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Photo by Michael Jordan, enjoying a meal at sunset, Zangskar Valley, India

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!

Photo by Michael Jordan
enjoying a meal at sunset,
Zangskar Valley, India

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Old 2 Sep 2016
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From Central Asia to Caucasus

It's a strange year: I knew that the end of 2015 would take me some commitments that would not allow me to travel as I had done in previous years, but in my head spring of 2016 should have been exciting. At least a couple of weeks off between April and June, a motorcycle meeting, planning something special for the summer.
None of this.
Also the short vacation that starts tomorrow is not going anywhere: there would be a Dominator meeting, or maybe a few days on Elba island or in the mountains, or go to meet my friend Dani in Florence.
Nothing, the weather forecasts say no and I am not so much in the mood.
I'm trying since weeks to find the right opportunity to buy a bike with which to visit a second time Mongolia and then Baikal, but nothing. The only offer I have is the one of an Africa Twin at 2500 dollars, which I do not know what the state would be the day he would arrive in Ulaanbaatar, and in any case would be registered in England, with the need for strange things to possess it legally.
Null alternatives, and time is passing, and soon it will be late for anything.
Sabrina is at her parent's house for dinner, as often happens on Wednesday night, I open gtalk and I write to Sambor, my Polish friend:
"Chris, when do you send the next truck to Bishkek? Do you have room for my bike?"
"July 10, for your bike there is always room"
a few s, a bit of skyscanner to understand flight prices, a few hours spent on google maps, and I open gtalk again:
"Chris, if I leave the bike in Tbilisi, then you've got a truck that brings it home?"
"Yes, I have a transportation from Georgia to Europe in September, for your bike there is always room"
Sabrina comes back, I tell her my plan: "why didn't you thinked of that before?"
Let's sleep on it

I send an email to the people with whom I crossed the wheels in recent years, explaining the program and proposing for those wishing to join.

The phone rings, is Roberto, with whom we went to Sri Lanka in April last year: "Uncle Sid, I have the holidays, I come with you!"

The journey begins.

I write these lines on the evening of June 5, after 4 days spended in the organization of a trip that last week was not even imaginable, and after many "add to cart" on ebay to buy the parts that I need to put back on track my old Dominator.
If anyone ever read this, it will mean that the trip at the end is really gone ahead.
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Old 2 Sep 2016
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I receive a photo from Bishkek from Sambor, who fortunately, contextually, writes "don't worry, is already down, just you are missing"

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Old 2 Sep 2016
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Starting a trip in Bishkek has become almost a tradition for me, and not to betray the good habits we go in my favorite shop to buy something for breakfast
(The lady, mindful of the many Baltika 7 that I bought in previous years, recognizes me and looks smiling)

But time passes, and it's time to go Deniar to collect the bikes and prepare for departure

After an initial section of boring straight road and even a bit of rain, we enter the valley of Susamyr and we enjoy the spectacle of Kyrgyzstan, which we love so much, and because it's Sunday, we are also lucky enough to catch a game of buzkashi, the national game in which two teams of riders face off in the conquest of a sheep headless carcass, that we look at with some local company who already has drank a bit too much

We reach the village of Susamyr, where we find place in a guesthouse and we enjoy this kyrghis evening, which we already regret because we know it will be the only one in this beautiful country, but for this year the programs are others...

Last edited by crisidsto; 2 Sep 2016 at 21:18.
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Old 2 Sep 2016
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We say goodbye to the children at our guesthouse and we move towards Kazakhstan.
Yurts, horses and mountains, and we do not lose the occasion to become familiar with the friendly Kyrgyz people.
Roberto fortunately forgot at home the selfies stick, and I'm happy he did it.
This is his first time in Kyrgyzstan and he is not really happy to have to leave the country so soon: Robi we will come back, I promise you!

Lunch time come and in these countries has pretty much always the same meaning: shashlik.
The restaurant where we stop prepares it excellent, still we don't know that we will remember this for three weeks as the best of the trip.

Kirov Dam is pretty famous and I don't need to explain why..

