After a night on a very hard bed in Taldykorgan, we drove the final 260km to the city of Almaty today. For the most part, the scenery remained flat and boring but the road conditions weren’t quite as bad as yesterday.
Kazakh police activity was high again and we were stopped for the fourth time, on the third consecutive day. We were driving in a 50kph zone due to road-works and we knew that there was police activity ahead due to all of the oncoming cars flashing their headlights. So my speed had been adjusted to below 50 as we approached the police radar speed trap. Despite having been under the limit, we were still pulled over.
The officer with the red baton and whistle (who stops the vehicles) came to the driver’s window and told me to go over to the parked patrol car. I reached the patrol car and the driver was very cordial, shaking my hand and smiling. He motioned me around to the passenger side, where the door was wide open, and told me to have a seat. Still all smiles and happiness.
Once I was comfortably seated, he drew a circle with the number 30 inside and told me I was driving in a 30 zone. I asserted that it was a 50 zone and he replied again that it was 30. I re-asserted that it was a 50 and that the signs all said 50. With that he gave a big smile and said I could go!
My assumption was that he thought he could trick me into thinking I’d been speeding so that I would then be amenable to paying an on-the-spot ‘fine’. Based on the speed at which they were dealing with other motorists who we saw had been speeding, there may have been several quick ‘fines’ paid to these officers.
But, the entire episode only took about three minutes of our time, so no real inconvenience. Others following behind us should be aware of this ruse and pay attention when ever you see oncoming motorists flashing their lights.
A short time later, we found ourselves in a 30km zone (on a nice, wide piece of road where the limit wasn’t necessary) when we again got warning flashes from oncoming cars. This time, we crawled past the radar gun at 26-27km and the officer ignored us.
We also passed a couple of static police checkpoints later in the day and we were not pulled over, so things are improving.
There won’t be much driving over the next three nights as we have some R&R time in Almaty.