David Payne


David Payne

Asia » Kyrgyzstan » Bishkek May 23rd 2015

Day 23 - Tamgar to Bishkek: Our last day. It was around 200 miles to Bishkek airport by the most direct route, but we wanted to take a longer and more challenging path. The sun was up early and we soon had sausage, eggs and coffee going on the stove. From our vantage point above the lake Dave spotted an excellent location for hole 11 of T.L.C.E.P. See the first photo. Needing a long iron from the hillside tee to clear the road and as much beach as possible, John was delighted to pick the 8-iron. Dave F had the 9, whilst I was quietly confident with my wedge. John’s teeshot did indeed carry the furthest onto the middle of the beach, but mine and Dave’s balls disappeared into the surf. Once we were all back ... read more
John's 19th stroke had found trouble.
Top of the pass
Bishkek is down there, somewhere

Asia » Kyrgyzstan » Karakol May 22nd 2015

Day 22 - Karakol to Tamgar: We checked the coolant level in the morning to find that most of the reservoir was gone. Dave F noticed that part of the O-rings on the reservoir screw-cap were damaged, meaning that it wasn't holding pressure once the engine was switched off and so coolant bubbled out of the overflow. It didn't seem to pose any risk to the engine however, so we topped up the coolant level and set off as normal. Karakol is the 4th largest city/town in Kyrgystan with roughly 60k people and sits close to the eastern edge of Lake Issyk Kol. Our plans for the day were to explore a couple of the valleys nearby, get some supplies and then camp for the night on the shores of the lake. We'd brought all the ... read more
Camping at Issyk-Kol
Barskoon Valley
Barskoon Valley

Asia » Kyrgyzstan » Karakol May 21st 2015

Day 21 - Almaty to Karakol: On Day 21 we basically completed the challenge, and the scenery..... the scenery was just ridiculous. Words and pictures aren't enough, but I'll try. On leaving the hostel we picked up some shopping for lunch then set out east towards the Chinese border. As I mentioned in a previous post the plan was to turn south before the Chinese border and cross into Kyrgystan via the remote Karkara Valley. As a special bonus the Charyn Canyon lay on the elbow of that southward turn and is one of the main attractions in the region. Often dubbed the 'mini-grand canyon', its castles, red strata and steep sides bear a strong resemblance to its more famous American namesake. A 3km trail follows a dry riverbed down to the main river valley. It ... read more
Charyn Canyon
Karkara Valley
Karkara Valley

Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan » Almaty May 20th 2015

Day 20 - Almaty and around: Yet another peculiar day. We got our admin out of the way in the morning. We knew already that driving into China was impossible without taking their own examinations, and that the controlled border area was up to 100km wide in some places, passable only with a permit. Furthermore, there is little to see or do around the Khorgos border crossing into China A good compromise to show that driving to China was indeed possible but quench our need for scenery and adventure would be to cross into Kyrgystan via the Karkara valley border checkpoint and then fill ourselves to bursting with mountains and valleys going south around Isyl Kol lake. The Karkara valley crossing is one of the most remote in the world. It was closed for many years ... read more
Gansfelsen admiring the view
Dave, Dave and Definitely Not Dave
Some idiot

Asia » Kazakhstan » East Kazakhstan » Almaty May 19th 2015

Day 19 - Balkash to Almaty: On day 19 our luck with the police ran out. From Balkhash it was a 400 mile drive to Almaty, the old capital of Kazakhstan. The route on the M36 highway hugs the shores of Lake Balkash in an anticlock arc for 250 miles, then runs due south to the city. The grassland around was quite barren but the road began to undulate a little to relieve the monotony. We zipped along nicely on a beautiful sunny day and stopped after about 60 miles at an isolated cafe to top up on caffeine. It was the only building for 40 miles in either direction, and had three cheerful ladies in the kitchen salting and battering fish caught from the lake. At one side of the room an old man in ... read more
Balkash Lake Stone Skimming Championships
a friendly wave
A long, long road

