We left Samara (a southern Russian city) early expecting to arrive at the Kazakhstan Border by midday. Upon reaching what we thought to be the last small village before the border, the road suddenly stopped. Whilst pondering what to do, we were suddenly surrounded by Russian solders who demanded to see our documentation and began firing questions one after the other which we of course, couldn’t understand. After they resigned to the fact that they weren’t going to get any sense out of us, they took our passports and asked (through sign language of course) us to follow them to the army barracks.
Its turns out that this Border Crossing has been closed for a number of years. After being satisfied that we had not entered Russia illegally (which was their initial belief), they apologised for the inconvenience, offered us food and fuel and then escorted us 150km to the closest functioning border crossing. Fortunately a young Capitan at the Barracks spoke good english and was able to clarify the situation. What started out to be a rather tense situation, turned into a afternoon filled with laughter and tales!
Upon arriving to the border (looked like Bolivia with all the chaos) we were taken to the front of the line, which was about 2 kilometres long. Out of nowhere a Kazakhstan couple offered to help us with the border crossing process. Once legally inside Kazakhstan, Marat and Marina (the couple) kindly invited us to their home for lunch the following day. We of course accepted. Marina cooked us a traditional Kazan dish and we then spent the remainder of the afternoon with many interesting conversations, and of course lots of laughs.
Thank you so much Marat and Marina for welcoming us to your country and to the Russian soldiers who finally got us there.
Blog Video 86 from SAMt & Bike Without Borders on Vimeo.