Waking up in the cement block hotel room was… pleasant… At least we slept well and we were well fed from the night before. However, we didn’t know how in the world we were going to get ourselves out of Almaty today. This is the driving city from hell!!! There are no rules here and people don’t like when you try to follow them. We also had no idea where exactly where we were in the city nor how to get to the main highway out of the city…
Not to mention the floor mother from the night before was less than helpful when we asked where we were… But we went downstairs hoping to find a map or some other form of useful information on how to exactly get out of this city…
The very Prussian front desk lady (also from the day before … do these people ever sleep?) had an older map from 1998… That was actually oriented South-North… which was very disorienting… to say the least… finally the security guard that was helping us decipher the upside-down map offered to lead us out of the city. Woo Hoo!!!
He led us out of the city alright… He took us the back-end-of-nowhere, across-10-lanes-of-traffic, through-a-forest… locals way out. Then he said what they all say when they leave us somewhere… “Priama!!!” = Go straight… Don’t go left. Don’t go right. Priama! Go straight…
So we went straight… for a long time… Up hills and down mountains… we kept going until we got hungry… and the bus was thirsty… which are good reasons to stop. And where we stopped… we found a little piece of heaven… with stinky cheese… mmm….
We found a little pull off area where the nice little ladies with gold teeth and no physical space boundaries dragged Andrea from one stall to another. They had the mare’s milk cheeses like we saw on Andrew Zimmerman food network!!! We chatted with the sellers and tried some of the different sour, smoky, sweet, and bitter cheese things. And they were good… Then we got some Somsas that were baking in an oven outside. They were little pockets of dough filled with steak and onions stuck up on the underside of this rounded earth surrounded oven (like a tandoor?), baked to golden perfection…. And they were good… We also got a sweet millet, butter, and sugar cake that was… good….
We stopped in one town north of Almaty and Andrea went to the apteka (Pharmacy) because of a crazy huge rash from what we think was the laundry detergent from Shamkur Asia. The pharmacist was helpful and gave her some pills and cream.
The roads were in good condition today though, which helped us make some good distance. We did about 400 miles. It started getting dark and we found a great lay by on the side of the road as the sun was setting. We thought it was totally deserted, but actually it was the entrance to a little village that we couldn’t see due to the contours of the land. Lots of cars drove by as we were sitting making dinner.
As we ate dinner a couple of Mongol rally teams drove by on the main road and didn’t stop despite our efforts to flag them down….we were slightly set back, but we were hoping that they would see us. So we were all on our own and felt a little dejected.
Finally another team drove by and saw us pulled a U-turn and came and camped of the night with us at the lay by. It turns out that they were part of another event called the Mongol Charity Rally. Chris and James were driving a sweet Nissan pickup truck with a roof platform for the tent. We offered them a cup of tea as soon as they showed up which they really appreciated! Got to keep civilized even in the middle of nowhere! We enjoyed chatting with them and we set the van up for sleeping and actually got a decent night’s sleep!