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Northern Asia Topics specific to Russia, Central Asia (also known as "the 'stans"), Mongolia, Japan and Korea
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  #1  
Old 23 Apr 2007
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Kazakhstan - should I go?

Hello there,

Planning my route from Russia -> China, I plan to go through as much of Central Asia as I can, along with Iran and Pakistan, into the KKH and China.

I have been reading up a lot, and most places seem full of beauty, intrigue and history. The only place I seem to be getting a bit of a negative vibe is Kazakhstan. I don't want to write a place off that is that big, and surely must have plenty going for it, and so would like some pointers of places/experiences that would make it worth wile. It also sits nicely on our route. The LP only made the far south east sound interesting. Surely thats not the case?

Thanks for the pointers

Cheers

Ollie
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  #2  
Old 24 Apr 2007
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Hi, I haven't had a chance to look into them yet, but a friend who now works in Almaty gave me the following response when I asked about places to visit (I assume that they're focused on the Almaty region):

"Since you are here by bike, take the bike to the mountains and see the great Almaty lake. Go hiking. It will be hard to breath in the city, but you could go see some mandatory places in Almaty. Drive to Charyn canyon, a small version of the Grand Canyon or go see the singing dune. You could also take the bike all the way to Issyk-kul via the mountains."

Hope that this helps. I have also heard that Kyrgyzstan is amazing.
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  #3  
Old 24 Apr 2007
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Go!

Kazakhstan is ace! Depending on your route it would be very hard to avoid.

What is your route? I went out through the Caucasus and got a boat to Turkmenistan (great trip!) then through the Stan's into Russia (couldn't afford the guide fee on my own for China).

I assume that you will be taking the Torugart pass route via Kashgar? In this case you will have to go through Kazakhstan to either get to Kyrgzstan then China or to get from China/Kyrg to Russia. I suppose you could try illegally re-entering China and skirting through the Northern Tien Shan hoping to evade detection but I would certainly feel safer being a nice official tourist in KZ!

Do go to Almaty, the city is big beyond belief but on clear days navigation is aided by the mountains, which also provide a great backdrop. I met very few tourists in Almaty (i.e. none) but the locals were friendly and helpful. I rocked up at 2.am having rode from Shymkent, arrived at what I was later informed was the 'bad' part of town, and still managed to find a room to rent in an apartment block (look out for the word gastinsta, but spelt in Russian), and they found a guarded parking (Staiyanka) with an empty storage bit right next to the guards hut, with a massive lock! All this was done without speaking any Russian and not a single bad 'vibe'. Almaty has the only bike club in central asia as far as I know (my town moto). These guys are awesome, great social calendar, lots of interesting members, a few overlanders, lots of Mongolian experience and most surprisingly very fast bikes. They either go off-roading in the mountains (amazing forest tracks) or go blasting around on sports bikes (brand new fireblades, R1's etc !!??!?!). They found me spares, fed me, got me drunk, taught me a variety of phrases to say to cops (dont EVER try any of them!)

The roads in southern Kazakhstan rival the very best in europe, and if I go back I will be tempted to take a sports bike!! Admittedly in the north the roads get worse as there is no real economic activity but they are nowhere near as bad as Mr McGregor seemed to find them..... Also you do NOT need a police escort. As with all police stop, helmet off, big smile, glove off and immediately present a handshake - this works every time and you don't even need to fake it, they are great fun and break up the ride if you choose to view them positively

I travelled north to the desolate nuclear testing ground around Semipatalinsk. Semi is one of the worst looking cities I have ever been in - nothing has been built since the 60's and most people fled the city giving it a bit of a ghost town feel. I found a massive empty hotel and when the 'porter' dawdled in and saw me having a fag on the steps he nearly had a heart attack, guests are rare, tourists unheard of.

KZ has great fuel and is rightly proud of it (76 Octane in UZ was common, 96 in KZ was de-rigeur)

I also heard a lot of bad things about KZ and was a bit nervous when I first arrived, but be nice and good things will happen to you.

The whole country has great landscape, rolling green pastures, intersting little hills, dirty great mountains, lakes and a very very big very very empty feel.
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  #4  
Old 24 Apr 2007
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Woohoo!

Great - thanks for that Henry and Dotcaf. I think thats enough to make me want to go. I'll be in a 4x4 rather than on a bike, but those descriptions make me wanna be a biker too

The plan is to go from Russia to Kazakhstan and then onwards to Krygizstan. We will enter China from Pakistan after going full cirle almost.

Got any other recommendations on the way to Almaty?

thanks again
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  #5  
Old 24 Apr 2007
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If you go via Astana there is apparrently some stuff worth seeing, and this road will go past the best part of Lake Balkash. The road from Astana to Almaty will be finished by now and will undoubtedly be so good that it might get a bit dull on a 4x4, but Kyrgyzstan will make up for that!