Asia » Kazakhstan » Southern Kazakhstan May 18th 2015

Day 18 - Astana to Balkhash This was going to be a long day. We knew we had to register our visas with the migration police at an OVIR office within 5 days of entering the country, and we were running out of time. Registration is a throwback to the old days under communism, and exists now seemingly only through bureaucratic inertia. We had heard that it could take up to 2 days to complete the process so made contingency plans for staying longer in Astana. We even had a translation of a request to process us quickly, courtesy of the people at the Americana. In the event, though the OVIR was packed and chaotic, the officer spoke excellent English and we had our registration stamp within 20 minutes. It took an age to get out ... read more
Karlag isolation cell
Wild horses
Kazakh mausoleums

Asia » Kazakhstan » Astana May 17th 2015

Day 17 - Astana sights The morning after the night before. We had asked for breakfast at 8am, but sheepishly slunk into the Americana lounge at 1pm, still feeling the effects. After scoffing some sausage and eggs we walked a short way to the Hazrat Sultan mosque and the start of what John called The Zone of Awesomeness. Shortly after seeing the nation into a new era of independence from Russia, the Republic of Kazakhstan's first president - Nursultan Nazarbayev - decided to move the capital and administrative centre from Almaty in the south to the town of Akmola in the north central steppes. Renamed 'Astana' and funded by Kazakhstan's substantial natural resources, the city has been planned and built almost from scratch. It is home to some of the most extraordinary futuristic architecture to be ... read more
Mosque interior
Pyramid- The Palace of Peace and Accord
Kazakh Ely monument

Asia » Kazakhstan » Astana May 16th 2015

Day 16 - Kostanay to Astana Kazakhstan is big, around 12 times the size of the UK, or equivalent to the whole of western Europe. A country of huge contrasts, it's vast steppe landscapes have seen the passing of the nomadic Scythian people, the warring hoards of Genghis Khan, unparalleled cereal production, annexation by the Russian empire, horrific gulags and latterly the birth of a truly stunning new capital city. Nuclear weapons have been tested on these plains, whilst the Baikonur Cosmodrome is the worlds first and largest space launch site. The Sputnik satellite was launched from there, as are the current soyuz rockets that service the ISS. The snow-capped mountains in the south are intrinsically linked to the northern silk road route, and cradle the old capital Almaty in their green rolling foothills. Day 16 ... read more
......and to the right
ready for action
Kazakh cowboy

Asia » Kazakhstan » Kostanay May 15th 2015

Day 15 - Chelyabinsk to Kostanay It was time to leave Russia. The border with Kazakhstan was 80 miles due south of Chelyabinsk, just after the town of Troisk. The landscape had flattened out again after crossing the Urals and now as we approached the steppes of Kazakhstan. As with our last border crossing we'd read tales of 3 to 4 hour delays and brusque, unhelpful officials, but were all confident that it would be quicker. We all guessed at around 1hr 50 mins, but in the end were across in half that time. On the Russian side they hadn't heard about Kazakhstan's new rules allowing Brits to stay for 15 days visa free (they came into force last June), so we had to convince them that if they stamped us out from Russia we wouldn't ... read more
Monument to corn
Beautiful money

Europe » Russia » Urals » Chelyabinsk May 14th 2015

Day 14 - Ufa to Chelyabinsk We had checked a few websites for ideas but had found nothing inspiring to see in Ufa. Like the others in preceding days, Ufa is a big busy city with lots of grungy high rises, wide dusty streets, and a tram and electric bus system. The tram tracks form part of the street and can be driven on as a seperate lane. You need to be careful though, as the road surface next to the rails is quite cut up. Unlike other trams I've seen, these brake using giant pads that press down onto the rail itself between the wheel bogeys. The pads look like huge versions of the calliper brakes on a bicycle. The electric buses are an odd feature, taking their power from overhead wires. The arm on ... read more
Wholesome lunch

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