The ferry from Baku (Azerbaijan) to Aqtau (Kazachstan). Well the ferry actually goes from Alat (80km south of Baku) to Kuryk (70km south of Aqtau). But hey, we just want to cross the caspian sea as fast as possible, so we won’t complain about an extra 150 km.
So we waited in a hostel in Baku since sunday July 7th, phoning the port twice a day and every time the reply was “No ship today”. We had to phone twice a day, because there is no fixed schedule when the next ferry will leave.
At wednesday July 10th we phoned again and the reply was “Come to port and wait”. So we packed our stuff and went to the port in Alat. At the port it is not clear what you have to do to get a ticket. The security officer at the entrance of the port told us “cross the train twice and go to left”. We assumed he ment “cross the railroad twice and turn left”. Once we crossed the train twice, we saw a lot of trucks and containers, not clear which container is the one for the tickets. There are containers for toilet, shower, ATM, paying porttax, paying for the ticket and also one container for applying for the tickets. Luckily we met a fellow-overlander who told us to which container we had to go first.
First go to ticket issuing-container. Very obvious that you go to the back of a container, knock on the door and then a window behind bars opens, where you can hand over your passport and motorbike passport. You will get a receipt which you have to pay first.
Go to the ATM-container to get enough dollars, because you can only pay cash.
Go to the ticket-paying-container and pay for the tickets. You get another receipt that you have payed.
Go back to the ticket issuing-container. They staple all your papers and receipts together and then we were told to collect the tickets after 3 hours.
Time to get some dinner. When we had dinner, we met Alberto, a spanish motorbiker and Martina, a czech motorbiker. Martina said that she stayed in de hotel nearby and Alberto told us that he tried to find that hotel for the past 3 days and he couldn’t find it. After dinner we (Alberto, Daniëlle and Klaas) left for the hotel and after a few minutes we saw the hotel on the right hand side, but there was also a very high curb between us and the hotel. The Yamaha’s did the high curb quite easy with the help of some rocks, but the Harley Davidson didn’t have enough ground clearance, so it got stuck on the curb. With some lifting, we also got the Harley over the high curb, but unfortunately a spring from the side stand was broken. At the hotel we temporarily fixed the spring with an iron wire, a lot of tywraps and a piece of rope.
After the shower we went back to the port to collect our tickets. Then we were told that we should be in the port at 9 am (thursday july 11th). After our ticket collection we met 3 belgian motorbikers who were going to take another ferry to Turkmenistan.
The next morning we didn’t want to miss our ferry, so we showed up at 8 am, thinking that it would only take a few hours to get on the ferry.
When we arrived at the port the Belgian motorbikers were still there, but they could board within 30 minutes after we arrived. So it should only take a few hours to get on our ferry, at least that is what we thought.
It turned out to be a day with a lot of waiting, practicing patience and getting all sorts of information, but nobody knew which information was true or not true. If we asked, it would only take a few more hours, but in the end we waited all day. We did have a lot of fun with the other overlanders who were also waiting. Alberto cooked us a very nice pasta-lunch. At the end of the afternoon, somebody told us the ferry had just arrived in the port and that it would take at least 6 hours before we could start boarding. And that was kind of true, because (after a short nap on the tarmac) in the middle of the night at 1 am, we started boarding, finally.
The boarding / customs procedures were rather quick and within 1 hour we were onboard with our motorbikes. No need to secure our bikes with straps, because the Caspian sea was very calm. We went to our cabines as fast as possible to get some sleep.
At sea we got three meals at fixed times. And when you miss a meal, you just have to wait until the next. No entertainment on board, just read a book or wander around on the ship.
It only took about 22 hours to get across the Caspian sea and our ferry could dock as soon as it arrived (not always the case). That’s the good news, but a slight disadvantage that we were woken up at 1 am in the morning. We had to clear our rooms and wait in the common area. Not clear what we had to do or where we had to go to. We had to fill in a customs form and everybody knew some part of the puzzle what we had to fill in. On board they will check your passport and take a digital picture of you. After that we got off the ferry and went to customs on land. There we had to do x-ray-scan of our luggage, get a Kazachstan visa, register our vehicles. Going from one counter to another, getting all sorts of forms (most of them not in English). After 5 hours we were all done and we started riding towards Aqtau, were we wanted to have some breakfast. But we were all very tired and almost fell asleep on the motorbike. In Aqtau we found a good coffeeshop where we had an excellent breakfast.
