We we woken up by a loud knocking on the door at first light, and by 6:30 we were on the road again. Or rather, on the dirt track beside the road which seemed to be preferable. We stopped for breakfast on the road, and Nick, Sasha, Sasha’s wife and I attacked the tea, cheese and bread. Ilya, meanwhile, who seemed not to eat at all, lit a cigarette.
A few hours later and we were in Beyneu, where we said goodbye to the truck drivers, thanked them for saving us from deportation, and headed into town. Browsing the bazaar for a Kazakh flag, we bumped into a German cyclist headed in the opposite direction, who gave us helpful information about the road ahead, included where to find water. As a physiotherapist and bicycle mechanic, he was also able to give us a host of other useful tips, and a fair few tales of his own!
We said goodbye and cycled towards the border, camping overnight in the desert. We rose before dawn, in an attempt to beat the heat, and pedalled down 60 bumpy kilometres to the border, a ramshackle huddle of chaixanas and official buildings. Having spent our final tengi on fried eggs and rock-hard nan, we were ushered to the front of the queue by the border guard (who must have taken a look the disreputable state of our clothes and decided we were better out of his country than in) and into customs. It was bedlam. They had lost the English customs forms, and the man who stamps the passport was on an extended coffee break.
An hour and a half later, we emerged the other side, and with a strong tailwind, made it 160k further down the road to Zhaslyk by sunset, where we treated ourselves to beer and a bowl of Uzbek noodles, or lagman, before cheekily pitching our tent in the carpark.
We think we may have bucked a trend in the afternoon when Nicolas was asked to cool a car’s radiator with three litres of drinking water… As a thank you to the drivers that have helped us out, he obliged!