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Week Five – Kazakhstan

Monday 17th September

Jeff starts his fifth week with a fairly easy ride from Astana through to Karaganda. ‘Karagandy, more commonly known by its Russian name Karaganda, is the capital of Karagandy Province in Kazakhstan. It is the fourth most populous city in Kazakhstan, behind Almaty, Astana and Shymkent, with a population of 471,800. The name “Karagandy” is derived from a “caragana” bushes, which are abundant in the area. The original site of Karaganda is now labeled on city maps as the “Old Town,” but almost nothing remains on that site. In exploiting the rich coal deposits, the Soviets undermined the entire city, and the town had to be abandoned completely and moved several miles to the south’.  For those of you who have come to recognise a quote as something Jeff has said… this definately wasn’t! Thanks Wikipedia for that useful information!

The weather is getting warmer, and Jeff spots two more eagles (they don’t call him eagle eye Jeff for nothing!). He also spots a small pony and gets ‘upset cos they won’t give us a go…Ar’Ay come’ed I said, but they refused’!The roads to Karaganda were in the main good, but ‘you still couldn’t relax’. The group were going to go on a bit further today, but decided to stop in the town. They struggled to find the hotel, so reverted back to asking a taxi driver who successfully located it. Jeff ‘slipped up with the price, I thought it said 2,500 tenge but it actually said 25,000 tenge… £97, ah well it is five star with breakfast – we’ll camp tomorrow’! Jeff completes his day with a nice chilled pint of stella. ‘It was £7.00, I won’t be drinking anymore of them then’!

Tuesday 18th September

Jeff and the group ride around 300miles and along the way, Jeff and his buddy Kenny take the back roads, which were ‘a hard slog’ but in the process get separated from the rest of the group. The two of them arrive at Balkhash and ask a taxi driver to help them look for the Hotel Alpino, but unfortunately he takes them to the Hotel AlpinA, which ‘was miles away from the Alpino so we stayed anyway’ . They stay on the side of Lake Balkhash, which is one of the largest lakes in Asia and 13th largest continental lake in the world. It is located in south eastern Kazakhstan, in Central Asia, and belongs to an endorheic basin shared by Kazakhstan and China, with a small part in Kyrgyzstan. The lake currently covers 16,400 km2 (6,300 sq mi), but, like the Aral Sea, it is shrinking because of the diversion of water from the rivers that feed it. Thanks again to Wikipedia, howver, Jeff did also comment on this Lake as having ‘a lot of flippin water’!

Jeff settles down for the night on ‘an inch thin mattress’ with a ‘rattling air con’.

Wednesday 19th September

Jeff and Kenny get on the road for 8am with a big run to Almaty ahead, approximately 700kms. En route, they stop for lunch and have ‘pancakes and char tea’. They also spot ‘our first hill for miles and miles’

They have 4 nights ahead in Almaty. They have made good time on the trip so far and are two days ahead of schedule so plan to ‘service the bike and change the tyres and meet up with the other guys from around the world’. Although whether they meet the Father and Son team from Switzerland at the same time as the others is in doubt as ‘they are on Royal Enfields and one of them has broken down and is towing it through Kazakhstan – I would have left it personally’! Ooh Jeff, we thought you were a fan of Royal Enfields!

Thursday, Friday, Saturday 20th, 21st, 22nd September

Jeff has a bit of downtime and goes out riding in the Ile Alatau National Park.

Sunday 23rd September

THe full group, as organised by MotoXplorers meet up for the first time. They are all ‘lovely people, there is the Father and son from Holland on an Enfield diesel (600km to a tank) , Stu from Canada on an R1200, Engles (spelt wrong I’m sure) from Belgium on an R1200 and two lads from Malaysia on a GS800 and R1200 – all nice lads’! Jeff spends another day out in the hills and this time rides out with Engles, ‘ the scenery was fantastic, but my battery went flat on the camera so I have not taken as many photos as I would have liked’.  They bump into a lady travelling with some friends in a Toyota and have their photo taken together. Jeff fears he is shrinking with age… or perhaps it is that Engles is ‘6 foot 3 and I was standing in a dip I reckon’!

We couldn’t possibly have left out the next couple of pictures. We think Jeff must be trying to find replacement family out in Kazakhstan – does anyone else see the resemblance to Maria, Natalie and Justin in these photos?!

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