Kazak – 2009 World Tour Progress Report

[Original post by Elliot Mogerman – Transferred from yahoogroups.com]


We leave Volgograd at 8:00 am, few clouds in the sky, mostly sunny and we embark for our border crossing into Kazakstan. The countryside began looking like home, greens turned to browns and yellows, hills disappeared and turned into flat land as long as the eye can see. The roads were also newly paved in some parts and very smooth. Mike has become so reliant on the navigation system we get lost in the border town. He can’t put on the Kazakstan maps until we cross the border as we need the Russian roads to get there, but they couldn’t do so. So, doing the old fashioned way, with a little gumption, we followed signs and asked for directions until we find it. A Russian police officer stopped us before we reached the border town and instantly began talking about the bikes. Never asked for documents or why he pulled us over. Took some pictures, all the other officers came out to look, and after 20 minutes we were off with handshakes and smiles. Unfortunately, because I am still sick during the 13 hour ride I began getting a migrane, and my body starts shutting down during this stop. We arrive to the border to leave Russia and we get in fairly quickly, but takes about an hour to leave. Then we arrive at the Kazakstan border and once we get in everyone admires our bikes. The security guy gets on the bike and rips the sole of his shoe off trying to dismount the bike. I am so tired I think the kickstand is down and go to put the bike on the side stand and feel it starting to drop. Trying to keep it from totally falling over a few gentlemen run over while I struggle to keep it up and help me get it back upright. As we go through the multiple steps of the border they ask mike for gifts from America. He gives them the shots of schnapps he has been carrying. We get insurance while I lay by the front in the dirt trying to get a second wind. It’s night now and we finally get the clearance to leave. The guards even joke with us about the corrupt Russian police. On the road no more than a few seconds when a Kazakstan officer pulls us over. After a few minutes of acting dumb we actually tried to figure out what he wanted because the normal procedure wasn’t working, and we figure out they were the registration stop for our bikes. Thank goodness we stopped, Mike rode by and I saw them flagging us down. Now we are finally off in a new country. A new found excitement hits and I get a second wind. Now I wasn’t expecting this second wind to be clouds of bugs. Holy crap, most of the land is swampy and there were so many bugs it was like waves of them hitting our bikes and my helmet as we rode through the night. The first town we find we decide to hunt down a hotel because camping is out of the question. With some help we find a hotel but it is closed. People are waving and honking at us as if they are excited we are in town. The main road is closed due to construction so we go off road and follow it as we are afraid where the detour will take us. Then a helpful local sees our despair at the closed hotel and offers to take us to another one tucked away behind alleys, we would have never found. Since we were not in Kazakstan long we had no opportunity to get the local currency. We offer to pay with Russian Rubles and she says no. We had no idea what the conversion was but she wanted 2,500 of their currency. We figure rubles are worth way more so give her 3,000 rubles and say please just let us sleep. If you are wondering $1 is equal to 30 rubles, $1 is equal to 175 kazak currency which we just figured out. So she got plenty more than she ever has for one night sleep. She takes us to a room with 3 cots and a door that doesn’t close. It’s about 103 degrees and no air conditioning. There is a stream or river with loud frogs and other critters outside the window. The room is about 10 sq ft. We finally get to sleep after the longest day ever around midnight.

We wake up and are off around 9am. Time changed on us again and we adjust our clocks. My bike doesn’t start, wtf? I just changed the battery before I left home, didn’t leave anything on over night, and everything seems to be in working order. Ah ha! I remember back home when I purchased my bike from the dealer, Devon was the salesman. After my multiple trips in to gear up, one day in passing, during casual conversation he talked about one small clip behind the kickstand that while he went off roading came loose and it prevented his bike from starting over. Not sure why I remembered, but like this trip, everything seems to happen for a reason and come together ultimately like it was meant to be. So I check and it doesn’t look like it came loose but I adjust it and the bike works fine after that. Stopping for money at the atm and getting our registration with the police, lots of kids come up to the bike and we let them on. They all have fun and smile. Then we find a store and stock up on water, the string smoked cheese I had at Stas’s country house, and some sausage just in case we can’t find anything and have to camp. We eat a banana, orange and gulp down a ton of water until we are bloated. We ride until 3pm when we find a large town on our path, gas up, and stop at a hotel for food. While we wait Mike decides we should just stay here. I order a national Kazak dish, but they are out of it. So we eat and go to our room. Unlike last night it is a normal looking hotel room. Old 80’s looking carpet, matching wood furniture, crazy glass lamp, one bed, bath, etc. I still have some symptoms but am starting to feel better. With a good nights sleep I hope to be close to 100% tomorrow and ready for another long riding day.

