Friday, August 15, 2014

Day 30 and 31: Bad Roads to Aktau

Day 30:

Nukus had no gas stations so I had to find a guy selling gas from water bottles. I expected this section of desert, the road from Kungrad to the Kazakhstan border, to be really long and difficult. On my map, I had only seen one village along the entire 320km stretch. This however would be just a warm up for the really rough road from Beyneu to Aktau which I would tackle the next day. Much to my surprise though the roads on this day were nearly perfect the whole way with only one small section of construction work. I made great time. Late that afternoon, I crossed the border without any trouble whatsoever. Not even a check of my bags or carefully collected hotel registration slips.. I guess I could have camped once or twice.

Once across the border the roads worsened a bit and it started to get dark. I turned off the main road and into the desert making for some low hills off in the distance to hide my camp site behind.

Day 31:

This was supposed to be the most difficult part of the whole trip: The road through the desert from Beyneu to Aktau particularly the 300km between Beyneu and Shetpe the first city in the caspian sea region of south western Kazakhstan. I'd heard that most of it was unpaved and occasionally sandy. On my maps there were no towns no buildings, nothing along that whole section.

After a quick breakfast and resupply stop in Beyneu, I was pleasantly surprised by the perfectly paved road leading out of the city. Soon there was a section of old road and some dirt and I began to feel confident that maybe it wasn't going to be so bad after all. I was wrong. After a long section of old potholed pavement, the road became gravel and then the dreaded dust started appearing. This is the same dust I fell in back in China. Soon I reached a part where they were repaving the old road and traffic was directed off on to an entirely dust section. Trucks were stopped, perhaps stuck and I took one look at the 6 or more inches of dust covering the entire track and decided to try my luck making my own trail through the desert. This was mostly better but still exhausting. Soon the main road looked better so I made my way back towards it.
For the rest of this first half the road looked the same: Main road (sometimes newly paved, sometimes loose gravel, sometimes inaccessible) surrounded by deep ruts and dirt tracks covered in this deep dust. Beyond this it was desert which was mostly potholed hard dirt ground but occasionally car tracks filled with dust crossed through it.
After a struggle with the dust section surrounding the main road I made it to the main road which turned out to be gravel. Soon though this was blocked and I was forced back into the dust. This pattern continued for most of the morning.

My first fall happened just at the end of this really bad section. The road became good gravel and I picked up speed. Suddenly there was a big section of dust stretching all the way across the road. I couldn't slow down enough (which would be down to about 20kmh) and I fell. Some damage to the panniers.

After the fall the road was good for the next 100km before I reached the mountains. Here the road snaked down through table top mountains along an entirely dirt road. It wouldn't have been so bad but just before I arrived at the one really steep downhill section, a truck had sprayed water all over  one lane of the dirt road. Normally this is good but in this case it just turned the lane into mud. I tried to go down it and quickly fell.

After this section, the road was good all the way to Aktau. I didn't quite make it to the city before dark so I followed the road to the top of a low mountain before driving off into the desert again to find a secluded area.

No comments:

Post a Comment