Sunday, 15 May 2011
D18 Astrakhan – Atyrau 229Miles 9 hours
Good morning all, well what a change it was today. After a fantastic night's sleep and with the sun shinning I was feeling good. We had an early breakfast said goodbye to the girls running the guest house and hit the road. Still, leaving the city was a sight to see. Typical rush hour and at one junction we thought we were on a one way street. It wasn’t organised chaos, it was just ignorance with gridlock with queues of cars on our side of the road facing us…. Now how does that work? Still glad to be out of there!
We drove through some beautiful countryside on the way to the border and being amazed at the flooding all around. We passed over a very strange bridge seemed a little make shift to me crossing a very swollen river.
It was only 40 or so miles to the border. It was very easy indeed being very relaxed and the border guards being very light hearted even making the odd joke. We passed both sections in only a matter of hours.
That’s it. WE ARE IN KAZAKHSTAN!!!!! As mile after mile went by with not such great roads, we noticed the remoteness of the country with the scenery becoming almost desert like. We were driving across the Kazakhstan steppe! It wasn’t long befor we had to stop… as to the left of us was our first camel. I know it may sound strange but it was great to us.
As we were driving across this vast country and being shaken to bits by the road conditions I started to notice how few cars were on the road at this point. I'm not saying there weren't any by all means, there were every now and then. I think its just comparing to Russian traffic. Still to me anyway it felt good heading out into the sticks.
We made good time as we rolled into Atyrau. It was a strange sight as all the way we had never been too far away from a train line and seeing the odd mile long train we soon realised why. This was an oil town, it looked like a small Dallas if you like, a city in the middle of a desert. We had a British contact here going by the name of Mike who pointed us in the direction of a couple of places to stay. We found one third time lucky with needing guidence from a taxi driver to find!
Not a bad place but got scalped on the price for what it was, but all was made better by the very king generosity of Mike, his wife Charlie, Mark along with their friends who were all British ex pats working on mostly 4 on 4 off rotation. They were kind enough by not letting us buy any beer or dinner. This will never be forgotten.
At we got back to bed that night but beer and tiredness mixed I could barely see my diary let alone write in it, although I did see in the morning at my attempt! Apparently no sooner than I had put it down I was asleep.