Charity Rallies Messages

Register to our Forums

Questions about our rallies? Join our forums now - Join in seconds with Facebook or google login.

Sign up to the Mongolia Charity Rally 2018

2018 Registration is now open. Sign up can be found here 

Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
tattie_chomper

Ukraine-Kazakh-Uzbek-Kyrgy

20 posts in this topic

Hi all

we're provisionally planning on taking the northern route via Ukraine and Russia to get to Kazakhstan as quickly as possible, before travelling down to Uzbekistan, into Kyrgystan and back out into Kazakh somewhere near Almaty before heading up to Russia to hit the Western Border crossing into Mongolia.

Our route is here: http://mongolia.charityrallies.org/teams/11725/routes

I was wondering if anyone could give me some advice on this route?

- from what I can see there's only one route down through Kazakhstan which brings you into Uzbek somewhere north of Tashkent - is this right? I really want to get to at least Samarkand en route but want to avoid going west as much as possible! If we come in at Tashkent then it looks like we'll need to do a bit of a loop round by Samarkand and then back again before peeling off towards Bishkek

- is there any route into Uzbek to the West of the Aral Sea?

- how much time do you reckon it would put on the journey to do the loop through Samarkand (and would it add a significant amount of extra time to get to Bukhara as well?)

- how long in total would you estimate (with no major issues) it would take to get from the north-western Kazakh border, through Uzbek and Kyrgystan and up to Russia again?

We're really only planning on going the Ukraine route to get to Central Asia as quickly as possible (we can always drive to Turkey and Azerbijan next year!) as we're pretty damn tight on time - 5 weeks in total, which we hope will allow us to get the train back to Moscow from UB (4 days).

Ideally we'd love to go through Turkmenistan and up to Uzbekistan that way - time-wise, Azeri ferries etc considered, is the route across the Caspian likely to be significantly longer than our plans?

Err, and finally (honest!) - how specific do we have to be about route up front? I've noticed lots of people on the forum mentioned specific towns they were planning on driving through - does it have to be that exact or is having a rough idea of where you're trying to get to enough?

Sorry for the lengthy / completely ill-informed post - would be really grateful for any thoughts or advice.

Cheers

Tony

Steppe by Steppe

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a road between the Caspian and Aral seas from Kazakhstan down to Bukhara. I corresponded with some non-ralliers last year who took that route from Astrakhan through Atiraw down to Bukhara. It took them 6 days in two Isuzu Troopers. It was mostly two-track, and the best part of the road is where it follows the railroad tracks. There is a 160 mile no-mans land between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. We ran into some MR ralliers in Atiraw last summer that claimed a highway had been built there and they were going that way. No one ever heard from them again.

There is also a road that goes south from Atiraw into Turkmenistan. The Turkmenistan road is paved, so you would go all the way down to Asgabat, then over through Mary to Bukhara. That is longer in miles, but probably a lot faster.

Route specificity only matters for visas. You have to figure your time on route so your visa dates match your actual trip.

Turkmenistan is an exception! The dates for your transit visas are written in stone. If you get a 5 day transit visa that starts on August 20, you have between August 20 and end of day August 25 to get into, through, and out of the country. Jail and/or expulsion via an airport are the results of missing your date out of the country. The MR blogs are full of people camping out in no-mans-land after exiting one country and waiting for their Turkmenistan visa date. Also some MR people have been evicted for overstaying. You cannot extend the visa.

If you try Turkmenistan get the Rally to get your visa and remember the dates and entry/exit points cannot change once you have them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow! Thanks for the comprehensive advice! Have had a quick look again at the bit between Atiraw and Turkmenistan (I guess you're referring to crossing the border near Bekdash?) - on satellite imaging this time instead of just the maps - and I can definitely see some kind of track heading down the strip of land between the Caspian and the Garabogazkol - however according to a brief bit of research, depending on water levels, this can sometimes disappear into the sea....

If we can get straight down into Turkmenistan that would be amazing as I really want to see the country. But likewise, I've accepted we might need to sacrifice it given the time we have available. Just can't bring myself to miss both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan as they're probably the main reason I started thinking about this trip in the first place (Mongolia excepted, obviously!). I guess the Atiraw-Bukhara route's out of the question if it took a week in an Isuzu Trooper....(we're trying to find a van to drive)

We're in the middle of moving house at the moment so apologies for taking a while to reply - figured planning the rally wasn't enough stress. Will get on the route research again once we're up and running in the new place - in the meantime, if anyone out there has done the routes alj3rd has mentioned it would be great to hear from you....

and, err, what of those two poor unfortunates that disappeared? Do you remember their team name? (might not tell the missus about that bit)

thanks again for the info

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Is that 6 days the total time from Astrakhan to Bukhara? Do you know if they spent more than one day in the no-man's land? The satellite pictures make the route look pretty straightforward, but I'm wondering what a reasonable speed is on that dirt track.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

They said they drove 14-18 hours a day for 6 days. I tried to find their post/email/blog but couldn't. The pictures I've seen plus driving in the area plus watching a rally in the region make it appear the "roads" vary from wide gravel to sandy/windy to 2-track. I would guess a good average would be 200 miles a day to be sure (I think I worked it out as 1,200 miles once). Remember, they were in Isuzu Troopers.

