Saturday 17 October 2015

Heading Central Asia? Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pamirs? Well, considering that you are not coming by south way from Turkmenistan, you have a vast land to pass on the way - Kazakhstan. Over 3000km from West to East side. There are plenty of interesting places to visit, I believe, but if you just transit through it, there is an easy and cheap solution to shorten your fascinating ride through sands and steppes.
In Europe you would probably never even think to load motorcycle on a train just by yourself. In Kazakhstan you have this opportunity.

You may heard of possibility of shipping bikes by Transsiberian railway. Well, Kazakh Railway works same. That is what Soviets left there. I did not found any tips on how do it over the Internet, so I have decided to write down a short guide.

We intended travel with our motorbikes on a train from Atyrau (West part of thecountry, close to Russian border) to Almaty on East, but we finished in Shimkent (South, close to Uzbekistan border), almost 2000 km far.  

The trick is that you need match your seat with availability of cargo waggon on a train. On each train station there is cargo office called 'bagazhone otdelenye'. Before going there check seats availability on the interesting train for upcoming days. 'Bagazhnoe' is usually located on one of ends of main (first) platform. There you will be informed which of trains is pulling 'bagazhnyi' waggon. Not every single train on the same route will have it, you may need wait one or two days. You may ship your bike on one train and go by another, but we experienced that it is much safer to go on the same one. Why? Well, we so guys who work on loading cargo waggon. They said to leave them keys and they will take care. We would not. There is no ramp at loading place. If you go on a same train with your motorcycle they will let you load/unload the motorcycle from platform by yourself. Of course, if the platform is high enough to push the bike in and out. What we found out there are at least two of high platforms on stations in Atyrau and Almaty. In other case you will need support of 4+ guys to handle 200kgs bike. Riding on a platform is not recommended. We had a not really nice discussion with police and almost got fine, however they could not find clause saying it is illegal.  To be honest it was not really smart idea to ride on a platform but you have only 15 mins to leave your personal stuff in passenger waggon and then move to cargo. In our case it was distance of 15 waggons to cover.

No one take care to secure your vehicle in a waggon, so think twice before leaving it . Central stand is good idea, if none make sure that it will not fall from a side stand. Train tends to roll quite much.
Important, if you have passenger ticket you get 50% discount on each declared kg of your vehicle. So before setting up cargo ticket you need go back to main station ticket office and pay for your seat, well, bed in fact. Then again come to cargo office and sign all the papers. You need declare bike weight for which you will be charged. In our case no one checked actual weight. You are supposed to drain all fuel before loading. In practise it will not be checked, however cargo waggon service guys may want get a gift or cash if they catch you on carrying fuel.

In September 2015 the price for each kg on route from Atyrau to Almaty was 60 Tenge (0.20 USD) including discount. Hiring porters to have bikes taken off the train may cost you 5000 Tenge extra depending on your haggling skills. In case you are in a hurry and have at least basic knowledge of Russian language you may try to make a deal directly with staff on cargo waggon. There are always at least two men sitting there all the way. They will be happy to help you and have all the cash in their pockets. Just go directly to cargo waggon just after train arrival your station and try your luck. Don't expect any ticket or paper proving that you loaded your bike.

Good luck!

Motorcycle shipping tips: Kazakhstan

Motorcycle shipping tips: Kazakhstan

Monday 15 June 2015

Yep. After a week on the way we arrived in Bosnia. Well, for speed demons as we are it is 200km per day in average but a lot of fun going through sideways roads.

But let's start from the beginning, It was supposed to be loud and crowded 'goodbye' meeting on Sunday, the 7th. But when at 10am a rain started falling we already knew we will be late with departure,

No more excuses to go on Monday. Nice and sunny. Arrived in Walbrzych pretty soon. Piotrek, his comfy sofa and a kitty Juka were waiting for us. On following day we were supposed to be already in Czech, but riding in rain when it is 10 degrees outside is not what we are born for. Soon after less than 100km we have stopped at Lukasz's guesthouse Zajacowka in Paszkow. Lukasz, the host and experienced rider checked our travel preps and wished us safe trip.

When finally the rain was out on Wednesday we almost reached Czech-Austrian border in Znojmo. The ride we did was over 260km, but we have never entered any city or even seen a gas station. I wonder how many times Laura swore at me.

Well, we are modern travellers, so we use advantages of CouchSurfing and Airbnb. In Czech we got nice bedroom with breakfast for 10 EUR. Well, breakfast was extra because David, a host, was late.

We passed Austria fast to find a cheap stay near border on Hungarian side. It turned out not that close us we expected , well and the price for camp was even higher than in Austria. I do not know how it happens but usually in Hungary we have that kind of surprises,

The positive thing was that we catched access free wifi spot there. I am not really sure if our Netherlands neighbour will be happy because of this, but I have realised that we are stealing their connection, when Google has started display result in their language.
So, because of that we found Andrija and his family on CS, who made our weekend amazing nearby Croatian city Varazdin. Stayed in mountain wine house alone, tried delicious local food and drinks and all of these made from stuff grown by themselves. What could we get more? That kind of hospitality we have not experienced for a long.

But we need go back on the road. Today we went through central Croatia and arrived in Bosnia to camp near Banja Luka.
Now going towards seaside and plan to spend next weekend in Albania. Stay tuned.

Click for more pics.

Banja Luka

Banja Luka

Thursday 14 May 2015

Everyone asks how we get the idea.
Now is it's really hard to say. For some time it's so obvious for both of us that in 2015 we are just leaving... for unknown. For a year, two, or even longer.

It was probably an afternoon after busy day at work, two or three years back, when we decided to do that. Well, you may sit at your comfortable desk, reporting wonderful numbers, be an expert in pivot tables or just wander around the world. Isn't it an obvious choice?
We are still young enough, even though just entering 4th decade of our lives, no kids, no serious obligations (beside a mortgage in CHF). There'll be no better time.

Buying a new TV, redecorate your flat, upgrading a car. Are these supposed to be authentic motivation for sweating blood? Not really working.
For us satisfaction comes from travelling.

People say 'I'm so jealous, I'd like to do like you do', we always reply 'just go'. The only limit is your mind. Of course you need resign from many things, change priorities, honestly, sometimes totally reorganize your life. But who is not doing this to get the dreams fulfilled?
Well, your car will be broken soon, if not stolen, flat will become to small, but experience and memories will stay for ever.

'You have to be insane to just hit the road - I heard after telling of my plans
- No, you have be insane to stay here - I thought'

We are not insane. We are not free of fears.
But it is not about looking for the risk and adrenaline. We are not trying to be professionals in travelling.

It is all about finding own space, taking a breath, holding for a moment in this crazy race. To look for all of this from the other perspective. Experience the freedom and give a chance to our creativity to be brought back to life.

So, why to go for a trip of a lifetime?

So, why to go for a trip of a lifetime?