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Old 11-18-2013, 07:42 AM   #46
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Some more shots from Kiev:







With the bikes sorted out, and the feeling that the journey would finally start (again) we continued our journey through small and remote villages of eastern Ukraine, sometimes on a road, but most of the time more like this, what we enjoyed a lot!







I also had Wolfman side bags on the tank. After a crash the right bag was just hanging there, not being attached to the bottom anymore.



In the evening... yep, again... a flat tyre!
I bought two new inner heavy tubes in Kiev, so I decided to put yet again a brand new one in it. At least the sunset was beautiful.



In the meantime we also get used to Kim putting up the tent and me doing anything else that has to be done. In this case fixing the #grmbl# tyre.



Next day we arrived at the border with Russia and crossed it without to many issues. But it always takes forever with the Russians, so it was already getting late and so we did something that actually is not allowed, we camped in the border area where we found some abandoned buildings. Kim's doing some washing:



Another thing that we are doing is putting up some stickers with our logo in 'special' places. Instead of having some sort of (fake?!) charity, we decided to 'sell' our stickers to whoever is interested. So either you buy one and get one, or you buy one for us to put it up somewhere on our journey. A friend of mine wanted one on a tank so I climbed and put it in the middle of the red star, climbed down, took the picture, and climbed back up to remove it. Not sure if the Russians would like me to leave a sticker on one of their (old) tanks.



All over the USSR you can find the huge signs of the Oblast's but I liked this one in particular, as it was HUGE...



Some more wildcamping and a lot of bad weather after that, so we were forced to stay in hotels etc. One of our rules is that we try not to pitch up the tent in bad weather.







After that we went to the Russian-Kazakh border thinking it would be a breeze as it was such a small border that not a lot of 'tourists' use. It was confirmed that apparently not a lot of foreigners use this border once we arrived there and we had to wait inside the building. Wait for what? We couldn't understand why we had to wait after they stamped our exit stamp in the passport. I went back out to ask them why we had to wait, knowing they didn't speak english and my russian was not better either. Finally we understood that we had to wait for the FSB Commander of the region to come and have a chat with us. We were locked up in a room with some chairs and that was it. We were 'arrested' for no reason at all, not knowing why, for how long and what woud happen. Being a sunday didn't expedite things and finally after a few hours the guy arrived and I had to go with him. They started an interrogation as they thought I was a journalist or even worse, a spy of some sort. Reason? Because we travel on a Cultural Visa and that I have a camera with me. Try to explain this to them if you don't speak russian and they don't speak english. To make things more interesting you should know that I am former military and now working for the Belgian Federal Police so they wanted to know everything about that an I had to prove all of this. They also looked at all the pictures on the camera and laptop. After yet another eternity they understood that all I was saying was genuine and let us go with formal apologies. We wasted I think 6 hours or something with this and so I left the border on my rear tyre...
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Old 11-18-2013, 11:36 AM   #47
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We wasted I think 6 hours or something with this and so I left the border on my rear tyre...


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Old 11-18-2013, 12:58 PM   #48
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At this time not a lot of offroad or extremes happened, but we hope you will enjoy the story nevertheless. The wilderness stuff is for in a few days... ;-)

We continued towards Kiev, the capital of UA to stay for a day or two and visit the city. All the beautifull monasteries and churches are well worth it so if you pass it, stay for a day or two.





In the meantime we found that my DRZ was leaking coolant fluid. Since I had everything checked and replaced before we left I was a bit pissed that this was failing. Thing is that it's the only common problem on a DRZ-E. The mechanical seal inside the waterpump has a tendency to fail from time to time. You can do two things, ignore it and everyday replace some coolant or take it out and put a new in it in the hope that the new one will work. Since we were going to Mogolia, we decided not to take the risk and to go to a Suzuki Dealer to have it fixed. Silly me didn't bring a spare one...





Bad news there... It was friday afternoon and the mechanic was just going home, on saturday they don't work, on sunday obviously also not, and that monday was a holiday... so we had to come back on tuesday morning. Big bummer!
So we enjoyed Kiev a few more days, stayed with a lovely CS host but we were happy when it was tuesday to fix the bike.

