- Created on Sunday, 30 June 2013 08:00
From N 51 ° 13.925 E 085 ° 38.512 in Semey (Kazakstahan) via Pebghalysk: Four Seasons, hit and run
The concert of water that resonates and runs between the narrow banks of the river, near which we camped and we spent the night, has favored our sleep. At the same time, as we had imagined, the climate is humid and the temperature drop is sensitive. We suffered a lot 'of cold, of which we get rid only at six, when the sun rises early, luckily, it starts to warm up the curtains, giving us a wake up quite pleasant.
The GPS, yesterday, late in the afternoon, hasn't indicated countries or towns for tens of miles from where we camped, while the maps of Russia in our possession do not cover this area. Aren't even enough maps that we buy on site, because they showed only the orographic area and not the roads of this portion of Russia.
Among other things, the information is given in Cyrillic characters and we cannot translate it. We understand, however, that we will pass by one thousand five hundred meters high to just three hundred meters above the sea level, in about 200 Km. We should spend four hours of driving, including battery changes to the bikes and any other stops. What we do not imagine is that the poor information, prove to be completely wrong. After only fifteen kilometers of driving the twentieth day of our trip, we start to cross one village after another. Not only do we cross small and medium mountain villages that gradually becomes more and more low, but we come into contact with the "modern" civilization, made up of many tourists who are clearly distinguishable from the inhabitants of the place. Dressed in street clothes, they have new cars; tents pitched on the banks of rivers.
At their service, many markets, shops and rest stops, most of which offer typical products: socks and hats made with wool sheep, honey and derivatives, including royal jelly, soaps, ointments and mosses processed. There are also residential areas that are at the edge of the main streets, colorful little houses still under construction, facilities that rent motorbikes, quads, boats and canoes. Centers for rafting with own vans sponsoring on which have loaded rafts, helmets and paddles, tied with ropes. Our rout is in continuous descent and streams that meander alongside, have demanding slopes that originate waterfalls and steep slopes of medium-high difficulty. Gradually changes the nature and climate: the hills disappear and the perennial snow, fir and pine trees give way to ashs, birchs (or trees very similar to these), larchs.
From the five-degree in the morning, we perceive ten degree more after one hour from the departure and arrive at twenty-five degrees in the shade when, in the early afternoon, at the lunch break, we are by now on the plains. Before we get there, we meet other banquets on road markets: they now have excellent porcini mushrooms on display, fruits and vegetables of the place: cherries, apricots, peaches, plums, green salad with small leaf but wider than long, tomatoes with two distinct qualities - big and purple, minutes and intensely red - carrots and potatoes. There are even cereals, barley and spelled, and wheat beer that is spelled in front of our eyes. We buy a bottle and we toast on the spot: fresh, fermented with methods that we do not know, refreshing and with diuretic properties of which we are benefiting as a result. We continue to drive, now to the south-west, aiming to the city of Pebghalysk, where we will spend the night.
At that point, we will be to only sixty kilometers from the border with Kazaksthan. The Russia of the mountains and hills, gradually and definitively becomes a plain. The countries are no longer hamlets, but miniature city, each of which shows traits of pride and grandeur of the past - both as a geography that as empire of the former USSR. If a town has given birth to the officers who have distinguished themselves in World War II, then instead of billboards, on the sidelines of the road through the town, are shown photos of these soldiers, with honors earned, the phalanx of belonging, date of birth and death. And, in general, in the faces of people we meet - those to whom we ask a question, in a territory scarcely crossed by foreign visitors - we read a certain pride, a certain dignity, daughter of belonging to a great power.
Every single person - not to mention the children that we come across along the streets of urban poor but tidy, has raised his hand to say hello and to smile at us. Someone has raised a clenched fist, as if to share our deeds modern, to cheer, despite he don’t know what we are doing. But it's enough to be around with two identical pick-up, bikes that do not make noise (motorbikes, they did not see many, here), and can be sure to find ourself at the center of attention. They are discreet and ask if they can take photographs, instead of take it and stop. It is a decadent charm, sober, orderly and - once again - noble even in the architectural style, what we witch while we reach the hotel where we'll stay the night. Tomorrow twenty-first day of travel Meneghina Express - leaving for Semey.
There are a sequence of the plains, verdant and perfuming: hectares of carrots and day laborers who cultivate the land, chamomile flowers, and yellow daisies; there is a warm that might look like, compared to Italy, to what it felt a few years ago in late spring or in the very early autumn. Over a period of forty-eight hours is as if we had lived together all four seasons, both for the change of temperature and for backgrounds, colors, scents that have given us. All together. On the check-point with the Kazaksthan, we find Mustapha. It is our guide in this unknown country - in which we can enter the space of three hours; fairly streamlined procedures for both come out from Russia, as well as for the entry into Kazaksthan: it's just the waiting, the "tail" that blocks us - and he seems like a really smart. Indeed, it soon proves knowledgeable and friendly: it has fifty-eight years, speaks English well, is engaged in development and sustainability in the city of Almaty and will be with us for the next ten days.
As we drive for the first fifty Km "Kazaki" towards Semey, Mustapha provide us a lot of interesting information on his country: details and numbers, which will constitute an excellent basis for the diaries that follow. Another certainty, less exciting for the drivers of pickups and motorcycles, is revealed from the start: the streets! They are semi-paved. And it can stand: we come from Mongolia ... However; these are the holes that can be seen only two meters before falling into and to break an axle shaft. Something tells us that it will be challenging to drive for the next 3500 kilometers. Now, however, we do not bind up his head again; we have an hour of time zone difference from Italy, which will grant us sixty minutes more of sleeping. The bikes have sufficient range for reaching the inn where we'll stay, and a beautiful sunset is framing the passage of Nicola and Valerio, who cry out to the sun: "This is the fourth nation that we'll cross."
Text and photos by Flavio Allegretti
Path traveled today