Bike trip in Kazakhstan 2019

I think Kazakhstan is not the most tourist destination, but this time my choice fell on this country. Why? I’d looked at the photos of the travelers of previous years and decided for myself that I want to see these places with my own eyes. Honestly, I thought of visiting Kazakhstan in 2018, but due to some circumstances I chose a different direction then.


I began to prepare for the trip in advance. I got a bicycle box in the bike shop, so when transporting luggage by an airline, there’s less chance to damage the bike. Bicycle shops usually throw away boxes, but if someone asks for a box, they gladly give it away. I heard that in some countries stores want money for a box, as for me, this is unfair.

According to the rules of Aeroflot airline, in the case of transporting a bicycle, it can be checked in as default baggage without any fees, in this case they don’t look at the dimensions. This allowed me to pack the bicycle in a huge box, the main rule is to fit the norm by weight, which is 23 kg.

I folded into the box a bicycle (I had to remove the front wheel, steering wheel, pedals and lower the seat), multitool and spare parts, tent, sleeping mat, seating mat, camp tableware, it all took 22.9 kg. So the sleeping bag was overweight.

Because the ticket included only one baggage place, then all the other things had to be somehow packed into carry-on baggage. And we must remember that carry-on baggage should fit into the allowed size.

To fit, I needed to fill only one “leg” of the bike backpack. As a result, I didn’t take a lot of things, applying my logistics skills and knee, I stuffed things so that it fit in size (especially by weight). However, there was still a sleeping bag… Then I read out another Aeroflot rule: in addition to the main carry-on baggage, you can carry your purse or backpack, the sum of three dimensions of which does not exceed 80 cm. This is exactly what I needed! Compressed sleeping bag fits perfectly in a small backpack.

Journey to Kazakhstan

Our group consisted of 8 people. As it turned out, one participant in the campaign lives in the same building with me. This made it possible to save on transportation of bicycles to the Airport, we used transport company, it was cheaper than a taxi.

At the airport, we also met other participants of the trip. Everyone checked in without any troubles, handed over their bicycles as special baggage and went for a meal at Burger King. Do not take there Americano, incredible disgusting!

In Moscow there was a transfer for a flight to Aktau. Nothing unusual.

We arrived in Aktau, and the adventure began! The bike of one of the participants didn’t arrive!

The situation is very unpleasant. After talking with the airport staff, we managed to find out that the bicycle was not overloaded in Moscow airport, in theory it should arrive by next flight, but flights fly once every 2 days! As a result, for Fedor, the situation was as follows, the day after the bicycle arrives, he will have to take a taxi to the town where we will meet. Jumping ahead, a day later his bike did not arrive, so he dropped out of the campaign at all.

Then, assembling bikes, screwing on a pedal, I did not get into the thread correctly and damaged it. Fortunately, the leader, Sergei, is experienced, he took a file, and, having sharpened the damaged part of the thread, he managed to put my pedal in place.

The next thing that happened, I realized that I was a loser. Having assembled the bike, I take out the tent from the box and understand that poles from it are left at home!

As a result, 3 people without a tent: I had a two-person tent, I had to share the second place, and Fedor’s tent (also a two-person tent) did not arrive with the bicycle.

I, the leader and Fedor took a taxi to the city (30 km from the airport). Fedor checked into a hotel, waiting for the next flight. Then we stopped at a tourist shop, where I purchased a very simple single-layer two-person tent (because there were no other types). The participant, who was supposed to live with Fedor, was settled in another tent, as a result, the three of them huddled in a two-person tent.

Shelter issues had been resolved, leader and I returned to the airport, gathered, and finally set off by bikes!

Day 1

Steppes, deserts, scorching sun, heat…

So I thought it would be. In general, it was, except for the last. Let’s go back a bit to the past when we were sitting in armchairs and the “Fasten your seat belts” board lit up. When landing, the captain of the aircraft announces: “The weather in Aktau is good, 1°C” [here follows a hysterical chuckle from the participants of the campaign].

