It was evening. Hitchhiking still worked well. I got a ride with a Taxi. Not the first time in Kazakhstan. A woman gave me half of a chicken and sausage. And then, it was already night time, I found myself in the car with Rassia and Russia. Typical crazy nightride. The road became incredibly bad and I realized, that i would have 400 km of that in front of me. It was around 00:00 and we stopped for a little snack. Russia insisted to invite me. After eating we dropped his friend in the next city and went of alone. Me him and his daughter.
The little girl was 3 years old and sleepy all the time. The road turned into a bunch of potholes. Constantly curving around the worst of them, left, ride, left, got shaken in the car, not driving faster than 20km/h. And the little girl was sleeping. Really amazing how kids are able to sleep in every condition. And she wasn’t sleeping anywhere but in my arms. That was my job as responsible co-driver. Keeping the child safe. New experience for me. But I really liked it.
After this ride we arrived in a small village. It was already 03:00 in the night and a car full of drunk-as-fuck Kazakh boys gave me a ride to the end of the town. And there I positioned myself. To wait. Long waiting. All fucking night long. Dawn already started. After two hours the first car came, stopped and took me into the next village. 15km. There I watched the sunrise. The road was so empty. One of my driver told me something about bad road and problem the night before. Now I started to understand. Still 250 km to go from here. Shouldn’t be so difficult. The day before I did around 2100 km in 31 hours. One of my best runs ever. But I knew that this was over now. Entering difficult technical roads.
The road was still empty. Empty roads are kind of magical for me. A certain beauty filled the moment. The sun was rising. Slowly the village woke up. Cocks where welcoming the day accompanied from the sound of animal bells. The farmers drove their sheeps and cow herds towards the fields. Suddenly an old Russian truck appeared out of the nowhere and passed me slowly. Not my direction. I wasn’t in the mood for any kind of communication and ignored the vehicle. It drove 20m and then stopped. Nothing happened for 5 minutes. Then the motor started again. Reverse gear, going the other direction and then passing me again. Full stop. The doors opened and two boys are getting out of the truck. They were three, but the third was sleeping.
They smelled really badly of alcohol and drove with a deflated jumping castle on their roof through one of the worst roads, that I passed in my life. It was also the only traffic I saw this morning. Kind of ironic. We started to talk and I got invited for vodka and slaughtering a sheep in the next village. The three boys seemed to be the Kazakh version of American surfer boys, but drunk instead of stoned. At least they cheered up my lonesome morning.
After hours finally a car came into my direction and passed by. Why? Why does the only car that comes passes by? It was like a kick in the nuts for me. I started walking. After another hour of walk I just lay down on the street to sleep a little. Nothing was going on anyway. Still no traffic. There were exactly two cars in the last seven hours. And one passed by. Still couldn’t believe it. I was in the steppe, without shadow, without water resting on the ground. Beside me was a depot for construction materials and I saw some people being there before. What goes in should come out at some point, or not? I think it was pure hitchhiking instinct driving me in this situation. Of course I lay down behind the exit road of the depot, to not miss any outcoming traffic. Nothing passed by, but suddenly I heard a truck rolling. I jumped up immediately and run up the hill to have a better overview. There was a goddamn truck coming out of the depot, going into my direction. It was not using my road, but a bypass on the other side of the hill. Shiiiiiit. I grabbed my backpack and run as fast as possible to get that ride. I mustn’t miss that. I reached the street where it would come out, but unfortunately the truck was full with three people already. But still they picked me up. 30Km into my direction. Better than nothing.
My journey continued at a very lonesome junction. Around me were cows and horses doing their day, eating a lot of stuff and running around without and guidance. And the street…well. Cancer. Pure beton cancer. If this really exist, then I was directly in the general assembly of tumor diseases. The road was so bad, that people rather used a self made dirt track beside the main road, than going through this torture track. This is something unique I only experience in the former Soviet Union countries, that roads can be in a condition, that they make your movement more difficult, instead of easier.
Back at the junction. A truck passes by. Already four people in the cockpit. They didn’t stop for me. Second car that passed by today without stopping. But I couldn’t really complain. In generally my hitchhiking was close to perfect in the last 24 hours. Not many cars that I did not flag down. Just the route was a bit more difficult.
After some hours I managed to get out of this shit. Catching some small rides to a village that finally had a normal road connected with the bigger Kazakh highway network. My last ride was a WAZ truck. Russian destroyer. A kind of bus which will probably never break down and you only find them in the former Soviet countries. Typical Russian design, just putting steel together. Last time I was sitting in a car like that was with Ralf in Moldova. The inside is a bit more wide than a German Volkswagen bus. They have a great grip and shoot through the dirt road like a hovercraft over the moon. I really liked it. And while sitting inside, I had to realise to myself: „Stefan, you have to buy this kind of bus!“ I will. Get. That. Bus. Usually I sympathized with an old Mercedes bus which was used by the German police. But honestly, those Russian WAZ are the shit!
With this ride I was back in civilization and found myself on a paved road which was around 900 km in front of my destination. Finally. From here I was able to catch a direct ride to Aktau. It was 19:00 already and I had to take some food before entering my last passage. Food and hitchhiking is not going very well together. Eating is important, because you might lose too much energy if you don’t care about it. But I try to eat as efficiently as possible during my tours. When I have to walk through a town or city and there will be not much hitchhiking, I buy something greasy in the supermarket and eat it on the way. Always the cheap homemade stuff with the most energy. Bananas. Pastries. In Germany it would be some rolls with sausage. A bottle of water with it and juice or coke for the sugar. Optionally some ice-cream. All that I stuff into my body within 2-3 minutes while walking to the other end of the city. Otherwise you just lose too much time. Makes sense to me.
After my second banana a taxi stopped and gave me a ride to the border of the town. It took less than 2 minutes that a truck picked me up, which was on its way to Aktau. Direct ride! As expected. Unfortunately my luck lacked a bit and around 01:00 in the night we stopped, had dinner and the two truckers offered me to sleep in the hotel with them. But I refused. They would sleep for 5 hours and then continue to Aktau. Too much time. I knew I was in a very good position and it would not be worth to take that break now and go to sleep. I wanted to finish that tour. So I took my stuff and started hitchhiking again in the darkness. 20 minutes later I was sitting in a car to Aktau. Night-Hitchhiking in Kazakhstan, cmon! Easy going!
And then something happened, that I did the last time in Canada. In the truck before I took some rest and although I did hardly sleep since three days, I felt really good in that moment. But my driver was really really tired. I offered him, that I could drive a bit. After a short conversation he agreed and so I found myself back behind the wheel. Very good feeling. Unfortunately the road was really bad and difficult to drive on. I had to be constantly alert, to not hit the countless beton bubbles on the road. Sometimes the paved road stopped and you had to drive slalom around the potholes. Anyway in general I like driving by myself more, because I trust myself more than I trust the driver. Especially if they are tired. Close to sunrise we switched again and he was driving the last part during daylight. I arrived in Aktau after 68 hours and 59 minutes. For 3781 km including a border hop and 400 km Anti-Road. Was a good run for this route! And I had a lot of fun in Kazakhstan!