We arrived early and the guys there dropped everything to help us out. Problem was that they didn't have the spares I needed. So they tried everything, and I mean everything possible to help us out: tried with seals from other bikes, other brands, other vehicles etc, but there was always at least one that wouldn't fit. After the whole day of waiting and trying the verdict was: no can do. They could order the spares, but it would take 3 weeks. 3 weeks??? for 3 seals??? wtf? How was that possible? "customs" was the answer I got. So I phoned a friend of mine in Belgium and got him to phone all the dealers to see if any of them had the seals in stock. None of them had. pfffff.... we really started to feel trapped, not liking the idea of waiting for a few weeks in Kiev, so close to home and so far from Mongolia. This was not really the adventure we were looking for.
This is how a 12 year old DRZ looks inside



By that time another guy showed up, Kyrill. He was actually a customer there, but since he spoke almost perfect english we could at least communicate with the guys on a much faster paste. We stayed well after closing time in the Suzuki shop, the guys ordered pizza and called their wives that they would be later home as they had to take care of us first... My friend in Belgium said he found a dealer who could have the spares in 3 days and then he would send them over to Kiev with DHL which should also take like a day or two. So this was still better than the maybe 3 weeks from Suzuki Kiev. But then waiting another five days in Kiev was not something we really wanted to do, since we had already been there for 4 or 5 days, so the guys arranged for us to take the night train to Simferopol in the Crimea, 1000km from Kiev.

From left to right; Kyrill - Kim - me - Ivan - Taras (the mechanic):



Kyrill gave us a nighttour of Kiev and dropped us off at the train station in time for us to go south, we bought an UA prepaid phone card so the guys could call us when the bike was ready and the Suzuki salesman, Ivan, gave his Iphone to me to put the simcard in it. Please just think about this. He gave his Iphone to a stranger that was going to go 1000km further just so he could call/text with the stranger. This is something that shows how bikers can and are one big family!





When we arrived in Simferopol, there was a local biker waiting for us. Ivan had called up a bikerclub so they could help us out. That guy didn't speak anything but Ukrainian, but he managed to get us on the right bus to go further south to the seaside place of Alushta, a well known place apparently with the Ukrainians in the summer. Alushta is not far from Yalta, where the famous Yalta conference was held in 1945, so definitely a place that I wanted to check out.

Ivan had also told us that once we are getting of the bus, there would be baboushkas (grannies) in the are that are renting out a room in their flat for like 10€ a day. So we finally found a place with a nice lady and stayed at her home for a couple of days.

Alushta beach, packed:



Kim buying fruit at ridiculous low prices:



Cheezy car-booth sale:



Unfortunately there is also a lot of poverty, Grannies selling cigarettes to try and earn some money:



Black Sea:



Yalta Castle:



On the fourth day we already got a phone call from Ivan, saying that the bikes were ready! We had been very lucky with the deliveries and Taras worked like hell to fix the bike immediately. So we took the train back to Kiev, picked up the bikes and off we went, direction East again towards the Russian border.
Wow the trust of those people to let you take his iphone is pretty high. Very impressed with the ride report so far... definitely gonna stay for more. Keep it coming! :)
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Old 11-18-2013, 11:15 PM   #49
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Falling down is (was) easy...getting up, dusting yourself off and continuing with the same enthusiasm is a bit more tricky!
For the people who are wondering, yes it is me, the female part of this report.
Good job getting back on. A soft landing area at any rate. Try and remember to stay on the back tire with throttle to pull you through in that soft sand stuff.

I have been SLAMMED in that stuff-----I was relaxed too much---!

Good RR

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Old 11-27-2013, 01:54 AM   #50
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We arrived at the Kazakh border near the place of Ozinki/Tasqala:





Entering Kazakhstan was straightforward but time consuming, as they process car per car so it takes a while. We didn't have to unload anything and we didn't purchase any insurance either. So once we got stamped into the country we could go. We continued to Uralsk where we thought we would get registered so it was done and we could stay and travel hassle free in KZ. You need to register within 5 days of entering the country if you're staying longer than 5 days. We arrived at the main police building asking where to register and they informed us that the migration police would come and meet us. Wow... talking about service! We waited for half an hour and 3 guys showed up, telling us that they would like to register is but they couldn't as it is weekend and they can't access the computer system... In any other situation I would have thought that they would be too lazy to do something, but the fact was that they drove to come and meet us to tell us this in person, so I didn't doubt for a second that they were telling the truth. This being said, we had to wait for 2 days before being able to get registered or we could just do it in Aktobe, the next 'big' place where there's immigration facilities. We said our goodbye's and thanked them a lot for the info and off we went... First impression of KZ: Very Positive.

Wherever on the road we were pulled over/stopped by families that wanted to have pics of their kids on the bikes:



Some roads were really sh#t:





but the "reward" for us was great, seeing 'wild' horses in the plains... We live in city where the only green is that of a manmade park, so this was something we wanted to experience:



The hyper modern fuel infrastructure is also 'unforgettable':



Then a few hours later, riding in the steppe and we come across this:



There's absolutely no water for hundreds of km's in any direction, so what the heck is this boat doing here? Time to investigate! We found a guy there in a shed and we could understand that the owner, the captain, got into a fight and was killed and so the boat ended up there, in the middle of nowhere, without an owner. Wish I had the money/possibility to take it with me...

