The rough road, strong headwind and dark clouds did not make our departure from Karakol easy. Fortunately, the thunderstorms blew past us at the last pass of Kyrgyzstan, so we were dry and could stop for a snack in a small container. Here we finally took the opportunity to try the Central Asian specialty Kumis (fermented mare’s milk). The drink tasted less bad than feared and the predicted toilet trip as an immediate consequence did not occur😊.

Aktiviere Karte Deaktiviere Karte

The headwind had died down in the meantime and we spent a quiet night on a wonderful green meadow. The hills on the horizon already belonged to Kazakhstan. The way to the border was not far the next morning. At the small, informal border crossing in the middle of nowhere it was no problem at all to leave Kyrgyzstan with our old passports and to use our new passports (with the Russian visa) to enter Kazakhstan.
Since the border crossing is only open from May to September, swallows had built a nest directly above the passport control – both on the Kyrgyz and Kazakh side😊.

Right after the border, we enjoyed the good roads and the cheerful, interested Kazakhs. Already in the first village there were selfies with us and our sportsmanship was praised😉. A few kilometers after entering from green Kyrgyzstan, we drove over a small pass directly into a desert region in Southeast Kazakhstan. We had never experienced such a stark transition of climate zones!
Very impressive was also the Charyn Canyon, which does not need to fear the comparison with its US counterparts. The road into the canyon is closed for motorized vehicles. As cyclists, we had the privilege of being able to ride it and camp down by the river (free of charge).

For the ride to Almaty we chose a little road along the Great Almaty Canal. With beautiful views of apple orchards, the Bartogai reservoir and the 4000m mountains behind the city, we enjoyed this stretch of road. The only downside to the barely traveled route was that there were no supermarkets or restaurants. Fortunately, our supplies lasted all the way to the city, whose culinary variety we had been anticipating for months! The pizza in Almaty was not a delicacy, but the Korean food thrilled us! As a result of ethnic deportations under Stalin (1937), there is a Korean minority in Kazakhstan (and consequently delicious food😊).

Apart from the food, we also used the time in Almaty for a stroll through the city, to pick up a parcel from Switzerland and to shop for shoes, bike helmet and a new replacement bottom bracket. For the return shipment of maps and a memory stick with pictures we spent a whole morning at the post office. First we had a ticket number that was never called. Then the screen went off showing the sequence of ticket numbers. When all the waiting people had passed us, we also pushed to a counter. We were directed to another lady who was in the process of individually typing in the shipment of 50 books. Fortunately, half of the pile had already been processed and it took her “only” two minutes for one book😉. For three days, we enjoyed the bustling multi-cultural city life of Almaty before pedaling north.

With the help of Google Maps and, we were prepared for the stretch to Oskemen. The supply with water and food seemed to be guaranteed on the 1080km long route; every 50km or so there was a village, a shop or a restaurant. We had more respect for headwinds and the temperatures, which often exceed 42°C in Kazakhstan in summer! We were very grateful that our fears did not materialize and the variable weather provided constantly changing wind and pleasant temperatures😊.
Since the road has been under new construction for 6 years, we mostly rolled on the very best asphalt. Where the work was not yet completed, the complete traffic was diverted to a parallel natural road. Depending on the weather, we then drove through mud or a cloud of dust😉. Apart from the usual traffic, up to 50 new Chinese semi-trucks overtook us every day on their way to Russia. We could not imagine that one factory could produce so many trucks!

The landscape in huge Kazakhstan was neither flat nor monotonous. We would have liked to make excursions to more national parks and to rock paintings. However, because of the many additional kilometers (>1000km!) we refrained from this… because there are still 8000km to Vladivostok. Studying the Siberia travel guide carefully, we realized again that winter in Siberia starts already in October. And as we know, it may snow even in Switzerland in September😉…

Russian Siberia (Irkutsk) vs. Swiss Siberia (La Brévine). Attention: distorted scaling.

Glad that the route through Kazakhstan was so easy, we spend two rest days in Oskemen. Thereafter, we will cross the Russian Altai Mountains for about two weeks on our way to Mongolia.