We submitted our visa applications at the Kazak embassy when it opened on this Tuesday morning. The officer told us our visas would be ready by Friday which was one day later than we had hoped. The good news was that he didn’t keep our passports during the time.
The following day (wednesday) the three cyclists we got to know in Tbilisi came to our hostel. We met Bartek (Poland) first time at the guesthouse in Batumi and first time we met Simon (New Zealand) was at the gas station outside Gori when Wej’s knee problem had got worse. They were riding with Marko from Slovenia who we met when he rested in the shade of a tree outside Bojormi. They had cycled together from Tbilisi to Baku at high speed to be able to apply for some central asian visas before the weekend.
We followed them to the Uzbek embassy to see where it was located. They all had letter of invitations (LOI) for Uzbekistan and would get visas on the spot. Our LOI wasn’t ready yet and we were afraid our friends would get their visas quickly and sail away with the next ship and leaving us to cross the Kazak and Uzbek deserts on our own,
Sine they had gone too late to the embassy the consul told them to come back to pick up their passports the following day when the embassy’s consular department actually was closed. When we all returned to the hostel we had got our own LOI e-mailed to us two days quicker than promised. The owner of the hostel told us there would be a ferry sailing to Kazakstan on Friday and this message was great but even if we now had our LOI:s we still had to get the visas.
The Uzbek embassy was going to be closed the following day (Thursday) but since our friends had made an appointment to pick up their passports we joined them to get inside. Once we were there the consul wasn’t too happy of seeing more visitors outside opening hours, but he was kind enough to grant us our visas on the spot too.
With our Uzbek visas stamped into our passports we hurried to the Kazak embassy. It was only Thursday and the passports wouldn’t be ready until Friday, but we took a chance. The consul immediately recognized our faces and said ”I told you to come on Friday, but I will check if your visas are ready”. We waited patiently outside his office and when we heard the sound from his printer the hope of being able to sail on the same ferry as our friends grew.
Our passports had now visas for Kazakstan, Uzbekistan and China and I felt just as relieved as after having a tough test a university. It was party time…..
In the Friday morning we got the news that there wouldn’t be a ferry to Kazakstan that day after all. We are 7 cyclists at our hostel who want to get across the Caspian and we discussed what to do. Some of us were under more time constraints with their Azeri visas soon expiring and the thought of flying across the Caspian once again returned.
When I write this it is Saturday afternoon and we have got information that a ferry is on its way into harbour and that we should be at the ticket booth at 8 PM. We hope that the ferry will sail some time during the night and arrive in Aktau on the Kazak side of the Caspian Sea during Sunday or early Monday.
From Aktau we expect some rough riding through the dessert to the town of Beyneu. It is 400 km through the dessert. Our plan is then to take one rest day in Beyneu before continuing on an even more horrible road to the Uzbek border.
Uzbekistan requires travelers to register every 72 hours. The registration is done by checking in to a hotel where foreigners are allowed to stay. From the border to the nearest point of registration it is 370 km of pure desert so we are looking forward to some interesting days of cycling.