No timetable exists for the ferry across the Caspian Sea from Alat (Azerbaijan) to Kuryk (Kazakhstan): the ship sails when the deck is full and the wind conditions permit. The duration of the crossing varies from a day to a week, as the ferries can only dock in good weather and the Caspian Sea is notorious for strong winds and rough seas. We accordingly braced ourselves for a long wait at the port as well as seasickness, filthy toilet facilities and poor food on the ship.

We arrived at the port in Alat around noon, were kindly asked into the waiting hall and made ourselves comfortable there. We were told that the ferry would leave tomorrow and only then would we be able to buy the tickets. The next day we were assured that the departure was scheduled for 5 pm. We divided the day in such a way that there was always something going on😉: in the morning tea drinking in the harbor café, in the afternoon money changing in the improvised bank container. Welcome change brought a young Swiss family, who were the only tourists traveling with us on the ferry.

Around 6 pm we inquired about the departure, which was now to take place in about two to three hours. Just before midnight it finally happened and we were allowed to ride to the departure building. After a fairly unserious baggage check, we had to wait in vain again. We had already given up hope for a departure anytime soon and had laid out our sleeping mats when we were finally allowed to board the ship at 2 am. To our pleasant surprise, we were assigned a private 4-person cabin with toilet and shower. As a prophylactic measure, we swallowed a tablet against motion sickness and went to bed for a short night.

When we woke up, the ferry was at anchor a few kilometers from Baku. For a day, it did not move from the spot. Fortunately, the sea was calm, and so we had an appetite for simple (but surprisingly good) food in the small dining room full of truck drivers. Meal times was the only agenda. In between, there was nothing to do… read books, listen to podcasts, and sleep.

Almost exactly 48 hours after departure and shortly after midnight, there was a banging at the cabin door: get up, clear the cabin…! A little later the ferry docked in Kuryk. We tourists were treated preferentially, were allowed to complete the entry formalities before all the truck drivers and thus walked off the board at 3 am. Tired we left the harbor area to pitch our tent behind the first possible hill.

The following morning was the first time we saw the barren, Kazakh dry steppe. With a strong tailwind, we raced to Aktau, from where we planned our onward journey and informed ourselves about nearby sights. The more we moved away from the city, the emptier the steppe became.

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On the first day we enjoyed the ride through the impressive landscape with moderate wind. But already on the second day the wind was so fierce and filled with drizzle that we spent the morning in a café. We refrained from making the 130km detour to underground mosques (although it doesn’t wind there😉) and instead took advantage of the tailwind for the ride toward Beyneu. To immerse ourselves in the local culture, we preferred to seat ourselves in a warm restaurant and devoured three fried eggs each for second breakfast😉.

The temperatures became more pleasant again and the wind from the side allowed us to make progress, bringing us to Beyneu after five days. At the Uzbek border post we were again allowed to benefit from the tourist bonus and skip all the queues. After crossing the border, we were still 450km away from Nukus, the first major town in Uzbekistan. Because of salted and undrinkable ground water from outdated water systems, we had to buy all water in mini-markets, which were up to 130km apart. Fortunately, the road was traveled by many trucks and shared cabs, and we would have had no problem getting help. With good preparation for the sparse supply situation, we were confident that after the Kazakh steppe section we could also master the Uzbek steppe section!

The fierce headwind with lots of dust and the poor road reduced our pace to a frustrating 11km/h. Our strategy of using a small gear and pedaling easy in headwinds didn’t work anymore in these conditions… we had to pedal hard!  By sunrise, we were already hitting the road and taking advantage of the early hours before the wind became fiercer. Nevertheless, we spent seven to eight hours a day in the saddle!

Our focus was mostly on the bumpy road. If we sometimes looked into the distance, we saw the same scene for days: flat steppe, a few bushes, dust and dryness. Because of the Soviet planned economy with water-intensive cotton cultivation in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, nothing is left of the Aral Sea, which provided a more moderate climate in the past. We did not visit the ship graveyard at Moynaq on the edge of the dried-up Aral Sea. The sight of the salt-covered fields and the practically silted Amudarya River (once the largest river in Central Asia) on the entrance to Nukus were sad enough… This article on gives a lifelike impression.

After twelve days of strenuous desert driving with constant strong winds, we arrived in Nukus totally dusty, dirty and exhausted… but very happy. Rarely was the anticipation of a shower and washed clothes so great😊! Here in Nukus we charge our batteries and free ourselves and the bikes from the worst dust.