Packing up in Shalkar to head on the detour road, the morning didn’t bring any good news, with goat herders hanging around watching us pack up camp, a cloudless sky and blistering temperatures, a garage that overcharged us for water, and a look at the road we would be taking.
The road was terrible, simply broken, dried mud mixed with sand, and as we started along it a man pulled over to ask what we were doing. We explained that we were walking to Aral’sk, and he in all seriousness told us we would die on the road. He was eager to offer us a lift and really wasn’t very happy about the situation, but eventually let us continue. A second car that stopped also without humour told us we would die on the road, but didn’t seem as concerned about it.
The heat was indescribable, and we went through ridiculous amounts of water trying (and failing) to stay hydrated. There was very little traffic, but it all stopped to offer help and give us water. One trucker thankfully gave us 12 litres, insisting he fill up every container we had and was also eager to give us a lift, a few guys in a car stopped to chat for a while and before leaving gave us a baseball cap and all their remaining water, and a family stopped, with two guys fixing our handle with proper nuts and bolts, also stopping the next day with lots of water and a plastic bag full of meat and pasta. We couldn’t make great distance due to the heat and dehydration, and slowly crawled out the days acutely aware of the fact that we were wholly dependent on traffic for water, and traffic was sparse.
Whilst sat roadside, we saw from a long way off what resembled a tank coming down the track. As it approached, it slowed and pulled up next to us, and it was immense! Photos below, but can only describe it as an off-road, converted tanker, with the tank area now acting as the living area. Driven by a lovely German couple (the yellow beast), they invited us in for a coffee and we shared photos and stories during the heat of the midday. They’d had troubles with the roads, which had somehow damaged their beast of a vehicle, and were on their way out of Kazakhstan to Russia for parts. They also informed us that the temperatures had hit as high as 45C in the middle of the day, which explained a lot.