Safe but stuck in between the Kaz and Uzbekistan border – started journey this morning at 9am from Beyneu in Kazakstan. Quite an event trying to get ready this morning. Reached border and customs process started at 11am and now 1.45pm! Got through Kaz border but really hot!
18th day Tues 29th April
Last day in Russia ,made our way from Astrakhan to the Kazakstan border,fairly straight forward drive to the check point .Crossed a bendy bridge – moments of tension!
Border control ,both from the Russian and Kazakstan sides was fairly straight
forward .Making our way to Atyrau
Driving through V dry ,v flat land accompanied with a wicked sweeping wind – and oh my god,mega pot holes on the road for some distance ,travelling time was pretty slow.Rainy and quite cold. This region was meant to have been under the sea ,some time back in its history ,explains the sandy ,dry endless terrain
Reached at 8pm – long difficult driving day,Peter at the helm for a fair bit.Infact because of our journey,we lost another hour GMT – we are now 4 hours behind
The city of Atyrau ,like many others we had seen in the recent past was pretty modern.
Attached ,proposed journey plan for tomorrow
Brief information :It seems the place has quite a history and a pretty bright future
The city is located on both sides of the Ural River. The history of the area and the city has for many centuries. The first mention found in the III – IV centuries BC, and the city begins its chronicle in 1640.
The land is harsh, but generous. The Caspian Sea and Ural River is rich in fish and the depths of the oil. And so the main richness red fish and black caviar, oil and gas. No wonder the crest of the city of sturgeon and oil derrick.
Today Atyrau – the main hydrocarbon region of Kazakhstan, the largest center for oil and gas, a promising market investments. Well, black caviar from Atyrau well-known in the CIS and Europe.
Dinner at a local restaurant ,got chatting to a group of Russians sitting next to us .Tentatively asked them for help in reading the menu – all in Russian!
To cut a long story short – It started tentatively but they got really friendly and treated us with Russian cognac and vodka
It was only later we found out they were all plain clothes policeman – confirmed by seeing their id !
One of them gave us a tour of the city and escorted us back to our hotel -how cool was that.
Have only experienced wonderful hospitality from the Russian people,during our short stay in Russia
17th day Mon 28th April
City and administrative centre of Astrakhan oblast (province), southwestern Russia. Astrakhan city is situated in the delta of the Volga River, 60 miles (100 km) from the Caspian Sea. It lies on several islands on the left bank of the main, westernmost channel of the Volga. Situated on caravan and water routes, it developed from a village into a large trading centre.
Russian state Tsar Ivan the Terrible conquered Astrakhan Khanate and its capital city Astrakhan in 1556. The city became the main Russian gate to Orient in the 17th century. It was the place where merchants from Armenia, Persia, India and other counties of the East met.
We left Volgograd for Astrakhan at 9.15am distance of 265 miles reached 4.45pm
Pretty good journey with no stopping for lunch.Roads were pretty good,again long but on this occasion we hardly came across any towns
Two stops to fill diesel at petrol station took over an hour.At every petrol station so far ,money has to be paid up front at the counter
Can see a distinct change in peoples appearances and ethnicity.Russian,…… And Muslim women with hijabs
Interesting fact ,Astrakhan lies 70 feet below sea level – our GPS on the land cruiser seemed to confirm this- never travelled this depth below sea level – good thing I can swim!! (Manvir ‘s comment)
Still in Russia but now only about an hour from Kazakhstan border
Now the adventure really begins ,we are planning to travel about a 1,000 miles to Kazakhstan and into some very mountainous terrain – so time to stock up on fuel,food and a lot of water and a lot of luck!!
16th Day Sun 27th April 2014
Have been lucky with the weather and today continued that theme – nice and sunny,pleasant to walk around the city .Perhaps because it’s Sunday,there doesn’t seem to be many people walking around.
There has been a lot of violence in the last six months in Volgograd with suicide bombings,so the place is not without its problems.But have to say again , with regards to the people we have met whilst here, they have been very helpful and considerate,not rude,abrupt etc – we have definitely not experienced any unfriendliness of any kind .Perhaps this may become a theme on this trip – that we need to be a bit weary of press and media opinion in the uk about this and other parts of the world.
The pharmacy we visited was quite unusual – from the outside we thought it was a sports bar- Manvir looking for a place to watch the football,stumbled on it,but from the inside,quite cute and functional
Peter falling asleep on railway tracks – as you do,counselling being arranged!
Saw an absolutely awesome structure of The Motherland Calls,it was jaw dropping.A solid,towering giant statue over seeing the river Volga.Also saw the Battle of Stalingrad memorial and the Hall of Military Glory.
Kirit the mad Liverpool fan – managed to find a pub near our hotel to watch the Liverpool Chelsea game.Trust me this place was like finding a needle in a hay stack – he found the needle and although I’m not a Liverpool fan ,I had the best spare ribs ever at this place – a reasonable trade off in the end
Liverpool lost – not a good day at the office for Mr K Patel
Started planning for tomorrow – targeting Astrakhan to the south- another 9 and a half hour hour journey
15th day Sat 26th April
Again an early start – have a lot of mileage to cover
Generally have now settled down with where everything is kept – in my bag!
Have to say ,should have brought fewer clothes,because at every stage we have had the opportunity to access a laundry machine.
Internet access has been brilliant throughout our journey – even in the Russian hotel we stayed in last night.Which incidentally cost us £40 for a two single bed ,room and included dinner and breakfast.So far we must be averaging about £25 per person per night,since the start of our journey.
Had a long open discussion last night in the bar ie holding the glass to have the opportunity to get issues off your chest ,four people cooped up in a closed
environment will have moments of tension – good to talk!
The nightly routine of getting the previous days blog completed means I’m sleeping past 2am on average and getting up about 6am for the start of next days travels – ie 4 to 5 hours sleep.That small amount of sleep at home and the next day I would be a zombie,however,here on my travels surprisingly,it does not seem to be an issue.
After two weeks on our travels we are getting used to living out of our bags,getting more comfortable of routine and new environments
One thing we should have done ,as a preparatory, prior to the start of our journey,was to have listed the approximate euro and sterling conversion rates for each of the countries we were visiting.
There were no superstores visible in the entirety of the journey so far in Russia and today was no different on the road journey to Volgograd .Again roads were good and v long.
Picked a picnic spot to have a light lunch and Kirit and Peter went searching for a snake
Approximately 500 miles covered today and 13 hours. In total we have now covered just over 4,000 miles since we started.
So far, of the Russia we have seen – it looks massive and a very fertile land
Reached Volgograd at about 9pm,checked in at Volgogard Hotel and our rooms- photos of the room are self explanatory
Volgogard was formerly called Stalingrad (1925 – 61) , Industrial city and renamed after Stalins fall from grace.
Renamed Volgogard to pay tribute to the river that dominates it’s geography economy and culture
Tomorrow relax ,site seeing tour around Volgogard