Back to Kazakhstan! We left the country under meters of snow last winter, we find it more green than ever, barely recognizable!
We decided to push to the Ili River, which we had already met in China. The last kilometers are struggling with difficulty. Poor quality tar does not stand up to the sun and forms a sticky mud on the surface of the road. There are some shrubs on the lower side, but their shade is barely enough to protect some birds. We have only one idea in mind, get to the river to finally swim! The last three kilometers are on a pebble road. I see the bridge over the river, Jess and Stefan push their bike into the partially dry bed. The water is brown, muddy and lined with cow dung, which makes flies and other pests happy. Impossible to take a dip without coming out even dirtier than before. We set camp in the sand, between some trees, on the banks. We did not take enough water. We will have to ration a little. Yesterday we could count on China’s overcrowding to find drinking water as soon as we needed it. Today, in this desert Kazakhstan, we must plan our supplies in advance.
The next day, wake up at dawn. We quickly bend our stuff and push the bikes for a hundred meters to get out of this huge beach on which we had planted our tents. We have to pedal a few kilometers on the highway to reach a more pleasant road. The highway in question overlooks the river on a high bridge that we can wait via a small staircase. We carry luggage and bicycles back and forth. Stefan is the last to ride his bike when a strong wind rises, he has some difficulty reaching the top of the stairs without falling. And suddenly, everything disappears. Buran, the wind of the Kazakhes plains makes its show. He raises tons of sands that seep everywhere and blind us, yum! it’s hot! the bags fly away, the bikes fall. We quickly collect our scattered belongings and attach them securely to the guardrail.
Impossible to pedal, we can not even push our bikes. Staying on the highway, we are a little less exposed to the cloud of sand than if we had stayed on the beach. And anyway, it would be dangerous to go down the stairs carrying our bikes.
The more the choice, the more you raise your thumb. A bene truck stops. The bikes are swung unceremoniously, the derailleur Jess will pay the price: Damn. Our driver drops us thirty kilometers away, in a small village away from the highway, the only axis that leads us to Almaty, double dime. At least we can shelter from the wind that does not weaken and take stock. Jess can still ride, but with difficulty. The derailleur is split, it may not hold very long. We decide to hitchhike to Almaty.
We must return to the highway where we should easily find a driver. It is the only highway around that leads to the largest city in the country, 250 km away. Another bene truck stops.
This truck drops us on the interchange that leads to the highway. We have more than a mile to go on a huge bridge to reach a place to stop. We put ourselves in the saddle and … we put everything back on the ground. Impossible to keep in balance. The bridge is fully exposed to the wind. it is swept by volutes of sand and some pebbles, we push. A man in 4×4 stops at our height.”But what are you doing ??”. He wants to help us. Great we need help! We can barely fit two bikes in his 4×4. As Jess’s is broken, we decide that she and Stefan would leave with him. On our side, we do not wait long for Sacha, a Russian bielo-shorts, assorted marcel, flip-flops and socks, to stop trailer to our height. We settle in his front cabin. Not really clean, but comfortable. With this wind, it rolls at 50 km /h, we have not arrived … especially when, after only a few kilometers, he decides to stop his truck on an air of urgency. He then starts to tidy up his entire cabin and do some housework. From the bottom of his glove box, he takes out a packet of biscuit which must date from the golden age of the USSR. He arranges two cups, which also have their share of lived, on a tray and fills them with lukewarm tea that he keeps in a jar of peas. As a towel, he offers us an old t-shirt that was hanging on the back seat. Like countesses at the court of the Queen of England, we dip our cookies into our tea while smoking a cigarette.
A hundred kilometers further the wind has fallen and we can put the gases, 80 km /h. After four hours drive, Sacha stops 20 kilometers from the city. He will spend the night in his truck at a gas station. We are welcomed by a few other truckers. Sacha tells them about our adventures, we are invited to share tea between two trucks.
Then we ride our bikes and quickly travel the last kilometers that separate us from Jess and Stefan who are waiting for us at our host, as agreed.