Meneghina Express’ numbers:

12379 Kilometers in 44 days

350 hours riding

297 batteries recharged

12 countries

4500Kg Co2 reduced vs. gas

Day 25 - Kazakhstan flag - July 4

Astana: Maybe the air around

We open our eyes and it is nine o'clock. Instinctively we hop on the bed, a thrill through the body: it's so late, we're late, the others have departed and we were left here! It’s possible?

No, it's not true. We wake up suddenly and it is not clear where we are and what is happening.

Today is a full day of break. It means, listening Nicola and Valerio: do whatever you want, where and how you want.

They - stoic, by real leaders of the Meneghina Express - will deal with bureaucracy along with Mustapha and of another crucial question: now that shippers have arrived and generators are up and running, there's to design and execute a new configuration for the pick-up devoted to energy.

At ten o'clock we were at the hotel lobby, we agreed to meet again around six. A bit 'of autonomy, can only be good for us. We wish a good day to the pilots and we jump on the first bus that passes, without asking really where it takes us. It is not difficult to turn Astana. Of course it is a big city, but in fact is divided into two areas: the historic and the modern center. A river runs through it by cutting it in half. In the backpack we have a camera and a notebook, to tell this day.

So with journalistic spirit and mind free, we go on board of the "21". So, here, does not speak English (almost) anyone, we have not understood if there is to buy a ticket, it is not even clear how much it costs. The only real precaution we take, is to equip ourselves with a business card of the hotel: written in the Cyrillic and Kazakh, but certainly if we should lose ourselves, we can show to someone the address of where we stay and in one way or another we can return to the den. The "21” departs fast. On board there are so many different faces, that if we did not know to be in Kazaksthan and our guide wouldn't have explained to us how many ethnic groups live in this country, we could be on the Tower of Babel.

Three minutes after jumping on the bus, a young lady asks us to purchase the ticket (here works like this: salts and there is always someone who collects money and provides tickets. Stress Zero; zero suspects). We were not able to explain either in English, Spanish, Italian or with those few words of Russian learned in these days, where we would like to go. Then a guy comes near; he speaks a bit of English, and he offers as an interpreter. We pay the ticket and the guy greets us. We note that he is not alone with him are two friends. They turn to us, as long as the same guy as before, gets closer, there extends a hand and calibrating well the words he says: "Hi, my name is Roman, would you like to join us?". Perfect, we think. The other two are called Vlad and WhiteMilk (the real name there has never been reported). They are nineteen and twenty-one years old, and are studying at university, but unfortunately they do not speak English. The guys ask us to follow them at home, where they have to leave the bikes. Then, if we want to, we can go together to the center and, perhaps, if we want, to have a lunch together. So without getting too many questions, we go down and arrive in front of the entrance to a building quite rundown. We climb the stairs with the boys and only when we gain the entrance - having removed their shoes, because here it works in this way - we realize that something is not right: the apartment on the third floor, it is virtually empty.

That is, it does not give at all the idea that someone lives there. Not permanently. In addition there is a lady in the living room, holding some papers on hands. She says hello to the guys like she was seeing them for the first time and demands them some money. We remain a bit 'puzzled. Then, when the lady leaves the apartment, we evaluate the situation and, with a little' of calm, we talk to Roman who clarifies everything. He, WhiteMilk and Vlad don't live in Astana.

That is not their home, but they rented it for one night and that is the first time they enter there. They are students, yes, but at three hundred miles from here. And the BMX? It's all there! Three young "promises" of BMX, and show us a couple of pictures of spectacular trick, right on Roman's mobile phone. Tomorrow ten other friends will join them and all together will shot a short film about this sport, which is practically newborn in Kazaksthan: the freestyle has arrived five years ago, no more, guarantee.

We think we were lucky, because we too are raving about these sports. The guys are friendly, helpful, interested in the history of Meneghina Express. An hour later we are on the road again: we get on another bus - this time we take it as we'd have lived here for six months, with some friends who speak the local language is easy! - And in the space of ten minutes we get on the bridge that separates the old town from the new. Out of nowhere appear buildings pointing at the sky, mosques, stately buildings and elegant. Structures futurist populate the urban plan, gardens and spaces perfectly distinguishable are crossed by pedestrian streets. The palaces are not at all amassed, even though they are numerous and bulky. The boys take us on a futuristic shopping center, the largest in the country. It is a "business center" Kazakh and worth a ride. They buy T-shirts - “skate" and they would like to donate one of it to us. We refuse because we wouldn’t take advantage of the great kindness. But, not to be outdone, we offer them lunch in the fast-food that they have chosen.

Time passes fast and pleasant: Roman, Vlad and WhiteMilk teach us all bad words in Russian and then, after a coffee, comes the farewell. We exchanged email addresses and hugs; they come back to make shopping before sports performance of tomorrow while we begin to explore the city. We go everywhere, and we go into the largest mosques in the country and, with a bit of cunning, we kneel on barefoot in the presence of a God that we don't know but that we would like he was listening us. Our thoughts are addressed to all those we love, and all without distinction. From a distance we see a ball that overlooks the city, the first thought is "base jumping". The second is: we do not have the material; we aren't base jumpers, perhaps here they detain us. And then we "settle" to pay the equivalent of two and a half euro, queuing, boarding an elevator ultra fast and admire the splendor of this city. The appointment with the team is at six o'clock, and we have an hour just to figure out which bus to take to get to the hotel. It is no longer the "21", but the "12". And, of course, we realize that we've got him on the wrong side of the road: traveling to westward, while we should go back to the east.

Never mind: after two stops we realize it, then we cross the street, we wait five minutes the bus and we go in the right direction. The works on the two pick-ups have been made ​​so faultless - it is time for recreation and rest. We'll have dinner later, calmly, and we will focus on everything that is proposed as epic evening: we want celebrate the success of the first half of our trip!

Text and photos by Flavio Allegretti

Path traveled today