Waking up on the 50th again we were confident of making the 50Km over rough ground to the Astana road by lunch. So weset off with Dave, our morning specialist at the wheel. Once again Dave demonstrated his skills and got stuck again within sight of the campsite (this time he at least made 30 meters). On inspection we thought we were not very stuck and a bit of digging should get us free. 5 hours and two land anchor holes later we finaly got out. 50Km seemed like a tough ask, but we headed off to see how far we could get. Dave having a bit of a special day got stuck again, but we ended the day only 10km short of the road (and still bang on 50 degrees).
With our final wild camp before the capital out of the way we made good progress on some of the countries best roads and reached Astana by mid afternoon. As usual we had no idea where to stay and headed for a big hotel (they always speak english) to get some cheap recommendations. But after a chat with a guy at some traffic lights he lead us to the Tengri Hotel. The face price for a room was $80, but after chatting with the Director we were again amazed at Kazak hospitality and accepted the offer of the room for $30.
So back in a city again. Astana is the strangest place any of us have been. !0 years ago it did not exist, now there are 700 000 people living here, and some really big building, but the whole place does not seem real. I am fairly sure it is all made of lego, and people look really out of place on the streets. But we have had a great time here. The hotel have supplied us with a driver and a guide and also set up some press calls for us. So if any of you fancy looking we are going to be on Kazakh TV on monday and in a number of news papers here. The interviews were a bit of a laugh with the most common question being ‘No girls for 5 months, so how’s that going’.
Last night we met up with a friend of a friend who took us out and taught us all sorts of russian traditions, strangly they all involved vodka (that might be the reason we were not looking at our best for the TV interview). We are about to head out and meet up with the embassy staff for dinner and a beer so I expect we will learn some more traditions.
Tomorrow we head off to Karaganda and towards Russia again, aided by the pimping Garmin GPS units we finally managed to pick up after weeks of failed attempts! I suspect we will be a little sad to leave Astana. The double beds, all you can eat breakfasts and lunches and the hot showers have been amazing. Thank you Tengri Hotel!!
P.S. Thanks for all the sports updates, we’re better informed than if we watched it! The messages to the sat phone are amazing, please keep them coming.
Playing on the iPod: ‘The Boys are Back in Town’ by Thin Lizzy