Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Almaty; A Beautiful Modern City; Today: 50 km; Total: 2180 km

June 21- 24, 2014

Although we were very close to the main road, we were at the Mercy of some leafy trees and had a very peaceful night. We made some pasta with some fried garlic and onion. We also washed ourselves with two litters of water--very refreshing.

In the morning, at 7:30, we were on the road. The weather was not that hot and the road was flat. We were doing fast, but the morning traffic was also there to take the joy a little away from us. Unlike other big cities we have been so far, Almaty had a stress free start. The drivers behaved themselves and the road/streets were well maintained.

Close to the city, I used my GPS and found the hotel the Lonely Planet recommended. It was in a very good location, right in the center of the city, but we didn't know if we could find a cheaper and better accommodation, so we went to a coffee shop to orient ourselves and see if we could find a better place to stay using the Internet. I checked the Lonely planet Website and found a hostel which was said to be the best hostel in Almaty. We rode our loaded bikes to find the hostel, not knowing that we had a steep long street to get to the hostel in a very hot noon to see it didn't exist. Annoyed, tired, and sweaty, we rode back to the first hotel and checked in. In the afternoon, after taking a shower, we each ate a huge pizza and sipped on coffee watching people passing by.

In the evening, we went to a bar and watched the soccer match between Argentina and Iran. It was fun, but rather disappointing as Messi scored a goal in the last seconds of the match although Iran played well specially in the second half.

On Sunday, we took a long walk in the town. We went to a beautiful park where there also were a lot of modern buildings. There were many limousines decorated for weddings and brides and grooms were posing for pictures in the beautiful park and the buildings. I was very thirsty, so I went to find some water to buy. When I got back, Fausto wasn't there, so I ventured around on my own. I went to a museum, which was not a wise thing to do because not even one word of explanation in the museum was in English.

I went back to the hotel, left a message for Fausto and went to the coffee shop. After an hour, he also came to the coffee shop and then we went to eat something.

Monday was our last day to register with the immigration police in Kazakhstan or we would be fined. I have been already fed up with the visas and permits on this trip. I didn't need another hassle--"registration with the police". What the heck does that mean when a tourist has already got a visa and an entrance stamp? Anyways, we woke up at seven and went out by bike to find OVIR. It was not easy to find it. We were ping ponged from one corner to another corner of the streets. Finally we found it by chance as we were passing by it. There were some people waiting for OVIR to open when we got there at 8:15. And when it got open at nine, there was some pushing and shoving people trying to be the first person in line. We got a form to fill in. The form was for foreigners to register with OVIR. And guess what? Not even one word on the form was in English! After filling it in with some help from the officer, we were told to pick our passport up at 1 pm! What a hassle. I am sick of it.

Fausto went to find the Mongolian embassy and I went to see if we can contact the Warmshower host who had agreed to lodge us in. I was in our usual coffee shop when Fausto showed up with some good news from the Mongolian embassy: visa in an hour and we had an appointment at 2 pm today! "Really?"

After picking up our passports from OVOR at 1 pm, we headed to the Mongolian embassy. It took us one hour to get there. At 2:20, after ringing the embassy's bell several times every five minutes, finally, the guy showed up and said that if we apply then, we could pick our visas up the next day at 10! When we were filling out the form at the embassy, there was a case of communication problem between me and Fausto, but this one was ugly, and caused us to, finally, sit down at in the hotel and talk about our problems. After our conversation, we decided to do things rather differently to meet each other expectation. I hope things do not go south again.

Tomorrow, we will hit the road toward Chinese border, and then to Urumqi, which is going to be about 1000 km--our next milestone. 

The Bar We Watched the World Cup in

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