Aktau to Beyneu

by achuggabug

11 August, 2012; 14:33

Driving in Kazakhstan is proving to be every part the challenge we were told it would be. After maybe 100km of decent driving yesterday, we were warned of bumps in the road ahead. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever been more misled by a sign. For several hundred kilometers, we averaged less than 30 kph, and I’m sure we did some significant damage to our car. I can give the physical dimensions of some of the potholes, but past that, I’m at a loss for words as to how to describe them. Imagine a crater in the road, sides squared against the surface of the road, three paces left to right and a pace and a half front to back, almost as half as deep as my lower leg.

In response to this situation, the locals have cut several trails alongside the highways, down several of which we drove, kicking up sand, dust, and the occasional fiedmouse. What really amazes me is that this was a major highway, basically the only road conneting the port city of Aktau with the interior of the country. All I can say is, I can’t see why they bother having roads at all.

Against our better judgement, and probably only because it worked in Azerbaijan, we drove well into the night. This time, the experience went without issue. There were brief periods of pavement between the nearly undrivable craters. Around 4am we pulled over for the night to make camp. Chase and Michael decided to set up the tent, but I opted to lay the passenger seat down flat and sleep in the car.

Today, we got started a little after 8am, and until after one this afternoon, we made excellent time. The road quality picked up, and we covered the three and a half hundred kilometers from Beyneu to Markat smoothly. Now, however, we’re back to taking dirt tracks paralleling the train tracks trying to get to Aqtobe. Unsure of which road we’re hoping for, we press on, knowing that our tracks lead the right direction.

So far, the problems we know about on are car are: a slow leak in the front left tire, our roofrack is loose where it’s attached to the car, our exhaust is drooping, our back bumper is about to fall off, and our clutch occasionally slips. On the whole, I think we’re doing fine.