It was a slow rise as the sun began to heat up my tent. I came outside to see that Tormud and Halbart were also slowly getting out, making coffee and eggs for breakfast. The overcast sky was the first time in three weeks that we had seen clouds, and it caused a comfortable feeling towards the wakeup routine. We spent an hour slowly waking up, drinking coffee and eating fried eggs on bread before deciding to go into the lions den.
Armed with Coffee and eggs, we quietly walked towards the beach were Nikki and Lilly were sleeping, slowly placeing the eggs under Nikkis, and the coffee under lillys nose. Whilst Halbard observed from a safe distance lillys eyes slowly opened, she let out a sound and hugged the coffee, slowly rising up. Nikki similarly sniffed at the eggs – our plan had worked, and we retreated to our headquarters.
Enjoying a slow pack up and morning cricket match in the wide Kazak fields, we left as the sun was fully up again, but not before being met by two Kazak fishermen who invited us over to their car and gave us some veal and bread along with a large melon as a sign of hospitality. This and the fact that they would under no circumstances accept anything in return again proved the incredible hospitality of these kind people. We traced the way back down the main road to head as far up north as possible, and got stopped once for speeding, settling for a cheaper fine after the Policeman indicated for us to subtly place a few notes into his glove compartment. Further up the road we again stopped for petrol and groceries at a local town, before heading into a very dodgy looking restaurant for some Manti and noodles we were sure were going to come out again the wrong way. Instead they happened to be amazing and left us entirely unscathed! We gave the meat and bread handed to us by the kind Kazaks in the morning to a beggar next to us and went further north.
Further up the road we stopped for icecream within a typically Russian looking town. A man drove by in a double motorbike whilst a family of geese passed us, and we got some icecream in a local shack. At this point another man again stopped by us and offered us some eggs, which we thankingly declined.
We passed the beautiful mountains and could see China as the sun grew orange, and stopped for a brief toilet break. As we were about to start again the Norwegians suddenly signalled alarm over the Radio, and we stopped. Something was seemingly wrong with the Sump as the motor sign flashed – we needed to take it apart to see if it was injured through the many rocks they hit during the drive. As we all jumped in with our tools to head out, Niki, Tormud and I headed into town to get some type of isolation to reseal the sump. This was quickly done as I used my Russian to find a mechanic and he immediately had the right gear for us – the perks of a country entirely reliant on cars.
By the time we got back, the camping chairs were out, we sat down and began cooking dinner and hot chocolates, as Halbart fixed up the sump guard, which was by now riddle with holes from the many rocks that smashed through it.
Eating dinner in the sunset infront of our impromptu mechanic´s workshop we felt as if we had finally arrived in the mongol rally at last, and made the best of it – consistently cracking jokes and enjoying the beautiful view of the countryside.
By the time the moon had come up we were ready to go and made ourselves on the way. Our planned route had been reduced drastically as it was already late, and we decided to reach the next lake as soon as possible. Suddenly, the Norwegians in front of us nearly took the wrong turn at a roundabout, and quickly corrected it to go in the right direction. A honking car passed us, and as we took the right exit, a policeman signalled us to pull over.
This man was less enthusiastic, asking for Nikis drivers license and signalling him and Halbard to come to his car. Whilst the rest of us were waiting in the car, he used a translator over the phone to tell the two that they had taken the wrong turn at the roundabout – despite this not being true – and the fine being 200 US dollars. They threatened the two of keeping their drivers licenses for a year if they were to not pay the fine – something entirely illegal, proving that these were corrupt cops looking for a bribe by dumb tourists.
Niki wasn’t having any of it, and didn’t argue for long before he moved over to the car, announcing that he would call the German embassy. With my Girlfriend on the phone with me, prepared to act like an employee of the German embassy and talk to the crooks in Russian, she handed us the number of the actual Consulate in Astana – which was likely to be closed at midnight. Before we could try the number properly, Halbard – who was still with the policeman – was asked “how much he would be willing to pay them to get rid of this problem.” His outrage must have made the two realise that their plan would not work, as they quickly gave him back the licenses and sent us on our way, signalling that they would keep an eye on us.
The rest of the drive was in silence over both quiet outrage at these men, and the joy how well we got out of the situation. Laughing and cracking jokes over the radios we finally found a campsite in complete darkness on a large field, where we drank our beers and red wine, fully clothed to reject the violent mosquitoes and sharing stories before sharing two very cozy tents.