Our past two days could pretty much be described as one big fart noise. First, we were pulled over AGAIN. Oh my god! Cops in Kazakhstan are so corrupt. We’ve driven actually in Kazakhstan, on this trip, for less than a week and been pulled over three times. Each time it was complete bullshit and they were just wanting a bribe. I wrote a specific post about being pulled over in Kazakhstan here.
This is what our entire drive looked like.
We left our crappy hotel in Turkistan for Baikonur. It was going to be about an 8.5 hour drive. We took one detour that made a trip longer than a straight drive would have been because we wanted to see some ancient ruins. The pictures looked really cool. We drove 2.5 hours, the last half hour was on a pretty rough dirt road to get there. We ended up in a remote rural village and when Google dinged and said “You have arrived” this is what we were looking at:
They were supposed to be ancient ruins from the 3rd-5th century. The thing that really, really pisses me off but these experiences is when I try to make the corrections on Google Maps and my edits are denied. I get a message from Google saying my edit cannot be verified. I know I’ve complained about this before but, once again, who the fuck else is going to verify these things???
Then, Brandon and I love the website Atlas Obscura. We have guided our trips through close to 25 countries using their site but holy fuck! They really led us astray yesterday. We were really excited about going here. It says we can see the grove where a cosmonaut plants a tree before he goes into space, take a tour of their space center, and there are a couple museums we really wanted to see. So, we left Turkistan, drove 8.5 hours arrived in the city and what did we find? Armed soldiers guarding the border of the city checking permits of each driver before they could enter. Yeah. Um. Atlas Obscura didn’t say anything about needing a special permit to enter the city.
The soldier had us pull over. We spoke with him via Google Translate and were informed the entire city is a high security site and only those with permits are allowed in. We can apply for a permit but processing takes five days. Also, I showed him a picture of the Cosmonaut Grove and he said no way! That place is top security. No one is allowed there. He’s never been there, he doesn’t even know anyone that’s ever been there. He said there’s no way we would ever be allowed to see it.
So…. as tired as we were, we didn’t have permission to enter the city and we were in the middle of the desert so we had no choice but to move on. Our next destination was another 2.5 hours ahead. Aralsk, Kazkhstan. Remember when we went to the Aral Sea (desert) in Uzbekistan and saw the stranded ships? The museum was closed, our visa was running out, and we didn’t have time to stay another day to try to find someone to open it for us. Now, we’re waaaaaaayyyyyyyyy on the other side of the Aral Sea, where there are other stranded ships and supposedly another museum.
The hotel here has a poster in the front with tourist sites to see. There’s a beautiful geothermal pool, a large area of the lake pelicans gather, and some other cool looking stuff. We looked for the placed on Google Maps, but they’re not there. We asked the receptionist to show us where they were on the map and he wouldn’t. Then we asked if we could get a tour guide for the day to take us there and he said yes. Wanna know how much they wanted to charge us? $300!!!!! $300!!!!! I countered with $100 and he was rude to me. He gave me a nasty look, he said no one works for that little here, and he walked away. Okay. Whatever, mister. No one in Kazakhstan works for $100 a day? Just ten days ago we paid a guy in Uzbekistan $30 to be our tour guide for a full 8 hours in 47°C/117°F temps. I’m sorry, I’m not paying someone $300 to drive me out to look at a hot spring and some birds. We decided to spend our day at the local museum then relaxing at the hotel.
Yeah. There’s no museum. They are clearly building a museum. We asked a guy when he thought the museum will be open: a year from now? Two years? His answer? 9 years!!!!!! That’s 2030!!!! So if you’re planning to come to Aralsk for the museum, I’d make sure to call first. There is a sign that says museum, but that’s it.
All was not lost. We did walk around on the dried up seabed and we cuddled with a cute kitty that walked by. Then, that guy mentioned the other museum. Other museum? What other museum? Google didn’t even say there was another musem. He walked us a few blocks away to a natural history museum.
Now, it wasn’t the best museum ever but I enjoyed it. The employees were eager to see us and tried their best to communicate with us even though we didn’t have a common language. Plus, they had this amazing light and they played music for us on an actual gramophone. I don’t think there’s another museum on earth that would play music from a gramophone for me.
After finding a real musem we went back to the hotel and took a nap. I’ve never been much of a napper but wow! It’s hot and I’m finding it really easy to sleep half the afternoon these days. When we woke up we walked down the street to find a minimarket and bought some ice cream. There’s really nothing to do here. Nothing. It’s just a tiny rural town. Mostly we’re sitting on the bed watching the news. We’ll be leaving in the morning. We’re ready to get outta here. I miss Uzbekistan.