While riding past a firing range for large armored vehicles, we spotted a fine campsite, but we decided to keep pedaling. The hunt for good camping occupies a large part of our time, from examining maps looking for rivers, to scanning horizons searching for clumps of trees far enough from the road to discourage curious folks from visiting our campsite in the middle of the night.
Here in Kazakhstan, finding a good spot is easier in some ways and more challenging in others than it was in Kyrgyzstan. There are fewer people here, and a whole lot more space. But much of that space is peopleless for good reason, as it is also free of flowing water or trees. It was the presence of a few trees that made the firing range spot so desirable. It was fun to imagine some Kazakh soldiers discovering a journal filled with a string of very bizarre Russian words. "Today, gas station woman give melon and chocolate and almonds. She very nice. We very tired. We smile big." Here is the evidence, sir. The tourists are absolute morons.
The little bit of Russian we do know is proving very useful and is leading to some amazing interactions here in Kazakhstan. Almost every day, we have been given gifts by the very kind folks who live here. After they get a handle on their disbelief that we are from the US and that we are riding our bikes to Mongolia, we are presented with treasures.
Just the other day, we were making a pretty standard resupply stop in Taldikorghan, a small city in eastern Kazakhstan. The plan was to purchase; bread, cheese, almonds, meat stick, cucumbers, snacks and a few other treats to fill up our food bags. By the time we were following the very friendly man on the motor scooter guiding us out of the city in our mini parade, we had been given pounds of treats; 1 plastic comb, 3 cans of beef and barley, 2 cans of mackerel, 2 cans of sprats, 1 pound of raisins, 1 pound of dried apricots, 1 package of wafer treats, 1 large box of assorted cookies, 2 green t-shirts, and 1 five ruble note from 1909.
We are having a pretty wonderful time, and look forward to telling the stories in person.
This post is being written from the home of some very friendly folks who were selling apples on the side of the road. We did not have a chance to buy any apples before we had been invited in for tea, and dinner and showers and a place to spend the night. Amazing.
Thank you for the continued good thoughts and prayers. They are working.
Tyler and Adrianne