Aktau to the Uzbek border

Kazakhstan!! (For the first time). First impressions: Big, sandy, dusty with lots of nodding donkey oil wells. The drive north east from Aktau to Beynau was on roads of mixed quality. There is an extensive program of road building (seemingly with Chinese funding), and where the road is completed, the quality is easily as good as any road in the UK. The problems arise where the road is still under construction, as the alternative routes running parallel to the new road is bone shakingly awful, as they are generally dirt tracks with hateful corrugations. We had heard that the way to avoid the affects of these corrugations was to speed up and drive at 60mph, where upon your vehicle skims lightly over them, rather that plunge in and out of every single one (thanks for the tip First Overland!). However, with 60mph only possible in the Beaut when going downhill, on a motorway, with a strong tail wind, this seemed ambitious, and so we were forced to slow right down for miles on end, sometimes averaging as little as 15kmph.
We had heard that fuel in north-west Uzbekistan was hard to come by, so we fuelled up to the max (30p per litre!) on the outskirts of Beyneu, and then turned south towards the border. The ‘road’ immediately leaving Beyneu was the worst we have encountered to date. Huge concrete slabs arranged haphazardly like stepping stones might have constituted a road for Soviet tanks in the 1970s, but now with some missing, and all at precarious angles it was truly hideous, and Coby managed just 4km in her one hour stint at the wheel. Mercifully, the road improved back to corrugated dirt track (!) and we crept towards the border. We had by this stage discovered that the cheap luggage lock securing one of our rear jerry cans had snapped due to the bumps in the road, and that somewhere in the previous 50km we had lost a full jerry can of fuel. Cursing the cheap lock, as this was the first time we had actually been worried about quantity of fuel, we decided not to back track and look for it but to press on regardless. Hopefully someone finds it just as they are running out themselves, and the good Karma will repay us at some stage!
The border itself was lengthy but relatively uneventful. We managed to drive past the queues of lorries and migrants trying to reenter Uzbekistan as we were waved through as a ‘tourist’. This saved us hours, and was a trick we would remember for the future.


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