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September 12th 2007
Published: October 6th 2007
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At the outskirts of Kyzylorda we camped at a private compound of an old man sheep herder, we asked permission to stay the night cause we can't find any suitable spot to camp. He agreed and we set our tents up quickly. He joined us a few moments later, ever curious on what we are doing, Sasha asked me if I could spare the Taraz vodka I bought earlier to give to our host, It wasnt a problem to me and so handed him a cup full of vodka and he downed it like it's water! And then some more, he got drunk pretty quickly and got a little bit touchy feely, He talks to me but in Russian so I just stare at him, Sasha said he is taking a liking to me because I look like a Kazakh, I think not but maybe he meant fellow Asian looking, when Andy started clicking away the old man requested that he have our picture taken together and before I could do anything he kissed me, and Sasha! From then on I tried to stay away from him, he ate dinner with us, next to me, I think he wanted me to

drink with them(Sasha, Bryan) but soon as dinner is over I told Amy I am just gonna disappear, and so I retired to my tent hoping he did not see where i pitched it. The next morning as we are having breakkie he was standing at his door looking at us, and Sasha keeps saying your friend is looking for you, and he wants to adopt you and you will be his slave sheep herder.I can't exactly remember his name so we called him Oscar. Anyway I gave Oscar the bottle of the vodka left and we left but not for too long.

Nancy had gone ahead of us for her usual daily walks, Claire gave her instructions where to meet us up and apparently off she went, no one saw her leave, we moved on and at the rendezvous point no Nancy, we waited and waited no sign so we went back near where we pitched camp, looked for her all over, people even went in groups in different directions but no sign of her, it went on and on, we all got worried that something bad might have happened to her, Anne, Bruce and Alan decided to

follow a set of footprints which they thought might be Nancy's. They were gone for awhile and when they came back no Nancy but they said the tracks went on and on, after much evaluation and us having to have lunch there, we took the truck to try and follow the footsteps, Claire, Bryan and Ron remained to see if she comes back, as we followed it we asked people around if they have seen her and 2 people thinks they saw her walking at a specific direction. Went back to the bridge and picked up Claire and company and went to the police station in town, only there were 2 stations in town, on the first one she isn't there but we're told she is in the second one so we rushed there, before then Bruce, Ron and Bryan took the opportunity to have some pints at the bar next to the station to quench their thirst, they worked hard trying to trace Nancy's footsteps. Eventually we found her but it was about 4 or 5 pm and so we really cant go far anymore so we shopped for food in town and bush camp just outside of town, at my request we did not go back to Oscar's.

Now a lot of people were upset at Nancy for getting her directions wrong, she got confused and we wasted a day idle in the same place but then I think people realized we can't leave her there, she made a mistake and apologized to everyone, Tony and Claire would have not left without her anyway, and would do the same to anyone of us in the group.

The next morning got up at 6 am it was still dark, took down my tent and tried to start up the fire again, there were dried straws all around the camp so I used to as a kindling, Nancy came and help me, I noticed as it gets later it gets colder, strange, the sun came out but got chillier. We stopped at a few places today to try and refill our water tank, and also to buy some bread, while waiting I sat by the window and the local guys started pointing at me and asking questions to Sasha, since I am the only Asian in the group they are curious as to where I am from, when he said Philippines, they look to me in amazement I may be the first Pinoy to come here, I look exotic to them later on Sasha had a bit of fun with me as we were filling up water he said" Gilbert don't come out of the truck or you won't get back, they might want to keep you as a pet, they like you in this part of Kazakhstan." An old lady selling dried fish gave some to Amy passing it on to her from the window, I kept it for later.