We moved north from the airport along the highway. There was no sun on this day, the afternoon temperature was 4 degrees. And headwind was terrible! It is not only very strong, but also icy. I was dressed in a thermal jacket, a windbreaker and a jacket. It was hard to pedal against the wind, it was getting hot, but if you stop for a break, the wind immediately freezes you.

In general, a similar situation accompanied us throughout the trip. The sun will come out from behind the clouds – add 10 degrees, the wind will blow – subtract 7 degrees, you will go against the wind – additionally subtract 3 degrees. You’ll go in the wind, consider there aren’t those minus seven degrees. This is all according to my feelings, maybe someone feels otherwise. But the point is that dress according the weather is impossible.

Having traveled some distance along the highway, we stopped for a snack in a teahouse.

We drank tea with meat bun, warmed up a bit and moved west. The ride was much nicer and warmer, because the wind became fair. There is a steppe is on the left and on the right, beauty. Here was our first meeting with herds of horses. How beautiful they are when free!

At the end of the road there was a steep descent to the sea. We camped on the shore. This was the only camp where we managed to break dry branches from bushes and make a fire. In such a chill, it was very welcome 🔥

Day 2

I slept badly, for it was very cold. And this night showed that single-layer tents suck. Condensate streams flowed down the walls. The hood of the sleeping bag had been pretty wet. In such conditions, you need to sleep carefully, without touching the walls of the tent, otherwise the sleeping bag will get wet. The torment from this condensate was throughout the trip.

It should be noted that there was no wind at night. Absolute calm. It is hard to believe, given the strength of wind that was throughout the day, especially on the seashore. And so it was all the following days. There is always a strong wind during the day, and calm nights. Amazing, isn’t it? 😀

Having folded the camp, we climbed a plateau by the steep road, on which the day before that we went down to the sea. Further, our path laid north, northwest along the sea. Again the day was cloudy, cold, and the wind blew in the face. Almost all the way passed along dirt tracks. From time to time we stayed at viewpoints to take pictures.

By lunchtime we arrived at the lake in the canyon (I don’t know how else to describe this landscape phenomenon). We took some photos near by it. Below, near the lake were local, because It was a day off. They, apparently, had a tour of their native sights. Leaning over the edge, we saw red-eared turtles in the water.

The long-awaited lunch was held near an empty house 200 meters from the lake.

Next we had a dirt road, then a highway. Immediately felt how easier it is to ride. Then we drove through the village, there we stopped for a second, bought water. Then there was a very technical dirt road along the sea with stones, it was hard to ride along it, because many stones bulged out of the ground, and it was getting dark, by this moment we were already tired.

Having passed some distance by this dirt road, we turned and camped in the lowland, hiding from the wind.

The evening gave us a beautiful sunset.

Day 3

The mood this morning is great. Firstly, at last a sunny day. Secondly, for a long time in the morning there was no wind, this made it easy to ride and it was warm.

We headed dirt roads to the north, to the small town Fort-Shevchenko.

Having reached the city, we made a lengthy pit stop at the store. Guys had bought a little thing like chocolates and yogurts. But the main time was taken by the purchase of provisions by the leader. It was a responsible matter, because 4 autonomous days were ahead.

After replenishment, we went to an eatery, which was nearby. So lunch on that day was at the table and on the chairs. I took beshbarmak – lamb soup. It is very fat and satisfying. However, I can’t say that I am delighted with it, there is more cartilages than meat.

In Fort-Shevchenko, in theory, we should have met with Fedor, but this did not happen. There was mobile communication here, and we figured out that his bicycle did not arrive by the next flight, so from that moment the size of our group remained unchanged.

Leaving the town, again we moved north along the sea. From time to time we made stops to take photos.

More photos.

There was a pretty steep technical descent. Many stones, a real challenge for the bike and rider 🚴‍♂️

At the end of the day we settled a picturesque meadow, located below the plateau, but above the sea. Был источник воды (труба в скале). Несмотря на холод, мы смогли немного помыться.

