01-Nov-2008 – While the weather is still nice in Atyrau, we decided that another degree confluence visit had to be done. Rain, mud or extremely low temperatures are not the conditions to be trying to get to the more remote confluences in western Kazakhstan and we wanted to enjoy it while still possible. My friend Gary, with whom we’ve also visited 48°N 53°E a few weeks ago, arrived at my place Saturday morning on the 1st of November around 10:30, and we were on our way within minutes.
Same as with the previous visit, I had set out a route on the GPS over a decent road, until we would leave that behind for the off-road trails or cross-country. All started out well, we were able to maintain a decent speed for a little while, but soon it became clear that the road that had seemed like highway-quality on the satellite imagery, had known better days and was actually more looking like it had been bombed recently. Speed dropped significantly and soon all we were doing was dodging enormous potholes, nearly deep enough to hide in!
Obviously getting there and back in a few hours was not going to happen, and it would prove to be a long and bumpy ride. This is actually the first time that we were both happy to leave the so-called road behind and continue over the softer, smoother trails! Speed was not high, and for some silly reason, I seemed to be picking the wrong way at most of the Y-crossings we were running into, so we had to backtrack a bit for several times. Then we ran into a big concrete slab, which blocked the only crossing over an irrigation channel that ran for as far as the eye could see, and this cost some more time to get passed. We decided to try to ride through the upper bit of the channel, just next to the block, where the ground seems solid enough to carry the 370 kilos of the bike, and just managed to get it out on the other side. Clearly we had to figure out something else for the way back! After that, getting to the confluence itself didn’t prove too hard, there were trails almost all the way there and except for loads of big tumble-weeds, which we could simply bounce off the trail by hitting them straight on, there was nothing keeping us from conquering our next degree confluence.
We arrived at the confluence after a full 4 hours of riding, and after taking a short break, recording all details and taking the required pictures, we decided to make our way back as soon as possible. We knew how rough the way back would be and the last thing we wanted was to run out of daylight on the road that we had just been riding over! Getting back to the concrete obstacle, we decided that the safest way past would be to go over it, so after dragging some pieces of rock against its side, Gary managed to get the bike on top it, and then jump it off the other end. Good, one less thing to worry about!
Then there was the “road” again, and soon we came to the conclusion that riding next to it was more comfortable than being on it. We were still not going fast, but at least we could keep a more constant speed, because although a lot of steering had to be done on the trail parallel to the road, we didn’t have to break and speed up again all the time. About half way home we were stopped by a police road block, I think they were more curious than anything else, so after Gary gave the necessary paper work and showed off his bar room Russian we were on our way in minutes. Eventually we made it back into town at 18:30, with the sun just disappearing behind the horizon. Looking back at it, this was definitely a harder trip than the previous one, but again worth it, and a great day out. Then off to the bar for a much needed debrief. More visits to follow…
CP visit details:
- Time at the CP: 14:35
- Measured height: -20 m
- Position accuracy at the CP: 4 m
- Topography: mostly flat, some low ground and grassy areas
- Vegetation: short, grassy, steppe vegetation, tumble-weeds
- Weather: sunny, 13°C (felt temperature)