09-07 Day 59 (Balkash, Kazakhstan arrival)

Windy, Cold, Rainy, but it ended nicely


Travel FromQaraghandy
Intermediate Location 
Ending LocationBalkash, Kazakhstan
Starting Odometer31,947
Ending Odometer32,138
Miles Driven Today191 Miles
Total Trip Mileage7595 Miles
Countries visited Today 
Countries visited on trip US, Canada, UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Italy, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Finland, Estonia, Russia, Kazakhstan

To simply say that it was a day of 191 miles does not do justice to the condition of the roads. We suffered with numerous miles of highway diversions, which are synonymous with muddy cow paths. For some reason, the Kazakhs decide that a stretch of highway needs to be improved. So, they close the highway, and start digging it up. And, in parallel, they open up a new stretch of “highway” which is parallel to the original highway, but which never gets paved.

These “Highway Improvement programs” go on for years and years, without ever completing any of the stretches at all. And so, you might see hundreds of miles of highway, which is being improved, but might not be paved for 2 years, or perhaps ever.

And so is the Kazak highway system…

To make matters worse, there was a good deal of intermittent rain, and wind. At one point, we stopped for coffee, and it began to pour, with rain hard enough that decided to stay inside until it blew over.

Coffee stops along the way

All along the way, we come through small towns, and even smaller encampments, which might have as few as one building, or as many as a dozen. In any case, these places are very remote and rural, so when they seen a dozen big, new, high-tech BMW bikes, rolling through town, it’s a bit of a spectacle.

I’ve shown a number of photos of little children sitting on my bike, but what is amazing is that the adults, mostly male, but some female as well are just as thrilled, and want to take pictures of themselves sitting on the bikes. So, we’ve done all that we can to make their lives a little more fun, so it’s gotten to be pretty common for us all to take photos with the locals on the bikes. Here’s a few photos of one of the local guys, and me, sharing the moment.

Phil has taken this concept to a whole different level, and he’s often the one that really gets into conversations and takes all manner of photos of the locals. He has a way of making them feel really special, and it’s great to see. Here’s an example of one of his shots from coffee stop.

Report from the road

Arrival in Balkash

After a tough day of riding, the weather broke, and it started to get hotter. By the time we reached Balkash, the sun was out, and it was almost 70 degrees. We parked the bikes, celebrated another good day of riding, and had a beer in the parking lot.

An hour later, we were told by the hotel staff that the parking lot is not very safe, and that we should move all of the bikes so that they are close to the hotel, which meant that several riders had to move their bikes. I also decided to use the super-strong security chain on the bike, along with the brake caliper lock, while also locking the front fork. I could not stand it if my bike was stolen again, so I did everything I could to protect it.


We took a walk towards the lake-shore, and found a nice little park, with a statue that seems to be pretty darn important, but none of speak Kazak, so we’re simply not sure…

This evenings dinner was at a local BBQ joint. In this part of the world, BBQ is really shish kabob, and we had a choice of pork or duck. I chose duck and it was just a bit fatty, but very well prepared, and with the 4 large salads we had at our table, all 8 of us ate well.

What will tomorrow bring

Tomorrow, we’ll start the day at 7:00 AM. The length fo the ride is a bit of a mystery, but we’re told it is at least 400 miles, perhaps as many as 450 miles. Road conditions are unknowable, but given what we’ve seen in the past, we’re hoping that we’ll have paved highway the entire route.

We have been warned that there is a section of highway, which is at least 130 miles, which is riddled with potholes. The rumor is that some are big enough to swallow a motorcycle.

About the Author

Cliff Musante

Cliff Musante is a technologist, business leader, motorcycle enthusiast, father, grandfather, and more. In June, 2013 his passion for motorcycles was revitalized, and he set out to ride across Patagonia. Since then, he's logged thousands of miles, ridden across the US, and on July 10, 2019, he began a 120 day trip through Europe, and then on to Russia, China, and parts East. This 'Blog is the story of all of his adventures.