Sometimes you jus come across funny signs:



We arrived in Aktobe and impossible to try and find the immigration building. So we stopped at what looked like an official building of some sort and asked around. A guy told us to follow him, he would drop us in front of the immigration office. And so he did. Did I already say that I am starting to like KZ a lot?

We entered the building just to find a queu/crowd that would take us forever before it was our turn. I pretended that I didn't understand anything and turned to the armed guard to ask what to do. Just at that moment (you'll never believe it) the immigration boss (a woman) comes around the corner and sees these two strangers with their documents in hand. She tells us to give her all our papers, comes back within a minute with a blank document and just says "sign here and here" so we're doing what we're told, get our passports back and a stamp on the registration paper. "Goodbye, have a nice stay" she says. That's it, it took us 5 minutes!!!





They sure like big buildings and statues:



The new mosque:



This on the other hand looks like an eternity to ride before getting somewhere...



Actually we remembered this one as we had a laugh at it when we finally arrived two months later in the area of Almaty. (after going to Mongolia first)

As we didn't do any research before leaving, we were already happy having seen the wild horses in the steppe, but now seeing this in the bushes near the road was the icing on the cake... After a few days we became more familiarly with it, but at first it is kind of strange:



A bit later, we met this Japanese guy. He was cycling from Japan to Portugal...



Some more 'idillic' wildcamping



Before continuing our journey:



We're not easely surprised by now anymore, or so we thought... seeing a plane in the middle of the steppe was one of the last things we could possibly imagine to encounter, but there she was:



We were not even there for a minute that we heard a jeep coming from far, engine screeming and racing over the steppe towards us. We thought we would be in some sort of trouble, but it was the owner of the plane, we were on private property (how the heck could we know that?) and he wanted to make sure we wouldn't steal his plane... hahahaha!!! Don't think so... We asked if we could give him a souvenir and so we put up a sticker on his plane. I had a friend who paid me 10€ to put a sticker on a MIG plane, but he settled for this one.



And we continued our trip:









We also met some Russian biker on the way and as always, we exchanged information and if we needed any help when in Russia, we just had to call him.



In the evening we finally could see the first sights of Astana, the capital of KZ. Normally we don't go to big cities, but I had been reading a few things about Astana, so I wanted to see the place.

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Old 11-27-2013, 02:09 AM   #51
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We arrived in the city, not wanting to spend a fortune on hotels so when I saw a guy on a 125cc motorcycle, I stopped him and asked for a cheap place. After some riding around, resulting in meeting his friends and big discussions of where to stay he brought us to a place we would never ever have found by ourselves out of the city centre. He negotiated the price for 15 minutes with the girls behind the counter and we could choose the room we wanted. Actually the were not rooms but mini apartments. For 40€ or so a night. Perfect for a few days of wandering on foot in the city! By the time I got back to the bikes, Kim had obviously made some friends on the parking lot. In the building next door there was a wedding going on and they would take 'no' for an answer so we got invited to celebrate with them. It took us a lot of effort to convince them to first let us take our stuff from the bike and have a quick shower before coming to the wedding. But we were "allowed" to do so, and half an hour later we found ourselves at a table with plenty of really good food at a kazakh wedding, not understanding a word of what was said. Kim made a friend there that spoke perfect English, she was 16 years old and spoke better english than any of my colleagues at work. She translated everything for us.



An hour or so later, we found ourselves on the stage, giving our wishes to the new bride and groom as guests of honour.



Then there was some more drinking and dancing and finally the party was over and we were really looking forward to our beds at that time, but no no no... we first had to receive gifts from the newly weds and the family as they found it so fantastic that we were there. I was so ashamed, just thinking of how kind and open hearted they were towards total strangers. I couldn't ever imagine to just invite strangers I met on the street five minutes ago to my wedding. I didn't even dare to try and explain that in the west we're all by and for ourselves, that nobody would be so kind hearted as they were towards us.
We finally managed to get to our room and slept through half of the next day...

The next couple of days we tried to recharge our batteries and went for long walks in the city. We also saw Bota again (the 16yo girl from the wedding). We liked Astana a lot, it's definitely in our top 3 of best capitals in the world...









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Old 11-27-2013, 02:36 AM   #52
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one more following your trip
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Old 11-27-2013, 02:40 AM   #53
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Time to move on!

Since we like to put our sticker on remote/difficult/special places, sometimes it really takes some effort to do so:



On one of the small roads we took we had to cross the traintracks. No problem normally, unless you come across this:



After some "talking" with the guard, he was not letting us over. So we said we would just cross the rails a bit further... But this was a lot easier said than done!





We did a first attempt, which wasn't working out. The problem beeing that the distance between train tracks was the problem for the bike. There was no way I could ride over both tracks with the DRZ. We start to hear wistles blowing and the guard shooting from his post and waving fanatically. What is his problem I thought? And then it hit me... there's a train coming and I'm stuck with the bike on the tracks... oh hell!!!
Really, just in time to get off the tracks before the train arrived. I had like 30 seconds time over.



