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Burabay National Park

After, a few long days of driving, plain emptiness and not so nice weather we reached the Burabay National Park. We tried to find beforehand a camp site but no real results by google. So, we tried our luck locally. With a few translation and hand signs we found support by the lady „assel“. She helped us evotedly to get a permit for the park - actually for three nights and we were the first campers of the season!!


So we stayed a lovely location for three nights at a small pensiular. Apart form a small walk half around the main Burabay lake we’ve done nothing but relaxing

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The North of Kasakhstan

In the meantime a few Impressions of North Kazakhstan

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Qostanai

After a few days and driving very long distances due to rain, strom, and plainly an empty nothing we reached Qostanai. This is the biggest city in the North of Kazakhstan and known for it's mining industry.

However, its also a very lively city with an actually pleased City Centre and once Spring and Summer are at full prime its should be also a very green city. Surprisingly this is so far the most lively place. Quite e few young people around and right beside the main square the is also a small nice restaurant called „Dolce Vita“ - highly recommended.


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Aqtöbe

After the road from hell we arrived in Aqtöbe. The first hotel we had in mind was not really convincing. So we went for a more modern one - the Dastan. a bit on the expensive side but ok and for two nights. One of the first things we figured out was that there is a Wunderbar in Aqtöbe.

One of the main tasks to give the Land Rover a well deserved wash and to fill up the groceries.

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Kazakhstan - the first days

Now we were in Kazakhstan. First stay was in Uralsk, some shopping and to set out our first destination: Inderbor and Lake Inder. Lovely scenery and our first camp site. Greated by Livestock - Cows and cheeps - and the shepherd in the afternoon and the morning.

From there we went to our next destination - the white chalk mountain Aktolagaj. First we tried to follow the rout form our campsite eastwards - but this was ver slow going. So we changed strategy and went for the long but probably fast way over Atyrau and the A27. Well, this was okish and as the night was closing in we stayed in Maket. The Hotel had seen its best days long ago and we were the only guests but we didn’t care. However, some food was still on the agenda and the we opted for a place which looked like restaurant down the road. At first glance it was a strange place - more like a night club - but then we were persuaded to stay. And boy this was luck. It was private retirement party. And as friendly as they are we were they offered us food and drinks - mainly Vodka. And being alians photos were a main attraction. But we have to say - very friendly and lovely people. All the Best to all of them!

Next day we were on the road again to get to the mountain. But the roads was a mess straight from hell. Not really existent, and potholes like sinkholes. And Muddy. On average its was 20km/h. I didn’t took any photos as this would ashame the camera. The best thing on top was that there was no sign were the mounting was and the description of the travel guide didn’t match the surroundings at all. Epic fail. At least we could see something white on the southern horizon.

So the only option was to head on for Aqtöbe. But as night was closing in we stayed in Shubarkuduk. Aral, a very friendly local and his young soon Ali, guided us to a motel and order some food as well. During dinner we exchanged some words as far as our language got us. He explained especially how many km are left to get to Aqtöbe and the we already paid for the food accommodation - he even called a friend to explain. IMG_1014IMG_1012L8717829L8717831IMG_1058IMG_1071_1000235_1000242_1000247

Enter Kazakhstan

Now, our main journey starts for real - Enter Kazakhstan. This should be an was boarder crossing as the visa requirements for Germans are relative easy (15 Days Visa free....)

First the Russian Checkpoint. This was no comparison. Friendly, Helpful, smiling, asking question, not much paper work. This was a breeze and only 15min. But the get off was a mess. A single road for Cars and Trucks and both ways. and the Road was not made of Tarmac. to get to the Kazakhstan Boarder we moved very very slowly for about 70min. This was so farther last place were we saw German number plates.

The Kazakhstan Checkpoint was easy going. First we had to get the immigration forms (not much to fill in) and a small paper stating that two want to enter. Next was the passport control. About 5 Minutes and 3 stamps. Done. Car inspection - hmm maybe 5 minutes and off we go.