We drove some more and by chance we found a nice lake! We camped along it's shore And immediately people started running to have a swim, it was gorgeous, nice cool water, smooth sandy bottom. After my swim I took the fish out and cooked it some more in the fire and had it as a snack while drinking our Baltika beers. Sasha and his cook group cooked a really good soup stew Georgian style, it was hearthy and delicious. The next morning we noticed all this big mozzies on top of the tarps and inside the truck we spent the whole day trying to get rid of them. We finally arrived in Aralsk and first thing we did is to try and get tickets to the train for Uralsk, some of the group decided to train it and will meet up with the truck in Uralsk, the drive is apparently rough , roads really bad etc. from what the other truck that did the trip first said. As we wait at the train statin the kids came out and we took their photos and they followed us when we went to the town well to fill up with water. We cant buy tickets yet cause it is too early have to go back tomorrow, so we drove to wards the ship cemetery and try to camp nearby.As we were pulling out of town Claire noticed that the rear view mirror to her side is shattered, some kid must have thrown a rock and no one noticed. At the highway there was a check point some police stop. This took forever, apparently we are missing some blue form and they won't let us go without it even if all the truck paperwork is in order, Claire ended up paying the fine and Sasha have to have 3 shots of vodka with them and goat cheese, they also asked for a Drago business card and stickers and, i think passport photos from Claire as souvenir, then we all got sorted, Sasha coming back to the truck with a half empty bottle of Kazakh vodka, he said to me next time it will be my turn have a drink with the police so we can get through. So off we went and after driving for a long time trying to figure out a way to get there we stopped and asked some locals doing some road work and apparently we are still 160 kms away and roads rough, the LP said 60 km, it was wrong again! Then we made a decision to just bush camp somewhere due to time constraint we can't go that far trying to find it, we have to be back eraly to town to purchase the tickets. We set up camp and the camels came and walked past us, We all sat down to have a drink, some people were not happy that we won't see the ship graveyard and so Claire announced if there is a problem with her decision to speak now rather than holding back seething with frustrations. I would love to have gone there, I saw Warren's photos in his blog, looks like an adventure, but our circumstances does not permit it at the moment, and beiseds this is an exploratory trip, maybe next time the next group gets to go oh well, I am glad I just made it that far. It got windy later, I stayed a bit later and had a few beers with the guys and watched the sky to try and spot some satellites.

Next morning we are off to Aralsk again, while Sasha is sorting out tickets for us we went to the market get lunch, shop get provisions for the trip, you know like booze. I also did some internet to see what is happening in the world, when we came back to the truck Claire declared we are all trucking it to Uralsk, the ticket bookings are a mess, there are tickets but from different stations and setas etc. in the end would have been better to just truck it. A lot of dissapointments from the people but quickly got over it we were told by Claire to find the bar men(Ron and Bruce) to buy our supply of beer, while they work on replacing the tires. The tourist info in town said that once a month a tour group leaves for the ship cemetery and can witness taking apart one shipand salvaging for scrap metals, and we can go for a tour anytime to see the ship graveyard but it is about 360 km from town so a whole day trip for 10,000 dibdobs per jeep.
So off we go, at first the roads were good around 1st 50 kms then comes the expected awful bumpy roads. We are going to try to finish the mystery meat today so we served it for lunch, then we prepare ourselves for a long 100km drive for 4 or so ours on really bad roads, then it got better so awhile and we stopped to gather some firewood in pathces of dried up trees near the side of the road, tonight we camped in a farmer's field near Aktobe. That night I woke up due to some commotion going on, turns out Sasha and Bryan were just coming back after being invited by the owner of the land we are staying for the night to his place where they were wined and dined, they can't refuse otherwise they might kick us out of the camp site. Lots of tent zips being opened by Bryan trying to find where he lives, I just don't understand why Rob his roommie did not call him and guided him back!

Another long drive on the worst roads so far in this section of the trip, we have to cook so we shopped at Aktobe, did some internetting and chatted with the local pasties vendors, they are very friendly and were practicing their English on me, they're very excited, and questions come one after the other, later I asked them if I could take a photo, they agreed but when I was about to snap they got shy and would not face me, oh well.

Drove til' bush camp, there is lots of wind, lightning and thunder, I am cooking eggplants tonight which requires me to roast it first to take off the skins, as I pop them in the camp fire they tend to explode and Claire and Tony are having a ball watching this,predicting which one will explode next, beer in hand, really we got to find some kind of better entertainement for our poor drivers. We have to reposition the truck so we can take the awning down, therat of rain is imminent but then later in the night have to take it down again dut to high winds.