Day 4

“Good morning! Already had breakfast? And now we need to go up that mountain.” — of course not verbatim, but something like this began our day. 300 meters from the campsite there was a trail leading to the top of the plateau. The climb was so steep that it was necessary to make several moves, lift separately backpacks and bicycles. Almost all backpacks had shoulder straps, including me, which made it easier to climb.

Since I have mentioned the bicycle backpack, I had a “Mirage 80”, dirty, full of holes like Swiss cheese, with zippers which always separate. My friend gave it to me. Initially, I wanted to go with my Chinese backpack, but its volume was not enough for this trip. The “Mirage 80” is an awkward backpack, to be honest. The center of gravity is too high, there are no rigid inserts, it does not keep in shape unless it is stuffed tightly. Badly thought out straps, there is no way to attach a tent or sleeping mat from the outside. I did this with separate rubber ties. Well, at least there are shoulder straps, not to say that they are comfortable, but it is better than nothing.

Notably sweating (there was no wind yet, but the sun was already warming), we completed the ascent. Slightly fool around to take a breath, and moved on. Next was a pleasant pedaling on a flat plateau. On this day we were already moving east, for good luck, there was a tailwind. Since this day it was already warmer in principle, although the wind blew, but it was no longer cold. And then temperature gradually was adding.

As usual, we make stops to capture landscapes.

Lunch was arranged on the edge of the plateau. Under rays of the sun, the sea acquires indescribable colors, from blue to green through azure.

In the afternoon we stopped at a source to replenish water supplies. Surprisingly, this place looked like an oasis in a desert, in the middle of stony wastelands a green island lived. With trees! In the steppes for the whole trip we saw, probably, only three trees.

In the end we arrived at the campsite. It was in a canyon. And it was not a rocky canyon, which we usually met, but with a small pond and greenery!

But before setting up camp, we took a walk along the canyon. At the end of it was a very beautiful bowl, so to speak. Definitely there was once a waterfall. Well, at least I think so. We climbed into the gap to take Atlas-like pictures 😋

We returned to bicycles, set up camp, and there was still time to climb above the canyon and explore surroundings. Not far from us, in the same canyon, local people had a picnic, but they did not bother us. On the contrary, they came in and treated us to fish and salad 🥗

Day 5

The night was damn cold, apparently it was below zero, because frost formed on the tent.

Due to the fact that the tent I bought was without a vestibule, I had to use an rain fly from my main tent to hide my backpacks. Yes, I had to carry 2 tents. It was a lesson to me. In the next trips, now I’m unlikely to forget polls or some other parts 😅

The morning was cold at first, but the sun rising over the hill instantly began to warm the body and soul. The mood was great. And the morning oatmeal with raisins and condensed milk on this day was amazing! And here are some pictures of participants, this morning everyone shone 😊

Moved east. Again the wind favored blowing in the back. Again wind favored blowing in the back. There were many smooth dirt roads, in fact, these were ruts formed in the steppes by shepherds on off-road vehicles. The shepherd here are called “chaban”. It is a local people breeding horses, camels and other creatures.

The first sight was the fallen land. A some geological phenomenon caused that a huge layer of land has fallen. It can be seen that some flat parts have survived.

After driving a little further east, we stopped at the edge of a plateau for lunch. The sun, beautiful view, food… What a pleasure!

We sit, eat, suddenly an CUV drives up, two Kazakhs come out to us. As it turned out, they are fishermen. They fished and saw people on a cliff, came to see who it is. At first, they were afraid that it was fish supervision, because at this time fishing was prohibited. But it turned out that we are travelers. They asked to take a photo with us, because they don’t often see bright cycling tourists.

After lunch, we traveled around the steppes for a long time. Of interesting things, we met horses at a watering place.

By the way, we arrived at the watering place earlier. We stopped here just to stretch our legs. And at that moment a herd came running. Very carefully and not immediately, they decided to come to water. This is because a human on a bicycle is an unprecedented creature for them.

