We spent the start of the week waiting at Alat port, then waiting onboard the ship for the wind to die down, before finally getting to Kazakhstan.
The ferry was a bit of an 80’s throwback, fairly rickety but we got upgraded to a two person ensuite (as I was a woman) and the food was good. We spent alot of time hanging out on deck with some other British cyclists, Adam and Tim from London, Nick from Birmingham, Ian from Harrogate and Jamie from Scotland, as well as talking to the navigation students.
I got invited to afternoon tea with the second captain, chief engineer and a seaman, and Tim and Adam played some music as sunset on deck. After waiting for a couple of days by Baku, the winds died down and we managed to cross the Caspian sea. When we arrived in Kuryk we waited for hours on board for passport control before being invited to sleep in the ports brand new hotel for free!
Our first day in Kazakhstan was super hard. We didn’t set off early enough as we waited for breakfast then had to stock up on food in Kuryk. Then we embarked on our first desert cycle. It was boiling, with a terrible headwind and a not-so-great road. We suffered for miles before it got too much for me and we hitched a lift in a truck full of gravel.
We hoisted the bikes up onto the gravel and had a very bouncy ride 20km to the next town and shop. We had decided to stick together with the other cyclists so met up with them again in zhetybay and had a lovely dinner in a posh cafe before heading out into the desert to camp. Luckily it gets quite cold here at night or it would be unbareable.
After such a terrible start, the desert riding got alot better. We started at 6.30 am to get the most of the cooler weather, and despite having a headwind everyday managed to push quite big days, with long lunch stops in cafes.
We found some amazing campsites and enjoyed beautiful sunsets while watching camels and horses. It’s been really good having our new pals to meet up with for lunch and to camp with. The lack of shops and cafes means there’s not really any choice in how many miles we do each day. And as we head east the desert is getting hillier and much more epic, with big rocky cliffs and some hard climbs.
Jim’s words – Success, Anchor, Çay, Kazakhstan, Truck, Complex and Camel.