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Drama Prior to Going to Sea

November 30, 2015 0 Comments

Talk about confusion, getting passage for our cars and ourselves was/is quiet an ordeal.

We arrived in Aktau on Friday night after a long drive from a place called Shepte in Kazakhstan. We left Alan and Lynn in the bush as they did not want to keep driving. Donna and I drove onto Aktau for another 3 to 4 hours.

Along the way we had a couple of Pieva’s (beers). At one stage a car sped past us whilst a police car was coming the other way. The police immediately put their red and blue lights on spun around and started chasing. I thought it was us they wanted however they sped past us and got the driver who just passed us. We were scrambling around trying to hide Pieva bottles in case we were pulled over.

Waiting at Border

Waiting… waiting… waiting…

When we arrived in Aktau, a seaside port, at about 11-pm Friday night we booked into a hotel and got some sleep. Next day Donna and I went to a Burger King restaurant for a well overdue burger and good coffee. Sitting close by was a young guy who spoke very good English – Mark is his name. Mark offered to help us with ferry negotiations, etc. After exchanging phone numbers and emails we thanked him and left the restaurant.

At the hotel I googled Caspian Sea Ferry Crossing and commenced my education on the task ahead. From what I read we were in for some confusing times. Boy was the information I read right! Here is what we have been going through. As I write this blog I am sitting in the customs office at the ferry terminal 6-30am Monday morning.

On Saturday we commenced looking for an agent to buy ferry tickets – this is when the confusion and issues surfaced. We called into several travel agents and were directed to a certain address within the town. Getting to that address was not easy. After many questions to local people and no real answers Donna suggested we go out to the Ferry terminal. Arriving at the terminal we ran into the Taylors – they were also doing a run around looking at what needed to be done. Alan and I got some direction on who to speak to in Border Control then directed to Customs, then onto immigration. Then we had to purchase tickets for ourselves back in town at the same address that was originally given to us.

While trying to get the cars booked onto the ferry with all 3 departments our language barriers became too much so we made several calls to Mark the chap we met at Burger King. He negotiated with the local officers to help us through. We think we have the correct paperwork, time will tell. Although we still needed a stamp from Immigration on our car docs.

Back in the cars and off into town 10km away to try and buy our personal tickets for the ferry. The ferry can take anywhere from 17 hours to 100 hours to cross the Caspian Sea. The tickets include a Cabin for all 4 of us. We made it back to building 29 Province 5 office 1 and found it was shut (this is now Sunday PM.) We made another call to Mark and he offered to meet us at the building and negotiate the purchase of the tickets. Mark was great, so helpful. We got our tickets sorted $110.00 US each.

Back out to the terminal to get what we think is our final immigration stamp (3 all up) on the paperwork for the cars. We paid 7,900 Tenge = $40.00 for each car. Cars were cheaper than us. To get the stamping completed we had to walk about 800 metres then back again to security. Got back to security to find out they missed one stamp on the docs. So back another 800 metres to get the last stamp then back to security again.

There you have it. We now sit and wait to see when we can drive cars onto the boat and board ourselves. Expecting a long day of waiting around. From Friday to now Monday we have been given so many different departing times, 3am – 6am – 8.30am – 12pm.

Back to Thursday on our way to Aktau we called into see some local ruins Mosques, etc. The driving was difficult on dirt tracks in very thick fog probably only about 20 metres visibility. Found the first site, Lynn was using lonely planet directions. Was a huge feat to find this one due to conditions.

On arriving we were pretty impressed with caves in the side of a cliff face all carved out of a white looking sandstone material and supposed to be 2,000 tombs in and around the area. I lifted a large stone from one tomb and found a skull or half a skull. I think the others were a bit unnerved with this find.

