Just like we have already told you, our plans are on a constant change. Still our plan, right now, is to leave our little green home in Kirgizstan for the winter. Before we do that we are still to meet Joergs parents and another friend in Kazakhstan. So while we were cruising through Iran our visa for Turkmenistan was rejected.
Just a small glimpse on the globe is enough to figure out that this is a mid sized catastrophy for an overlander. The options you have are quite limited.
- Even though we have heard a lot of good stories, driving through Afghanistan
and Pakistan felt too dangerous for us.
- The way around the Caspian Sea seemed to be too far. In addition we do not
have a Russian visa.
- The most common way is to take the Baku-Aktau ferry. This option is
unfortunately not for us, as we are still not permitted into Azerbaijan.
After a couple of days brainstorming we headed off to check out our options to get the car through Turmenistan. After all, these are the solutions we came up with:
- The car would be driven by a driver through Turkmenistan. Hand over would
be at the borderlines south and north of Turkmenistan. It seemed to be to
"exciting" for us.
- The car would be stuffed into a truck or a container and driven through the
country. If you have a little time you can share the costs by loading other
- The third option is to ship the car from Iran to Kazakhstan on a regular freight
vessel. This is possible in container, as well as without.
We chose the last option as it seemed to be the most attractive to us. All of the options were offered to us by a cargo specialists in Mashhad. All of them took quite good care of us and took some efforts to find solutions together with us. At the end we did all the paperwork with them and headed off to Bandar e Anzali. On the way we extended our Iran visa once again and arrived to Anzali 3 days later.
The days till the planned day of loading we used to get the car ready for the shipment. At this point of time we still didn’t know if it would be the container or not. Two days prior to the
shipment we were told that it will be loaded without container into a freight vessel. So we packed our bags and dropped or home off at the port. Our Agent Jalal and his team took very good care
of us and all the paperwork. We were already on our way to Tehran when they told us that the vessel was facing engine problems. That way there was a little delay with loading it to the vessel.
Unfortunately there is only one flight to Aktau per week and we wanted to be there on time for receiving our car. The ship was going to need 3 days to reach the port of Aktau. We gave all the
necessary documents to our Agent and he kept us up to date with pictures and information. Everything worked out fine and our car was leashed correctly. Unfortunately it was not put inside, like
it was promised to us. It was leashed on top of the vessel. Next time we will most likely put him into the container knowing he will be well protected from weather and rain offshore.
In the meantime we arrived to Aktau and checked into a cheap Hotel while we were waiting. Enjoying the recovered freedom, not having to wear long sleeves and scarfs we were awaiting the arrival of our vessel. Like we said it was going to need 3 days. So after the vessel has left Iran with some delay we had 4 days to relax and enjoy the bars, the wine, the music and the beach.
On Saturday then we found out, that the vessel had another engine breakdown and would be delayed for some more time. We found a website to check the vessel movements online and watched it from
that point of time. On Monday finally the ship went on anker close to the port of Aktau. Because the cargo that was supposed to be loaded on the ship there was not ready. It was to wait on anker
for another night. We again extended our hotel room and packed our bags for the next day. We headed off early and waited in the port, as we were told the vessel would berth that day. After
waiting all day long the vessel of course didn’t come in that day. Again check into the hotel. The agency promised to call whenever they have news.
It is about 1 week now that the ship has left Iran. The next two days are really the same. Waiting for the call in the hotel room and being disappointed from day to day. So on the Thursday we decided to go to the office and ask personally. Sometimes it’s just better to meet up face to face. The head of the Kazakh branch tried to shift two of their vessels in order to get ours in earlier. He assured to bring our car in the next day. The good soul of the place, Mrs. Zahra the secretary, seems to be a bit more skeptic but tries her best. The good vibes lasted only short as the car of course didn’t arrive the next day.
Joerg parents are coming to visit in 2 weeks and everyone is getting a little nervous. In addition our Uzbek visa was running out within the next 10 days and there were still 2000km to go to the next boarder. At this point of time we really had to get the car on the next day to have enough time to cross Uzbekistan. Any further delays would cause a 1000km detour through Kazakhstan and a useless Uzbek visa.
If this wasn’t enough, our Kazahstan visa was limited to 15 days and running out on Tuesday. It is only possible to exit the country and come back to get another 15 days. Overstaying either cost 5000$ pp or 20 days in Kazakh jail. None of that was an option. We had informed our agency ahead, but they were obviously not really aware of that. Again we went to the office to explain our case. They were trying their best. So again we went to the hotel to wait. We were drawing all kinds of possible scenarios as we were really running out of time:
- If our car would come that same day we would go to the border the next day
and drive through Uzbekistan with the remaining 9 or 10 days.
- If the car would come another day later, on Sunday, it would be a very tight
fit. We would have to exit to Uzbekistan and come back right away. The time
would not be enough to cross the country. The detour through Kazakhstan is
- If the car would come on Monday it would have been the same thing with
driving all night long to reach the borderline before our Kazakh visa runs out.
- If our home comes anytime later than that, we would have to leave the
country without our beloved car. How? There is an airport in town with
international flights to Baku. This is expensive and we still are not allowed to
come to Azerbaijan. We would have to stay in transit. There is a port in the
city where the ferry arrives. It might be possible to exit here and come
straight back. Our last option was to leave to Uzbekistan, use our visa and
come back right away.
This time we were really not all that lucky. Even though we had private phone numbers we couldn’t get anybody on the phone Saturday and Sunday. On Monday morning we went to the office. They were going to help us exit at the port and get a new visa. This didn’t work out. They switched the entry of two vessels and hooked us up with all the paperwork to get the car out quickly during the night followed by a non stop drive to the border. Of course we didn’t know if the car would be ok. Our minds now were pretty much going crazy. We had 24 hours left to reach a border. There were no more flights. The last train was at 10pm. There were no rental cars. So would we take the train or trust our agency after all of this trouble? At 8pm we get the relieving call, that our car was not going to come. Here we go! Get the bags. Get on the train. 9 hours ride to Beyneu, 2 hours with the taxi to the border and again waiting. The line was quite long but we made on time on the 26th of July. At 1 pm we passed the border to Uzbekistan and before we even passed the last gate of the building, we turned around and went back to Kazakhstan. The friendly officers took it easy with us and let us pass with no problems. We found a taxi that went straight to Aktau and hit the road. So after a 10 hour shared taxi ride we arrived back to the hotel we were staying at.
The taxi ride was very annoying due to the bad roads but the music by Modern Talking and Russian pop really made this trip a highlight... ;-)
Maybe it was worth all the trouble and the pressing. The coming day our vessel came into the port. It took more than 10 hours to free our car after the ship came in. We are still not quite sure how this should have worked on the Monday night. With just about 2 weeks delay we were rolling out of port at midnight. We were more than happy to have him back. Nothing was broken, missing or damaged.
After some hours of sleep we instantly hit the road to Almaty as Joergs parents were about to come…