Next day an early start, had to prepare packed lunch and then off we go, after half an hour I have to request a pee stop for the first time because my bladder is about to burst, I had one too many watermelons at breakfast. We stopped at the town of Uralsk, the last town before crossing into Russia, I went in to one of the many dvd stores, the sales people when they found out I am a tourist congregated near me and pounded me with questions, only one can speak English so she acted as an interpreter, I asked them what I can buy to remember their country and they handed me a CD of one famous folk artist, i bought it and quickly got out, I can't take being the center of their attention,they hounded me all over the store.

Found Bruce, and Ron and Bryan and I joined them pub crawling, well sort of, we tried all the cafes / pubs around and sampled different types of beer. The last waitress tried to cheat us thinking were stupid foreigners, Ron straightened her out. We bush camped in a field for the last time and to celebrate we had a pop quiz after dinner in which my group came out last and we won a curry powder!

LOts of beer and wine that night mostly coming from Sasha who bought wine in tetra packs. We got up early to get ready for the crossing, we had breakkie and try to dry our tents from the mornign dew moisture, we have only 30 kms to the border, it was a cold and gloomy day, our music for the day is the soundtrack from Brother where art thou and everyone is singing to it, camping is over after 40 days of bush camping and me spending $350 in total.



also known as Aralsk or Aral'sk, (Kazakh: Арал, Russian: Аральск) 46°47′N, 61°40′E is a small city in south-western Kazakhstan, located in the oblast (region) of Qyzylorda. Population roughly 39,000. Aral was formerly a fishing port and harbour city on the banks of the Aral Sea, and was a major supplier of fish to the neighboring region.

Since the retreat of the Aral Sea since 1960, due to diversion of the rivers flowing into it for irrigation, mainly of cotton, during the Soviet era, Aral is now completely landlocked about 25 km from the sea, though this is less than the 100km distance observed before the completion of a dam in 2005. With the dam in place and the water level in the sea again rising, it is hoped that by 2009 the sea will have come within 6km of Aral and a canal could be built to the sea. Aral has greatly diminished in population and socioeconomic significance. It has been more than 25 years since the Aral Sea could be seen from the town.

There are also serious health problems for the local population caused by airborne toxic chemicals exposed to the wind by the retreating waters and, possibly, from chemical and biological agents unsafely stored on islands in the Aral Sea. There is a high level of unemployment.

Like the town of Moynaq to the south of the Aral Sea, it now has discarded rusting fishing boats sitting on what used to be the bed of the Aral Sea.


(Kazakh: Ақтөбе; Russian: Актюбинск or Aktyubinsk; alternative transliterations: Aktöbe) is a city on the Ilek River in Kazakhstan. With a population of 320,000, it is the capital of Aktobe Province. Aktobe has a mixed ethnic community, including Kazakhs, Russians, Ukrainians, Tatars, Uyghurs, Chechens, Armenians, Jews and Greeks. Before perestroika the city also was home to a sizeable German community.

The name "Aktobe" comes from Kazakh "ақ" (white) and "төбе" (hill); the name is a reference to the heights on which the original 19th century settlement was located.


(Kazakh: Орал; Russian: Уральск, Uralsk, also spelled Ural'sk) is a city in northwestern Kazakhstan, at the confluence of the Ural and Chogan Rivers close to the Russian border. As it is located on the western side of the Ural river, it is considered geographically in Europe. It has a population of 210,600. It is the capital of the West Kazakhstan Province. Ethnic composition is dominated by Russians (54%) and Kazakhs (34%).

Oral is an agricultural

and industrial center, and has been an important trade stop since its founding. Barge traffic has passed up and down the Ural River between the Caspian Sea and the Ural Mountains for centuries. Today it is one of the major entry points for rail traffic from Europe to Siberia, servicing the many new oil fields in the Caspian basin and the industrial cities of the southern Urals. It is served by Oral Ak Zhol Airport.

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