We pass the border to Kazakhstan and enter Taraz. Sabrina, from 2010, when we passed here, never misses an opportunity to say that it is a horrible city and we do not want to stop at.
As we ride the main street she says me, "but we didn't came in this area, it is not as bad as I remembered it", and in the exact same moment she says, "we did not come," I point to the right the hotel where we slept six years ago.
However we decide to continue and reach Shymkent, where we arrived with the sun already faded.
In the evening the neighbors table invite us to have a few shot of Russian vodka (keen to say that it is Russian, apparently to say that it is good) and after several toasts to friendship between the Italian people and the Kazakh, things go ending in predictable ways ...

Last edited by crisidsto; 2 Sep 2016 at 20:39.
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Old 4 Sep 2016
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Looking at the purchases, I'm not sure that the walk to the Shymkent bazaar was a good idea

On the way to Turkistan, little to say except the usual cuorious camels, and the fact that Sabrina and Roberto start their personal game in purchasing absurd drinks and they buy a liter of something which taste like redbull with some vague taste of chewing gum from the 80's...

Once in the city, we take a room in a hotel next to the nightclub of the city: we will see what will offer us this evening ...
The hotel's guy is a bit strange, he speak incomprehensible English, but speaks with a conviction that you think you're the one who can not make it.
The fifth time that he looks at me speaking his self created crazy language, I give up try to understand and begin to respond always yes...
But the best is when he came into the room to tell us another thing we don't understand in his english that english is not, he sees that Sabrina is helping Roberto to remove a small plug that has slipped into a finger, the boy leaves the room and comes back a minute later with a needle that would be best suited to serve as shashlik stick than as a needle, dodges Sabrina decisively and stick it in the hand of the poor Roberto who watch him in disbelief. I enter from the balcony, where I was smoking a cigarette and drinking a fresh taken from the minibar, I look at the boy with the weapon stuck in the flesh of Roberto, and I decide that it's time to start our city ​​tour...

For the evening we find "shashlik road", a bit away from the main street and decide to dine here, before going to see what happens in the nightclub of the hotel

Life in the club works like this: for 10 minutes there is silence and people drink and chat at tables surrounded by multicolored lights that only a Kazakh club can offer, then the music come (very high) and for 15 minutes beauties flock en masse to the dancefloor and have fun in the dance.
The fourth time that we see the repeated scene, we notice that something different is going on on the dancefloor: the one we had considered the most skillful and beautiful dancer is pushed strongly by another and falls back into the fountain
"What is happening? Is this a fight?"
oh yes, they are fighting: the attacked gets up all wet, she pulls the other by the hair and with good technique but poor results tries to kick her with the knee in the face.
It is needed the intervention of a dozen people to calm the fury of the two, we look incredulous while our table neighbors are laughing at large, but the music does not come back, and is now time to go to sleep ...
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Old 5 Sep 2016
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Great travel writing - you capture the randomness of life on the road in a very amusing way. Keep it up please.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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Old 5 Sep 2016
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About 50 kilometers north of Turkistan, from the main street, you can see the walls of the ancient city of Sauran, which is undoubtedly worth a short detour.
The site is open, and left to itself, the main visitors are herds of horses

Kilometers and kilometers of steppe and nothing, of horses and camels, sand and heat, we cross Qyzylorda and pull straight up to Baikonur.
In the middle of nowhere of the immense Kazakhstan, Baikonur is a place that everyone sooner or later heard of, perhaps forgetting soon after.
It is the seat of the huge cosmodrome built in Soviet times: it is from here that left Sputnik, the first satellite, the dog Laika, Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space.
After the closing of the US Space Shuttle program it remained the only place in the world where human beings still depart for space.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia has leased from Kazakhstan the area of the cosmodrome and the town of Baikonur, which are now formally Russian territory and are accessible and can be visited only with special and expensive visas and permits.
We can only observe on one hand the antennas from a distance and on the other the checkpoints into the city, around which prowl the usual camels

We sleep in a hotel for truckers on the road, with the innkeeper in google translate mode.
Now, I understand that my Russian is very basic, but with four gestures usually I'm able to make people understand me. No, with her no, she must at all costs stick to the automatic translator of the phone and this means that every ****ing communication requires grueling minutes in which she types and then show you the display with some incoherent phrase in English. And you wanted only to pay the that you took from the fridge...

