Maybe we are just tired, or maybe we chose the wrong way. Or maybe bit of everything. Anyway, our first days in Kazachstan were pretty tough. When we crossed the border we opted for the easiest way to Almaty. It was supposed to be mostly downhill and on good roads.
There was also an option to go through mountains but it requiered climbing up again to an altitude over 3000m asl. Which was simply too much for us. We knew it would be hot down there but we didn’t expect that much.
From the Kazakh border to Almata
When we reached the first town Kegen, we were parched. And the next days were even worse. But the high temperature didn’t stop us to visit Charyn Canyon.
The Kazakh version of the famous Grand Canyon. The same surrealistic scenery, only smaller. We camped by a river on the botton of the valley and in the next morning we had all the place just to ourselves.
After 4 days we arrived in Almaty. I parked my bicycle behind our guesthouse and I was really happy that I didn’t have to bike anywhere next two weeks. We had different tasks instead. We needed buy tickets for a train to Helsinki and apply for Russian transit visas. Luckily, everything went very well. The visas should be ready for the next week.
In the meantime we just relaxed or visited some of the many fancy cafes in the city. This was also the time when we realized that the people in here are…simply different.
Everywhere in the world people usually are very friendly and kind. Sometimes too friendly. But in Kazachstan it looked like the people for some reasons forgot to smile…
From Almata to Astana
To put bikes into any kind of public transportations is usually a pain. And the first train to Astana wasn’t an exception. It took us over two hours to find somebody, who knew what to do with bikes.
Fortunately we found the right person in the last minute, we left our bikes in front of a cargo car hoping we would see them again in Astana and ran back to find our seats. When our train started moving it reminded me of the train we took in Thailand. That time there were only electric fans on the walls and there were Buddhist temples flying by outside a window – except that train travel is the same everywhere – you look for the most comfortable position and count the time until you arrive.
From Astana to Moscow
After 15 hours we arrived in Astana. It was early morning so we jumped on our bikes and headed for some breakfast in the city centre. When we get closer to the centre we were lost for words. Are we already in Europe? Astana is like a modern European city with Asian twist.
After the experience of the first train we went to the train station 3 hours before our departure. The same scenario: nobody knew anything. After a while we got two options: we could take disassembled bikes to a coupe or we could put our bikes to a cargo car for approx 120USD. Hmn. That wasn’t what we expected. Then they came with the third option: for 45USD we could store our bikes in the end of a train’s car. Great, we paid and rushed with bikes to a platform. The enthusiasm didn’t last long. An uncompromisingly looked stewart said there was nothing like the „end of a train’s car“. Lost money. With speed of mechanics F1 Jakub disassembled the bikes and pushed them into storage space above our coupe.
We were sweating, dirty and tired but happy we were inside together with our bikes and our two and half days long journey could start. We lost the notion of time quickly, we didn’t know what the time was nor the time zone. So we were sleeping when we were tired, eating „pirosky“ when we were hungry and drinking tea anytime in between (alcohol is not allowed anymore 🙂
From Moscow to Helsinki
The city of Moscow was a big surprise for us. Everything was clean and tidy. As we got to know from Ivan, a warmshower host, the reason was simple: the world football championship. For us it meant we could cross the city centre and visit Red Square safely on perfect smooth cyclepaths and we really enjoyed it.
The following day was the D day. The last train station, the last train. We thought we knew what to do. A lady from an I-site confirmed we could take bikes into our train so with no stress we brought the bikes to a platform. But 5 minutes later, the steward’s sentence changed everything: „No bikes in train!“. What?! We couldn’t believe it. „Bike only in bag,“ he added.
Where the hell do we get a bag now? It was almost midnight and the train was about to leave. I started panic. We quarrelled for couple of minutes but it didn’t work. At the last minute I got idea, I pulled out an upper part of our tent, wrapped the bikes and with the words: „we are going in now“ we pushed through him into the train.
When we saw our coupe, we understood why he was so strict. There was no space for such a thing as two bikes. Not even one bike. But somehow we managed to accommodate everything and despite the uncomfortable position we fell asleep. And tomorrow, tomorrow we will be in Finland.