For the first time in memory, there was a cool breeze, and though the sun was still beyond anything either of us had ever experienced outside of Kazakhstan, it gave us chance to do 15km by 1pm, a stark improvement over normal progress. We stopped by another cafe with a couple relaxing by a homemade pool filled with watermelons, and a couple of kids hanging around helped us by tightening all of our spokes (or so we thought). Chatting with the bloke by the pool, we relaxed for the afternoon chatting with them and watching people come and go to use the pool, was a very communal atmosphere and a very pleasant experience. Only a short distance down the road we came across another cafe where a group of women inside joked (or not, difficult to tell) about selling us one of their daughters, who looked about 5. Walking to find camping that evening we had to move off the road to avoid a car of drunk drivers, who then reversed back to us to chat, stinking of alcohol and two of them barely able to stand. Concerned about the frequency of this as we had often seen people drinking beers whilst driving, we got off the road just in time to come across a road tunnel to camp by.
Chilling at a sheltered bench in a lay-by three proper hippy cyclists pulled up to chat, with bikes overladen with instruments and equipment. From Belgium, they had heard about us from other people over the past few days, and were surprised to finally meet us. They had no specific plan, were simply cycling for the experience, and although they were nice guys, we think they were a little unimpressed at our mentality of only walking and aiming to make distance over exploring the areas we were in and spending time looking around. As they cycled off we discussed how we must appear to other people, but couldn’t come to any conclusions.
We were given three free watermelons by a lady selling them at the side of the road, four fresh meats from a couple in a van, and another free watermelon by another roadside seller as we made it to the outskirts of Turkestan.
Wanting to get through and out we decided against phoning up people for a place to stay, but met the young man whose truck we took shelter by on the way in! He told us he was driving up to Aktobe so wouldn’t be in the town that night, but told us that there was wifi in the town and wished us luck. There wasn’t wifi in the town, there was an internet cafe which had computers hooked up the web, but no wifi. We stopped in a cafe before continuing through and met a Russian family from Almaty on holiday, the father speaking perfect English and a really nice guy. On the way out a group of lads stopped to chat, then drove to the nearest garage and bought us iced tea and chocolate, wishing us luck, and past that a group of children gathered around us, one of them bringing over a hose to fill up all our water bottles! Disappointed about the wifi, but everyone in the town was lovely.
The next town was where we’d planned to do our shopping, and it was much further away than we thought, not helped by us having to stop and remake a spoke for the breaking wheel. Whilst whittling it a car pulled up with a family offering us a place to stay and a shower, but as they were only around 5km down the road we had to decline, they later returned to give us water and offer their hospitality again. Throughout the day we were collectively given seven watermelons from traffic, with offers of another three but we simply couldn’t fit them on the cart, and as we were reaching the end of the day we came across a load of truck drivers parked up who invited us to a cafe not 2km down the road. We said we’d meet them there, and as it got dark we arrived, joined them at a raised platform and chatted over provided kebabs and drinks. Whilst there a man from another platform came over and in perfect English offered us to join him and his three friends after we’d finished, which after the truckers left, we did.
The English speaker, Mohammed, bought drinks and after a while chatting offered us to continue drinking around his house, saying we could leave the cart there at the cafe and pick it up in the morning. Hesitant at first, we chatted with the cafe owners about it, and they seemed perfectly lovely and trustworthy people, so we agreed, making sure we had everything important on us before leaving. At Mohammeds house we continued drinking, and a couple of them went out to bring more food, and the conversation went on into the early hours, with Mohammeds friends falling asleep one by one until we shown a spare room for us to sleep in and offered a shower before bed. Really nice group of guys and a fun night.