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(written 3rd of October 2013)
It was worth it to take the far north-east border at Karakara betwen Kyrgystan and Kazachstan.
The very early morning almost noone is on the road. Fresh air, even it is chilly, indicating the coming change of the season. A little unreal all seems to me again, as I have often the impression when I ride through unknown terrain and dont hide behind elements of security, like a good map, or singing a song to myself underneath the helmet. Here all nature is absorbed again, all impressions get unfiltered into me. No resistance towards what I ride through, unprotected as I am, it all blows through me, all images I see, all looks of the people, all the light-changes, all air.
A brief stop at a police checkpoint to ask the way interrupt the state of mind, the short talk with the guys saves me temporarily. They ask if I have German beer with me, sorry no, if i had, they would get it.
Further it goes on a very good road, the direction is right, north-east, this must be the road to the boarder. In the villages all childeren are on the streets. The girls in beatiful dresses, the boys in suits. They all go in the same direction, it must be school beginning or something like that, once more I regret not to have my camera installed.
The bizarre morning impressions dont get less when the road stopps to be a road. But therefor the landscape is changing behind each bend again. Mountains and rivers, some horses and other animal browse here and there, almost no people. Just some guys who go fishing ask me where the hell I am going and they seem to be even familiar with the terrain. They shake their heads, but they also confirm that I am in the right direction to Kazachstan. Though there are people around, this is not the area where you want to break a leg. Everything around tells you that you dont belong here, nature does what ever it wants. I wonder what goes on here in winter time, when the border is closed, when the animals are down in warmer places. Are people living here all year?
Gravel, no road at all, steep gulches, two trucks with workers on top waving. Thats all for hours. Still, I want to take time for the trip here, It might be the last for quite a while. The mountainous area changes into steppe again and I know I must be close to the border. In a real nowhere-land on a plateau one can see the post already miles away.
No other customer. Everybody is very relaxed and friendly here, since it is not much work to do. But problem No.1 starts, when the Kyrgyse guy checks my luggae. In the tankbag I forgot the knife, which I usually have with my tools in the panniers. He sees it immediately and shows me that the blade is too long, longer than ones hand width. Discussion Discussion. I understand of cause that he is in for a bribe, but our language capacities is limited on both sides, so we make one misunderstanding after the other, even I offer him 10 dollar. The knife is a real good German made, worth around 60 dollar. He shows me a "present" he got from another German biker, a nice pocket knife, with a "VW" logo. Still we dont understand each other. He doesnt know that I am a professional performer and very good in pretending not to know what is happening. But I am very good in making others underdtand, that something is very important to me, in this case the knife. He speaks of 50 dollar now, but brings me to my bike after he gave me my knife back. " Thank you! Thank you!" - I tell him. He tries one last time: "50 Dollar!?" I lift my hands with an expression not to understand the world anymore. He opens the gate, halfway amused himself, and let me go.
Good that I sent the knife of my Bro Kia back home. I never would have been able to get that treasure through the customs. Best knife in the world, totally handmade from steel and a horn handle, blade longer than two hands wide ... .
The next guys need to let me into Kazachstan. They have observed the whole scene, just 20 meters away. The knife is put on the bottom of the tankbag, to open the panniers just would have them made more curious. They also open the tankbag. But they have another strategy. They see a little wallet, and ask me to open it. In there I have my small change from different countries and some bank notes from Bulgaria and Croatia, not worth much. But also Euro coins. One of them is interested and asks for one. Ok, here it is, a present for you! But he has a brother working here too. Ok, ... .
Hmm, how about I give them one German Euro coin each, 5 guys, 5 Euro, and they are entertained for the rest of the day, I think to myself. They like the idea and I could have had again weapons and drugs in both of my panniers.
That was not problem No.2 jet. I was warned by the Cargo company in Almaty that I need the right document to transport the bike out of the country by plane. One hour of discussion doesnt help, the document I get has a different design and a different number. The language problem is too big. If I only had the time for a proper Russian course before the tour, all woulod be so easy. Finally I get a week mobile phone signal outside of the building and the lady of that office talks with the officer. Result is, that the document changed and she didnt know that.
