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Bumps and Potholes, Sand and Corrugation – Take Your Pick!

Posted by TravellingStrom on August 1, 2012

Mayan Prophecy Countdown

Thanks to the people at Homeless, they know who they are, I now have a back door to my WordPress account and can post 🙂

I had planned on being on the road sooner than I was, but I ran into a snag. I had booked a hotel in Aktobe, the online booking said the room would cost ‘this much’ which looked good, so I booked it, but then it came up with a different price when I got the confirmation!!! The price was 5 times more than I had seen just before, so I had to try and change it, but even though I got online again out in the car park, I could not do it, as there were no options. So, in the end I rang up and swapped rooms, still expensive, but apparently no other choices (online that is). That was when Lorenzo and Federico told me out the window that they had stayed in a cheaper place, but it was too late now, there was a no cancellation policy and if I did, I would be charged anyway. Bummer, but I had no choice, I was now committed to luxury at the end of the day, oh well, might as well go and get dirty first then eh 😉 So I headed off, with the expectation of also having the Italian/Russian couple in their Range Rover behind me so if I have problems in the dirt, well, he is a biker so no worries 🙂

Now, as I left town I saw a sign which does not instil confidence in what is ahead!!

Good Luck indeed, I mean I am sure the message is sincere, but ominous, Safe Travels may have been a nicer choice of words. After about half an hour I found my first side road detour, nothing to talk about here, just a graded gravel road.

The next little while was easy riding, the only thing I saw besides nothing, were some horses grazing. Wildlife seems to be scarce, I have seen nothing native throughout Russia and here, except for the black birds and I have since found out they only eat veggies, they are not carrion eaters like ours back home. But within an hour or so of leaving Uralsk, I was in the next small town of Zhympity where I fuelled up, I planned on doing this at every opportunity that arises. At the servo the driver of a local bus was interested in the bike so I had a quick chat, with my hands, I would not like to be a passenger on that bus, no aircon, packed in like sardines and it was getting hot, but this is a desert area after all!

So, I had completed 120km, another 360 to go and it was 12.30pm, there was supposed to be another fuel stop about 200km away, but I had enough to get to Aktobe anyway, even if the quality of the fuel means I have lost efficiency, but the price is cheap, way cheap. I have been used to paying $30-50 for a tank of fuel, and we are only talking 22liters here, not a car. So, now for me to fill up, I am only paying up to $14 a tank, great on the pocket, but it is low grade and my range has dropped from 480km/tank to about 350. But, some of that is probably the head wind I am riding into today, but it is something I need to keep an eye on as I do not carry any spare fuel at this time. There is not much to see out here, it is like back home out west, the roads are straight and the horizon is nearly flat, but a brilliant change from the truck congested Russian roads.

It was just a ride after that for a while until I entered Aktobe State, which seems to be what these big concrete structures mean, the state boundaries. I spoke to these two chaps for a short time, they spoke a little English and were amazed an Ozzie was so far from home and on a bike, it always spins them out when I say I am riding it back home 🙂

After that, I came to what looked like a graveyard or something along those lines, but I was miles from anywhere, so I have no real idea what it was about.

It was about 3pm when I entered the road works area, from here on into Aktobe the road was being repaired or replaced and the side road detours were about 15km each. This first one was about 15km north of a small town called Hobda and led right into town where the first servo had no power, thus no fuel, but lucky there was one on the other side of town. It was a bumpy dusty road, some sand patches, some potholes, this road was graded through the scrub a fair while back and it has been chewed up by many trucks since then. I made a few small videos to give you an idea of what the next few hours were like. I passed the Italian fellow during one of these segments and nearly come off when I hit a large unseen bump, hmmm, I should probably stop and clean my sunnies!!! And, if you think I was being polite moving over when the car passed me, think again, I hit a soft sand patch and that is where the front wheel went, which was better than into the direction of the truck!




Along the way as you can see it was very dusty and it was not until I got into town that I realised the camera lens had been covered in a fine layer, so the colour quality went down a bit, I will remember that next time. One other thing I did check was the chain oiler during the dirt sections, although the outside plates were dusty, the inside and rollers were nice and shiny which meant wet, so I think it has passed a major test today 🙂

I finished the last dirt section about 40km north of Aktobe but there was no rest for the wicked when riding the bitumen either. This section of road must be next on the agenda and is terrible, with some very nasty surprises in store. One of them was a huge bump at the top of a rise while on the other side was a large pothole section, lucky I had already started applying the anchors, even if it was in midair!

Well, all good things finally come to an end and at 5.30pm I finally entered the outskirts of Aktobe, and a welcome sight it was to. It had taken 7.5hrs to travel the 480km, so that was not to bad and the hotel was a posh place, but as long as there was aircon and a clean shower I would be happy 🙂 I had thought about the cost a fair bit at the beginning of the day and decided, if I camp a few days in the wild, then that should even it out, so I might as well make the best of a bad mistake 😉

After booking in I was told by the security guards I would have to do something about my bike as it was not secure? I told them in no uncertain terms that for the price they are charging me for tonight, they can damm well keep their eyes open and do their jobs, that is what they are paid to do!! I did put a cover over the bike and it was parked right next to the entrance steps, and the steps meant I could not ride it into the hotel foyer or I would have done that! It made me mad and a bit concerned to think this posh hotel cannot secure guests transport! Anyway, I posted a few things on Facebook about the day and about the parking and went for a beer downstairs. Here I met a pommy bloke who shouted me a few beers, well he can afford it, as apparently he owns an oil well out here! He wants to go for a ride with his son around Oz and wanted my advice on the new BMW1800, I tried to talk him out of them, very expensive and all that, but money is no problem, so I guess he will buy them anyway -shrug-. He wanted to ride from Perth up north and back around to Sydney, in November and December, I told him to think again, that is the wet season and hopefully he will take THAT advice! By now I was getting light headed so went off to a cheap café where I had some BBQ’d chook and somehow got caught up in a dance session with some drunken locals, no photo sorry 🙂

It was during this time that I got a message from Anton Larin, he is a chap who lives in Almaty, which is the capital of Kazakhstan, and he used to ride a Vstrom, which is how I got to know him. He was very concerned about the bike issue and the hotel price and said his friend Gennardi would be around very soon to pick me up and sort things out, cool stuff. Well, he did come and pick me up and spoke to the hotel desk and security guards and they seemed a lot happier with the outcome, the bike would be safe where it is. We had a drink in the hotel and he said he could help with a cheaper hotel tomorrow and with any bike problems I had. It seems his office where he works is the hangout and base of the local bike people and they are always available with help and information to travellers, he is even mentioned in Lonely Planet, which I do not have. So we discussed some things, mainly the China Syndrome issue and which road I should take when I leave here. When he left I had a few more beers (at least they were cheap) while I tried to get in contact with Neil and some others of our China tour group. One of the problems was that Neil lost his top box and with it his bike paperwork, he was in southern Kaz and the last I heard he was maybe leaving without paperwork and heading to Kyrgyzstan through the desert, but he was with Nacho, another of the group, so two together should be OK.

My only definite decision is that I would take another day or so here in a cheaper hotel and work out my options regarding where to go and what to see. Gennardi would pick me up at midday checkout tomorrow and show me the other hotel which is owned by a friend, so a lot more secure 🙂 On that happy note, I crashed out in luxery.

Cheers from Aktobe, Kazakhstan

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