We started out from Astrakhan around 9:00 AM and got into Atiraw around 5:00 PM. That included the border crossing from Russia into Kazakhstan. Road was paved with amazing potholes and surface breakage. Figure slower time in the dirt.

Get this map:

Gizi Kazakhstan map, ISBN 9789630083157

http://catalog.maplink.com/scripts/cgi-bin/cgiip.exe/pubsearch2.r

It is worth its' weight in platinum.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been trying to find out more about the route between the Aral and Caspian seas. There's a team from the Mongol Rally that did it last year in a small car and described the roads as being better than they expected:

http://www.mongolrallyguys.com/kazakhstan/
http://www.mongolrallyguys.com/to-uzbekistan/
http://www.mongolrallyguys.com/the-uzbek-border/
http://www.mongolrallyguys.com/western-uzbekistan/

I've contacted them with a few questions.

I'm tempted to try this route, because I'd really like to see Bukhara and Samarkand and it seems more efficient than entering Uzbekistan at Tashkent and doubling back. But it's the kind of thing that I hesitate to try in a lone car. Are any other teams thinking about this route?

If we manage to get the Turkmenistan transit visa, that route sounds even better (Beyneu - Bekdash - Turkmenbashi - Ashgabat - Darvasa?? - Mary - Bukhara), but I'm not counting on that.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Scott of the Mongol Rally Guys responded and said that "it wasn't that tough of a ride." Here's the rest of his advice:

It should take a day from Atyrau to Beyneu--we actually went farther
and camped in the desert a few hours from the Uzbek border in one day.
We would have been to Nukus in 2-2.5 days had we not had some visa
problems at the Uzbek border.

It should be even easier now as they were building a paved road all
the way to Beyneu that should be well constructed by now. The road out
of Atyrau is beautiful and paved for the first few hours--we were
going 80mph the entire way until the pavement stopped. After that is
when you get your first lick of crappy roads.

Gas stations are available in Beyneu--fill up your tank plus some
containers (2x20L) as the road to Nukus is pretty sparse.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It sounds like this route is now better than going down the east side of the Aral Sea.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Aneel - good work for tracking down the guys from the other rally! Really useful info and thanks again alj3rd for the advice).

We're currently planning on heading down the East route via Shymkent to Tashkent and looping round through Samarkand and Bukhara. We decided on this route as the road between Beyneu and the first major town in Uzbekistan looked pretty desolate - as you say, doing it alone in an unpractical car (a Renault Kangoo van) means that we have to balance adventure with the potential for getting bogged down/breaking down in the middle of nowhere for a day.

I haven't had the chance to read the full transcript of the Mongol Rally Guys' experience but if the road is largely paved now (and if, as alj3rd suggests, it's now better than the 'main' road), we'd certainly have food for thought.

We'd planned on stopping off at the Aral Sea at Aralsk and Turkistan amongst other places on our way down through Kazakhstan so we'd also have to consider that - although the payoff would be potentially a few more days to relax en route and taking a more direct route to Bukhara via Khiva.

We'll do some more thinking and certainly let you know, Aneel, what we decide. Would work out well if there were some friendly faces on the road with us - are you travelling through Ukraine as well or coming up through Georgia etc? The one other thing that may impact our planning is that we have already told the Uzbek consulate that our planned entry point is the border near Tashkent - not sure if our visa is dependent on us entering here or not.

T.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I got the Gizi Kazakhstan map that alj3rd recommended upthread. (Thanks! It looks very useful) The 2009 edition shows the route between Beyneu and Nukus as a numbered road (E40) of its lowest level of road ("Other Road"), but above "Track", so I'm hopeful that it's paved or mostly-paved.

Our current hope is that we'll get Turkmen transit visas allowing us to enter through the Kazakh border at Karabogaz (Bekdash), so our route would be Astrakhan - Atyrau - Beyneu - Turkmenbashi - Ashgabat - Merv - Bukhara - Samarkand. If the visas don't come through, we'll likely do Astrakhan- Atyrau - Beyneu - Nukus - Bukhara - Samarkand.

We are going through Ukraine, but we're planning on taking a relaxed route through Europe (visiting family in Poland), so we don't expect to be in Astrakhan until 7/23.

Hmm. Now that you mention it, I'm not sure what we told the Uzbek consulate about our point of entry.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

You are getting double entry Russian and Kazakhstan visas, aren't you?

The lack of a Kazakhstan double entry visa and the time to get one on the road are why we went accross Kazakhstan instead of dropping down to Uzbekistan.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, definitely. Or, at least, that's what we applied for. What we'll actually be granted, I'm not sure. It's looking like our Uzbek visas are still stuck in the application process, so I think we're going to miss the Turkmenistan deadline.