In the afternoon we went to a hotel in Shetpe, but the owner was a real A-hole. So we left after 30 minutes. But there wasn’t another hotel in the area. After a few hours by coincidence we found a place to sleep near a museum on a mountain. We slept in the house of the guard of the museum. Very basic, no running water and a toilet in the back of the garden. But we were very tired and didn’t want to go any further, at seven o’clock in the evening. We cooked dinner ourselves and ate with the guard and his little son.
The next morning we left for Beyneu. Boring road and already quite hot. In Beyneu we said goodbye to Alberto, because he wanted to cross the border from Kazachstan to Uzbekistan that evening. We were still tired, so we went to a hostel for a sleep. It wasn’t the nicest hostel we slept in, but uncle Lesha was a very nice and friendly owner. We put our motorbikes in the garage and right away we all got a cold beer (what a difference with the A-hole in Shetpe). He even cooked us a basic dinner at 9 pm.
The next morning we had to prepare for the Uzbekistan dessert, because the next fuel station after Beyneu is 520 km away. So we filled our tanks (22 + 15) to the max, filled our jerrycans (10 + 7,5) and we even filled up an empty water bottle (10), just to be sure. So with an average consumption of 20 km per liter we could theoretically cover 1290 km. We also filled our water tanks to the max. 2 camelbags (2 + 2), 4 water bottles (1 + 1 + 1,5 + 1,5) and 1 rotopax water container (4). In total 13 liters of water should be enough.
From Beyneu to the border is about 90 km. The first few kilometers and the last 200 meters of the road were bad, but the rest was a good road.
The border crossing was smooth, luckily.
After the border crossing we rode for 160 km to the motel in the middle of the desert.
The road was terrible and it was very hot, up to 47 degrees. Finally at 9 pm we were at the motel. On the other side of the road was a jail. I can imagine why, because when you try to flee, you have nowhere to go.
After an hour the british couple with the audi, whom we had already met a few times before since the harbour, showed up at the motel. Their car broke down. The audi had a big hole in the carterpan. Luckily some uzbeki guys stopped and they even fixed the hole with some superglue. After an hour they left for Nukus, with their angels as they called the uzbeki guys, where the audi probably could be repaired.
The next day we left for Khiva (450 km away). The road was a lot better than yesterday, but it was still very hot. It took us 9 hours to get to Khiva. The last half hour we even rode in the dark. In Khiva we met Alberto again and we had a lovely dinner at a rooftop terrace with views all over Khiva. Khiva is a nice authentic silkroad town with lots of history.
After Alberto and Martina left, we explored Khiva for ourselves.
After Khiva we left for Bukhara (450km). Still very hot, but the road was very smooth for the most parts.
Bukhara was, compared to Khiva, a modern town. A lot more tourists than in Khiva.
The second day in Bukhara we met Mari and Eva again (Sheki, Azerbaijan) who were in need of money, because they almost ran out. And the ATM’s didn’t accept their bank cards. So we helped them out and together we had a lovely dinner at another rooftop terrace with views all over Bukhara.
The next town was going to be Samarkand (280km). We stayed at a hostel near the old city center. In the hostel we met Thijs en Nienke, who we already met on the road in Azerbaijan.
We spend a day to get new tires, but there are only second hand motorbike tires in Samarkand which were in even worse condition than the ones we already had.
Samarkand, also famous from the silkroad, had a lot to offer. We especially liked the photo exposition of the history of Samarkand, which you can see in the Registan.
And after Samarkand we went to Dushanbe (270 km) in Tajikistan.
Very quick border crossing.
Once we were in Tajikistan we were very pleased to see the mountains and especially the curves. We rode more curves in first 50 km then we did in the last 2000 km in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan together.
On the way to Dushanbe we met Mari, Eva, Thijs and Nienke, just 30 km before Dushanbe. We bought them ice cream, 6 somoni for 6 ice creams. That’s € 0,10 for 1 icecream. Two hours later we all were in the same hostel with a very hospitable owner. He even drove two of us to a restaurant nearby to buy some shaslick and salads, which we ate together at the hostel, with some beers bought at the local supermarket.
The next day we went to the Bikehouse to check if they had new tires. He had some tires, but they were very expensive and the owner told us that our tires were still good enough to do the pamir-highway and get to Osh. The rest of the day we did some small repairs on the bikes.
In the evening we went out for dinner with Thijs and Nienke at an indian restaurant. We all liked the indian dishes very much.
Next will be the Pamir highway.