June 23, 2013 GMT
Boiling and breaking in the Polygon

I always said it would be Kazakhstan that was the most likely place my bike would break. But only 2 hours into it was a bit extreme.

We negotiated the border crossing to Kazakhstan and left Russia without “registering” our visas, a confusing law that may or may have been necessary due to us travelling every day. The Russian customs guards thought about it, discussed it and then a truck driver pointed out the obvious to them “They are on motorbikes”.

Then we had one of those encounters that changes the day, while admiring the view and having a wee a car pulled up. Three men got out to come and talk to us. They asked about the trip and where we were going to be staying in Semey. We told them and then Yergie, who could talk some decent English, called his brother and told him to meet us on the outskirts to guide us to the hotel.


As we parted, Yergie took my phone number and said “Tonight, 6 o'clock, I call you, we go sauna”.

Sure enough, as we reached the police post outside the city a man was waiting for us in a Land Cruiser. He then proceeded to lead us through the outskirts. This was when my bike broke down. The engine cut out and the service warning lights came on. It restarted, but cut again. A quick battery test showed that the voltage was down and there was no charge going to it from the engine. Fortunately due to the wiring issues I had in the USA in 2010 I can bypass my headlight and turn it off. This enabled me to carry on riding to the hotel.

We had no Kazakhstan money on us, so Yergie's brother paid for the room and then took us to the bank. Once he had left, refusing to take the money for the hotel off us, we set about looking at my bike. Then some of the local bike club turned up, the Irradiated MC, Yergie knows them and sent the message I had a problem.

The bike club is called the Irradiated because Semey is in what is known as the Polygon, the area where the USSR tested nuclear bombs up until 1989.

There was still enough power to ride the bike to their clubhouse, where I was fed and watered while they tested my electrics, found a broken wire and fixed it for me.


Once fixed, it was back to the hotel to drop the bike off, collect Mike and jump in a taxi to return to the clubhouse, and start drinking. We have been kidnapped again.


One of our drinking partners was the deputy mayor of the city, he was very pleased to see us and kept proposing toasts. Another biker, from South Korea arrived and joined in. At some point I passed the limit and the rest of the evening is a blank, apart from one memory of being in a pool of very cold water. Mike tells me that Yergie turned up and we all went to a sauna, hence the cold water. I have no recollection of it. The next thing I remember is waking up in bed.

Posted by Bruce Porter at June 23, 2013 12:06 PM GMT

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