Days 131 Through 140

Day 131

Getting up in the middle of the night seemed to work alright yesterday, why not do it again today. A bit tricky taking down camp in the dark, but the moon was out tonight and it was much easier to see what was going on. As with yesterday, wind was still persistent, but it a manageable ride.

The roads out here have been incredibly isolated. It comes with benefits and disadvantages, but my riding into my half a million people destination city today felt like biking into Manhattan. Wow, a town with more than one paved road, incredible haha.

As I entered town I stopped for a minute to look at the map when I was approached by this guy. He explained to me that he was a journalist and wanted to interview me. It turns out I had inadvertently stopped right in front of the Kyzylorda government TV station and he was just heading across the street to go to a corner shop. Now, of course I was a little apprehensive as I know what can happen when Americans are approached by people claiming to be journalists from Kazakstan haha. Joking of course. I was honored. We walked over and a couple minutes later out came a camera crew and an English interpreter, and we conducted the interview for tonight's evening news.

He asked if I needed a place to stay, and posted a message on Facebook explaining to his friends that I was in town. Within 30 minutes half of Kyzylorda seemingly knew I was here haha. Wow, the amazing power of social media. His friend who owned a restaurant wanted to comp me a meal, his friends from the cycling club wanted to meet up, his friend with the barber shop wanted to give me a free haircut, and others just wanted to hangout, say hi, and show me around town. I was astonished by the incredible kindness of the people I met here. Really just blew me away. People were taking time out of their day to come shake my hand and make sure I was having the best possible time I could have here in Kyzylorda. And I did have the best possible time.

Day 132

Kazahstan bureaucracy sucks. My visa is valid for several months, but I am only granted stays up to 30 days before I have to leave the country and re-enter. The only country I can do a visa run in is Kyrgyzstan, because they're the only ones that will let me across their border without buying a visa. The nearest Kyrgystan border crossing is still hundreds of miles away and my 30 days is running out quick. I'm in  a bit of a bind. I really would like to get into Shymkent, before I take a day off for the visa run. If I can't make it to Shymkent in time, I will probably need to take 2 days off to cover the distance to do the visa run. That would be more expensive and would get me in late to Shymkent, where I need to meet up with my friend Blake. That's all to say, I was originally thinking there was no way I was going to take a day off here in Kyzylorda. That all changed last night when I met all these awesome people. There's just no way I can't stay another day.

Another day full of meeting people, another day full of awesomeness. Kyzylorda is the place to be.

Day 133

I need to book it to Shymkent. I do not want to deal with the consequences of overstaying your visa. Might be much to do about nothing, but I've also heard it could be up to a week in jail. Early start again, out on the road, a couple miles out of town and a beautiful road appears. I start biking down, and as the sun starts to rise I realize I'm biking on the wrong side of a four lane, center-divided highway. Haha, I really need to buy some lights... First half of the day flies by, and then the sun and wind both start to intensify. A nice long ride though, and I've set myself off to potentially shave a day off into Shymkent.

Waiting for the shade to come in

Day 134

Another super early start, out the door and on the road again at 3 am. I don't think I am ever going to get used to this. A nice quite ride, good road, I kept going until the wind started bullying me around, and then abruptly pulled off at the first place I could find to camp. Tonight camping inside a dried up riverbed, because its cliff walls provide pretty good protection from both wind and sun. I just hope the river doesn't show up...

Not much Shade mid-day

Day 135

I'm making good time. I am fairly confident now that I can arrive in Shymkent in time to take care of that visa run. Just have to hope nothing goes wrong. Another nice day on the road, another immediate stop as soon the wind and heat started up. Another camping spot in a dried up riverbed. This one still had some puddles in it. I tested my luck last night sleeping in a riverbed, hopefully things will continue to be ok here. I'm not worried about rain filling up the river, but I am pretty sure that there's a big dam somewhere close by. If for some reason they decided to discharge water, I might be in some very serious trouble... Still, you can't beat these spots for the wind protection, shade. They're also natural habitats filled with all sorts of interesting life. Just have to be careful nothing eats my food...

Day 136

Short ride into Shymkent. Good thing too, because my little "wake up in the middle of the night to avoid the wind" trick didn't work at all today. Got up way before dawn, and the wind was still pushing me back into the lower gears at a painfully slow pace. Never mind that though, today is the big day. Today is the day I enter one of the biggest milestone cities on the trip. This is also where I find my friend.

In town, looking for hotels, I go to one place, and I immediately realize its too nice and expensive for what I'm looking for. I start to leave and the hotel owner stops me. She offers me a 50% discount since I'm doing the bike trip. Sweet, I guess I can afford your hotel. Great place too, even have room service haha.

Day 137

Today is the last day on my visa, I need to get to that border and re-enter to get a fresh 30 days. Shymkent is not too far away from Kyrgyzstan, but its still over 100 miles one way. A train to Taraz, hitchhike to the border, deal with the border formalities, hitchhike back to Taraz, and then get a ride to Shymkent. This is going to take all day... Leave at 6 am, usually considered by myself to be quite early, but I was really sleeping in compared to these 2 am bike rides haha. Transit went incredibly smoothly. The only problem I had was with the Kyrgyzstan border guard. He didn't seen too happy that I was just using he country to deal with Kazahstan bureaucracy. He initially denied my request for a tourist stamp, because, as he accurately pointed out, I wasn't here for tourism... I told him I'd take a picture before I immediately just turned around and came back haha. After some time, he begrudgingly agreed.

Train to Taraz

Day 138

With the new entry into the country yesterday, I needed to register again with the migration police. Of course that took all day, as I ran around town getting some stupid letter stamped, then returned only to be told that they forgot to add some line to the heading... Around town again, then by late afternoon I was finally good to go. At least I didn't have to pay 100 bucks this time...

I need to find a bike shop. I can't leave town before I do. My chain has started skipping and jumping a lot, a sure sign that I need a new one. Its been bearable around here, but heading into the mountains of Kyrgyzstan will probably be impossible with the old chain. With a new chain comes a new freewheel as well. I also really need to get some lights, a new rear tire, and I still want that spare axil. I walked over to the central bizarre, and sure enough I found a section with about a dozen tables full of bike parts. It sounds a bit cliche, but I really did feel like a kid in a candy shop. It was exactly that same feeling. I spent hours looking over everything, and loaded up with all sorts of great stuff. Hopefully I'll be riding a lot more confident now.

Day 139

Today was a bit of a lazy day. Fixed up the bike, put all the new stuff on, everything seems ok so far... Spent a lot of time sitting in the air conditioned hotel room playing 2048 haha.

Day 140

Its been 140 days out here. 140 days alone. Traveling by yourself provides incredible freedom, but it can also feel like solitary confinement sometimes haha. Today things are shifting up big time. Today is the day I meet up with my friend. Out of the hotel, into a couchsurfer's apartment, and then over to a nearby intersection where I meet the man of the hour, Mr. Blake Martini. All of the sudden I have a high school friend standing in front of me here in Shymkent, Kazakhstan. The first familiar face in 5 months. Awesome and incredibly strange at the same time. He's got a blog too:

We head over to the bizarre to get a few things, grab some lunch and start talking business. Of course we have lots of things to talk about.