The excitement entering a new country still thrills me each time I do it. Though we had not entered Kazakhstan quite the way we had planned, it was still an adventure.
Crossing the border with our packaged up bicycles was a mission in itself, first checking ourselves through various checkpoints and then ferrying our many bags through over multiple journeys afterwards.
Much to our joy, we met a fellow cycle tourer as we crossed, who was on his way home to France from Thailand.
He looked much better prepared than us, set up with a proper touring bicycle and about twice as much gear as us to cope with the cold weather. I was, however, quite glad we weren’t so laden down – it was bad enough carrying this much through customs!
News of another couple cycling in Kazakhstan at the moment reached our ears this week. It seems we are not the only ones who decided to take on winter by bike. 🙂 It is both encouraging and inspiring to hear of other, bolder, journeys than ours.
We were however intrigued to find out how he had got round the fuel issue. He told us that it had been difficult, at times he had even stolen! He had once managed to buy some after negotiating with some senior officials who issued him a temporary ticket that allowed him to do so. Either way, in the unforgiving cold weather I was glad Arron and I had not had to resort to theft in order to survive.
After bidding the cycle tourer farewell, we continued hauling our bikes and everything else through customs. On the Kazakh side the guards asked Arron not once, not twice but three times if he was sure didn’t have any drugs…unlike in China where this would make you feel unsettled and uneasy, on this side of the border, they asked with big smiles and light in their eyes. We were left laughing with them and felt strangely welcomed in this new country.
Our first glimpse of Kazakhstan from the window of our bus was three multicolored yurts, brown, black and white with elegantly decorated doors and smoking chimneys. I was filled with excitement for what our journey through Kazakhstan holds.