Close to evening we got to a well near the underground mosque. Of course, we stopped to replenish water supplies. I liked to twist the handle, on bearings, it runs smoothly 🙂

Not far from the well there is a guest house. Usually pilgrims stop there, but this is not the season now. After negotiations, we were given a room. Throwing off backpacks, we went light to ride around.

Near the guest house there is a canyon where you can go down, there is a well-equipped path. Locals consider this place holy. At the bottom there are three pipes – 3 sources. We were told that everyone has their own taste, but as for me, everywhere the same water. They also explained that pilgrims come to this source to do ablutions, namely dousing. To do this, there are buckets and even a cabin. Only two of us decided to pour out. I was not among them, for it was cold 🥶 I want to note that there is a rocky landscape on the plateau, bushes sticking in places, but if you go down to the canyon, everything changes dramatically, everywhere is green! A very beautiful place!

Then we was riding along the plateau little, and got into the mosque. The Sultan-Epe Underground Mosque is quite famous in the local region. Although in itself it is quite small. In the guest house we were told the legends of who the Sultan-Epe is.

It did not take much time to explore the mosque, and we returned to the guest house. There we were allowed to heat a sauna and wash.

But not so simple. Rules are that if you want use a sauna, chop wood on yourself and the next. So we had to split… or rather… break a bunch of boards, plywood and other wooden products with a sledgehammer.

After hydrotherapy, dinner under the roof.

Although the table was filled with cookies, gingerbread cookies and other dishes for tea, we were treated quite a bit. And so we cooked our food on gas.

Well, then a pleasant dream under the roof 😊

Day 6

We woke up, but didn’t want to get up. It was the first night when I wasn’t cold. But we need to move on. In the morning the sky was gloomy, even a few drops fell, and wind was cool. But in the afternoon it got better and it became warm. Wind, of course, didn’t disappear, again it helped us move forward.

First we visited the crypt, which is not far from the guest house and the mosque.

Then we traveled along the paths of different surfaces, stopped near the white canyon. White is most likely due to limestone.

The next sight was another mosque. Shakpak-Ata mosque is located in the rock, i.e. also essentially an underground mosque. But this one is bigger than the previous one, I liked it more. But we don’t know its story, unlike the Sultan-Epe.

Dinner was arranged near a house located near the mosque. There were no owners, no one disturb.

Then we traveled through the steppes for a long time.

Toward the end of the day, there was a steep white (limestone) hill with stones, which we had to go down. There I fell 😬 Once for the whole trip. Well … didn’t even fall, lost balance slightly, nothing serious. Moreover, I successfully rode through a difficult section and already behind it at a minimum speed rode over a little stone.

A little lower on the same descent in one of the turns my tent said “I want to be free!” and decided to ride the slope on it own. Fortunately for me, it decided not to get into a ravine. The green case turned pretty pale; brushing helped, but not much.

But this steep descent was just a prelude. It transformed into a less steep, but sandy. This is where the skill of controlling a bicycle is revealed, if you just a little move a handlebar – a skid and a fall. But the sandy descent was amazing! And the change of landscape is striking! You are riding on white stones, an instant, and you find yourself on a golden road, very cool.

The sandy road almost brought us to a campsite. The camp was organized in a lowland near a dried creek. I liked the place, for me it looked warm and pleasant. Although in reality it was from dried clay, which was terribly dusty.

Day 7

Our camp was located a few kilometers from the town of Tauchik. This is where we headed at the beginning of the day. Local civilization did not expect to see such unusual travelers. Of course, our destination was a store. It was necessary to replenish supplies of water and food. While the leader was picking up a basket, we bought ice cream and waited outside, basking in the sun. But I felt like an animal in a zoo. Since every 5 minutes a car drove up and the driver took photos of us. For the locals, apparently, it was a big event that travelers stopped there.

At the entrance to the city. Pay attention to the white ground, these are calcium scurf.

