I have sat in more enjoyable locales to blog, that is certain. Not that it is all that terrible – just hot, damned expensive, and tedious. A 1.5l bottle of water costs £7.50 in Moscow’s international airport, which doesn’t bode well for the purse strings on this 20.5 hour layover I find myself on. And tap water isn’t potable apparently (EDIT: I eventually found a single water fountain, and a long queue).
For four weeks now I have been back in the UK, and busy busy busy – I got my Chinese visa, adapted my bike kit slightly – jettisoning a load of obsolete or weighty gear to meet Aeroflot’s 23kg baggage weight limit (including the bike itself) – attending weddings, helping support a team of friends in a 100km Trailwalker challenge walk along the South Downs, working for Suffolk Archaeology CIC as a site assistant (on two excavations – the latter of which, a nice little Roman site, was operated by none other than my girlfriend Catherine, just the two of us; work place nepotism in action), and generally flapping about my route across Kazakhstan and the massive distances I’ll have to cover there with less than 30 days to do it.
I must thank Suffolk Archaeology for taking me on for such a short term – I wouldn’t have been able to afford to continue without their help.
The current toss-up is whether or not to jump the gun and try for a train from Atyrau to Shalkar (all trains showing as sold out online) tomorrow, and skip the potentially more boring part of the trip, or to battle on and try to maintain 70-or-more miles per day in 35°+ heat… Possibly having to take public transport if I get behind later! I think it’s likely I’ll try the station, and let fate decide – if the train isn’t booked-up then I’ll jump on, if not, then at least I’ll know.
One thing is certain, this leg will be a whole lot harder than what came before, a new level of challenge for me. At present I’m determined to take a route which will take me through the middle of the (former) Aral Sea – via steadily worsening roads, from tarmac, to dirt, to trackways, and single track footpaths, before emerging again a little north of Baikonur (where I hope to visit the cosmodrome’s museum, or even book onto a tour!).
I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to blog, but I’ll do my best.