Rubtsovsk – Oskemen (Kazakhstan)
15the July 2014 19-30’C 282km
Rubtsovsk – Oskemen (Kazakhstan)
I’d left the window to the hotel room open last night, to afford some cool, fresh air. The street behind the hotel was a dead end, so the was little chance of being disturbed by traffic. What I had not counted on, was a huge blowfly, flying into my ear at 5am and awaking me with what felt like a hammer drill on stone cold tiles.
There was little point trying to go back to sleep, so I showered and packed, had breakfast and was on the road early.
The ride to the border was a short 120km and the road fast and good, with only occasional roadworks. I passed over lovely green hills, through fields of canola and blue wildflowers.
On reaching the Russian border post, which was quiet and only loosely secured, compared to the Russian/Mongolian border, I purchased the obligatory vehicle insurance, 20 days for 500 rubles. I then waited my turn to enter the secured area, along with a handful of Russian cars and a truck.
I had just enough time for a Snickers and to go to the toilet, before the light turned green and I rode inside the compound. Here a soldier gave me a numbered tag, and told me to go to passport control. I was first in line and handed over my documents, but I had forgotten my bike registration, yet again. The official didn’t mind thought, and told me to go get the papers, he would wait for me. Normally this would mean go to the back of the line, which was now 20 people deep, but he held my place, thankfully. Five minutes later my passport was stamped and after a quick 1 minute chat with customs, answering questions about where I was going, I was told I was free to leave Russia. No luggage check, easy. Probably one of the fastest border crossings yet.
On the Kazakhstan side it was a slightly longer process, having the bike details entered into a computer, but about 20 minutes and everything was done. The soldier at the gate said “Welcome to Kazakhstan. Don’t lose your passport, big trouble!!! And must register visa in Almaty within 5 days. 6 days, big problem!! Must be 5 days”
Ok, I thought. More admin to do.
I asked him if I could take a photo of the bright blue Kazakhstan flag on the building. There was no doubt about the answer. “Absolutely no!”. And he indicated I’d be handcuffed if I tried. And with that, I entered Kazakhstan, ninth country of this journey so far.
I rode the 30km into Shemonaikha, and stopped for money from an ATM, and met Viktor, riding a Honda Vulcan. He spoke a little English, learnt in Canada, and seemed to know everyone in town, waving to everyone as he led me to a restaurant for lunch.
On returning to the bike after lunch (Viktor had arranged someone to watch them while we ate) there was a small crowd gathered, including a journalist from the local paper, and a photographer. A short interview was conducted, in Russian, and photos taken, and I’m told it will all be published in the local paper soon. It will be interesting to see how this is reported! I left my email address, hopefully they will send me a copy of the article.
Viktor led me to the bridge outside town, and waved me on my way down the road to Oskemen.
What a welcome to Kazakhstan!
I arrived in Oskemen tired, but located a suitably priced hotel after a few attempts, as the heavens opened and golf ball sized hail rained down. I rushed to remove the GPS from the bike as hail bounced off my helmet loudly. One hailstone hitting my thumb and causing a nice bruise.
By the time I’d dumped my bag in the hotel and washed up, the sun was out again and I took a walk around town, looking for an ATM that would work with my card, finally finding the ATФ БАНК, willing to dispense small amounts of cash to me. After three withdrawals, I now have enough money to last a few days, hopefully.