Riding through this country reminds me of home with flat land, desert, and hot temperature. We get to a city Atbypay and check into a hotel after a long day. The people are friendly and all wave and honk as we pass. When we stop people crowd around. There are tons of big wide ditches that looks to be filled with sand in the middle of the country. Oil wells are everywhere, as we find out the biggest commodity here and everyone works for the oil companies. We met a few British guys, I call the replacements, and a Finlader. We hang out with them, have a few drinks, I have a dance off at the hotel club with one of the guys and go to bed late. I woke up still trying to shake this cold. We head out for probably the craziest day so far. We leave the city and the road disappears. We end up in this town that the freeway stops and we can’t find our way. Some townsmen walk up and we show them a map of where we want to go. They have a kid on a bicycle take us through poor off road trails and points in a direction. We ride on very bumpy compact mud and dirt. Now, the start of the adventure. My tires are extremely low tread as I am close to changing them out with the offroad ones, I didn’t have time to change my suspension to off road handling and yes, I crash. But only going 5 miles an hour. We take some pictures and keep going. All the bumps keep jarring my right luggage case loose and I think it’s the vibration from the spare helmet. So after a few scares of loosing my case, I ditch the spare helmet on the side of the road. We go down dirt paths that shake and bump us around. A truck comes by and we flag them down. Three guys get out and tell us we are slightly off path. They take pictures, give us some waters for the road, and we continue on. I notice my rear tire seems low so I check the pressure and it is 10 pounds less than the morning. We stop and find a nail. So we get the patch kit out and plug the hole. Then a very old farmer on equipment is leveling the road. We ask for directions and he points us in the right way. We travel for hours on rocks and crappy paths doing about 40, not so smart, and while I’m looking at camels, horses, hawks, and other animals my bike hits a very large curved rock that launches my bike sideways immediately and….another crash. This one was a little worse. MY bike won’t start up again and I’m a little shaky. I set up camp and my tent as the sun has gone down. The wind is very high, and dust storms are everywhere. My tent fills up with sand almost immediately. We are in the middle of nowhere and my bike isn’t working. Furthermore, Mike notices his top case, due to weight and the roads, has cracked his fram and the support. So now he has to ditch his case and ties down the contents. Surprisingly I get cell phone service and make some calls. With some help from friends and family back home I call the embassy. The embassy calls public affairs. Public affairs calls Esso Chevron gas company. They call me and have arranged a transport to pick us up. After a few hours of trying to find us they eventually do and four of us lift my bike up onto their Tacoma pick up, I get in back, and Mike follows behind back to the city we stayed at. They take us to a hotel and I get a call from Max, the gentlemen who was helping us last night in the coordination, and said he will bring one of their mechanics over in a few hours. Now he has never worked on motorcycles but how nice is that. We look at the spark plugs and change them out, check the battery, even put in 98 rated petrol, gas, to make sure I didn’t have a tank of bad gas. The bike now starts but only runs if you continuously rev the engine. So Mike gets online to a motorcycle forum, horizons unlimited, and gets some ideas for us to work on tomorrow. Then the chevron rep, Max, invites us to dinner at Champs sports bar. We meet up with them and eat. My stomach is acting up since the crashes yesterday, probably stress, and I need to get everything back in sync. I have been fatigued the last two days because I can’t keep anything in. But our hotel the Marriott Renaissance is lovely and comfortable. In the morning we will work on the bike as we only have less than 2 weeks left on our visa here and haven’t even began to explore. Might try and find a doctor to knock out this crap. But everyone reading this, I have become a lifetime member of chevron products, as should you, because everything they did for us in distress, they paid for and put together at a drop of a hat without ever wanting anything in return except for our safety.