Our time in Central Asia was drawing to a close, and we wanted to have some time in Georgia and Armenia before the harsh Caucasian winter draws in, so we decided to make a dash back towards Uralsk where we could hopefully get our Russian transit visas. This supposedly quick drive would involve driving 2150km through the Kazakh desert. Luckily, President Nazarbayev has spent a fair bit of cash making this road as good as a German autobahn. Well, in most parts anyway.
|The ancient silk road city of Sauran|
|Mausoleum of Khoja Ahmed Yasawi in Turkestan|
|The long abandoned cranes of the fishing industry and old harbour wall|
|our typical camping spot in the desert as we drive through Kazakhstan|
|ahh, nothing makes me happier than a good oil and fuel filter change|
|a covert picture of us in 'No Man's Land'|
|why does the cab stink of diesel?|
|Sylvie hanging on to the side of the crane lorry|
|it looked very different before the storm|
It was pretty awesome hanging on the back of his truck like firemen driving through the Russian Steppe. The tow rope we bought in Slovenia, which we thought we might never use, saved our lives that day, despite snapping on first use, we doubled it up and, after a few minutes, we had the van on terra firma. Only now, it, and us were completely caked in thick horrible mud. We desperately needed a car wash. We both gave the crane driver a hug and tried to offer him some money but he wouldn't take anything. I don't know your name but in the miniscule chance you ever read this, Thank you again.
So, carrying about a ton of extra mud weight we carried on towards the Buddhist republic of Elista. After a very eventful 24 hours, we didn't think anything else could happen. But, it was here that we would have our worst ever encounter with corrupt police. We approached a police checkpoint on the north edge of town as we had done countless times before, reducing our speed to 50, then to 30, then to 10, trying my hardest not to make eye contact. They didn't ask us to stop at first, but in my mirror I saw him point out his stupid white flashy batton. So we pulled over and the nightmare began.
|I haven't got any pictures of the police, so here's a picture of the terrible Russian road|
|and here's a picture of a classic Russian pothole|
We weren't sure what to expect, but the shell of the gymnasium where the hostages were held for three days with temperatures exceeding 35 degrees, as been turned into a permanent memorial. The room is filled, very poignantly with bottles of water, which people bring, as gifts to the souls of their lost loved ones. The children had all tried to go to the toilets to drink water, but this was stopped and the pipes and sinks smashed by the terrorists.
Next.... we are almost back within touching distance of Europe.