Riding In Kazakhstan

phile

Junior Member
Joined
Apr 14, 2011
Location
London
Bikes
Triumph Tiger 800 XC
Hi all,

Finally back in London with a severe case of the post trip blues.

Have been promising Phil to post some stuff about my ride through Kazakhstan on teh way to Bangkok so finally got time to do it.

Major cock up 6th June 2011

Stuck in no mans land between Russia and Kazakhstan. The start date on my visa isn’t properly legible. Border guards say it is valid for 1 month so start date is 9th. Cant go back as Russia won’t let me back in as I only have 1 entry. Anyone have any Kazakh strings they can pull?

The ride here should have been short. Leaving Astrakhan the signs for Atyrau (or the Russian spelling) are pretty clear then they suddenly stop, so took me twice as long to get to the border. Still great fun riding then. Had to cross this metal plate pontoon bridge with new rubber nobblies and a front wheel wobble. What a laugh. I wanted to go back and do it again!

Still at Kazhak Border 7th June 2011

Still stuck at the Kazhak border and it’s grim. My brother is trying to contact different authorities to see if I can get in early but as things stand I’m here til the 9th.
Finnish biker called Erkki just pulled up with a similar problem but he has multiple entry visa for Russia so he is heading back and then north until his visa kicks in. He kindly left me a book in English so I have something to read.

Still here 7th June 2011

Still stuck at the border. My bruv Rich and mate Conrad have been hammering thr phones at Embassies, consuls et al to see if they can get me though early but no joy yet.
Then just I was bedding down in my dust encrusted sleeping bag for another night being bitten to death, an amazing thing happened. The boss man came over to my tent, took me over to the staff canteen, fed me fried eggs on bread and ice cold water (best meal ever) then took me across the border to a shop and bought me fresh cold water, biscuits and an ice cream and would not take a penny. What a great bloke. I’ve got his address and will be sending him loadsa goodies from England when I get back. I’m genuinely overwhelmed and was at the end of my tether. Between him, Rich & Conrad they’ve kept my spirits up. Only one more day and night here then I’m on my way. Easy :-)
Another little gem I got today from the two lads who run the foot and mouth decontamination unit where cars and trucks drive through, is this … To keep these pesky flies from constantly buzzing round your head & getting up your nose, in your mouth & ears is to rub powdered vanilla over your face and hair. Works a treat for a couple of hours and helps to cover up the nasty whiff that’s starting to come off me.
I’ve offered to help the two lads out directing cars tomorrow!
View from my tent

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About 20 mins after I took this picture the boss man came back out and in sign language (he speaks no English and my Russian extends to about 5 phrases) told me to break camp and follow him.

He found me a space in the secure TIR park in the military compound for the Tiger, took me into the barracks and said help myself to the shower, food, water and the facilities. I’m stunned and delighted at the same time.

He’s a top bloke. All the soldiers under his command (including the one who spotted the visa discrepenacy) came up for a chat at some point all offering different opinions on which route to go to get to Almaty and the Chinese border. A few spoke good English and over breakfast the second day we agreed I had a new Kazakh family. There’s a real family atmosphere about the place.

Dima (the boss) can’t be more that 25-30, looks a little like Christian Slate, commands huge respect from all his staff. When he walks in the room by christ you know it. Everyone’s on their feet, snapped to attention! Me included!

So I’m now billeted in the army lounge, kipping in a big armchair with multi channel TV. At one point I was even watching St Helens v Leeds in Super League in Russian trying to explain the differences between League (northern monkeys) and Union (proper bloke’s rugby) over a shared bottle of Lipton’s ice tea.

If Carlsberg did stuck in no man’s land between Russia and Asia for 3 days this would be it.

I’ve heard that Kazakh hospitality is second to none, but this experience has been a real eye opener. I hope they never loose that under the onslaught of western captialism and cynisism. Spelling’s all to cock, but it’s late.

I was even given mobile phone numbers for the boss with the message if I need help just shout. Lovin’ it!

One night to go 8th June 2011

Dima, the lieutentant and top boss here and his guys are making me so welcome. They are genuinely lovely people. Will be sad to say goodbye in the morning.