Time to ride along the tracks to find a more suitable place to cross. After a few km's I found it, there was some wood so we could do it!







We finally managed to get over the tracks and continue our journey:





Since we don't have any cooking equipment with us, as we don't believe in cooking ourselves food, it was time to find some place to eat. The reason why we don't carry cooking equipment is because it's bulky and you need to find a shop to buy food to make yourself... it's easier to eat whatever the locals have or eat or to just buy some bread with a sausage or something. I mean, you need fuel anyway so you'll encounter some kind of food also. The only thing we have with us is a waterboiler on gas to make tea or noodles or... no pots, pans, plates or anything else. This being said, we found a place that looked like a restaurant so we stopped to see if we could get any food. Yep, again a wedding was taking place... we looked at each other thinking this can't possibly be true... They couldn't give us anything as it was full obviuosly, but we got some water for free before we went out to go away to find another place.



Once outside, some guests came over to look at us. One of them spoke English and of course it took us another hour before being able to leave. But we got a souvenir, a fake 1000 Tenge banknote to remind us of our stay and the bride gave us money and directions to another roadside café where we could eat. We were not allowed to refuse the money... Did we tell you that by this time we were so happy to be in KZ? It's incredible, every single day we got something for free from someone, mostly a bottle of water or vodka, or some food. Now we even got money just like that. Incredible!

Later we found ourselves again a nice spot in the steppe to get some sleep.



But not after enjoying the magic of the sunset:





But you'll also find ghost towns or empty building from the Soviet era all over the place:



Bayanaul:



We ran into some guys in a café and they wanted to show us the region, so we followed them for all the day and of course we got stopped a few times, given food and drinks for free.







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Old 11-27-2013, 01:43 PM   #54
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Amazing pics, amazing stories... !!
I'm definitely loving it, thank you !!
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Old 11-27-2013, 06:22 PM   #55
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Great ride report! Be careful of that Vodka!!

Regards....justjeff
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Old 11-28-2013, 09:49 AM   #56
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Very nice report.
Keep it coming.
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Old 11-28-2013, 01:14 PM   #57
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Very nice report.
Keep it coming.
My thoughts Exactly.
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Old 11-28-2013, 05:17 PM   #58
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Tagging along from Canada!!
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Old 11-29-2013, 07:32 AM   #59
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Thank you guys!
it's always nice to hear something when taking the time to write it all down...

I'll continue on monday, too busy now with live reports this weekend
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Old 12-02-2013, 07:59 AM   #60
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We continued our journey and arrived in thé shop of a small village in the middle of the steppe. We were looking forward to buy some food and water there, but she had almost nothing in her shop and there was nothing in more than 100km around, so we had to settle for a bar of chocolate (being Belgian and having to eat Kazak "chocolate" doesn't exactly made us happy... ;-)) and some canned fish that we didn't eat after tasting it.

But the lady gave us some of her own bread as she didn't sell any...

I had to say Hi to Walter, Tee-Bee, Rod, Prutser and Beamster as they met her last year "in the village that wasn't on any map" and she remembered those 5 bikers from last year.



It was hot as hell but we needed a break so we could use her bench to rest and eat.



And I found a new vocation, should I ever want to go and live there...



After the break we continued but Kim's sheepskin was getting in a really bad shape, until there was a big hole in it, so time to ditch the thing. We bought it on a previous trip in Ukraine so it served really well, but one day it had to go and this was the day... Time to make a stupid picture:



We entered the Semipalatinsk Polygon area later and had to put up a sticker on this really tight security eplacements...



The whole area has a strange atmosphere around it, and the dead horse next to the track didn't really help to make us feel more comfortable. There was also a strange odour in that area, we're still not sure if we are making this up in our minds or if we really smelled this and felt strange all the time we were there, in any case we left the place alive after a few hours and some pictures:









Inside a bunker:





We finally left the Polygon in the evening and found some place to get fuel:



We were so tired that we just asked at a local café if she would allow us to set up our tent in her garden so after some hesitation the lady said yes. Of course it took half an hour before the whole family and friends arrived and pictures were taken.



Next day we arrived in Semey and it was time to do some maintenance on the bikes. After some looking around we finally found what we were looking for a "genuine" motorcycle shop:





It was also time for the first bike wash of the trip and to enjoy the sight of some nice girls working on the bikes...



She begged us to take her picture when she was done, so who are we to refuse?



In Semey you can also find a big memorial for all the victims of the Polygon Testsite.



We continued towards the Russian border on the road and the gps thought we could get over the river, but I was not going to do it this time:



Later on we got waved by the Military, after the third one I decided to stop and try and get a picture of those guys waving us "safe road" and we managed to get this pic:



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