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Old 6 Sep 2016
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Good morning!
Well, maybe for the camels starting their daily walk, for sure not for my fellow travelers who spended 40 minutes to get 3 coffee and have faces like they have been beaten all night (and I was the one who slept on the floor, not them)

A chat with 2 Russian bikers and we continue in the desert until Aralsk

Aral was a port, a port on a lake so great that many called it a sea, then the Soviets decided to withdraw the water of its two tributaries to irrigate cotton fields, and in a few years, the lake dried up almost completely .
Aral has a port, but does not have a lake.

Until a few years ago the road that passed here, the M32, was in poor condition and the city seemed doomed to an inexorable end, then the road has been reconstructed and has again become the main north south road of the country, in the meanwhile, the Kazakh government has carried out a series of investments to save the small part of the lake remained, apparently successfully.
Fish were reintroduced and it seems that in the coming years, with the construction of a new dam, the water will come back to the port of Aral.

We avoid the Aral Hotel, famous for being for years the only one in the city and defined by anyone a infamous place, and we take a room in the newest Hotel Altair, near the station.
It's early afternoon when we finally give some meaning to the knobbly tyres that we have on our bikes and head to Zhalanash to visit the boat cemetery.

Roberto exits from the street into the desert: since days he says that he does not like the hole-bathrooms and that "I like to do it in the open air".
We leave him alone and continue, then comes the cigarette break.
One, two, three cigarettes and Roberto doesn't arrive: "something must have happened," says Sabrina.
We go back and at some point I see Roberto's bike on the road, he in the field next. At first I think that the attack must be very strong if forced him to stop every few meters, but when I get closer I realize the flat tire ...

Since we are smart to travel light we unloaded all the luggage in the city, and along with the luggage tools, pump and inner tubes.
A few kilometers before we saw a small village of 3 houses and we go to seek for help, leaving Roberto to familiarize with the local wildlife.

The camel man starts telling us no, then perhaps there is his friend who has the car, then the wife of his friend does not want her husband to take the car ... "it will be a question of money", I think, let's hear how much he ask us...
5000 tenge, 13 Euros, is the request, made almost with shame, because it's probably disproportionate, to bring the bike to the city.
I would have accepted even if it had been four times as much...

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Old 6 Sep 2016
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Second attempt, but more or less at the same point of yesterday we again stopped.
This time, however, we are the helpers, not the helped: a load of people on a van stop us because they need to inflate their tires.
This time we are equipped and the 10 euros worth decathlon pump makes the job...

Before greeting them, we ask where they are headed: "to the sea!"

Once in Zhalanash we ask where to go to some kids, and they are too happy to jump on the bike to show us the way

Of the boats, actually, doesn't remain much: time ago there were many more and undamaged, then they have been gradually dismantled and sold by weight, but they still can make some shadow

Since we are in the bed of a lake that no longer exists and has become a desert and the heat is cruel, Roberto decides that get stuck in the sand is a great way to do some motion...
(It must a family habit, I think, remembering a trip to Tunisia which I did a few years ago with his brother)

Back in town we attract the attention of some local who helps us to find the store where supply us with water and we ask for information on the way to the sea, where we have now decided to go

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Old 6 Sep 2016
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There it is! It's behind that sign!

It's now afternoon and it's time to go back...

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Old 8 Sep 2016
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The idea is to quickly make breakfast, load the bikes and go, but remains an idea.
Accomplices numerous passages in the bathroom by Sabrina and movements slowed because of the heat, we say bye to Aral just past noon.
600 km of smooth asphalt and we arrive in to Aqtobe in the evening.
The only thing of the day worth telling is the newly bought drink: Top Russian Lemonade.
When I see the two coming out from the store laughing with the bottle in their hand, I enter the door and I go out a minute later with my usual iced tea: shortly after they hide from me, while spilling to the ground their purchase and drinking mine...


"Direct road to Atyrau is very very bad, if you go to Uralsk and then Atyrau is good"

The first 100-150 km is not bad either, then it descends suddenly and ceases to be a road.
The side tracks by side, in the steppe, are undoubtedly easier and even fun.
The drink of the day is called frizz something, but I pretend not to notice that they have bought it otherwise this time I should force them to drink it all... of course when I hear Roberto say "but it is sparkling!" it's hard to ignore it

