Day 175 - from Mamontovo to border crossing into Kazakhstan (Kulunda Russia to Sharbatke Kazakhstan)- Sat 17 Aug
Overcast and cool, but at least rain seems gone for now. Sad to report still no bears...
Non- refrigerated (until opened!) margarine has been a success, but thankfully only one more container of bland non-refrigerated yogurt to get through. Numerous wheat fields of enormous lengths. Wheat symbols/icons for many towns. Silo heads/funnels covered (from rain presumably). Sunflowers in full bloom or dying off, oil is probably their market rather than seeds, although they are a popular snack in Russia.
Jarring bouncy roads to border even the newly bitumen one (do they lay bitumen over furrows??) Took dirt road rather than three sides of bitumen - corrugations were preferable! At this rate we’ll probably find border closed for lunch when we arrive. From reading JnJs blog, it appears there are no Customs on these small border posts, so we have decided to take our carnet documents into immigration to see whether they will stamp them - and there will at least be some record of importing our vehicles. We will also ensure we have third party insurance to offset some of the risk. Shopped, lunch in Kulunda but couldn’t exchange currency, then to border by 2.15pm. 3rd party insurance shack closed Saturday, so got from Dodgy Bros on side of road in their car (!!) two weeks for 700R. 1hr 20mins total through border, 20 mins sitting outside Russian gate waiting our turn to enter for processing. The usual lines of buses, with locals waiting, and vehicles in poor repair. Many thanks to Jude for her blog notes, helped streamline the process (will add elsewhere) “Welcome to Kazakstan”!
Good bitumen to Sharbatke, then became potholed. Open sown grasslands, edged by scrubby trees, little traffic, no people or animals. Warned of radar-police as approached Malaby by vehicles flashing lights - same world over. Passed several cars all decked out for wedding - gilt decor, hot pink flowers. Many cars behind with streamers or ribbons draped over their bonnets. Magpie coloured /sized birds with long iridescent dark green tails, do a lazy one-legged hop off roads, low stick-nests in bare leafed scrubby trees. And, ah, a pretty stand of tall silver birch before coming up on yukky Pavlodar, coal fired power station, mullok dumps/ tailings, 7 chimneys pouring out smoke.
Split up with others to explore bustling town, and walk along riverbank, fun place for families.
Restaurants booked for weddings, lots of festive vehicles driving the gorgeously attired guests around streets tooting horns, popping out of skylights, yelling out windows. Photographers posing the brides and grooms for shots. Happy Saturday night!
Drove on, stopped at shaslick stalls with small attached pubs for dinner, half way through our delicious roast pork and onion, three drunk guys from the next table came and sat down and tried to make conversation. We understood the mime "I love shaslick" but didn't know if they wanted us "tourist" to buy for them. The waitress came up with folded bread they'd ordered and waited to be paid, we said "no, no", they tried to put on our plate so we didn't know if they were buying for us, so "no, no" again. A guy (in a full brown velvet suit) from another table came to tell them to leave us alone (we were eating much faster by this time!) but they yelled at him to go (we ate faster still), then the guy from the shaslick stall came and had a quiet word. We grabbed our drinks and walked across road to our truck, he followed us over and wanted an explanation about our journey on the map (he knew Canberra and insisted we came from there) then asked for "a present". BoyRob told him we'd given all our Australian toys to children along way, and hurriedly joined me in the cabin to "get out of Dodge"! Pavlodar on a Saturday night didn't seem the best place to make camp. Approx 16km out we took a side turning into a field behind a scrubby depression, where we remained undisturbed for the rest of the evening.