Don't know about the border on the main road in from Russai, I exited into Russia at a very small border post north of Semi, very easy (maybe 2 hours..)
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Old 1 May 2007
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CornishDeity - When will you be in Kazakhstan? I plan to enter from Russia on around the 30th June this year. I will be in a 4x4. Let me know if your itinerary is similar.

henryuk - did you use the small border post at Ridder? From Russian Altay to just north of Semey?

Daniel
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Old 2 May 2007
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2 years

Hi there Dan - We're not there for another two years.

If you get a chance can you post any info you find, and I'll do the same.

Cheers

Ollie
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  #8  
Old 2 May 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CornishDeity View Post

The plan is to go from Russia to Kazakhstan and then onwards to Krygizstan. We will enter China from Pakistan after going full cirle almost.
I would check on that route... As far as I know, you wont be allowed to enter China from Pakistan. I think you can only exit.

Disputed territory and all that.

May be wrong though:-))

John
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  #9  
Old 3 May 2007
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Oh - I hadn't heard that

Ah John ..... OK. I thought they build the KKH together after solving border disputes in that region.
Any further information you have would be great. I'd read a lot of blogs about people travelling it, but can't for the life of me remember if they were all going one way. Wow you just don't expect that. Well now I might

Thanks for the tip anyhow. Off to do some research myself .....
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Old 3 May 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CornishDeity View Post
I'd read a lot of blogs about people travelling it, but can't for the life of me remember if they were all going one way. Wow you just don't expect that. Well now I might
I would ask the people at CaravanCafé. They should know.
I think that EVERY blog I have read, they go from China to Pakistan. Those in Pakistan seem to ride/drive up to the border. Take the picture and ride down again.

I'm riding from China down... will be there (at the border), at the beginning of July. Cant wait!

John
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  #11  
Old 4 May 2007
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Email sent

Right thanks John! Hopefully your post will save me driving up to the border taking a photo and turning back! The wife would kill me

So, I've mailed the Caravan Cafe, and hopefully this will start me preparing route nr 37 !!! I'm actually quite excited at starting to look at other alternatives.

Good luck with your drive and thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

Cheers!
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Old 5 May 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CornishDeity View Post
Good luck with your drive and thanks for pointing me in the right direction.
Ooh-err... I have been known to be wrong... Not often mind you.

You can see my "intended" route here

John
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  #13  
Old 8 May 2007
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Heard back from the Caravan Cafe

Hi John,

From my replies from Steve at the Caravan Cafe it would appear you are wrong A quote from the email:

'Entering China via Khunjerab Pass from Pakistan should not be a problem, but this would be if you are entering after May 1. Khunjerab Pass is closed yearly for the winter and does not open until May 1 each year. If you want to enter earlier, then either Irkeshtam or Torugart Pass (from Kyrgyzstan) or Korgas (from Kazakhstan) would be the likely choices.'

But I can only thank you for putting me in touch with him. His email is very thorough and helpful and if going to act as the basis of my research for our route through China. So many thanks for that. I don't know if you might be intested in the rest of the email, is so I can send it on to you, or post it here if you think it may be of interest to others.

Cheers

Ollie
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Old 8 May 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CornishDeity View Post
From my replies from Steve at the Caravan Cafe it would appear you are wrong
Have been known to be wrong ... just odd that you never see any reports of people going "that" way

Quote:
Originally Posted by CornishDeity View Post
...I don't know if you might be intested in the rest of the email, is so I can send it on to you, or post it here if you think it may be of interest to others.
I'm sure others would be interested - 290 odd views.

I did mail them last year and thought they were very good, but, they would not budge on the issue of a guide so it was a none starter. I have found other, "less rigid" means of entry

Cheers,
John
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  #15  
Old 9 May 2007
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Guys,

We're going with a Caravan guide towards the end of July. Whilst we would love to be free to roam in China, not being able to stitch up the 2 halves to our trip would be a dealbreaker...

FYI, apparently a new requirement has been added lately. "In addition to the other images and docs that I said were required, we have just been informed today that motorcycle vehicle registration docs and any safety or emissions test documents are required. These docs were not required in past years. This news is timely for you. I have 2 Italians who are due to enter in just over 2 weeks and this will be a hassle for them to get to me."

I sorted this by faxing a letter requesting a certificate of conformity and an emissions schedule for my specific frame number to BMW Homologation Department – Fax 01344 480 173. They got back to me with 2 official looking letters along with stamps, logos and signatures. I'll also use the MOT cert. In my eyes, the more bits of paper with signatures and stamps that you can throw at people, the better! Finding somewhere to test emissions on a motorcycle proved to be quite difficult as it's not part of the MOT.

C
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