We were awake early, and surprisingly not hungover. We said goodbye and thanked Azat and Bacha for all their hospitality, and then returned to the wifi restaurant where we were given a free traditional Kazakh meal from the staff. It was a sunday and a lot of places were closed, so we relaxed with internet for the day and left in the early evening to find inner city camping. Whilst searching, a father and son on bikes stopped to chat, and offered us food and a drink in their house which we unfortunately had to decline as the sun was setting. We were also followed by two kids acting rude, and it took a while for them to get bored of us and walk off. We eventually found a place, completely hidden, though it involved a difficult off-road walk carrying the cart.
We returned to the wifi restaurant, on the way a lovely lady stopped to chat and upon hearing what we were doing sent her son to go buy us watermelons, very kind. We used wifi for a bit and did the shopping we needed then headed out.
On the road we met many truckers who gave us water, including the one near Baikonur who stopped us to share watermelon. People in cars also stopped frequently, one car of three businessmen actually walked through the sand to meet us in the morning and give us water, and then later in the day drove past again with a bag of various snack foods and water! The heat was ridiculous as always though and we were both beginning to feel very sluggish. The marshes rather remarkably turned back to desert within a km, and just as we were discussing Slush Puppies, fortunately came across a roadside cafe selling iced tea frozen into slush, such a happy coincidence. Another day we came across a river with men swimming in it, so Kieran, fully clothed, took a swim also, and Arjun soaked his clothes, anything to get cool. Our meat and bread went bad pretty quickly in the heat, Arjun simply stopped eating and Kieran resorted to extremely picky selection of parts of the meat. Azats mothers sister randomly pulled up one day with a couple of kids, gave us a watermelon, gloves and socks and took photos. The roads were slowly getting more finished, but there was still a lot of hopping on and off tarmacked surfaces and gravel tracks.
We after a few days came across a village where we found a cafe in a shed and bought numerous cheap pastries to last to the next town, then sat down out of the heat and had a nice chat with what appeared to be the owner. Out of the village Arjun checked his GPS, and it seemed we were on the wrong road. With a choice of either heading back on ourselves 5km or trying to off-road 2/3km to the correct road, Kieran suggested another couple of choices, either asking directions or simply continuing on, as he didn’t think the road on the map was accurate to the road we were on. After flagging down three cars and them all giving us an indecipherable explanation, Kieran flagged down a truck of guys who collectively spoke a bit of English, and they explained that the road we were on wasn’t on any GPS, that it was a new road and that it was the road we wanted. Arjun wasn’t all too happy, but agreed to continue on, and when he later checked the GPS saw that we were indeed not on any road marked. A guy who gave us water previously stopped again with some snacks, and that night we found shelter under a tunnel, though no shelter from the mosquitoes who were still swarming every night.
The tunnel turned out to be a resting place for cows, which made our morning very unpleasant, but later that day we made it to a small town with a shop on the outskirts. Arjun got followed in by four naked children, and three guys, one who spoke English, gave us water and iced tea on our way out. The days were still obscenely hot, and as we rested in the evening a drunk road worker came up to us and walked us to his car a short distance away, where he shared watermelon with us and offered us to camp next to the road equipment he was guarding. We kindly declined and walked through dusk to find camping off the road.