This is a summary of the last three days.
We left the dusty roadside camping place quite late. Again lots of little things added up to a whole morning time-schedules. It always the same. Things like: let’s find a solution for a stand real quick, let’s build a holder for the can real quick, I need to find my knife , did you see my shirt, I forgot to connect the cables, we forgot to brush our teeth, can you adjust the camera angle once more, I left my telephone in the already wrapped up tent, the key from the bikes should be in the front bag but it isn’t, you put my bags on your bike and yours don’t fit on mine, where is our one and only spoon again,I forgot to reset the daily kilometer-gauge, I still have to upload my blogpost, can you charge the camera battery, (slowly it getting hot), we have to put on our long sleeves against sunburn, sunscreen time as well, sheet over our head, helmet and so on.
Its every morning a procedure of about two hours.
When we left the sun had all ready reached its peak and the wind changed to tailwinds.
The first 10 km are always the most annoying. I don’t know why but they feel like 100 km sometimes. When we reach 20 km the magic border between the feeling of a successful and an unsuccessful cycling day is reached. From then on I often don’t check the kilometer count until we “surprisingly” reach our daily amount of 70 km.
This time we met Marcus at the kilometer count of 22 km, so at that point I was satisfied and relaxed.
Marcus is riding his Honda Transalp from Munich to
Wladiwostok. We meet him on the road and he invites us to have a soup with him. There is no shadow anywhere and so we sit between the motorcycle and our bikes trying to get as much shadow as possible. We talk about Kazachstan and how unbelievable friendly people are here.
Just as the soup is finished three guys come along to warn us. They are from the roadbuilding company and tell us to watch out, the street we ride on hasn’t been finished yet, there sometimes are no signs when the street ends and crosses a river where there is no bridge yet. An accident had cost the lives of three on this very part of the road this morning. We are glad to have been informed about the road conditions, and in deed, when riding further after having the soup and saying good by to Marcus, there are a few unmarked gapes in the street, wide enough to sink a truck in them.
“Marcus wrote an SMS, he lost his spare tire on the road somewhere, he can’t find it back. He asks us to keep an eye on the side of the road, maybe we find it”, Paul says to me as we climbed through the first gap in the street.
“Ok, I will, but I don’t think we can carry it with us, it’s an extra 10-15 kilos, we can’t take that much with us for 200 km” I answer.
Marcus had made his way to Baykonur already and of course didn’t want to drive all the way back for a tire that someone else might have taken already.
We didn’t find it. Bit we found a little paradise to camp, at least that’s what I thought first.
A lake with sandy beach, dugs to chase and clear greenish water. After having a fantastic refreshing swim in this totally oversalted lake,
we decided to sleep without tent again. This turned out to be a major mistake. Right after sunset, the wind had just stopped and our fire had finished cooking dinner for us, a strange sound was to be heard. Paul described it with: ” It sounds like you are in a flat and someone above you is showering”. And in deed it sounded like water running through pipes, but it wasn’t. The sound got stronger. Now it sounded like electric tension, then like a huge humming bird. And then, just when we had decided to ignore the sound and laid down in our sleeping bags in the beach, the cloud of Mosquitos had reached the shore of the lake. Billions of these little beasts had traced down the smell of our blood which had been carried to them by the wind. The wind, which first had made it impossible for them to reach us had now stopped. It was like a dam that suddenly bursted and flooded Mosquitos over us. I seriously never in my whole life have seen so much Mosquitos. We panicked and tried to escape, we build up the tent as fast as possible but still way to slow.
When we finished we jumped in and both of us had bites all over. Not enough. The mosquitonet in our tent was good against Mosquitos, but the much smaller but also merciless sandflies had just started their hunt. They easily slipped through the net and flooded our tent. We had to close the second skin of the net and piece by piece fetched our sleeping-bags and clothes inside the tent.
After hunting down the Mosquitos and sandflies (which had made it into our castle) by just randomly clapping our hands in the air above our faces, we faced the next problem.
With all the doors of the tent closed it got steaming hot inside within minutes and breathing is not a satisfying feeling anymore. In such moments I feel how small our home is at the moment and I would like to beam myself in an air-conditioned hotel room.
I woke up by the heat of the sun burning on my side of the tent.
The rays penetrate the hull and reach through so it’s hardly no shadow inside. Its just a little to light this “extra-light” tent.
We check out the exterior and decide that there are still to many Mosquitos to have breakfast here. So we leave the lake behind and start our day quite early.
Suddenly a bus stops right in front of us. The doors open and it’s like an explosion of people. They all come running for us with their mobiles already in hand to take pictures. They don’t even ask. It’s a group of about 15 guys, totally drunk. Like apes that are set free and climb the first tree they see, these guys start climbing our bikes, telling us which pose they would like on their picture and ask us our names.
As always they ask us to send the pictures, which we are forced to take, to them.
As always, they don’t give us an email or address where to send them.
It sometimes gives me the feeling that for them knowing that they are on a picture that some random guy took of them is by far enough for their satisfaction.
It is not important to actually know the guy on the picture or with the picture. Just that you are on it.
As fast as they appeared they are gone again. Paul and I stand at the middle of the road like pop stars that had one summer hit and are now left for good again. We feel a little overrun. We didn’t have any control about this event. Even if we wouldn’t have wanted them to take pictures they still would have done it.
You can notice by the sound of a car/truck/motorcycle coming from the back if it is slowing down or speeding allong. This time there where a few motorcycles from the back approaching us and yes, we could tell without mirror they were all slowing down to the same speed as we were going. Usually this means that we have a “fotoshooting”, thats how we call this fast “hello-picture-goodby”-events which I described above.
But luckily it wasn’t. The first who took us in had a video camera in his hand and filmed us quietly without a word, well, he couldn’t talk through his helmet I suppose. The rest passed us by without stopping. After I nearly had forgotten about this great-britan-group (as I could see on their number-plates),
They stood at the roadside an invited us to stop.
It indeed was a group of people from all over the world, which had joined an organized trip from England to Magellan. And what they had lying right next to them was of big interest to us. it was the tire Marcus had lost the day before. We asked if it was their tire. Their answer was as surprising as unbelievable. “No, we just found it here in the prairy. We have stopped here to have a break and one of us by chance found this tire while pissing. Why?”
“Because”, is said,” this is the tire a friend of us lost yesterday. He is in Baikonur right now. Could you take it with you for him?”.
And really, they had planned anyway to go to Baikonur and took the tire with them. Marcus gave us a call when he had received it. A coincidental meeting of three events: someone had found the tire, we met this someone, this someone drove the right direction and was willing to carry the tire in their backup truck. Can something like this actually be coincidence? Believe it or not, it is the truth.
They drove of with the tire and Marcus in deed received it back. The traveling people we meet here on the road are all like one big family. You can recognize them easily by their equipment and the way they pass you by or better, the way they stop. Its a funny network of people. We meet someone who already had heard from us because he met someone who had met us and the other way round. “ah you must be the crazy French people we heard about. You go from Paris to India”. It’s like a local newspaper. It tells little story’s and news about people you don’t know. The biggest difference to a local newspaper is though, it’s not local but global. We have heard about many people traveling like we do, on bikes. We have heard of a French guy who is about 2000km ahead of us, two Dutch guys (called the tweemongolen) about one month ahead and many more. Even the locals we meet here take part in this newspaper. We meet them and they tell us that there have been two cyclists a few days ago, two Englishman on horses a week ahead, they ask if we have met the crazy German Axel already, or if we know how the car of the Austrians holds up. It’s such a small society but yet so widely spread. And it’s nice to be a part of it. Thanks to all the nice travelers out there:0).
So, where was I before, ah yes, I didn’t have breakfast at the lake so we decided to do that on the side of the road after the motorcycles took of.
We sat down at a knee high wall and eat bread with honey, butter and peanuts, a really delicious meal by the way. Just as we finished a man came walking towards. He pushed a bike next to him on which his son was sitting on the frame. A really cute picture. He invited us to come to his house and have lunch with him and though we had just had our breakfast we were so desperate for the experience of being invited that we happily said yes. It was a 20 minutes walk to his house. On the way we talked about the worldwar and about the friendship between Kazachstan and Germany, at least that’s what I think we were talking about.
We word through his village and he proudly presented us to his friends and neighbors. He always shook peoples hands and then walked on with us, as if he wanted to say in a very polite way:” excuse me, but these are my guests, and I want to eat with them, I’ll have time to talk to you later.
As we reached is house I was so happy. As all the houses that I only had seen from the exterior until now, his house was made of earth and grass, partly painted white and blue, seperated from the street by a 2 meter high wood and iron fence so you couldn’t see the garden. As I entered his Privat ground a little paradise presented itself to me. In the middle a little tree, a little lawn, a water pump, the smell of freshly cut wood and fantastic food mixed in a perfect composition. Everything was handmade and built out of old stuff, it all looked a little wild grown but that’s exactly what I loved so much about his place.
He introduced us to his children and his wife. And asked us to come inside with him and have a tea first. Though the place got crowded slowly and many children started to do research on our bikes an play with the cameras and equipment, I was so relaxed when I went inside and left everything we own at the moment, out of sight.
It was so clearly a peaceful place here that I, for the first time on this travel, didn’t have any distrust. His house consists of one room only, a little cupboard next to the door, a sofa that was their bed, a table about 20 cm high surrounded by pillows on a persian carpet. We sat down and I was astonished how simple a family of 6 people could live. So beautiful and simple.
The meal was fantastic. Something like pasta with sheep-meet and homemade bread. As drink we got homemade chicken soup, tea and a drink which is made from wheat, milk, water and salt. Every time we emptied a cub or a plate new food came on the table. I was so stuffed full that I could hardly breath and still the do joins food came in. The. I suddenly remembered a story my father once told me. If you are satisfied and don’t want to eat any more, you have to leave a rest on the plate and in the glass. It worked. The food avalanche stopped and he and we started talking about wife’s, children, Russia, Kazachstan, Germania and our travel. He was so patient with us for we didn’t understand a lot he said.
Then, when we had finished desert Oralbeck, as he had introduced himself to us, ordered his wife to pack some bread for us, fill some bottles with the milk drink and through this gesture gave us the sign that it was time for us to go. The kids had played with our equipment al the time, all the cameras had been filming and making photos in their hands and Paul’s iPhone had been the most interesting toy ever. He had started an application that records what you say and repeats it in a comic voice. The children and even the women we’re rolling on the floor laughing.
Everything came back within seconds and was put back to its place by careful child hands. We really regretted that we didn’t have any presents for the kids, gave them our last oranges to not leave them with completely empty hands and left this little paradise with Oralbeck. He showed us the way to the road, guided us through his village with the same pride again and wished us a safe journey. We exchanged addresses to stay in contact.
This men showed us how beautiful Kazachstan really is. Our day was better than we ever could have imagined before. We even made our daily kilometers. In the evening randomly stopped at exactly the point where we found our power-resources as empty.
In the morning (11.6.2011) we again had some good ideas that we thought we could build easily and fast, again it was midday before we left.
Before I forget, my cucumber plant is not really enjoying the trip. It’s pale and left a few leafs for good. Looks like its seasick somehow.
When we finally left, we noticed that we had lost our flag. The nice little flag was so important to us that we decided to go back to where we thought it would be, at Oralbeck’s home. And in deed, I had a missed call from Oralbeck in the morning .”We must have left it there, don’t you think? Why else would he call”
So we decided that one of us would hitchhike back and the other would wait with the bikes. As of that decision had shown the flag how much it was worth to us, we mysteriously found it back. It lay in the middle of nowhere in the prairie and Paul by chance nearly fell over it. It is kind of a miracle finding something here, even if it was a whole bike, it would be very, very difficult. We were so happy that we found it and now fixed it a little better than before.
Again the wind was for us. Paul grinned at me as we easily reached Baikonur, we had a quick shopstop and raced another 30 km further. I was a little paranoid in this area with camping. I didn’t know for sure if we were allowed to stay in this area as strangers and if it was allowed to take photos. With all our camera equipment we easily could be seen as German spy’s trying to spy on te Russian shuttle station. So I wanted to camp far away from the main-road to avoid contact with military patrols. After having a little fight with Paul about where to put our tent we decided on a compromise, not to far from the main road but behind a little hill so we could only be seen by passing trains. Of course, nothing happened that night. I tried to build a slingshot for hunting but was missing a good rubber. Even a lame dug in the city park of Berlin would have had good chances of getting away with a little headache if I had tried hunting it with this failure of a weapon.
In the morning of the 12.6 Paul and I had our first big fight in a long time. It was about all the small things that had gathered in the last weeks that now needed a little ventilation. After that fight I felt a bit like I just had an ice cold shower. Fresh for the day;0).
We both had noticed it a few times already. Starting the cycling day gives us a huge satisfaction. We both had recognized that we got kind of addicted to cycling, about the same what smoking a cigaret does to a smoker. Before his first cigaret in the morning the smoker won’t have good mood. And really, most of the fights we have are in the morning before cycling. The moment we sit on our bikes, we are satisfied and – only (ex)smokers can understand that now – it feels like you just had the first drag of your first cigaret of the day. I hope I can stop cycling again when I come back home. Otherwise I’ ll have to build a mini-pocket-bicycle that I can use in cigaret-breaks at work for a “quicky”.
“Marcus wrote”, Paul said to me while we were pushing our bikes back to the road through really exhausting sandy grounds. I didn’t really care at that moment for the compromise of the previous evening to stay close to the road was now at once not close enough to me. It took us nearly 20minutes to make 500 meters, even the scarabeus-bugs, loaded with huge horse-shit-balls, were faster and easily over took us.
Back on the road and about two liters of water later, We send an SMS back to Marcus. He had the idea to meet in the next town, Torebay, buy some food and have a German evening together. We thought this was a great idea.
We met him in a cafe a few kilometers before Torebay, went to the market and bought food for the evening. On the way to the river which we had chosen for camping, we met three guys, about 40-50 years old. They didn’t want to let us pass befor we didn’t have a beer with them. As you surely can imagine it didn’t stop after one beer. After three beers one of them suddenly wanted to have money for the beer. We declined the demand and politely left them on their own again. I often think that asking for money when you do someone a favor is normal in Kazachstan. Not giving any money is at least accepted as well so I guess it’s nothing more than a lame try most of the time.
We drove on and found a beautiful place to camp on a little island in the half-dry riverbed. We got there over a sandbanks what surely wasn’t a pleasure. Bicycles that are loaded with over 50 kilos are not easy to push through sand and as we reached the “beach” we ripped of our clothes and jumped into the cold water. It had a perfect temperature to stay in there for hours. And now I am going to stop this monster-blogpost and start a new one tomorrow. Hope you don’t mind :0)
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