Atyrau at last 9th June 2011

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Finally made it to Atyrau and hotel, shower and food.
I was hoping that my new mates in the Kazakh army would let me stay until sun up this morning, but no …. the clock struck 12 and I was out of there, no messing.
Everything of course was shut so had to leg it through the night on the worst roads yet with rain showers on new nobbly rubber …. stress level was at the max. Used up my reserve fuel as well as only found one petrol station open and he wanted Tenge only.
Made it in one piece and found local insurance for just a few quid (different to border prices, by a long way).
Have some other stuff to sort out then off “downtown” Atryrau for something to eat and a wander.
Phone signal is very patchy here by the way.
Song of the day – Come On Baby by Joe Satriani. Just seemed to fit riding due east in the middle of the night watching the sun rise over Atyrau.

Greetings from Aktobe 11th June 2011

Hi all.
I finally made it to Aktobe. I decided to take the direct route, left Atyrau at 10 on 10 June, camped in the middle of nowhere last night and got here about 1pm local time.
The A27 from Atyrau! Apart from about 20kms each end, it’s off road all the way. And just for good measure the rain slammed down twice causing me to drop my precious Tiger twice. I’m im one piece but the bike is caked in mud, one pannier short, damaged brake and gear levesr, damaged end can, and damage pride.
Both times had to wait for someone to come past to get the bike upright. My back is the biggest issue since pulling it in Ukraine. Tried to lift it again on my own and something went crack! Massage and therapy in order, I think
I think my helmet cam was working when I dropped it the first time so standby for videos and pics. UPDATE: It was! Will post in a few mins


[VIDEO]http://youtu.be/CZsKYL1peLk[/VIDEO]

More later once I’ve had a shower & food.

Had the shower, but no food yet.

Just spoke to Orange. My data usage has gone through the roof, with a massive bill, so no more updates from the road unless I can find wifi like the hotel here (which by the way is like the Shining hotel, but in a city … in Asia … you get the idea. Gonna roam the corridors later with an axe shouting “Here’s Philly”)

Anyway, I digress. That ride (10th and 11th June) was hard but well worth the pain of the two “offs”. Big eagles, some in pairs every couple of miles. Great people. All honking their horns and waving. If I stop to fuel up or eat within seconds people are coming up asking where I’m from, where I’m going, how much the bike costs, how fast it goes etc. Even the police. Got stopped this morning (11th) on the way in to Actobe. All they wanted was to look at the bike. Keeps me happy. And just awesome riding. I’m really finding out where my limits are that’s for sure.

Bumped into an English couple Nina and Cluve on their way back from Almaty to Norfolk, so we had a quick 5 minute break. They were saying the road was the worst they’s ever encountered, and they weren’t pleased to hear what I’d just left behind.Great couple. Their web site about there motorcycle adventures is here
Check out the gallery for pics.

Sound track songs for the two days are

The Sky Is Crying – Gary More
Dont Cha Wanna Ride – Joss Stone

Sarah Outen London To London 13th June 2011

Hi all,

Before I update the blog, just thought I’d mention this.

Twice in the last 24 hours I have had a petrol pump attendant and cafe owner shouting “Sarah, Sarah” and making handlebar gestures. I’m thinking lady biker. Then earlier today I bumped into two Czech bikers, Jan and Marek on an XT and Guzzi (both with over 100,000 kms on the clock) on their way to Krygistan, so we stopped and had lunch together. They told me they met Sarah yesterday near Aral, and she’s not on a motorcycle, but using human power to circumnavigate the world – check out her site – makes my trip look like a trip down Tescos.

I hope I bump into her on the road somewhere.

Donations 13th June 2011

Thanks again to everyone for their donations and support.

I’d love to try to raise a few grand by the time I finish, so if anyone has any suggestions or ideas on how to help raise that, please get in touch

Aktobe To Qyzylorda 13th June 2011

12th and 13th June.