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Russia - Toljatti

Tolyatti, the home of Lada and a city thats existence is based on Lada. Well, the Lada plants couldn’t be listed for whatever reason(s). So, we had to relish the main city on over a two dull days. And to do this we went for a Russian taxi cruise to main park. However as winter just hasn’t finished it was grey muddy misty and not the sexiest place. But at least there were was a political demo (very well surveyed by the state) in true Russian colors - Red and Hammer & Chisel.

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Driving in Russia

Well, this is an experience for sure. The Russian Driving style is not as bad as the Polish. This is for sure, but still very mad and very close to hara-kiri. And then there are no road marking for lanes and whatsoever. Have a guess.

But the roads are..... well awful terrible. If you think the roads in Germany, UK or Ireland have potholes, think again. Those are nothing compared to Russia. Potholes everywhere and up to 2 square-meter in size and 30cm in depth. You are driving zig-zag finding the best route along the roads. They must made a fortune on tyres and shocks around in Russia!

The surrounding landscape is however compensating. The villages and cities are poor and in often in a very bad state. Basically rundown. But the nature gives an impression of a big natural nothing. Wildness pure.

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Smolensk

Our first destination in Russia was Smolensk. Famous for the old city wall, also known as the Small Kreml. We went for a short walk around the main wall alongside the river Dnepr. And then of course the Uspensky Cathedral. Very, very nice and large. The Interior is impressive and a lot of, I mean a lot , of gold.

As for the dinner we went for the Temnitsa, located inside the Kreml wall. Definitely an upper class restaurant. Big old typical Russian chairs. Wall carpets and massive tables. Food was very very good and very affordable, basically a full three meal course plus drinks for two person for about 35 Euros. And then the waiters - took a selfy including us!


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Enter Russia - The home of Putin.

We didn’t know what to expect, but with current political situation we could be in for a treatment.

So, enter the Check-Point. Hand-over Passports, Car documents. Easy. Next: Inspection. Open Motor Bay, Open Doors. What is this, what is that? Ok, First Aid, Camping Equipment, Camping Chair, Solar Panel.... but this was really straight forward. Done after about 25min. Very reasonable. However, this was only the Latvia Crossing. Next Mother Russia.

Ok, now this is the real thing. Hand-over Car Registration, hand-over Passport - by yourself! Done. Next: Inspection. Open Motor Bay, Open Doors. Ok, car full of stuff.... Inspection done. That was easy. Passports back. Now we had to move on for about 10m. Customs. Ok, I had two fill out the customs form - twice the same and about okish. Now we had another inspection and this time they went for a long way. Open Motor bay, Open Doors, open nearly all boxes. What’s that...? First Aid, Medicine, Spare Parts, Camping Equipment, Tools, Camping Chairs, Tripod, Solar Panel, Fridge, Water Canister, Remove cover from Rooftent..... Ok, now for the sniffing dog. Waiting. All Ok. We had to pack everything back together.

After about 90min we where in Russia. Not bad at all!!


Lithuania and Latvia

Next we went for three day stint across Lithuania and Latvia. As they are members of the European Union the crossings were straight forward. Nothing apart from the obvious blue sign. In Lithuania we stoped in Marijampole. Nothing spectacular. Basically an industrial town. Landscape was however stunning. Lovely, but natural. Forests following plains following lovely lakes - small and large.

In Latvia we were heading for the Rezek National Park as we planed to stay in a sailing boat for the night. However, the lake was frozen. Great scenery and some ice fishing ongoing. So we went for the main town around, Rezekne. Actual a nice city. Lovely park financed by the European Union and a brand new concert hall, called the CORS. Ticket pricing from 3.5 to 25 EURO. We went for the bar / restaurant - the GURU. A very nice bar, good and nice service and also very good food. And then the pricing. In short: Highly Recommended!


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