Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kazakh wrap-up

Total distance: 805km
Distance on unsealed roads: 85km
Nights spent camping: 12
Number of consecutive nights camping: 11
Days spent cycling: 11 (not including in and around Almaty)
Rest days in the tent: 3
Average distance per day: 57.4km (owing to our offroad jaunt in around the Asy Plateau)
Longest day: 106km
Shortest day: 20km
Maximum number of consecutive days without showering: 13 (although this did include several river washes)

Most difficult section: Lake Bartogay (1023m) to the start of the Asy Plateau (2130m). Steep rocky inclines, some sections must have been 15 degrees. Lots of pushing, even during the downhill bits.

Longest downhill: 40km from top of Asy Plateau to Turgen

Highest point: 2550m (western end of the Asy Plateau)

The number of times Andrew cycled on the 8km stretch from Kokpek to the turnoff to China: 6

Number of cycle tourists we met: 10 (1 Brit, 3 French, 1 German, 2 Belgian, 2 Dutch, 1 Hungarian)

Best coffee: 4a Coffee, Almaty. Feels like Brunswick.

Favourite convenience store snack: Although the 100Tenge per 100g chocolate wafer biscuits we bought several times from Kokpek were a hit, the widely available packets of Central Asian dried fruit were definitely the winner.

Number of litres of soda water Ali inadvertently purchased thinking it was plain water: 12L

Favourite Kazakh traditional food: Shaslik. The stalls are everywhere, the meat is tasty.

Favourite alcoholic beverage: The chilled local Turgen valley white we enjoyed with Vladimir and Tanya (our great CS hosts) in Almaty.

The cycle tourist verdict:
We explored the more moderate climes of Kazakhstan, primarily in the southeast, which are dramatic, but very mountainous and therefore tricky for touring bikes. An unladen mountain bike with suspension and a good set of quads would set you up for some incredible riding through the Zhunghar Alatay range or even the Altai region in the northeast. Our partially-laden, rigid-fork Surlys became pretty heavy after several hours of pushing towards the Assey plateau, but the dramatic river gorges and downhill plunge through the Turgen valley made up for it somewhat.
Having said that, we have not explored this nomadic land extensively. From what we have seen, and from the cycle tourists we spoke to or emailed, we found that where the roads were asphalt they were generally quite good to excellent. When they turned to dirt, they could be full of large rocks and steep inclines.
We spent our time in the southeast and would highly recommend it. Canyons, gorges, alpine lakes, glacial rivers, plateaus and mountainous passes are all within several hundred kilometers of expensive, comfortable, cosmopolitan Almaty. Working these sites into a route involving Kyrgyzstan has been rewarding for previous cyclists.

Cycling Summary:
  • Canyon to Kokpek and back out to camp: 50km
  • 8km from Kokpek to 3km uphill from lake bartogay: 38.7km
  • 3km from Bartogay to just before the Asy Plateau: 20km
  • Just before the Asy to alongside the Turgen river: 43km
  • Along Turgen to Almaty: 96km 
Go to our link to download a GPS route with waypoints and a kilometre-by-kilometre road diary of this 125km route:


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