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Old 8 Sep 2016
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We wake up early in Sagiz, but no one cares about our presence in the place where we slept, as if we didn't exist. With breakfast, make Roberto and Sabrina moving is a difficult task and time passes: I get angry.
The last two days were not the best, and today's program would be challenging: you can not lose hours like that, I think, and I bark on them all my tiredness and frustration.
Actually I feel a little responsibility for the effort that was made, the heat that has been taken, and perhaps I am also a bit worried about what lies ahead: to do this we need to be charged and motivated.
Roberto gets on the bike and comes back after half an hour with 10 liters of water and a canister for gasoline, I still grumble a bit, but finally we decided to leave.
But first we must buy gasoline and fussy attendant refuses to pour it into the canister, which is actually a 10-liter plastic tank for coolant liquid.
The only solution is to make a transfer biketank-canister and then put gasoline again at the gas station in the bike tank.
In the operation, perhaps to make up for the lack of breakfast, Roberto drinks a good cup of 92 octane.

The detour is a few kilometers away, in Mukur, then by a disastrous and little-used road we enter a even more disastrous and even less popular one: the craters here are huge and very deep and the side tracks are the only option.
We find a small village, four houses and eight camels, and we check if we can find a few more liters of gasoline.
"How much do you need?" asks the ambulance driver (even today I wonder why there is an ambulance there: in case of need, where will it ever bring you?)
"7 liters in total" I reply
he points out the tank of his vehicle and says that we can take it from there: the guy is nice and he even doesn't overcharge us..

Not long after comes the crossroad: when we see the road turn right and bitumen lake on the left, we know we need to get out at all from the road and follow the tracks.
Going a bit up we see it from a distance, our goal, the Aktolagai Plateau

The view is already a great feeling, but we need to get there: the tracks are good initially, then decrease a bit. It's clear that other exist, more recently created, but we don't know where they lead and then we follow those registered in open street maps. The problem is not the bottom or the track itself, but the vegetation which has recovered his space, and then for kilometers we ride pulling up everything: grass, shrubs, small trees ...
"Dominator, in the best gardening shops!"
We make it, and arrived at the foot of the limestone formations we go in search of the pyramid we had seen in photographs at home before leaving.
I smell something burning and see smoke coming from the bike: all the stuff pulled up, in contact with hot engine, is starting to fire up and my bike is going to end up like that of Goncalves in Dakar a couple of years ago.
Fortunately I realized in time and turn off the everything is easy, but it is a clear sign of the fact that we will search for the pyramid the next day and it's time to set up the tent ..

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Old 10 Sep 2016
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At one point I wake up and I feel cold, I go in search of my sleeping bag that I had left somewhere around there. Actually in the dark I think that Roberto's head looks exactly like my sleeping bag and I take it with two hands to open it: remembering this in retrospect is certainly laughing, but judging from his face I'm not sure he enjoyed the experience...
Shortly after I dream I don't know what and I kick Sabrina a couple of times.
I slept well anyway, and rested in the morning ..

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Old 12 Sep 2016
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We take a different track than the day before, but the script does not change, and even today we go gardening ...

Several kilometers further on brings us back to the "road" left the day before: Roberto and I look at each other and we shake hands, we did it!
The problem now is the water: of the initial 10 liters, this morning they were only three, but now we have just one and there are still several kilometers before finding a proper road
We pass Akkergeshen Plauteau, that would be worth a visit, but the heat is too hot and water too little. At each stop we make small sips, that we hold in the mouth a bit, to prolong the feeling of relief.
When we see a van in the distance move perpendicular to us without raising dust, we understand that we're almost there: that's the road.

Once rehydrated we make the point of the situation: 9 of the 15 days we are allowed to stay in Kazakhstan without visa are already passed, and would not make sense to go south in the time we have left, so we decide to go to Atyrau, where we arrive in the evening.

In the hotel where we sleep, found thanks to a local biker, there is a bar open all night and one after another, we quickly become the best friends of the manager
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Old 12 Sep 2016
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We leave the bikes resting and we set off to visit the city.

We cross the bridge that divides Asia and Europe and we note that the city center has not much to offer ...

Back in Asia we decide to spend the afternoon at the beach on the Ural River, "it seems to be in the Caribbean," I exclaimed.
Sabrina and Roberto stare at me and do not talk.

At sunset we return at our friend of the night before: he is clearly in a bad hangover and I have to constate that, If he had pulled out the vodka the night before, he would no doubt have knocked me out and I'd be in the same conditions, but with only I can handle well even in these parts of the world..
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