Friday, 15 October 2010

Tashkent (Uzbek) to Shymkent (Kazak)

A quick glance at the map over breakfast shows that we’re almost on top of the border crossing to Kazakstanh. Brilliant! A short hop across the border and we’ll be in Kazakstanh in no time, what could possibly go wrong…..

Outside in the car park we meet a really nice Swiss guy called Patrick. He’s on a 3 year drive around the world with his mate, their weapon of choice - A fully kitted out Nissan Patrol 4x4. They’ve just arrived in Tashkent having driven through the night from Tukmenistan. They’re shocked to see us in the little Porsche, and remark that the roads in Turkmenistan were absolutely bad enough for their 4x4, let alone one of Stuttgart’s finest! Are we crazy? Most definitely yes.

Patrick entered Turkmenistan from Iran, which he said was brilliant, something I’ve heard many times before - The hospitality of the Iranians appears to be legendary. Unfortunately whilst staying at a 4* hotel in Tehran their vehicle was stolen from a secure hotel car park, right in front of a surveillance camera. Luckily it was recovered three days later, albeit minus its contents….. I’ve become a little complacent with the security of Jerry of late, I heed this as a warning and have been fitting the steering wheel lock and removing the rotor arm over night ever since…

We take some pictures, exchange contact details and hit the road. Patrick, if you’re reading this, I wish you all the best with your trip, its going to be brilliant - You can follow Patrick’s progress at (Select the Nissan Patrol.)

After just 45 minutes on the road we arrive at the border with Khazakstan, only to find that its closed to vehicles. Doh! We stop a local and ask where the next nearest border is, she explains that its back the way we came, about 70km South of Almaty. If you’ve been keeping tabs on our satellite tracker page, you will have seen our track double back on itself for a few hundred KM, now you know why…

We get completely lost trying to find the Kazak border and end up stopping to ask about 20 different people on the outskirts of Tashkent. Eventually we figure out the way, and three hours later we’re at the Yellama border, a small and fairly quiet crossing South West of Tashkent.

The border guards are fairly helpful and for some reason give us priority treatment over the locals. One of the customs guys takes a shine to the car and goes out of his way to guide us through the numerous hoops, even teaching Bex the verbal commands used to control the sniffer dog. After a car X-ray, we’re unleashed on the Kazakstanh highway.

Roads are good and we make some great progress - The scenary appears very different from Uzbekistan, vast open spaces stretch as far as the eye can see. A whole lot of nothing, and it reallys is nothing….With 2.7 million KM of land, most of which is completely empty, this place ranks as the 9th largest country in the world.

The long days of driving without breaks are starting to take their toll, so we decide to split the Kazak legs down from two to three shorter hops. Our first stop is Shymkent, a small city famous for smelting lead, making cigarettes and refining oil. As usual we arrive fairly late, so we waste no time in parking up the car and walking into town for beers…

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