It was an early start today. We were up at 6.30 am and actually on the road before 7.30 am. Alexey had a good night’s rest in his incredibly expensive hotel room.
|Early morning with winter setting in|
|Some locals moving their belongings|
As we drove further north we realised that not only were the seasons changing but we were changing latitude quickly. Already the trees had lost their leaves and it was much colder in temperature. It was 45º Fahrenheit outside and we believe it will become increasingly colder.
Once again, we are driving in scenery that is very similar to Australia around Broken Hill. The difference is that every 20 or 30 kilometres there is a giant cemetery. This is a Moslem country and they have buildings shaped like pyramids but with domes. It is unusual that the cemeteries are isolated out in the steppe, well away from any of the villages. There is nothing for miles except the cemetery next to the highway.
For the first 3 hours we were driving on some of the worst roads we had experienced on this trip. It was bone jarringly terrible. At times we were down to 30 kph, weaving in and out through the pot-holes. We had been told that some vehicles drive on the dirt to the right hand side of the road. We can see why.
We were on a fantastic road for the last 10 km or so into Semey.
|Good road coming into Semey|
|Apartment building in Semey|
We stopped for fuel and just as we moved off we were hailed down by a TV crew.
Yes, they wanted to find out about our story. We stood beside the road, with cars and trucks roaring past, as we were interviewed. No doubt it will appear on the TV news somewhere in Kazakhstan over the weekend. It can’t be a big news weekend!
|Refuelling in Semey|
|Local TV crew stopped us to interview Dick|
As we drove through the town of Semey, there were thousands of school children out cleaning. We understand this is an annual event – a bit like our “Clean up Australia” but it is the school kids who sweep the streets and clean up the rubbish. It was fantastic to watch.
|Children cleaning up the streets of Semey|
|Children burning the leaves|
|A home in Semey|
|Men enjoying a little sun in Semey|
We crossed the huge Irtysh (Ertis) River and headed north to the border.
|Crossing the Irtysh River|
This was our third major border crossing – if you consider that “major" crossings are when you are going in and out of the old Soviet Union. That is where the paperwork can be horrendous. We didn’t know how long we would have to wait.
When we arrived at 12.40 pm we were only one car behind the barrier, and believe it or not, in 2 hours and 20 minutes we were away. This was mainly thanks to Alexey and keeping the pressure on. We were actually away at 4.00 pm, because for some reason this part of Russia is one hour ahead of Kazakhstan time.
Heading north from the border the road was absolutely fantastic. We somehow missed the main road and became lost. At 4.30 pm we ended up in the town of Pybyobck.
|Horse and cart in Pybyobck|
|A public building in Pybyobck|
|A little girl peeping round the corner of her home|
Whilst waiting in customs for our vehicle to be inspected (which was really simple), Alexey noticed that the fibreglass cover for the now famous battery box had dropped down as two of the screws had come undone and were missing. We were able to move one screw to hold it up temporarily, so the reason we were in the town of Pybyobck (even though by error) was to try to find some screws.
|Apartments in Pybyobck|
|Dick and Alexey taking the battery cover off|
|The cover is off|
|Dick checking that the Earthroamer's batteries are OK without the cover on|
We also had to re-fill with oil. We calculated that we were using about 3 litres of oil per 500 km. Actually the Earthroamer was not using the oil, it was leaking out. Unfortunately when the gearbox was put back in it was not sealed properly – even after the second try. We can either stop for a week (or possibly seven) to have the gearbox re-mounted and sealed, or keep on driving and pay $10 per litre for the oil. We are going to do the latter as we want to get through to Mongolia somehow.
In the town itself we were not able to buy any of the correct screws to attach the fibreglass battery cover correctly, so Pip came up with the idea of actually taking the cover off completely and putting it inside the Earthroamer. We are planning to buy some screws tomorrow.
|A 'homemade' racing car passed us|
As it started to get dark we reached the town of Aliisk. We do not wish to drive in the dark when we can’t see anything. A few hundred metres off the road we saw a neon sign, and sure enough it was a hotel. The hotel was not just somewhere for Alexey to stay for US $25 per night – it also had a night club and a fantastic restaurant on the second floor from the top, and on the bottom floor was a “magazine”, which is a Russian name for a shop that sells everything. In this case it was a wonderful little supermarket.
|We parked overnight in the Aliisk Hotel's carpark|
After a really good meal in the restaurant we went downstairs and stocked up for the trip into Mongolia.
We had covered 523 km for the day, including 2 hours and 20 minutes at the border.
Today 523kms 24,063kms since Anchorage, Alaska
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