We bought a little food, because in the evening along the way we were going to visit another town. Part of the day we drove along a smooth road. Later we turned off it and moved along the trails.

We stopped for lunch not in an ordinary place, but in one of the main attractions of the route, the concretion valley, also known as the valley of balls. Concretions are… hmm… big balls 😅 Honestly, the nature of their formations is unknown to me, I have not studied this issue. I think if there were geologists in the group, they could tell a lot of things. Anyway, the entire route is a paradise for geologists.

After lunch, there were trails surrounded by steppes, but at some point we appeared on a very smooth rammed dirt road. We rushed along it like rockets, since wind inexorably blew into our backs 🚀

Then the joy was interrupted by uneven surfaces. We arrived at the city of Shayyr. It met us with a dump. Garbage is not taken far away, dumped on the outskirts of the town, buried somewhere a little. Not a very pleasant sight, especially when used to watching wildlife. In the town we stopped at a store to buy food. While waiting for the leader, a whole crowd of schoolchildren passed us. In fact, only schoolgirls. As we understood, they had something like a community work day there, and boys stayed to work. Apparently they have a dress code because everyone is in black skirts and white blouses.

Schoolgirls chose Dasha, they were embarrassed to speak with the rest. For them, firstly, it was very unusual to meet travelers, and secondly, it was an opportunity to practice a little Russian. Apparently, they learn it at school, because someone spoke Russian well enough, and someone badly.

Leaving the town we stopped at one more store. The leader wanted to buy a shubat. This is koumiss made from camel milk, the locals praise it. But, alas, it was not available. We bought only ayran and camel milk.

Mineral water with sour cream

As for me, ayran is not very tasty. Want to know what it tastes like? Take 200 grams of sour cream, 800 ml of sparkling mineral water, shake well, here you have ayran 😄 Camel milk is very fat, it seemed to me that with a slight bitterness. I didn’t like it either.

From the city to a campsite was quite a bit. We drove a little along the steppe and stopped at the cliff that sticks out of the plateau. The place is very beautiful! Just see pictures, what can I say… Here are also morning pictures, because in the morning we climbed to take photos at dawn.

Day 8

And here is a new day. It seemed to me the warmest. So I finally put on my new snow-white long-sleeve T-shirt. Specially bought it, expecting it to be hot, but Kazakhstan until this day showed itself not from the warmest side. The first sight on this day is Mount Sherkala, it also translates as the Lion Mountain. Very beautiful, I liked it.

Further, having moved across the desert steppes, we reached a green meadow surrounded by a semicircle of mountains. Alas, the mountains didn’t protect from wind. In this meadow there was a source of drinking water. We replenished our water supplies and had lunch there. Many horses and sheep grazed in this meadow. But they did not come to us.

So our lunch looked

After lunch we was riding through the desert and rode past another mountain. I don’t know its name, but it is also very beautiful! However, it didn’t make such an impression on me as the Lion Mountain, I think because I was already emotionally saturated, no more emotions could be produced 😌

A small incident happened near this mountain; Dasha’s bike rack broke down. But the leader is handyman, he was ready for this. He fixed the rack with a pipe clamp.

Repair process

Before going to a campsite, we visited another interesting mountain. It stood out against the background of the main mountain. The main one was white, and this one was brown. The real name of it we didn’t know, so we called it Chocolate Mountain.

By evening, we arrived at the campsite. On one side is a low mountain range, on the other – a steppe. If all previous nights the wind died down by night, but this time it wasn’t, it blew at night. Another feature of this place was that it is very dusty land. It was forbidden to walk near while cooking 😬

Camp setting

Day 9

Good morning! This was the last night in the tent, and the last day of the campaign has come. It was short enough. Having breakfast as usual, we packed up and set off.

Almost at the beginning of the journey, the climb began, and quickly it became steep! For a long time we pedaled in the lowest gear. In some places we even had to dismount, because, well, no way. And finally, reaching the top, we took the last group photo.