Inside the caves/rooms were carpets on the floor, could have camped there would have been warmer than the cars rooftop tents but we didn’t. We moved onto the next site late in the day as the fog set in even thicker. Found a dump of a building constructed from stone blocks. The door was not locked so we went in and discovered carpets on the floor and a big stack of folded blankets to one side. There was a small combustion type fire place. We all looked at each other, cold as ice, and said let’s sleep in here tonight and light a fire.

As we commenced to get some gear out of the cars a car appears from nowhere. This was incredible as we thought we were alone way off the main road in thick fog and getting dark. Two men got out of the car (no English). We indicated we just wanted to sleep inside the building for the one night, they gave us a stern NO saying the word Muslim only. That fixed it with me about Muslim faith. People freezing to death and these pricks would not let us stay.

Instead they said follow us and we could stay at their house and they would feed us. Well that was all bullshit! As they led us away (us following them) from their precious shack they made out they were lost so we said we would lead them out to the main road. About 2 to 3km along this dirt track they stopped us and said goodbye. They just wanted us away from their shack. It was then that Donna and I decided to keep driving into the night to get to Aktau, and Alan and Lynn camped. Too bloody cold for us.

Videoing border crossings, BIG NO NO – ask Mr Taylor. As we came across the Uzbekistan / Kazakhstan border Alan had his dash cam running. He almost made it through. The last check on the Uzbek side he was stopped sent back to the main building. It was then he had call on his bullshit skills (still reckon he should have been a car salesman). He was interrogated and was threatened with deportation yet again. After exposing all photo’s on his camera and notepad then authorities formatting his dash cam he was allowed through. Why is it Mr Taylor gets into so much trouble with authorities like border control, immigration, customs, and police?

Well not long and we should be boarding, we hope. Then onto Azerbaijan and Georgia. Probably won’t spend much time in Azerbaijan. From what we have been told not much to see there. Whereas Georgia on the other hand has so much to offer. It will still be cold and maybe even colder in Georgia. Need to develop a heater for the roof top tent. Would much prefer camping to hoteling.

I took a break from writing, back again Tuesday 1st Dec and half way across the Caspian Sea. Well talk about an ordeal getting onto this ferry. We arrived at the terminal 6.30am Monday morning and boarded at about 4.30pm after all the hassles as described above. At one stage finalising our paperwork and checking the documents 9 pages all up I noticed the military left 2 stamps off 2 of the documents. So back to security with cap in hand, an hour prior I was stopped by security for climbing over 2 x turnstiles 3 security guards pounced onto me yelling not to climb over and to wait for them to clear me to go through (mind you Alan got through just before me and walked off to let me deal with these pricks on my own) while being yelled at I started yelling back at them, just had enough of their bullshit confusion. Once they got a mouth full from me they backed off and let me through to walk 800 metres to get military to stamp document. All docs right now I went back to the waiting room going through security with big grins on my dial. I dare not speak my mind too much to them as I did get caught out in Russia calling a woman a grumpy old bitch (she understood English).

The ferry finally left Port at about 10pm. We got to bed at about 7.30pm – buggered after a long waiting day and the run around by authorities. At about 9.30pm prior to leaving port we get a knock on our cabin door (all four of us in the one little boxie cabin). We all ignored the first 3 to 4 knocks, then the knocks got louder. I got up and answered the door to find 2 Border Control guards demanding to come in and do a security check (once again). We have had so many security checks, probably due to Mr Taylors terrible record throughout Central Asia. I tried to indicate to these dudes we were asleep, that did not phase them. I started to get agro with them as they demanded to see inside our bags, I said our bags are in our cars so they then wanted to see our vanity bags. By now I was pissed with them and sprayed the contents of our bags all over the place. I think that took them by surprise and they ceased further inspections, apologised and left.

On the ferry we have met some really nice truck drivers from Turkey, great fellas with lots of card tricks and conversation. One guy Murat Gundes driver of a Scania truck told us he was from Istanbul and wants us to visit him when we get to his city. One hell of a nice guy. I played my one and only card trick on him, 52 card pick up, it had the desired effect with laughter all round.

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