I like Aktobe. It looks like a much older city than the ones I’ve seen so far, so has more soul and a centre to it which seems to focus around the area where I stayed called Holiday Park. Same great people too, friendly, helpful, wanting to chat about the bike, where I’m from etc. On the way out of the city as I was leaving, a bus driver with a bus full of people on board, flagged me down and we had a chat in the middle of the main boulevard in the middle of town. Traffic at a stand still but no one seems bothered, they’re quite happy for us to take our time.

As I was loading up outside the hotel I met a Kazakh couple who spoke perfect English. Thet were from Almaty and had driven the M32 (the main road that connects Aktobe and Almaty) several times and confirmed it was way better than the A27 of the previous days.

Managed to find a jet wash place on the way out of time so finally got a chance to clean off the glue-like clay from the two minor crashes. There were a bunch of local guys getting their cars cleaned ready for a wedding later that day. The groom was with them and was looking very edgy. We all chatted in broken English and sign language and again I got the feeling that these are the sort of people you could become good mates with.
Not far to Almaty and Urumqi

Not far to Almaty and Urumqi

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Anyway … the next stage. I have some great video and pics which I’ll try to upload later. But the M32 became my new mistress for a while. Curvy, smooth and gorgeous. But that relationship was to turn sour later.

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The first couple of hundred kms were just stunning. Great roads, spectacular scenery, very little traffic, wildlife aplenty. The eagles are an amazing site. Can anyone tell me what sort they are? Huge, brown feathers with white patches on wings. Also I keep seeing dozens of what look like small Meercats, but smaller, more stoat like with dark brown tips on tails. Anyone?

And the suicidal crickets. Millions in swarms crossing the main roads from one sand dune to the next. The first swarm I saw I thought someone had dropped a load of stones on the road. Then I realised it was moving. Would love to know what that was all about.

I’ve driven through the US a couple of times, and having grown up in small places like Wales and Portugal, you’re immediately struck by the scale of the place, and I know the US has a bigger land mass but Kazakhstan seems takes it to a whole new level. Loving it.

It’s not quite desert, but it’s barren, hot, dusty, and spectacular. Each bend reveals more great views and the horizons seem further away than anywhere else I’ve been.

Then about 100kms or so short of Aral the road changes and alternates between fresh Tarmc, pot holed rough old roads and no road at all so all traffic is on the dirt tracks that run parallel. A mix of sand, gravel, hard clay (that turns slippery when even a tad damp) and loose dirt. It certainly keeps it interesting.

I was looking forward to seeing Aral and what remains of the lake, but to be honest it was a little disappointing. All the ship wrecks have gone bar one, and the lake has receded even further. The town looks really run down and depressed (total opposite to the towns I’ve visited so far). I’ve also been told that unemployment and crime is high, so after a quick ride around I decided to crack on and get to Qyzylorda and a day off, which means a straight 24 hours riding. I’m sure I was starting to lose the plot by the time I arrived. Chuntering away to myself in my helmet and at one point I’d convinced myself that that big cloud up ahead is a space ship.

Note to self … no more 24 hour rides!

Got to Qyzylorda about 5:30 AM local. Had a few hours kip and a shower and went for a wander round the city. Like Atyrau it’s expanding rapidly and from what I can tell looks like a pretty propsperous and up coming town. The parks and local facilities look a little tatty, but there’s work going on everywhere.

I’ll go wandering again tonight to see if I can find a bar with some music.

The bike is looking a little battered. Every now and then I get a pang of guilt for taking a brand new bike and battering it like this. Since cleaning off all the muck I’m noticing more minor damage. Nothing that can’t be fixed. I’ll be staying in Almaty for a few days so will try to find a garage to carry out a full service as it’s almost due.

Check out videos for the Aqtobe – Aral – Qyzylorda on You Tube http://www.youtube.com/evansthebassist

Qyzylorda To Shymkent 15th June 2011

Still struggling to find a wifi connection that works with my laptop so still working off my handset.
14th June the ride from Qyzylorda to Shymkent was pretty straightforward and the Russian iPhone sat nav app got me straight to the Kama Hotel. Big old Soviet job. No hot water til late evening and reception shuts at 7ish, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Total kms today 460 in 7 hours. The road is pretty good, some new tarmac, some old, some off road where the old tarmac has been dug up.
I really like Shymkent. On arrival and after a refreshing cold shower I found a great little courtyard restaurant just round the corner and had the best lamb kebab ever. Way better even than Kebab King opposite Putney station. True.