Then we moved along the gentle slope. And finally, the city of Shetpe met us. First we rode through a dump on the outskirts of the city. Then we headed to a bus station. The plan was to catch a bus to Aktau. But it turned out that on the weekend the bus station doesn’t work. We went to the train station. Leaving for a minute, the leader found two carriers who agreed to take us to Aktau. In fact, here our campaign officially ends.

Easy sadness from the fact that we must return to civilization. To be honest, feelings are mixed. On the one hand, we are already tired, we want to go to civilization, but on the other hand, we don’t want to return to everyday life.

Here the leader left us, he has a train ticket, he soon has the next trip, he leads the next group in Astrakhan. So there are six of us who are heading to Aktau. Honestly, I had doubts that the six of us with bicycles and bicycle backpacks can fit into two LADA Largus.

We took off the front wheels and packed the bikes in their covers. Then the Tetris began 😄 As a result, cars were stuffed tightly, but we fit 🙂

It was 2 pm or something like that. So we decided to go to a hotel. Departure at 6 am the next day, hanging out at the airport would be too long. They drove us to the hotel, I took 2 double rooms for all of us without any difficulties. We were also allowed to bring bicycles in covers to our rooms. That is, everything was perfect.

Of course, at first everyone wanted to take a shower. After that, we went to a supermarket to buy stretch film and buy some Kazakh sweets home. Shopping wasn’t very long. We went into the hotel, dropped our purchases and went to a restaurant. The restaurant food was amazing and cheap.

After the restaurant, we returned to the hotel, and began to prepare luggage for transportation to the airport. The main task, of course, is to disassemble and pack bikes. Everyone did this in his own way, someone inserted cardboard inserts, someone cover the bike by plenty of stretch film. I only inserted my sleeping mat and a sitting mat. I had a soft bike case for a journey back, because it would be problematic to find a bicycle box in this city.

We managed to get some sleep, we had a taxi at 3 am. We ordered a 14 local bus.

At the airport, I was the first who run to check-in. That’s because I had an additional tent and more purchases from the supermarket, and I had to buy extra baggage slot. It was easier and faster than I thought. However, the day before I was worried about this issue, since it was impossible to pay by telephone through the operator.

Day 10. Arrival in St. Petersburg.

In Moscow there was the most usual transfer, nothing interesting.

We got off the plane in St. Petersburg and headed to baggage reclaim. I quickly saw my bike backpack on the conveyor belt. Under a stretch film, I enveloped it a yellowish bicycle raincoat, just in order to it was not visible how torn and dirty the backpack was.

But our bikes did not arrive! We went to the lost-baggage counter. And we saw a crowd! About 30 people did not receive baggage from our flight. We stood for an hour and a half in this crowd, until the turn came to us. As a result, we filled an application, of course, marked that we want delivery. Then we went home. There was even some convenience, we didn’t need to have a deal with a delivery company about transport our bicycles to home.

Bicycles arrived the next day. The rear rack is a little broken and the soft case torn a bit (it can be seen that they dragged it along the asphalt). In general, it is noticeable that airport employees treat luggage not very careful.


The journey was with adventures, and this is good, they leave the greatest memories. It was relatively severe, mainly due to the cold. But the scenery that you can see along the way cross out all hardships. The views of wild Kazakhstan are imprinted in the retina of the eye and recorded in memory for many years. Visiting this country is a pleasure for people with visual perception.

I didn’t spare sunscreen and hygienic lipstick, so I could do without burns and weathering. Although I’m lying, the last few days I rode in gloves without fingers, and my fingers were slightly burned, I forgot to smear them 😅

For those interested, I leave a link to the track here:


Do you remember Fedor, whose bike didn’t arrive to Kazakhstan? So, we left Kazakhstan on April 28, Fedor, of course, earlier. The airline delivered Fedor’s bicycle to Aktau on May 1! Think how stupid it is! May 2, it was returned to St. Petersburg.