The Second Leg

We have cycled into Astana, Kazakhstan. How strange to have my legs get the wobbly burn of lactic acid going up hotel stairs! Is that because we have just been on a flat steppe with very, very lonnnng inclines?

Our arrival in Astana seems like a perfect time to give an update on the expedition and let you know what adventures are coming next.


Guardrails only started to appear about 200 km out of Astana and are a blessing for heavy loads.


1. What now?

The town was so delighted to know we landed in Atbasar, Kazakhstan and came from Atbasar, Canada aka Whitehorse!

Lee flies back to Whitehorse, Canada for his son’s wedding and will return in 8 days. Yes. Eight. Crazy but love is like that. Why else would one buy a suit in Moscow and cart it all across Kazakhstan?!

Then we meet up again in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Fitting given ‘Alma Ata’ was one of the Polish army bases the exodus of deportees were flowing towards.


Polish deportees signing up for the Anders army near Alma Ata, Kazakhstan


2. Announcing… New Expedition Member

Our new expedition member out on a training ride in Nanaimo, Canada


Say hello to Bonnie Murrell! Bonnie will be joining our cycle from Almaty, Kazakhstan to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. She has all the right qualifications – curious, superb humour, courageous and enthusiasm galore. So delighted and grateful she is crazy enough to join us! Welcome aboard Bonnie. Wahoooo.

2. Favourite Relax  


On entering a home or restaurant a Kazakh will often say…’oddychajcie‘. How lovely is it to be reminded to exhale. To breathe. This has to be one of the most beautiful invitations to relax ever! Balzat was the cafe host here and I took her welcome very seriously. Completely melted into those ruby cushions and hand stitched rugs and hangings. Spasiba Balzat!

3. May I Take Photo?

This woman watched as everyone asked for my photo. She laughed hard when I asked for hers to remember her beauty.


There is never a shortage of Kazakh people who wave us over, drive beside us to chat (disconcerting when eye contact means not seeing potholes or glass), want our photo, or just hang out to watch. In the tiny rutted mud road village of Zhaltyr a curious man declared we were like Aliens from outer space. I’ll bet aliens don’t smell as bad as cyclists.


Lee responding to the six questions while trying to see how many towns between Astrakhan and Astana. More towns = less water to carry.


And then there is the sequence of six questions, commonly in this order:

  • Where are you going? (Iran. Yes, you did hear that correctly)
  • Where are you from? (Canada said with accent on the KaNAda)
  • How long are you travelling? When did you start? (6 months beginning In May from Poland. At this point they often whistle and shake their head)
  • Are you married (No just friends making a film)
  • Where do you stay? (Camping or hotels if we need a clean up or are in big cities)
  • May I take photo? (Ofcourse.  Please join us).

4. From My Heart

A gift from the heart

The generosity and gentle curious nature of Kazakhs has been so delightful. Just as the Polish deportees were greeted with compassion and understanding by Kazakhs decades ago, we too have received beautiful offers of gifts. A request for a smaller amount of green onions and suddenly the store keeper in Yesil disappears. Minutes later- a bag of onions and aromatic dill just picked from her garden. A cafe owner insisted we take a roll of paper towels. A bag of sausages, sauce packs and two fresh picked ogorki was produced after the six questions routine in Zhaltyr. This ball of ‘qurt‘ (dried sour milk) was given to me by a man on the highway who pointed to his heart with big wide eyes of wonder. Namaste.  (I would taste it but the strong tobbacco smell is a tad off putting).

5. Worst Cycle Day


And why am I doing this?

Nasty cold has me coughing and weak. The heat unforgiving. It is an endless long horizon. We gratefully pull into a truck stop. My skillful dismount turned into a graceful kabam! Down she goes! I am grateful for the helmet that protects my noggin as it cracks against a truck gas tank. Ok. Got it loud and clear. Stop now!

6. Best Cycle Day

Kazakh cowboy in the wind

After the previous days’ 2 hour headwind battle only to get 15 km, this was a dream.  The tailwind was whipping hard at 30 km/hr. Temperatures cooled. Smiles widened. The Kazakh cowboy and his horses were just a big bonus to a 100 km day of wheeeeeeee. Superb!


More steppe visitors asking the six questions

And so…we look forward to leaving the grassy steppes and heading south into the mountains!  The second leg.  We shall see what kind of lactic acid burn will be happening on the stairs of Kyrgyzstan!

Note: I invite and encourage you to comment on any of the posts. The comments and personal family stories on our Facebook site have made this trip so much richer! I feel very honoured that people have shared. Dziękuję.


8 thoughts on “The Second Leg

    1. Wow…what a great read! Thanks for keeping us up to date. Looking at the pic of your loaded bikes, I need to find more to take with me.


  1. I am enjoying following your journey. I live in the state of Washington but am a Canadian of Polish descent. My parents were Polish born and my mama was deported along with babcia and all of my ciocias and wujeks. Dziadek was taken to the Gulag and the family was eventually reunited in Tehran when the war turned. Their journey took them to Masindi Uganda. What an amazing life experience you are having!


  2. Just catching up on your adventure. I was horrified that when I clicked on my name my companies add came up, no idea how this happens and is certainly not my intention to Hi Jack your site for my own promotion….. My apologies…. Gods speed!

    Back to reading your updates.


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