It appears that it is not possible to obtain a longer-term visa for Russia. A 10-day transit visa is the only option. I am obliged to travel the 3000 km to Kazakhstan and to apply for another visa if necessary. Possibly I have to return to the Netherlands via Kazakhstan and Russia. All depends on Piggy. The Russian visa is date specific. So the entry and exit dates are set. Later entry is possible but later departure is not possible. So now nothing has to go wrong during this period. In advance I visit, together with Sjoukje a performance of Mongolian folkloric dances and the Opera Aida by Verdi. Yes, and that in Mongolia, in the red worn plush. Sjoukje has booked a trip to Tsetserleg and the ruins of the old capital of Djengis Khan, Karakhorum. She will then travel to Moscow with the Trans-Mongolia Express and then take the plane to Amsterdam. I myself no longer have the courage to go through these places after as many as four or five fruitless attempts in the past year through Piggy’s defects. I want to finally leave Mongolia and visit other regions. Moreover, I still hope to meet my friend Jan who I could pick up in Bishkek at the beginning of July for a three-week joint trip through Kyrgyzstan. (Should Piggy be able to do this)
During this trip to Kazakhstan I have to decide what to do next. If Piggy continues to give problems then I have to decide to cancel my trip and return to the Netherlands. It will therefore be an extra exciting race with the clock.
I take plenty of time to drive to the northern border (Altanbulag) with Russia. In the early morning of June 2, I arrive in front of the barriers of the border. It is remarkably quiet. I am the only one and can drive on immediately. The first job is to deliver Piggy’s various customs forms to the right people and have them stamped. Enkhtur has struggled through the Mongolian bureaucracy and prepared everything for me and gave me the forms. During the visit to the customs department I was assisted by telephone by him because nobody here speaks English or German. After a lot of stamping the forms will be brought to Ulaanbaatar by an official so that Enkhtur again has to do a lot of work to get back the more than 2000 Euro for me, which I had to pay last year as a deposit because Piggy stayed longer in Mongolia than the allowed 6 months. (Ps. Enkhtur has now received the forms and brought them to the appropriate authorities. He told me that the money will be paid but that the government is not exactly fast in paying. So wait a few weeks!)
The rest of the border formalities went fairly smoothly. Even on the border with Russia, although I was called back one more time when I entered Russia, because they still wanted to see what was in the luggage boxes on the roof. They had overlooked this after the extensive visitation of the truck. This time I am ticking a record time of around 4 hours.
The roads have deteriorated considerably in the last year. I drove the route between Ulan Ude, Lake Baikal and Irkutsk last year and I was pleasantly surprised at the condition of the road surface. It appears that the extreme temperature differences in summer and winter quickly destroy the asphalt. This naturally results in a lower course speed and extra tension if new damage will occur. Driving a welded gear shift spring on bad roads gives you an insecure feeling.
I make long days. Sometimes more than 10 consecutive hours behind the wheel and sometimes 500 km per day. Not really nice, but it had to. It is striking that the pavement in the towns is miserable. Piggy swings back and forth. I have to cross the railroad tracks in the lowest gear in particular. Once I notice that another bolt has been broken. While crossing a railroad crossing. Fortunately, I quickly realize and stop right in front of a warehouse with all sizes of nuts and bolts. Within half an hour I have resolved the problem and I can continue driving. My technical skills are getting better and better.
The route consists of mostly straight roads over the Taiga, along extensive birch and pine forests. Nice for a while, but rather boring day in and day out. I am ahead of schedule and decide to take a short break in Krasnoyarsk. I park Piggy more or less under the ski lifts of the city and actually meet fellow travelers there. Andreas and Bianca with their beautifully converted Steyr from Austria. Nice to catch up (www.womoeglich.at), but I give in to the urge to travel further to the Kazakh border.
On 9 June I cross the border with Kazakhstan and look for a camping spot in Semey. But first of all in search for a bank in the city, because I don’t have a local currency yet. Looking for a bank with Piggy in the city is quite a challenge. Always on the lookout for the police who see every mistake and give you a fine ticket and then put it in their own pocket, I see a nice empty parking lot on the other side where I can look for a bank in peace on the map. When crossing the road I see too late that I am crossing a continuous line. Too late … A police car stops next to me within a minute. Passport, the man says. I pretend I don’t understand him and ask if he might know a bank where I can exchange money. He doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak his language. I am urged to get out of the car and sit next to him in the police car, which I refuse, incidentally. We continue to communicate with each other via Google translate. I have committed a serious offense by crossing the line. That will cost me 150 euros. I continue to insist on my request to designate a bank for me. After all, I am unknown here. And by the way … A police officer is not only expected to collect money for violations but also to offer assistance to foreigners who do not know the city and are in need of money. During the long-term digital communication (I have plenty of time) and my constant refusal to pay the fine, the tension eased somewhat, because he was also curious about truck, my nationality and my travel plans. I think he was pretty impressed and suggested that I take a seat next to me in the truck so that he could show me the way to the bank and in the meantime get the experience of being able to drive in such a large camper. However, it was Sunday so that the banks were closed, but luckily we found a money changer. At my next question where I could buy a new SIM card for my phone, he took me to a street stall where he gave me a SIM card as a gift. What an unexpected turn again. What do you mean corrupt police in Kazakhstan. So there are also good people among them !!
In Öskemen I visit Elite Motors and ARB Resellers of Kirill, with whom I already had contact in Mongolia. I have sent the spring for the gear lever here from Austria and will have Piggy carry out further repairs. Again, plenty of helpfulness. His garage was not equipped enough to repair large trucks, because there were five other defects on my list. He took me to a friend with a large truck garage. I spent five days in the garage. Kirill came to see me every day to see how far things were going and to perform translations between me and the staff. What a hospitality. Do we still experience this in Europe?
The direct road to Almaty is the worst road imaginable in Kazakhstan, so I follow the wise advice to take the double distance with a considerable detour (2500 km) via Pavlodar, Karaganda and along the great Balkash Lake (also a well-known route that I drove last year).
In the meantime I have been staying in a hostel in the center of Almaty for a few days, with a view of the snowy peaks of the Tien Shan mountains. Tomorrow I will leave for Bishkek in Kyrgyzstan and take Els and Merijn ( www.2forthroad.nl ), a Dutch couple who have bad luck (including crankshaft) with their engines and are waiting for parts from the Netherlands. Their visa for Kazakhstan will expire soon, so a trip to Kyrgyzstan also provides a pleasant change from waiting.
The plans for the coming weeks;
- Traveling with Kyrgyzstan for three weeks with Jan.
- In the meantime, start preparing carnet de passage for Iran and other South Asian countries
- Travel on to Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
- Return to Bishkek to pick up Carnet de Passage.
- Then via Turkmenistan to Iran, (if Mr. Trump chooses to keep himself)
TAKE A LOOK AT PHOTO’S AND VIDEO’S OF RUSSIA, KAZACHSTAN, KYRGYSTAN
MY TRAVELPHOTO’S FROM 1987 CAN BE SEEN AND/OR BOUGHT HERE AT STOCK PHOTO AGENCY