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The waiter wanted to know if I was the “round face” that married his older sister. Apparently I look like him.
Went for a two hour walk around the city. It’s the most cosmo of the cities I’ve been to yet. Loads of different cultutes coming together and blending well.

And, really, if you were going to open a bar in Shymkent, would you call it Arsenal?

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Shymkent To Taraz 15th June 2011

I’m way ahead of schedule so decided to do a sort run from Shymkent to Taraz and take my time over it. What a ride! By far the best bit yet.
The closer you get to Almaty the more mountainous and fertile it gets. I’ll post today’s videos and pics as soon as I can get my laptop to connect. Truly spectacular. Snow capped mountains loom up at me as I head east.
The traffic is getting heavier and as a result a few more suicide jockies to deal with, but the road is good with some new dual carriage way bits.
Taraz, I’m told, is one of Kazakhstan’s oldest towns, so off for a look round shortly.

The Rain In Taraz 15th June 2011

By christ, when it rains here it really unleashes. It’s the hardest rain I’ve ever seen.
Talking of which I hear there have been floods in South China

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Taraz to Almaty ... In the rain 16th June 2011

The day started so well. Excellent breakfast in the hotel with fresh fruit salad! Fablus as they say.
Great route advice from Ivan & Dima, two Russian dudes who know the roads well, big smiles and waves from the gorgeous receptionist then 2 hours later the skies opened and it lashed down stopping often and long enough to dry out before lashing down again.
The wind was howling and it got bloody cold. I had the heated grips on most of the way.
So it was head down and grind out the kilometers. 550 of ‘em and most of them spent swearing at the weather. 10 hours in the saddle.
The scenery was hidden behind low cloud and mist most of the way, but did lift briefly to reveal the hills and mountains that flank Almaty to the west. I’ll post video tomorrow.
Everything is soaked through so will go through everything in the morning to see what’s damaged. Hopefully the laptop’s ok.
But I’m not moaning now. Celebrating getting to Almaty and way ahead of schedule too so plenty of time to try to get the bike serviced and do some sight seeing.
Hotel here is cheap, £20/night with breakfast, free decent wifi, laundry service and aircon, so Camp Evans is a happy one.
Steve Hotson – if you’re reading this remind me to tell you about the route I took today. Pros and cons, but not ideal for a van.

Bike Service In Almaty 17th June 2011

With a little help from Alexei from Horizons Unlimited forum and David from Stantours in Almaty, I found Leonid & Sergey’s motorcycle garage. There are plenty of recommendations online for them and they are working on everthing from old R6 to BMW GS and Ducatis so the Tiger goes in on Monday for a clean and a service.
For those who are interested the map coordinates are
43.206677,76.904640
Time to chill and do some sightseeing.

Productive Day In Almaty 17th June 2011

As well as getting the Tiger teed up for a service on Monday morning, managed finally to cash some travellers cheques (not easy in KZ) and went for an aimless wander round Almaty.

I’m liking this town. When you get away from the lunatic drivers, it’s a very leafy, quiet sort of town.

I set out to find Republic Square so went wandering in the general direction as I tend to do and stumbled across the KZ Biker’s Club.

