31 July 2012

Kazakhstan: Almaty

Our departure from Bishkek was bitter sweet.  Bitter in the sense that we had a good time in Bishkek (thanks Aizada!) and Kyrgyzstan in general.  Sweet in the sense that our journey was still continuing.  We did not know what would await us in Almaty.  We did know that we would have 5 days there.
Crossing the Kyrgyzstan/Kazakhstan border - it was quite crowded this day

We gassed up and headed to the border.  When we arrived, we were told that we needed to head to the customs area for them to check our bikes.  Customs then told us we needed to go through immigration before they could check the bikes.  We filled in the immigration forms and headed back down to the customs area.  After a quick check, they stamped a little piece of paper and sent us back up towards immigration with our bikes.  A quick check of the stamps and the border guards wished us well and opened the gates to Kazakhstan.
We were digging the tiger mud flap
We had previously looked at the least expensive accommodation in Almaty.  We found the Turkestan Hotel, just in front of the Green Bazaar.  It was clean enough to house us for the 5 nights.
Almaty - the soviets left this nice WW2 sculpture
Our first couple of days in Almaty was aimed at getting our paperwork in order.  HJ decided that he would crate up his bike and fly it back to Amsterdam.  He started researching the process and speaking with a couple different shipping agents.  When the shipping agents saw his paperwork, they realized that he was missing the custom's declaration of his motorcycle.
Chinese food in Almaty...it was late and the only place open
He would need this document in order to ship his bike out of Kazakhstan.  Luckily for us, we had met Gulshat (a friend of a friend from Amsterdam).  With her help, we had visited customs in Almaty and was able to sort out a custom's declaration based on the fact that the border crossing never issued one.  It was not an easy process but in the end HJ received the paperwork.
One of the highest elevation ice rinks in the world...
The process of sending the bike back was not as easy as originally thought.  HJ managed to get the bike crated and then the original quote received was actually not a correct one - it was too low and everything needed to be paid in cash :(.  Once on the plane and shipped back to Amsterdam, HJ's customs issues were not over.  They wanted to charge him import duties and the special vehicle tax on the value of the motorcycle.  HJ managed to get all the fees/taxes reversed and only had to pay the handling charge of €200. Whew...the bike was home safely.
View of the mountains surrounding Almaty
Scott had a more simple task of getting his bike to a friend's parking garage where he would keep it during the 6 week trip hiatus to California.  
Scott's sleeping bike - thanks Red Bull Kazakhstan!
We ended up meeting very cool people in Almaty: Natasha (old friend from Moscow), Gulshat (thanks Jetske for introducing us), Dimas (thanks for storing the bike), Elvira (Gulshat's friend).  We had some very fun nights going out and a couple very slow mornings :).  We even randomly met up with Ido, our Israeli cyclist friend we met in Samarqand, Uzbekistan!

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