Kazakhstan in a motorhome - Part 2 - The roads get worse... A lot worse

 Wild camping so early on in our journey through Kazakhstan felt like bliss compared to sleeping on service stations in Russia. The latter are definitely rare along the main roads we’ve driven so far. The M38 linking Semey to Astana through Pavlodar brings us through vast expansion of wild undulating grasslands - there aren’t many villages or towns, just a straight road through the dry grasslands and the odd small pine forest.

We were spoilt with about 100km of pristine beautifully smooth tarmac, but then that dream came to a sudden and abrupt end. The road was closed ahead and we were forced into a diversion. And this was not just any diversion, it was a diversion going the opposite direction to the road and along a sand track into a forest. This went on for about 50km, on almost undriveable sand and gravel tracks. Then we would rejoin the new road for a few more km and then yet more horrible diversions. The dust and constant juddering of the van was almost unbearable.

it might not look much but this was for driving
The Norman Foster designed 'Baiterek Tower'
That day we drove about 180km in about 7 hours. Oh please Kazakhstan, please let this be the exception and not the rule.

I wake up in cold sweats at night thinking about this image
So the next day we headed on to Pavlodar, a small industrial city with a lovely little centre and a river / beach promenade. After Pavlodar the roads got worse, and so did the weather. Here the diversions ran along side the road building, but it was mostly a track of corrugated hell. We could only drive about 18km/h for long stretches. And on the narrow road, the locals were overtaking us, and over taking the oncoming traffic, so it was a pretty claustrophobic and nail-biting experience. Then the torrential rain started and turned everything into a mud bath. But we held our nerve and eventually found a safe place to camp for the night, right on a new bit of unopened motorway.

our campsite for the night, on a new bit of unopened motorway
This is part of travelling though - it can be frustrating and long, but it means we can listen to podcasts for example for that little bit longer, read a passage of a book or read news stories on the Guardian App. Our favorite podcast at the moment is Pod Save America, about the current state of Trump politics.

our lovely little campsite for 3 nights, Hostel Nomad 4x4
Finally Astana, well we feel a little cheated by all the guide books - ‘it shouldn’t be missed for its modern architecture.’ Well we are both fans of architecture and Norman Foster, but this felt more like setting foot in Dubai or Qatar. It's a new capital and has been built pretty much from a small village to a bustling metropolis in 25 years.

an amazing little Uzbek bakery just around the corner - lovely flat bread
Hostel Nomad is a great and safe place to stay by the centre so we ended up staying a little bit longer to “recharge our batteries”. I think we are both happy to leave tomorrow morning and get back into the ‘Land of the Giant Steppe.’

our German motorhome neighbours
We hope to head south towards Karaganda and then ultimately onto Almaty, the old capital city.


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