Following yesterday’s reminder that I need to pay attention to my health, I drank enough fluid that I needed to go to the toilet twice in the night. This, and keeping up my intake through the day, meant that I have put a stop to my dehydration worries before they get any worse. Fortunately, today marked a turning point in my journey and I am now returning to ‘civilisation’, so places at which I can stock up on water are becoming more frequent. I had a headwind for a fair proportion of the day, but nothing as strong as yesterday, and I was able to maintain an okay pace. After just 17km I reached Shetpe, the first town I have seen since Beynou. Thus, for only the second time in Kazakhstan I have been able to get a glimpse into ‘town life’. It was quite a change seeing fewer people dressed in traditional clothes and more wearing modern, stylish garb. I got a (pleasant) shock seeing a girl in a singlet and tiny shorts. Outside of these towns has been way more conservative, with everyone being covered up and women wearing scarves. I also get the impression that more people speak English in Kazakhstan than they do in Uzbekistan. I bought a few supplies (bread, tomatoes, salami and coke) at one shop before stopping at another to get more coke, an ice cream and a couple of baked goods.

Twenty kilometres on I stopped again at a roadside motel and café, where I bought some cold water. As I left town I panicked for a moment when an approaching car veered towards me sharply, but then a hand holding what I thought at first was an apple appeared out the window. The guy holding it didn’t speak English, but neither of us minded as I accepted his gift and rode on. The fruit wasn’t an apple. I had no idea what it was. I put it in my handlebar bag to investigate later. I rode until I reached the outskirts of Zhyngyldy, where I stopped at an unused melon stand to have lunch. I ate a couple of tomato and salami sandwiches, to which I added the fruit I was gifted, which turned out to be a cucumber, the likes of which I’ve never seen. It was the shape of a mango and just as delicious. My next place to aim for was a prominent junction, where roads lead away to different parts of the Caspian Sea. On the way there I got a fright when a car came up right beside me. I was about to get angry when the passenger passed out an ice-cold water.

The junction is a bit of refuelling station, for both vehicles and their occupants. I have felt quite a few times as if I was back riding in northwest Australia and I felt like it again when I came to this junction. It felt just like travelling along way in Australia before reaching an isolated roadhouse. Drivers filled up cars while passengers stocked up on junk food. As I arrived I was approached by a friendly guy who really wanted to buy me a cold water. He was Uzbek, which, given his open kindness, didn’t come as a huge surprise. I gratefully accepted his gift, and drank it slowly while waiting for him to leave. Then I entered the shop and bought even more water (waiting till he was gone because I felt like it would lessen the goodness of his kind gesture if I took his water then just entered the shop and bought my own anyway).

By this time it was 5.45pm, which gave me just enough time to ride a little further and find a home for the night. This part of Kazakhstan consists of rolling hills that take you onto and off little plateaus. I have built my nylon house behind a set of hills running alongside the main road. The ground is sloping but I found an area of fine sand that I could level out for my tent. For dinner I decided to use up my canned food, cooking pasta with red beans, peas, fish and tomato. As I was cooking I got to witness one of the most spectacular sunset shows I have seen in a while. The ‘fingers of god’ it produced might just be the best I have ever seen, reaching far into the still-blue sky.

Not bad

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 97.97km
Average cycling speed 16.5kph
Total distance ridden 22,973km