We decided to go with the ‘gun it to Almaty’ option which meant covering 1130km in 2 days. That way we’d arrive in Almaty on Thursday evening, have the Friday to sort the car and paper work, and try and sort out the visa issue.
The day’s driving didn’t get off to a good start with what seemed like endless roadworks of the worst kind (ie.: road ripped up, extremely uneven surface and traveling in the dirt, with serious speed and over-taking restrictions). With the distance we wanted to cover that day we almost wavered and turned around (to head back to the Russian border and try and sort out the visa issue there) but we gritted our teeth and continued. The roads were some of the worst we’ve had during the whole trip and they never really got better: if there weren’t any road works it was all potholes (lots of them and of the kind that would do serious damage to our car); and the few better stretches were full of speed restrictions that seemed ridiculous most of the time. But with the reputation of the police here, one sticks to them (even most of the locals do). The scenery along the way….. flat and uninspiring is putting it mildly. We left Semey at 9:00am and arrived in a place called Sarkand at 8:30pm (11.5 hours later), where we found a small, clean and friendly hostel for the night. Potnoodles and a beer were a feast that night.
We covered 716kms that day. Epic.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Early start as we anticipated the same road conditions and, with more townships en route, even more speed restrictions. And we were – unfortunately – not wrong. On this second day towards Almaty we only had 440km to go. We arrived in Almaty around 4:30pm.