Welcome to Astana 2000

And here we are in Astana! About twenty years ago, architects from all over the world came to put their talents to work for the greatness of the city. The result is a diversity of skyscrapers that are all as futuristic as each other, giving us the impression of evolving in a sci-fi film of the nineties.



This is a huge shopping center with amusement park, artificial beach …

We are welcomed by Kanat, he hostes us in his brand new hostel in exchange for English classes. But actually, we will never give this english lesson because according to Kanat “it is too cold”. We do not really understand this reason, but we will discover later that, to our great surprise, when the thermometer drops below minus twenty-five degrees, schools close, some can’t work anymore, buses break down : life freezes! The atmosphere of the hostel is friendly, it is the low season and it is half empty. Apart from a Hungarian and a Swiss guy who came to work in Astana, the other occupants are Kazakhs who came to make visas. Visas precisely, we need them too! We spend our first day in Astana, locked in our room preparing our file for the Chinese visa. Unfortunately, as we expected, we are flunked. Okay, so we try the Russian visa. Once again, preparing the file, deposit at the Embassy. We can only hope to get a transit visa. And bingo, we get it! We have exactly nine days to cross Russia.
The departure is fixed on the twenty-ninth of January. We have two weeks to wait.

Astana is the capital of visas, but also of cold weather. The day of our arrival, it is minus five degrees, Indian summer in short. The next day the thermometer drops drastically and will remain stuck between minus twenty-five and minus thirty-seven. Extreme cold, it hurts. It freezes the tip of the nose and turns sidewalks into ice rinks. Passersby are wrapped up in huge coats, chapka and woolen boots. They are also endowed with a special gift that allows them to walk on ice. As for us, we do not even have the equipment to buy three potatoes at the local grocery store and slips are our daily nightmare, so the visits are short and punctuated by warming points (bank, supermarket, restaurant. ..). The city is quite big. And for good reason, when we reach the edge of its suburbs, beyond the last buildings, there is nothing. Simply snow covering the steppe. When we leave the monumental and futuristic district, we move away from buildings, we discover many parks and the river that crosses the city, completely frozen at this time, becomes a real amusement park, there are ice rinks, ice fishing, cross-country skiing, toboggan runs and a snowmobile circuit.
As in Almaty, we enjoy public baths. These saunas, hot baths and heated marble plates are so appreciated in these polar temperatures! The Astana baths seem a little older than those of Almaty. The large marble rooms give access to a swimming pool, saunas and a massage room. I wanted to take photos but everyone was naked, it would have been a bit embarrassing …

Là on peut prendre des photos, on est plus habillée
There we can take pictures, we are more dressed

Our Russian visa allows us nine days to cross this tiny country nestled deep in Siberia. But strangely, the schedule is tight. We have fifteen hours of bus, two days of train, one night in Irkustk, four days of train, two days to rest in Vladivostok and finally a day of ferry. Here, whatever the type of transport, we know that boarding with our two loaded bikes does not really depend on our extra tickets-big-bike-loaded, but rather the outcome of the negotiation with the sailing staff. As we can not really afford to miss a match in view of the narrow window we have, we were rather stressed when that we started our journey.

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