By now I hate borders. In Europe we are used to such easy crossings, even without showing the ID. But here I say good by to everybody and a thank you with a handshake, even the Kyrgyse guys from the other side came through. Its always good to leave a good impression with the people. The next biker or any foreigner who comes through might have it a bit easier.
Three more times you to ride on the A351 to Almaty through beautiful mountainous areas before you are really back in the dusty dry steppe of Kazachstan, which make that route worth to ride. It all reminds me to my time in Arizona when I made my first little motorcycle tour through that state.
To make it shorter, even I got up that day very early, I reached Almaty just in time to get into the traffic jam between 5 and 7pm. To cross the city in the worst direction, since everybody goes back to their sleeping districts, it took about two other hours making everybody waiting for me.
A real Dance Studio
Still I am welcomed in the studio of the Gabbassov Sisters. Gulnara, one of them, is there, Neilya, the manager and also Xenia, who made it all possible for me to work in Almaty.
About the work all is quickly arranged. I should make two different pieces with two groups, ok, I can do that. One problem is still to be solved, where do I sleep? Out of all options one seems to be the most comfortable to me, staying in the studio for some nights. Downstairs is even a guard through the night, so all is well. The bike is parked in the garden of the sisters around the corner, where I am also asked to take a shower as well, probably because I am stinking and make a very tired impression.
People have a much higher pace here. I am back in a real city. Sovjet stile living-blocks characterise the picture of the city. The high traffic and the pollution, noise and hectic, all that I am not used to anymore, but I am back in the Dance-World. I am in a real studio and real dancers are waiting for my ideas, great!
Every evening I teach and we reherse. Not only for the students the training makes sense, also for me, since I am badly out of training. Surprisingly I am physically fully back after 3 days and the students make progress even quicker. The training includes some Yoga, floor techniques and joint articulation. Thematically we work on the presents in different forms with the two groups. In one, the dancers invite a friend or other close person and create a performative present for them. The other group portrait themself, pretend an encounter with a celebrity and characterize that person, and finally these celebrities give a present all together to the audience: a dance on stage with: Lady Gaga, Andy Warhol, Jeanne de Arc, Quentin Tarrantino and Hillary Clinton.
Finally I am able to work with the music of my hero Jimi Hendrix in a piece, three songs of him bring the right drive into it. Probably I am enjoying it the most.
Thanks to everybody in Almaty for the work I could do there!
Stupid mistakes on this Trip: Nr. 5(?)
The visa for Kazachstan is valid from the 10th of July until the 7th of October. BUT, Thomas, you only can stay 30 days!
When Gulnara and me go to the registration office to prolong my stay for another week, since I have to do my writings and the cargo, films and photos .. , the officer tells us that I have to leave the next day! She is right, it is even written on the visa in my passport ... .
No discussion possible, I have to leave the next day.
We go through the different options, but at the end there is only one: riding the short way, 250km, to Bishkek, Kyrgystan, the only country I can enter without visa with the motorcycle. If I had done the cargo already in Almaty, I just would fly to India now, but doing the cargo within one day seems not possible.
I could hit myself for so much stupidity. And I called other guys stupid for asking how much my bike costs ... .
Anyway, I have to leave, packing my things, checking the bike, saying good by, cleaning the flat I was meanwhile living in, and getting up very early without much sleep to ride again. I have to say, I enjoyed riding again! The strech has some nice curves, where the police stays, waiting for bribes ... . Watch out and dont go over the speed limit!
So, I am writing this now from the Bikers Bed and Breakfast "Dolonsky 78", where I was staying before and made friends with Chinara and Memo. They helped me aready trying to find the cargo from here, though being under stress themselves with several things. Good to have friends.
I have to wait now for offers from the cargo companies. Probably all will be more expensive as I checked out alredy, maybe I am lucky and all turns out well ... .
India is waiting for me, several places seem to turne out to be interested now and I am curious and keen on changing the culture dramatically.