I think we're going to skip Kyrgyzstan, given the recent events.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Aneel - our Uzbek visas are also held up; something about the Shanghai something-or-other conference causing all other visa application processing to be suspended?! I'd started to flirt with the idea of taking the route down into Turkmenistan again but as you say, the deadline for visa apps is upon us so too late. We're skipping Kyrgyzstan after the turmoil as well. And, weirdly, on the way we're also stopping off to see my girlfriend's family in Poland! I think we're going to have the feeling that someone's following us...... Wink

Unfortunately we're on a tighter schedule than you so are planning to enter Kazakhstan sometime around the 16/17th of July - will try and keep updating our blog as we go so it might be useful for you guys coming along later.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From the State Department today:

Warden Message -- Bishkek 12 June 2010 1640

An evacuation opportunity from Osh is being provided for US nationals
and their families from Osh to Bishkek. An airplane will be leaving Osh
airport tonight. Those wishing to leave Osh on this aircraft must
present proof of US citizenship or Legal Permanent resident status with
a valid passport or Green Card. Seats are limited and will be issued on
a first come first served basis. Priority will be given to those with
medical needs. US citizen/Legal Permanent Residents will be required to
reimburse the US government for travel costs. Those wishing to take
this airplane to Bishkek should be at the airport by 5:30 PM. Please
call 0555.777.580 for information.

AND

Warden Message -- Bishkek, Osh 12 June 2010, 18:50

BISHKEK -- The U.S. Embassy reminds American citizens that the situation
in Bishkek remains unstable. There remains the possibility of large
groups of people gathering in various areas of the city. The Embassy
recommends that U.S. citizens avoid downtown Bishkek until the situation
stabilizes. The Embassy reminds U.S. citizens to avoid large crowds and
to remain vigilant.
OSH - The situation in Osh remain extremely unstable. An airplane
carrying American citizens left Osh airport earlier this evening for
Bishkek. For those American citizens remaining in Osh, the embassy
recommends they remain in their residences or hotels until the situation
stabilizes.
American citizens in Kyrgyzstan should maintain contact with friends and
family in the United states.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Fellas

Just wanted to say thank you for talking your route through on this forum. I have signed up for the charity rally but been so busy with work and other committments that I have had to leave all organisation (and fundraising) to the last minute.

Reading through your chat has been incredibly helpful, I had niavely thought that there would be a 'do-able' road down the Western side of the Aral. Obviously this wasn't the case until recently and your investigative work has been great!

We are driving in a 4x4 pick up so fingers crossed we can cope with most things. If you let me know when you plan on being at Beyneu we could possible meet up. May be a good idea to negate potentially rough roads in convey.

Jamie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Our schedule has us arriving in Beyneu on 7/25, spending the night there, and heading into Uzbekistan the next morning. We'd be interested in convoying if the timing works out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

We have had a bit of change of plan. Seeing that the problems in Kyrgystan have caused Uzbeks living in Kyrgystan to flee and live in refugee camps back in Uzbekistan, we've decided to give avoid both countries just to be sure. We are going to spend a bit more time in Kazakhstan instead and see more of there. We have run out of time to get the visa as well as we had some problems organising Russian one.

We are aiming to be in Astana on the 29th July ready to go to Barnaul (via Karakuga) on the 30th. Let us know if that interests for a convoy into Russia and Mongolia.

Sean and Jamie

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To follow up for future ralliers: we took the route between the Caspian and Aral seas this year (2010). The route is definitely passable in a passenger car.

We left Kazakhstan near Beyneu. The road from Atyrau to Beyneu is in fine shape. The road from Beyneu to the border crossing is a little tricky to find (where the road to Beyneu (south) splits off from the road to Aktau (southwest), there is a police post, take the other exit (east) from that intersection, cross the railroad tracks, then follow the trucks with foreign plates). The road to the border is in terrible shape (potholed pavement, occasional stretches of gravel and dirt), but passable the whole way. The Kazakhs are in the process of building a new border post, and it seems likely that they'll build a new road out to the new post. They told us it would be ready in September 2010. In the meantime, there are the usual small buildings for passport control, customs, and so on.

Once you cross the border, the roads are astonishingly great for the first 175 mi. We were able to sustain 110+ km/h for that section. The next 50 mi are blacktop rutted by heavy truck transit, but are sound roads. Beyond that we encountered a lot of road work and passed several road crews in the process of surveying or laying new pavement. At no point was the route unclear, and there was never a section of dirt road. There was always at least a gravel roadbed where they were actively building the road and blacktop everywhere else.

Note: we did not see a functioning gas station until Nukus. I would recommend having enough gasoline for at least 600km. There were several closed gas stations where it was unclear how long they'd been closed or whether they'd ever open again. This may be temporary (Uzbekistan has been having gasoline shortages since May 2010, and gasoline is hard to come by in many parts of the country. Many stations throughout the country are closed). There were many small towns where I'm sure someone would sell you gasoline, if you were willing to pay their price.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0