[img=left:2190n11j]http://london-bangkok-by-motorcycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/DSC00049small-300x169.jpg[/img:2190n11j]
Dmitriy Petrukhin, KZ Bike Club President and his Beemer

The President, Dimitry Petrukhin was in and made me very welcome. Top bloke. He spent 5 years travelling the world on a big Beemer which he gave me a DVD of. Will watch that later. From what I gather he is also deputy mayor and a prime mover in the local Olympics movement. Check out his site http://www.bike.kz" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

[img=left:2190n11j]http://london-bangkok-by-motorcycle.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/DSC00055small-300x169.jpg[/img:2190n11j]
Oh, and allegedly, punk is not dead, but is alive and kicking in Almaty …
Punk's Not Dead

Punk lives on in Almaty

Also uploaded some Almaty pics to the gallery and new videos on You Tube

Bike's in for service 20th June 2011

The bike’s gone in for a service this morning with Leonid & Sergey. Ready in the morning.
After sitting idle for two days, the Tiger didn’t want to start this morning. Took a few goes to get going. The guys are going to check it over.
I’ll admit to feeling a bit bored. I’ve seen most of Almaty and as much as I like this city I’m itching to get riding again and head for China via the Charyn Canyon.

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Bike's Back 21st June 2011

Picked up the bike this morning. While I was waiting for Sergey to finish the service, I bumped into a group of Aussies and English lads (and a gal) who are on their way to Mongolia. A couple of the Eglish lads are doing the Road Of Bones as well. I’m sorely tempted to do that one next time. They’d been out on the lash with the garage boss the noght before so they were looking a lttle rough.

The bike’s had a bit of a service and had everything tightened up so it’s feeling much better today. I’ve missed it while it’s been away …. sad but true.

Was having a bite to eat at lunch time and was thinking about the ride so far and what a giggle it’s been. Can’t wait to get back on the road and into China.

I’ve developed a couple of new riding styles over the last couple of weeks since leaving London. As well as the usual sit up and beg, and off road styles the other two look like this ….

The Hill Billy
Leaning back on my tail pack, feet up on the engine bars, arse pushed forward up to the tank and looking like the fella from Wacky Races who’s lost his bear

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But my personal fave is what I’ve dubbed The Slump for the long straight smooth roads. I hook the shin guards of my boots on the edges of my foot pegs so my legs are dangling a few inches off the deck, arms and elbows totally relaxed and hanging from the bar grips, arse right back in the seat, chest leaning on the tank bag with chin guard of my helmet resting on top of the tank bag so I’m fully behind the screen. Very comfy. It has the added benefit of looking to the rest of the world that I’ve fallen asleep at 70mph which gets some great reactions from other drivers. Sad, but it keeps me amused on those very rare dull stretches of road.

Almaty to Zharkent 24th June 2011

Finally hit the road from Almaty. As much as I like the city I’ve been itching to get back on the bike and carry on heading east.

Finally on the road from Almaty
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The Russian satnav took the most direct route again and took me along about 55 miles of the worst roads I’ve encountered yet. Which was fun to start with, then turned a bit dangerous. Deep gravel, sand and shale all mixed up in patches. Along some sections the road had been washed out from floods so had to take to drry river beds to get round the holes in the road. And not a soul in site. I didn’t pass another human being for the entire section.

The other downside is the route dumped me the wrong side of the Charyn Canyon with very little petrol and no station between me and the canyon, so I rode as far as I could to the edge of the canyon and then had to spin round to head towards Zharkhent.

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Jay (in blue), Abi (in white) and Joe, an American who is running local fruit farms happened to be passing

About an hour later I bumped into two girls, Abi, from Scotland and Jay from the US who are in the process of cycling from Chiang Mai where they have been teaching, back to Scotland. Total respect due! Check out Abi’s site – cycleinstead.com

Turns out Abi’s mum is Welsh and was born round the corner from me in a town called Risca where my dad had a business many years ago … small world innit!

I got to the next petrol station running on fumes and met 3 Kazakh dudes from Almaty called Alex, Alex and Dima. They were heading to the border the next day to sort out a problem with some cars they were importing and knew a good local hotel up in the hills, so I headed up there with them and we all got properly drunk on beer and vodka. Great night just eating, drinking and shooting the breeze. Top night out.

Song of the day – What A Beautiful Day by Thunder … bouncing around on the bike thrilled to be back on the road with the sun up :-)

First Big Hangover 25th June 2011

Urghhhhhh … feeling rough after last night’s beer, vodka and lamb ribs fest.

Decided to hang out here and head for the border tomorrow.

Chilled out watching Russian footie.If Arsene Wenger thinks he has goalkeeper problems he shouls take a look at the Russian top league. Woeful!

