We left Almaty to head North through Eastern Kazakstan up to the Russian border.Kazakstan is the worlds month biggest country and the most economically advanced of the “Stans” thanks to abundant reserves of oil and valuable minerals. Almaty, Kazakstans biggest city, is a sophisticated city of more than 2 million. An underground metro, theatres, stadiums, art galleries. Great road system and public transport. Lots of restaurants, bars, and hedonistic nightclubs.(so we hear!)
Our goal was to cross this large country from South to North in 2 days. This was frustrated by the fact that roadworks were underway for the first 150kms we drove. There was a speed limit of 50kph and police with radar guns along the way. The Government is building a 3 lane either side main highway across the country.. Traffic was all on one side, a fantastic road but a ridiculous speed limit.
One interesting thing we saw, were a string of a dozen or more casinos just outside the city limits. Huge ugly monstrosities, very gaudy but surrounded bt dirt and squalor. Come in sucker!
When we finally cleared the roadworks and hit the open road, there was a speed limit of 90kph, but the roads were so lumpy, potholed and wavy, speed was reduced to 60kph or so. It took 10 hours to drive just over 400km. Exhausting, mentally and physically.
We arrived at a little town called Kabanbay, which, according to our GPS maps, had the only hotel for 100kms. It was lucky the hotel position was marked on the map because there was no sign announcing its presence. We checked into this basic hotel, one toilet, one shower per floor, and searched out a local cafe for dinner. Again it was soup, bread, cutlets (we think a meat of some sort) and black tea. All for the princely sum of $3 each.
er eggs were used as lunch on the drive.
As we started the rain came again. It had poured overnight. We were very pleased that we did not camp as that would have been our option if we could not find a hotel.
Kazakstan is a wide, flat empty place. Long kms with nothing to look at except potholes in the road.
As we neared Semey, the road finally improved and our last 100kms were great.
Semey (Semipalatinsk in soviet times) is a city of over 300,000 people. It is infamou,s as 100kms to the East, between 1949 and 1989, the Soviets exploded some 460 nuclear bombs in an area called the Polygon. Not even villagers living nearby were given protection or warning about these tests. The tragic effects linger with high genetic mutations, cancer, weakened immune systems and mental illness rife in the community. The city has 25 hospitals!
It is however, a culturally rich city, producing many famous poets and writers and was home to the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky. The Hotel is good. Possibly the last bit of semi-luxury, notwithstanding tomorrow night in Russia, until we hit Ulaan Bataar.
Second last border to cross tomorrow. Russia here we come. Altai Mountains here we come!
C-YA Andrew and Jeff
Mongolia Charity Rally 2015