Stops: too many, all within port
Wow. Where do we begin.
We were kicked out of our rooms right after breakfast so staff can "clean" them. Meanwhile, we had no where to go with our luggage but the lobby that barely fit half of us comfortably without our suitcases. We sat around and waited for an hour or so for the boat to dock.
Military then came on and we were led to another room near the entrance where we were forced to open and take everything out of our luggage. They walked around with a drug dog, and really dug through everything. We had to fill out forms that made no sense to anyone, including me who spoke Russian. One of the two truckers who practically adopted me walked me through and I helped the rest of our gang.
We continued to wait until we were led off the ferry and then had to continue to wait. A van came and picked up a few people and drove off. It came back and continued cycling through everyone. We laughed at the service for our $500 tickets considering we could see the passport control booth from where we stood and it would've been a 5 min walk.
Justin and I were the second last ones in line and were there by far the longest. The clerks never saw a temporary passport before and didn't know what to do with it. They did everything from googling a Canadian passport image and comparing them, to calling various supervisors, management, etc until they finally listened to me and called the Canadian embassy. They were all super nice and super sympathetic, but my god, it was such chaos. They kept asking for the police report again to reread it for the 10th time, in case anything changed since the last time they read it?! We were there for a good 1.5 hours while everyone else left.
We took so long that we held up all the people coming onto the new ferry, so customs decided to not even X-ray our bag that they already searched and just sent us out a side door. We walked back to the ferry only to find out everyone sitting around waiting for the truckers to get out so we can all access our cars below.
We got our cars and on the way out we're told to go to the building directly beside where passport control was. So we went there to get car insurance, but they didn't take card or any other cash other than Kazakh dollars. So they sent us to the currency exchange place on the other side of passport control. Justin and I were ok (we got 33500 Kazakh dollars for $100US!!), but others who needed to take out money instead of exchanging it, had to hike to the back of the passport control building to the ATM, then back around to insurance.
We got our insurance and thought we were good to go. Wrong. We now had to drive our car back to the other side of the ferry and strip the whole thing for another thorough search by the military and their dogs. Like, everything. Take the mattress out, open SEALED bags of food, etc. We watched another team lose all their tennis balls (for cricket) because the dog wanted it, just like that.
We finished up and thought we were done. The military supervisor signed us off and told us we can head out. We started to head out and at the crossing were yelled at by another soldier to go get a red stamp and that we can't leave without it. They told us to follow this road for a little while, so we did. It was another port and looked like there was nothing there, not a soul. We drove back, but were told to turn around and find the barracks with a flag. It was a building with a steel fence and the soldier was confused why we were there. We explained the stamp and he shut the door on us... so we stood around twirling our thumbs as we then saw the whole car-searching troop with their dog and supervisor marching up to the barracks. They were just as confused as we were by what we were doing there. No one let us in and when we asked what the issue was, we were told to wait "they're having a meeting to discuss this". After an hour, the main guard who signed us off initially came out with a stamp in his hand but just stood in front of us and got his phone out. Understanding what he's saying, I had to suppress laughter as I whispered the translation: he was arguing with someone about who should be doing the stamping and that this is not his job. It was absolutely ridiculous that no one seemed to know where to go or what to do. This isn't their first day on the job, and we're not the first car passing through.
He stamped us and let us go. We drove down to the border, but were turned away because we were missing the bill of lading (record of cargo, since we were the cargo). So we pulled in to the passport control building again and were taken in to the back. We met up with the rest of the teams all there losing their sanity. One team finished and was led off to get their stamp. They drove off where we were earlier, but after half an hour (we were still at the same booth) they show up at a different door to the same room because they were led here for the stamp. We all flipped out - It was unbelievable!! It's been hours, we were starving, and just appalled at the ridiculousness of this back and forthness.
After another hour and a bit, we were led to an adjoining room where we didn't know what we were waiting for. The other trucker who took me under his wing came over to find us figuring we were lost as all hell. He was correct.
He explained the next step involved a department that was on lunch break for TWO HOURS. We had to wait another 40 minutes for the woman to return, who would take 20 minutes to give us a paper which we had to take around the building to a little trailer and pay the toll for using the bridge to get off the boat and on to land. We crossed this ramp many times considering everyone kept telling us to go various ways, so at least we got our money's worth?
We were done. Hoorah!
We get in our car and drive over to the border. Oh my good god, they wouldn't let us through. We were missing another paper. They made us pull over, open our trunk for another search, and were led into the booth beside the gate. They seemed confused by our papers and sent us into the attached room around the corner. The guy wouldn't smile or say a word, just grunted his way through stamping a paper and pointing at the door. Lost, we come out and stood like sheep utterly confused on where to go next. The soldier pointed us BACK into the initial room where they took the paper and exchanged it for a different one. Now they were looking for our red stamp.
That was the paper they exchanged. Eventually they gave it back to us, we went through one last passport control booth by the gate and WE WERE FREE!
Omg. This was by far the most ridiculous crossing and all the teams were beyond hangry at this point 7 hours later. We piled into the closest cafe (20m from the gate) and had our last shared beers and food as we were all going in different directions.