To The China Border and Beyond 26th June 2011

Woke to the sound of lashing rain, no water in the bathroom and a stroppy, drunk (at 8 in the morning) hotel caretaker getting a little punchy with me and trying to squeeze more money out of me for my room. Eventually (with telephone help from Alex) settled on an additional 600 Tenge for parking the bike.

I decided to skip breakfast and head off as I didn’t like the guy’s attitude. I kept hearing him shouting Politzei so thought bugger this and left. I didn’t fancy a day explaining to Five Oh that the man’s a raving alchie.

Abi and Jay mentioned a hotel 1 km from the border, so did the last run to the border to thge Helios Hotel and got myself the De Luxe room for 7,000 Tenge.

The waitress, Ulpan in the bar/restuarant speaks good English and was keen to practice so I spent the afternoon chatting to her and her boss and his family. Lovely people.
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Song of the day … Same Old Thing by Albert Collins

Stats To Date 27th June 2011

The trip meter stopped working just outside Almaty so I’ve had to reset it, so here are the stats so far since leaving London and arriving at the Kazakhstan/China border.

Distance travelled to the border – approx 8,000 kms
Av fuel consumption 5.5l/100 kms
Av speed 56.4km/h

China Baby! 27th June 2011

I’m genuinely feeling sad to leave Kazakhstan this morning but equally excited about crossing into China.

The riding, the poeople, the country, the deserts, even the big bad scary roads have been one hell of an experience in Kazakhstan and I want to come back.

But for now I’m concentrating on China. I’m nervous about the border crossing hoping that all my paperowork for KZ is in order so I can leave without a problem and likewise that China is all OK.

I needent have worried. The Kazakh border guards are all very friendly and helpful. I’m the first to arrive at the gate so end up chatting with the local Lieutenant who speaks some English. Then a quick look at my passport and away I go into KZ customs to clear the bike. All together it look about half an hour to complete the paperwork and formalities with the bike KZ side and I roll on the China.

I’m ordered by some very polite China border guards to park up in front of the immigration hall. A lady immigration officer comes out and with a big smile and handshake and welcomes me to China.
Mr Fan

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I’m being treated like royalty. My guide Mr. Fan (aka Frank) is with me and we get pushed to the front of every queue (much to the annoyance of everyone else trying to cross the border). That process takes about and hour then the bike is x-rayed, customs agent sorts the paperwork then one final customs search and we’re through. The last customs officer looked at my passport and asks if I was really born in 1962. Yes, I reply. He puts his thumbs up and Mr Fan explains that he thought there was a mistake as I look so young! I like China already.
China Flag, Khorgas

The Red Flag Above The Hotel In Khorgas
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Then I’m in China! On a Britsih motorcycle! I can’t stop grinning!

We head into Khorgas for the rest of the day as we need to pick up my temporary import licence, so we have some lunch, chat over tea before chcking in to a local hotel for a siesta. Dinner and an early night. Tomorrow Yining for my driving licence and Chinese number plate.

China Baby! Can hardly believe it.

Frank also has a driver, Mr. Sh. Mr. Sh is a top bloke, Sh means stone in Chinese.
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KTMphil

Senior member
Joined
Jan 11, 2011
Location
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Bikes
2007 KTM 990 Adventure Suzuki DRZ 400
Fantastic story MR. Evans, really appreciate you posting it for us. Very amusing the stuck in no-mans-land saga, a real headache.

Intriguing that you didn't need a carnet-de-passage for Russia (or for most of it to be honest!).

Great trip you did and we were honored to meet you, hope to see you back here soon.
 

phile

Junior Member
Joined
Apr 14, 2011
Location
London
Bikes
Triumph Tiger 800 XC
No worries. And thanks again for the great hospitality.

Just checked back through emails from Russian and other embassies etc. Each time I asked if I needed anything other than licence, inurance and registration the answer camm back no. Only China did I need to provide a bond which the guide took care off with no hassles.

I will most definitely be back ... just as soon as i've finished paying for the last trip :-)
 
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