Hooru Samara, G’Day Kazakhstan!

SAMARA (CAMAPA) After 3 days of following signs for Samara and watching the kilometers to our destination drop, we arrived in the afternoon in good spirits. We took a dip in the inviting Volga, on a beach packed like sardines, with fantastic swimwear in all directions. Our plan for that evening was to find a campsite about 50kms from the border in order to get to cross early the next morning. We tried staying on a sunflower farm, with sunflowers growing for miles, it was the perfect setting for a campsite. However, the owner did not agree with us and we were hurried away from the farm. Tired and unable to find an appropriate place to sleep we kept driving, eventually ending up at the border itself. Everything we had read and heard about the border between Samara in Russia and Uralsk in Kazakhstan indicated that the border was closed at night, but much to our surprise the border was in full operation when we pulled up at midnight. After some discussion and rapid stashing of our money in various (hopefully) inconspicious places (such as bathing suit tops) we started the three hour process of leaving Russia and entering Kazakhstan. To our suprise we were an immediate hit with teh border gaurds. While three guards poured through every bit of our possessions they took time to make fun of them, they were especially amused by the number of sleeping bags we had, our red spearkly cowboy hats (modeled by Annie) and our water guns. They also took the time to tell Paul he was crazy and enjoy some pistachios. After being let through the last Russian gate by a ridiculously cheery, tall and curvey gaurd in heels and camo, we drove the unpaved, unlit road tothe Kazakh side, where Paul and Brad disappeared to pay varuious import and insurance fees while the girls spent some quality time with the border guards and Kyle spent quality time operating on his mangeled toenail. Zoya was was asked for the first and second time if she was Kazakh, which has since become a normal part of our conversations with everyone we meet. The border guards eventualy signed our cars along with a tourbus full of Kazakhs heading in the opposite direction. When the official stuff was finally done, our charm successfully prevented us form havign our cars searched for the second time that night. Weary but in highj spirits over having gotten to Kazakhstan, we drove 20 meters into the country, peed behind a semi-truck and passed out on the side of teh road around 3:30 in the morning. In the morning we made the short trip to uralsk where within an hour we had been stopped at least three times by curious policemen. Three blocks from the hotel in Uralsk we got into our first fender bender when a woman suffering from temporary blindness drove striaght into Cratesky’s right rear wheel and then immediately fled. While most of the team replaced the bumper, Alisha and Kyle secured hotel rooms for teh night with the help of Sevgeny, a cafe owner and translator. At the same time a friendly local caught up with the cars, saying he’d seen the accident, and had alerted teh police who ten minutes later had tracked down the lady who had recovered her vision but had taken to hiding behind her sunglasses. There was much motioning about insurance but we eventually parted ways thoroughly confused. The rest of the afternoon was spent showering, napping in beds (luxury!) and running errands including fixing the cars, which had develoiped rattle, grocery shopping and getting tenge (Kazakh currency), That night we went out for a big dinner of grilled meats and later Kyle and Todd went exploring with some Kazakhs, one of which claimed to be part of the Kazakh equivalent of the FBI. Rubbing elbows with the powerful. the next tmorning we started trying to get ourselves registered in Kazakhstan, a process very different from registering in Russia, as it is free and only has be done once. Naivly we thought his meant it would be simple. After finding the registration office we began an hour-long argument over whether the Uralsk officials were going to register us – that’s what we get for tryign to do administrative things one hour before the close of business hours on Saturday. Their argument was centered around the fact that we had five days to register and were goin g to be in other cities with offices, ours was centered ont he fact that we drive 12 hours a day and didn’t think we would be in another city during office hours, ANd the fact that we were already at the correct office in Uralsk. The leader of their pack, affectioneately nicknamed skunk head for being all-around awful and suffering from a bad dye job eventually relented and in 20 minutes we were out with registraion stamps complete. We exited the office building to find 4 police inspecting our cars. Much to our surprise they did not want to exhort money from us but instead took pictures with us in front of the same same statue Todd and Kyle had been fined for taking a picture of the nigth ebfore and even signed our cars. They then gave us a police escort to help us navigate Saturday market traffic. The lights swirled and sirens wirled and we were minor celebrities for the morning. When we finally got out of Uralsk at about 3pm, we drove for an hour before stopping at a river to take a swim. we joined some boys who were already there and did bank dives into the river and danced to club remixes. Overall a nice reward for a long hour of driving… That night we decided to set up camp in field, this time we were not chased off by angry farmers and instead watched a beautiful sunset while cooking pasta and making plans for teh rest of our time in Kazakhstan.


One Response

  1. That is awesome. The whole lot of it. 🙂 Can’t wait to hear more!

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