Hitchhiking in… (20) Kazakhztan

Polizei in Kasachstan
Polizei in Kasachstan beim Trampen durch das Land

Kazakhztan is a charming Post-Sovjet country. If people don’t drive the good old Golf 2, they go around in Lada, Kamaz Trucks or the beautiful WAZ. I love hitchhiking on this vehicles. It is a lot of fun. Also there is another feature: Kazakhztan has a highly developed hitchhiking culture. You will see hitchhiking people aside the road everywhere. In the city on the country-side, thats fantastic and super confortable. You will feel like home.

Stats

Hitchhiked distance: 4555 kilometer

Number of lifts: 57

Average waiting time: 11 minutes 56 seconds

Waiting time total: 11 hours 20 minutes

You can download the log here. But be careful, it contains as well a short stage to Bishkek, that I did.

My Route

I hitchhiked from the chinese border to Amlata and did a little trip do Kirgistan, before coming back to Almata and going the long way towards Aktau at the Caspian Sea. Check out the route here.

People

It is a bit difficult to describe the typical Kazakhztan. The country is a cultural melting pot. The native Kasach person has blond hair and blue eyes, as I was told. And some day Dschinghis-Khan came along and made everyone become Asian. Or somehow like that it happened. If you walk through Almata it is impossible to see, if that person ahead of you is Kazakh, Chinese, German, Russian, or even a Turk. People look so different. I loved that.

People in Kazakhztan are kinda chummy and warm. Not as rough as the Russians. Kazakh‘s are like the Colombians of the UDSSR. Many of them speak some German, even if it is just a few words. And every second person is driving an (old) German car. You will get invitations for drinking fairly easy and people seem honestly interested in you.

What I recognized as well is, that you can have a quiet and relaxed time in Kazakhztan. Because everyone is looking so different, nobody seems to be alien and you can assimilate yourself pretty good. Very pleasent.

One thing I should mention and which regards mostly the woman who are going to hitchhike through Kazakhztan. Kazakhan men are very macho.like and I heard an above average number of stories about tried rape and sexual harrasment from my female hitchhiking friends. I can not really evaluate this, because I am a man and I was not molested by myself. And I don‘t want to put all Kazachans in one pot or create unneccessary fear. But Kazachztan follows some kind of reputation in this regard and I want you to be aware of that. It does not mean you will be in any kind of trouble or in the need to go nuts, if you visit Kazachztan. There are lots of wonderful people to meet. I just want you to take care of yourself guys.

Roads

The roads. Thats a very special topic in post sovjet countries. First I should say, that you will find big and well maintained roads between the major cities and moving around here should be not a problem at all. But i wouldn‘t say that about every region in Kazakhztan.

When I came from the chinese border to Almata I already crossed one of those wrecked roads, which can be a bit tough to deal with sometimes. But what I encountered in the center of the country was even for me a new level of apocalypse. Allthough I hitchhiked on the worst roads of our planet before. I mean, streets are there to make movement easier and open up new territories. In Kazakhztan they more seem to be an additional obstacle with a special feature which is: They are make your life a living hell and you might be faster walking or taking the dirt-road which wriggles aside the main road. Something I only discovered in post sovjet countries, btw.

I had a very interesting hitchhiking tour from Qyandiyaghasch to Makat. Three cars in eight hours and directly through the Kazakhan Steppe. People prefer to do a 1000 km detour instead of going this 400 km long stretch. For a reason, how I had to find out. This road is probably the worst I ever encountered in my hitchhiking life. But beautiful! Worth it! In its very special way.

Besides be aware of the fact, that Kazakhztan is mostly Steppe, just little mountans but mostly wide wastelands. Until the horizon. A little bit like Argentina but with less people. I really liked blasting through this. Because hitchhiking was super easy.

Tactics

Right in the beginning I gotta break a lance for Kazakhztan. I had so much fun there while hitchhiking. Fuck yeah. People just know whats going on. Basically every car is a taxi here, which is a bit problematic for your movement. But if you are clear from the beginning and tell them right away, that you won‘t pay/have no money, then most of the time they gonna take you anyway. But a clear communication is very important and so to know some basics in Russian. Also mention, that you do Autostop and most people will get what you do. It is definitely a different story than in Japan where everyone thinks you are absolutely lost and need help. In Kazakhztan you will get more of this „Ah another hitchhiker!“-feeling.

Another point I really enjoyed: You can hitchhike basically everywhere along the road. Sometimes you need to walk a bit to find a better spot, but positioning is straight forward and uncomplicated. You will also find good onramps at the bigger junctions and roundabouts in the cities. I would not recommend to position yourself at bus-stops, because people will think you wait for the bus. Also because the locals are hitchhiking here and they usually pay. Don‘t get into that sharktank.

Thir point about Kazakhztan is night-hitchhiking, which works fantastically. There is no difference between day and night-time. Cars stop equally fast. Very comfortable. But I guess my hitchhiking suit and the reflectors did a good amount of work here.

Kazakhztan is a super easy and straight forward hitchhiking country. Just use the bypass roads, when going through bigger cities. They are existing almost every time and you don‘t want to end up inside the cities. Because there is Moloch time.

Impressions

Specifics

I told already that Kazakhztan is pretty flat but at the border with Kirgistan you will find some nice mountains and in Almata you have a nice view on them. Almata is a beautiful city anyway, if you like grey Sovjet prefab estates, which I do very much. But mostly because of the people. I thought the Kazachan people are really friendly and nice and I definitely gonna head back one day and visit some friends there.

Culinarily I could connect very well to Kazakhztan as well. Beside the good old Plow (rice dish) and the omnipresent Samsa (filled pasties) we also made a very delicious summer soup with potatoes, chives, eggs, some kind of yoghurt drink and sparkling water. Sounds strange but tastes terrific. Also you got some Kwas, which is some kind of a light beer, made of fermented bred and the good old Kumis (rotten horse milk). Not made for everyone but people in this region seem do like a sour taste.

If you head towards Kazakhztan you will either cross Russia or through Central Asia. In the latter case it could get a little complicated, because getting visas in countries like Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan can be quite a hustle. I by myself took the cargo boat through the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan. Was a funny tour that I can only recommend. If you need more infos about this passage you should check in with Caravanistan.com, which is btw. by far the best ressource for informations, if you wanna travel Central Asia.

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