Monday 10th September
Jeff begins his fourth week with an early start. Its cold so he has to ‘put on all me jumpers and an extra jacket’. The roads are better for his travels through Uralsk, he follows some off road tracks and the service track for the main pipeline. He crosses the service track over a ridge and goes sideways, fortunately Jeff’s extensive riding experience means he manages to hold on… or as Jeff comments ‘it was luck rather than skill that I didn’t come off’! After his little scare, Jeff decides to get back onto the proper roads.
Tuesday 11th September
The group have to register with the police today, so take a day off from riding. Jeff explores the surrounding area and notes importantly that ‘everyone has long legs’!
Wednesday 12th September
The group travel 300 miles towards Aktobe. It is ‘very cold, I left me fleece in me top box in Slovakia, idiot’! They are 500 miles into Kazaksthan so just another 2000 to go! The first 100 miles were decent, but then the ‘rocky mud’ begins. Jeff’s riding buddy Ken is ahead of him by 10 minutes so Jeff decides to take the newly built road to catch him up, he spots Ken riding along on the old road and thinks ‘great I am past him‘ only to find 10 miles later the new road is blocked… Jeff turns back defeated! They arrive in Aktobe in a heavy rain storm, and find the hotel for the night with the assistance of a local taxi driver.
Aktobe has ‘all the main high street stores, Adidas Benneton, but none of the shops have windows so you have to go in to see what they sell’. Jeff and co opt for a Chinese for their evening meal, at a restaurant across the road from the hotel, and has ‘Shalic something or other, we were conviced it was horse, so we showed the waiter a picture of a horse – no no he said and showed a us a picture of a sheep... I haven’t seen a sheep since Romania! It was ok, but I didn’t get any rice, which I tried to order but it must have been lost in translation’!
Thursday 13th September
Having travelled a further 500 miles, the group stay in a dodgy hotel ‘not sure if it was a brothel as well’! The group retire for the evening around 9.30pm. ‘Around 2 in the morning all hell broke loose, there was a brawl going on, two police cars turn up to sort it out’…Jeff manages to sleep through all of this, but is updated by the rest of the group. ‘The next morning the entrance to the hotel was covered in blood, goodness knows what went on‘ so the group leave first thing.
Friday 14th September
The group start their day by refuelling, but unfortunately get ripped off for their petrol. The roads start okay but after 30 miles they deteriorate, ‘trying to pass the the wagons was fun, if you managed to see past their exhaust fumes you then had to make sure they didn’t come onto your side to avoid the bumps. On top of that you had to keep the the bike out of the ruts and then from nowhere a hole the size of your bike appears – scary when you are trying to brake from80‘! The weather doesn’t do them any favours either and the sky goes very black, high winds pick up ‘so you were riding at a 25 degree angle’, then a sand storm arrives and the heavy rain begins ‘the roads were like grease’. The group had planned to do 500 miles, so they could stay in a nice hotel (what happened to the camping boys?!) but ended up only managing to do 180 miles,which took 5 hours. They attempt to put the tents up, but it is too windy so they stop at a road type motel. The only room they had was for all five of them in one room. Jeff opts to sleep on Dave’s blow up bed, which he ‘fell off twice’, and to add insult to injury ‘they’re having a party next door and now the lads are all snoring like a wind orchestra’!
Saturday 15th September
Having had very little sleep, Jeff makes his way to Astana, the capital, where the group will stay for the remainder of the weekend. They get pulled over for speeding in the road works. They get ‘taken into the Police car in pairs. Rod conveys that they want 100 dollars each’. Its then Jeff’s turn to go into the Police car with Dave and he has a plan… Jeff announces to the Officer ‘Ar Ay, 100 dollars is too much pal, I am a pensioner, look at me grey hair, I can’t afford it’! Unbelievably Jeff’s pleading works and they let him go without a fine! Good blagging Jeff, you can take a man out of Liverpool, but you can’t take the Scouse out of the man!
Astana is very futuristic, here are some of the shots Jeff took: