Bath of whiskey or whiskey & a bath?
Leaving our lovely hotel in Kyrgyzstan we head north to the border hoping to get a solid start to ours day’s drive. Closing in on the border the traffic was increasing and we all started to have a bad feeling about this crossing. Moments later we discovered we were right… a huge line of cars and only 2 or 3 being let through at a time. After a long wait we eventually made it through, where Simon (driver) was put through to a customs check and Sean and Scott (passengers) were added onto a huge pack of people. While waiting to get to the passport control, Sean and Scott were herded like cattle, being pushed into a funel like cage. Again they were only letting 10 people go through at a time, each time accompanied by a motivational speech:
- Border Guard: “Look ahead of you, its freedom, take it, it’s yours!!?”
- Crowd: (Cheers)
- Border Guard: (Unhooks chain) “Go go go!!”
At least that’s what it sounded like.
Once into passport control it was no longer a problem, besides the fact that the border guards were reluctant to let Scott through as apparently he did not look like the picture on his passport, and was told that the picture was not taken in the UK. Odd how the border guards decided they knew this….
Once back in Kazakh territory, we were back to good old times filled with lots of honking and waving, so much so that it became a natural reaction to cars passing by. To our disappointment we were quickly stopped by policemen, with us already worrying that this was the fining that everyone was talking about! However he quickly realised that we spoke no Kazakh or Russian and gave up just waving us on.
Not long afterwards we got stopped again. However instead of trying any scam, fine or bribe he introduces himself to Sean, shakes hands and just wanted to chat, inquiring about where we were going and helping us with distances and directions.
Wild camping was our type of accommodation until we got to Semey where we got a hotel to wash up and get ready for our last stretch to Mongolia. We quickly found a hotel, Sean and Simon entering to investigate. In the mean time an Old Jeep pulls up to the car and Scott exits to chat to the people. He was offered to either have a bath of whiskey or drink whiskey and have a bath with them, the first option worrying Scott as the Jeep was predominantly male populated. As politely as possible Scott declined, got a blown kiss from the female passenger and returned to the car.
We headed out for dinner to a nearby restaurant, and quickly made friends there, Beibit and Kairat, who were curious of where we were heading and why. After chatting for a good half an hour, we exchanged email addresses, gifts (a rugby ball from us, a lighter and a hat from them). We decided there that these had been the friendliest people we had met so far!
The next day we set off to the border and surprisingly we had no trouble at this little deserted border and got through in record time. Heading north we made it as far as Barnaul where were took a small side street and found a grassy patch to set up camp and make a fire. The first of the freezing nights, where the fire was very welcome, mainly being the reason why Scott got emotionally attached when we had to put it out in the morning. We thought we could make it to the border the next day but we did not as we decided to stop along the river for lunch, and pay $6 USD to get a return trip across a very dodgy looking bridge! Later in the day we found a very long straight section of road, where to set up cameras, attached smoke grenades to the roof, set them off and blasted down the road! Eventually we made it about 200 km from the border and set up camp alongside a small river, nearly getting stuck trying to access it.
Finally came the day we were goiong to enter Mongolia, the last country on our list. The Russian side of the border was a 7 checkpoint border, thankfully empty. We headed out into the 3 km long no man’s land....the worst was still to come………