It was a heck of a long day, but I made it across to Kazakhstan yesterday. I departed the Alibek Guesthouse in Khiva at 5.00am Monday 30th June, suffering from a bout of diarrhoea – not the best situation to be in when you have to drive about 650km!
With the Garmin not recognising roads around Khiva, I had to rely on direction signs to the town of Nukus, but they were very scarce. I ended up retracing the route I had taken to reach Kiva, which was not the most direct route to Nukus (see GPS track on map below). I didn’t reach Nukus until midday (7 hours into the journey) so had doubts that I would be able to make it to the order by 5.00pm.
The roads north of Nukus were fairly good, so I was able to maintain a decent pace (within my self-imposed limit of 90kph for the Defender). The intense heat of Khiva gave way to heavy cloud cover and strong winds, that brought a sand storm and a couple of rain showers. The cooler temperatures were very welcome on the long drive.
The diarrhoea was certainly a hindrance. Along the way, I became quite proficient in the art of ‘stop, squat and squirt’ – pulling to the side of the road, positioning the Defender in a way so that passing traffic couldn’t see me and then doing a rapid squat and squirt next to the vehicle. Fortunately, most of the journey was through arid desert landscape and not habited areas! The malady persisted all day and continued into Tuesday – then I realised that the cause was probably the fresh apricots I had bought at the Khiva market. I kept eating the fruit on Monday’s drive and again on Tuesday morning, so I was reinfecting myself and prolonging the problem! Once I realised, the rest of the apricots were tossed into the trash.
About 30km from the border, I came across a group of Brits in a car, followed by a friend on a motorcycle. They’d come through Georgia and Kazakhstan and had just entered Uzbekistan via the border. We had a quick chat but I had to dash if I was to have any chance of getting over the border.
Somehow, I made it to the first checkpoint on the Uzbek side at 5.07pm and I was allowed past the barrier. But it was another 20km to the actual border post, which I reached before 5.30pm. The guard on the gate radioed something to a colleague about a tourist and then I was allowed in. I was then subjected to the most thorough vehicle search of any of the border crossings to date. Strangely, when I entered Uzbekistan, the vehicle only got a cursory inspection. Now that I was leaving, the guy wanted to see everything. My luggage went for x-ray. Then he wanted everything out of the back – tent, chairs, BBQ coals, boxes – even the mattresses and sleeping bags. Then he inspected the two side lockers in the rear storage section (the first time anyone at a border has even noticed they were there). Eventually, I was allowed to move on to the Kazakh side, 90 minutes after entering the border post (7.00pm). The Kazakh side was a bit quicker – taking only 60 minutes. Most of that was standing in line and waiting for passport control and customs. The actual vehicle inspection only took a few minutes.
So, at 8.00pm, I was clear of the customs post but ahead of me was a long, crappy dirt road full of pot-holes, leading to the town of Beyneu – over 60km away. An app on my Garmin Monterra indicated that there was just over an hour until sunset. I don’t drive the Defender at night and it wouldn’t have been wise on those pot-holes anyway. It was clear that I wouldn’t make it to Beyneu before nightfall, so I pushed on for a while to get clear of the border and then pulled off the track onto some scrub land where I climbed into the back of the Defender and got some sleep.
At 5.30am Tuesday 1st July, I was on the road again and made it to Beyneu, where I was able to fill the tank with diesel at a much better price than in Uzbekistan. At 6.30am, with a full tank of fuel, I set off for the city of Atyrau. Again, the scenery was just flat arid desert with a few camels to break the monotony, but the road was beautiful! Nice, flat tarmac on which I could maintain 90kph (with several stop, squat and squirts along the way until I dumped the apricots).
I reached Atyrau about 12.30pm, so a 7-hour drive for the day. I’m now checked into a hotel for a couple of nights. That will allow me to rest up and ensure that my stomach has settled down before the next leg. I also need to take care of the mandatory registration requirement for Kazakhstan (must register within first 5 days after entry).
Total mileage for the trip to date is 14,104 miles (22,698 km), so I have to start thinking about where the next oil change and service will be done.