Kazakhstan, wonderful country, wonderful people. But it seemed to be determined to kill my bike.
After Almaty we headed south west, flanked to our left by the foothills of the Himalayas and the borders of Kyrgyzstan. The roads here are good, and at times the scenery is spectacular as the green lower slopes are split from the blue sky by the white peaks.
Finding camp spots became harder with more agricultural activity in the fertile strip of land between Almaty and Symkent. One night we found a perfect spot, only to be moved on because we had pitched the tents on the Kazakhstan/China gas pipeline. “maybe she go boom!” we were told, “please move 300 metres”, so we dragged the tents into a freshly ploughed field.
The following morning we had our 1st puncture, Mike's rear, before bimbling straight into three hours of heavy rain, thunder and lightening. The greenness has to come from somewhere.
From Symkent we turned west to Aral'sk, a change to our planned route. We had been given far too many warnings of the high temperatures in Uzbekistan. The most recent from a group of Czechoslovakian bikers who had passed through a week earlier, 45C+. Added to that the need for water and the lack of petrol, you need to seek a man on a street corner with a tube and a barrel, we chose not to go. It will still be there in another year, at a cooler time.
The only problem was that the road to Aral'sk is full of road works.
And the old road is more dust that tarmac, with occasional herds of camels.
The Kazakhstan method of road repair is to build a temporary road surface parallel to the current road, sometimes up to 30 kilometres long. Divert all cars and trucks down it up while they rip out the old road and place a new surface. Meanwhile all the road building lorries use the temporary road as well, cutting deep ruts into it. So they spread sand over the ruts. Oh how we laugh when we hit those bits, or maybe we scream ? What we cannot understand is, they have so much space, why not build a new road and leave the old one intact until it is finished ?
Following a night in a disused roadwork quarry (we know how to live the high life), the only stopping place we could find in the surrounding marshes and paddy fields, we had an early start. Two hours later, after managing only 70kms we met Baptiste, a French lad riding to Mongolia on an XT250. We wasted an hour chatting, as you do, exchanging road information and tales. Then as we parted company my bike fired, and then died.
The engine was turning, but not starting. There was power from the battery, the ignition circuit was on and we could see a spark when I took the plug out. There are 3 curses attached to the Pegasos. !
1) The dodgy wires in the ignition barrel
2) The small fuel tank capacity (that was yet to bite us)
3) The cheap fuel pump.
Listening carefully, there was no activation sound from the pump. We removed the fuel line and checked to see if any fuel was pumped out when the engine was turned over. Nothing, not even a drip.
Normally this would be a very bad thing, but back in 2010, as I knew the pump is a weak spot, I bought a spare one. And have carried it ever since. Possibly the best £200 I have ever spent.
We set about stripping the bike, and it was not long before Mike had grabbed the spanners and was beavering away. The only man I know who smiles when he has a bike to fix.
Meanwhile, Baptiste hung around watching, enjoying the entertainment as two mad English men pull a bike apart and replace a main item in the middle of a desert.
90 minutes later I lapped my bike cheering, and performing a happy dance she fired up again.
As we progressed, into a sand storm, to see (or not) the Aral sea. My thoughts turned to route planning, it was currently a draw Kazakhstan 3 – 3 My bike (hey, a fix is a draw). I'm was running out of spare parts, and there was a lot more heat and rough road ahead.
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