are drinking in any case. Not as much as we do of course, but still they can get pretty wasted. They don’t really need too much. They all are smoking and quite frequent, but it is still the country of long-livers. And more over they look twice younger. We were all drinking! And it was so much fun! Isui san was complaining about young generation, something like “when we were younger we used to drive our bikes every day and now they all do nothing but play video games”, - and it was said by the president of Sega corporation and everyone started to laugh at him because of that. I told about our motorbike culture. Kazu san as many others was surprised that unknown people from different cities, who are driving bikes, would voluntarily help you only because you are a biker too. You can stay at their place, eat their food and drink their beer. Of course free of charge. “In Japan it is not like that”, - said the people, who produce the best motorcycles in the world. Sergey and Iri san started designing a motorbike – some super cool Honda! Comandor was quite wasted)). He had an opinion that this bike should be suitable for cross country and touristic tours. I don’t really know what Sergey told him, but Iri san promised that he is going to communicate his innovative ideas to the management of Honda corporation. And Iri san carefully put napkins with drawings they made into his pocket. And now I expect to see Honda “Comandor 666 cc” in shops.))) I don’t really remember how everyone left to their rooms. Me, Lesha and Comandor stayed a bit more and went to bed later.
DAY 9. Aktau."Goodbye and coming back"
We went to the airport early in the morning, chatted for a while, hugged each other and said good luck to them. "See you later, guys and VERY BIG RESPECT TO YOU!!"
As for us, we needed to load our bikes. We decided to send the bikes over to Almaty. Lesha, who helped us with everything (starting from finding beer to the shipment of bikes) supported us again – he organized transaction of the transportation. One call and 7 young guys with helmets in their hands appeared near our bikes. They brought it to the motor pool and sent it over. Thanks a lot, guys, Aktau! And ulken rakhmet (kazakh translation as Thank you VERY MUCH) to you, Aleksey Melchagov!!!
Me, guys from Aktau and Aleksey Melchagov (second from the right)
We decided to swim in this beautiful sea one more time and move on. We planned to go back the same way – through Uzbekistan, not Kazakhstan. It is shorter and much more interesting. The way back wasn’t that adventurous, but quite comfortable. This time I was a passenger and it was just beautiful. Driving – smoking, driving – drinking and driving – sleeping.
However there was a couple of memorable moments.
One of them happened when we stopped at uncle Lesha’s place. I got a call from my friend Askar from Almaty: “Me and my friend Nikolay are going from Almaty to Aktau over Kazakhstan. Now we are in Bozoi village near Aral sea. Tomorrow we want to head to Beineu, but Kolya put his leg out. We are going to try anyway. If we don’t arrive in a while, please take off and look for us”.
The last phrase started to bother me. I didn’t like it at all. We’ve been released from a huge responsibility and now we have it again and more over we had to be in Almaty on time to collect the bikes. I’ve tried to talk him out of this idea to follow the shortcut . Why don’t they go through Aktobe as all normal people do, since Kolya was wounded? I know that shortcut. Local people call that shortcut a “Death road”. Madmax told me about it, but I also heard about it from one officer, who served in Beyneu for a long time. I’m not trying to spice the things up, but there were many cars, soldiers and scouting forces lost in there, including helicopters. And no one could find them. And even if they could, there was nothing but shoes and bare bones.
If you get lost there, it will be easy to lose water and many many other things. As easy and simple as to get to the petrol station. Especially for people like us – people from Almaty, whose guide marks are the mountains. But there…there is no mountains…Ustyurt is not just mystical and beautiful. Ustyurt is ruthless in its beauty. After I went through this dreadful place I will not advise anyone to get there just for fun. At the end of our conversation with Askar I reassured him not use a shortcut. That’s what I thought…But later when we were going through Uzbekistan I got a message “We did it! We reached Beineu!” Those wild bastards actually MADE IT!
And another moment
When we left Nukus we decided to reach Samarkand without stops in Bukhara. Somehow after being apart from the society for such a long time I wanted to watch the final match of the football championship. So we tried to reach civilization as fast as we could. 800 kilometers were quite predictable, but bunch of border crossing posts and a car with vehicle numbers from Almaty could make some problems. Uzbek people do not like Kazakhs very much. But it all went smoothly and stars were on our sides. And we were more than precise. When we’ve just entered the hotel in Samarkand, the first thing that we heard from a TV set at the reception desk was a referee whistle meaning that the match had started. Just about the time!)))
Turned out, that officers at the border crossing points all the way back to Shymkent remembered us. For some reason they all were asking: “How did the motorbike racings go?” “Uzbeks won!” – we told to Uzbekistan officers in Uzbekistan. “Kazakhs won!” – to Kazakhstan ones. Officers were so glad and proud for their countries that they peacefully let us go.
We were back home pretty soon and I had to go to Pamir with another group. We came back in a while and I headed to Turkmenistan.
But it was another story.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Another early report Mysteries of the Pamir
http://silkoffroad.kz - Motorcycle tours and rent in Central Asia (Kazakhstan,Uzbekistan,Tajikistan,Kyrgyzstan,Turkmenistan,
Mara Loochezarny screwed with this post 11-25-2014 at 07:48 PM
|11-25-2014, 05:15 PM||#7|
Joined: Aug 2002
Location: Toronto, ON
Thanks for the detailed report, fabulous pics and sharing your adventure! We're honored to see Iri San doing what he loves best and what an interesting group of VIP's on this tour and thank you for taking us along.. Your report needs to be enjoyed by more readers, I'll stick it to the top of the forum for a while.
p.s. how many years ago did this tour happen?
ADV decals, patches & flag? Here
|11-25-2014, 05:28 PM||#8|
Joined: Feb 2010
Location: KZ KG UZ TJ
It seems it was 5 years ago)
|11-27-2014, 04:59 AM||#15|
Joined: Nov 2014
Location: Gotenba, Japan
This is wonderful documentary, I really enjoyed reading. Your job is respectable, giving incomparable experience travelers.
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