During the last two days, the very friendly Kazakhs once again did their utmost to make sure that we would remember them and their country in the best possible way. On the way out of Oskemen, two policemen asked us (out of curiosity) where we were coming from, where we were going, etc… A few minutes after we had resumed our journey, a police Lada followed us and it blared via megaphone “…Velosipedistji…, Velosipedistji…“. Slightly perplexed we stopped… the two policemen had forgotten the selfie with us😊.

A little later, we wanted to improve our lunch with a few treats from a small village store and lay down next door under the trees. I had just spread out the camp mattresses for the midday rest when David returned with the groceries and a notebook. The saleswoman maintained a guest book, in which we were privileged to write our names for being the fifth tourists since 2012. In appreciation, we were given ice cream and chocolate, and were visited by her English-speaking son and another lady, who also brought us sweets.

In Shemonaikha, the last village before the Russian border, we changed our Kazakh money into rubles. Because of the sanctions, our VISA/Mastercard bank cards do not work in Russia. Only when we passed a gas station at the exit of the village, we remembered the empty gasoline bottle of our stove. Hoping we could pay by card, we pulled up to the gas station. No, card payment was not possible but the manager of the gas station offered us that half liter of gasoline. In addition, there was coffee at choice😊. From four times refueling in Kazakhstan, the gasoline was three times free.

Aktiviere Karte Deaktiviere Karte

At noon we reached the border post. When leaving Kazakhstan, we were questioned in unusual detail. The official was interested in our route and photos, almost forgetting the exit stamp. After about an hour we rode on to the Russian border post, in front of which there was already a long queue of cars.
As cyclists, we were able to ride past the waiting motor vehicles and get in front😊. Because only a few vehicles were allowed in the control area, we waited in the baking sun until the barrier opened.

A friendly border officer questioned us for two hours about our itinerary, education, job, family and military service. He typed the answers into a Word file, and printed it out at the end. An FSB employee asked us exactly the same questions, logged everything in another Word file and printed it out. Will the records ever be looked at😊?
By the way, our opinion on the War in Ukraine was not documented: we evaded and stated that we were not interested in politics.

At late afternoon, we had the entry stamps in our passports and were allowed to enter Russia after a basic inspection of our luggage!

The 400km to Biysk were among the most boring of our journey so far. The road led through endless agricultural land. The extraordinary and unexpected disinterest of the people as well as the hardly existing possibilities to stop for a break did not bring any additional variety. We had the impression that people had been deprived of curious interest for generations. One prefers not to know, see or hear anything that could somehow be one’s undoing. Life seems easiest when you plant your potatoes in the garden and do not look over the fence to get lost in the vastness and mass. There was hardly anything visible or noticeable from the War in Ukraine. Only the terrible Wagner logo (skull and crossbones) and the occasional “Z” on the rear windows of cars indicated this. Eye-catching, however, were the tree trunks in front of the one café in Biysk, which “coincidentally” were colored blue and yellow.

On the other hand, the selection in the Russian supermarkets was a great joy! For the first time since Baku, we could find everything we wanted in a single store. We had to restrain ourselves from making any hoarding purchases because there was sure to be another well-stocked supermarket in the next village. A relief😊!

We visited Biysk only because we had to register by staying in a hotel within the first seven days in Russia. There wasn’t much to see in town except for the single statue of Lenin in his winter coat. We found a friendly hostel, enjoyed the nice cafes and I got a short and bad haircut. The registration worked flawlessly, so we were allowed to continue our journey the next morning.

On the suggestion of a local bicyclist, we took a quiet side road towards the Altai Mountains instead of the busy main road. After half a day we reached the first hills. The landscape slowly changed from forested mountains to wide, barren high valleys with snow mountains in the background. The beautiful Altai region is a paradise for nature and outdoor lovers!
Many local tourists spent their vacations camping in this stunning area. Among the many visitors were also some Russian bicyclists and motorcyclists, with whom we chatted thanks to a few words of English (on their part) and a few words of Russian (on our part). They greatly warmed up our image of the cold Siberians.

In Kosh Agach we took the last opportunity to buy supplies for five days in a well-stocked Russian supermarket. Heavily loaded, we drove to the border town of Tashanta. On the way we were stopped by a police patrol, which wanted to see our border zone permit… A permit, for what? Fortunately, we do not know Russian, after a few moments the police let us pass😊.

If you don’t come to Tashanta to photograph the town sign, you will certainly want to cross the border into Mongolia and put your car in line overnight in front of the barrier. We, on the other hand, camped on a field at the edge of the village, benefited from the cyclist bonus this morning and passed many parked cars and trucks at 7:00 am. As we discovered, two hours before the border post opened, we were the only ones up. Many local cars served as placeholders only; shortly before 9:00 a.m. the actual border crossers arrived, saving themselves the waiting time. In front of the closed barriers at the Russian-Mongolian border we use the waiting time to prepare this report. We are very excited about what awaits us in the border post and then in Mongolia.

This post was written on July 24, 2023 and published on October 7, 2023.