Stops: Aktau -> Shetpe -> Lion Rock -> Valley of Balls -> Shetpe -> along the highway -> Beynau
Playlists: Dire Straits, Foo fighters
Bottoming out: 2
Flat tires: 2
Breakages: 2 (roof rack and jack)
Out of gas: 1
Upon leaving our friends, we didn't have enough daylight to make it to Beynau as planned. We aimed for the Valley of Balls. That's right. The Valley of Balls was near Shetpe which was on the way. There really is only one road in Kazakhstan so options aren't very many.
We drove on to Shetpe and tried asking for directions to the Valley of Balls, called "Torysh". No one seemed to know what it was but after an hour we found it online and it was only 23km away, unfortunately in the opposite direction. Pfft, we had about half an hour of light and figured we could just camp there so off we went.
We got to a tiger statue in front of the "Lion Rock" which is visible from the Valley - essentially Pride Rock. We tucked ourselves away from the road and settled in for the night looking at the stars in the middle of nowhere.
Kazakhstan is a steppe, flat grassland. We were in a hilly part, but aside from that, you couldn't see anything as far the eye went... except camels EVERYWHERE. No towns, no cities - they're all about 300km apart. The starry sky was amazing.
We woke up ready to see the Valley of Balls - a Valley in the middle of this steppe with thousands of rocks in perfect circular shapes and no one knows how they got to be this way. We showered, did our thing and hit the road. The GPS said 18km. LOL.
WELCOME TO KAZAKHSTAN. We drove 35miles over the span of 4.5 hours and what an adventure that was. The GPS must've done the direct route from point A to point B. The "roads" it took us on were barely even roads for a 4 wheeler, let alone a Fiesta, but No Ragrets performed admirably considering what we put him through.
We practically drove 20km/h the entire time over rocks, across fields with no roads whatsoever, across sand, and on some gravelled roads where we got lucky. Of course, we ended up bottoming out in the Valley. We spent the next hour digging the sand, trying to build ramps with rocks, deflating the tire to get it out from the sand, trying to jack it up (and breaking it), emptying the entire car of all the weight, and repeat all of the above.
We celebrated big time when we got it out but also noted there was an SUV that had made it in front of us a little way away, wandered around, and then went back where it came from . Clearly, ours wasn't much of a road, so after more insane scraping and praying for our car, we made it to that "road". Please note, that was also no road. But it led us to a highway and it only took us 30-40 minutes to get back to Shetpe from there.
We got groceries in Shetpe and baby wiped the inside of our car that now had a thick layer of brown on EVERYTHING as a reminder of our off roading adventures today. headed along the road - you'd legitimately think our dashboard was brown looking at it today, not black.
Just before leaving town we noted we were at a quarter tank and the next town/city was 200km away. There were about 15 gas stations on the street but they were all empty!! And the only one that seemed alive had a huge line up. We got into the line and ended up waiting 28 minutes only to find out there was no gas, only propane. We knew we had our jerry cans so we carried on with the road.
Cruising along on a detour road for construction, we hit a huge bump and had to stop. We had not one, but TWO flat tires on the same side of the car. In the first 2 minutes of being pulled over, 3 cars stopped to offer help asking if we have water or if we needed anything. Amazing. Seeing as we had broken the jack that came with the car this morning, our good one was too tall to get under the car with both tires flat on the same side. We asked the next person that stopped for his jack and as soon as it was high enough to get ours in, we sent him on his way.
We looked at the tires and it turned out both the rims were bent, and how! Whatever we hit was huge. Justin banged one tire back into place and I was able to fill it up with the air compressor and it seemed to hold. We looked at the other one but that was a no go. While justin was filling up the gas tank, I was filling the second one up but you could hear the air escaping so I changed our first spare.
So the scene was quite funny for anyone driving by and seeing 2 completely flat tires, and us filling up the car with a jerry can. All the things.
We had a few more people stop for us, including an Australian who had seen the other Mongol Rally teams we were with at the Uzbek border.
We were back on the road in 20 minutes and high fived. We did pretty well but we're now even filthier. The part of the road we broke down on was made of chalk so every time a car drove by, there was a new layer of white on everything.
Looking forward to another shower, on we drove!
We barely made it to a gas station, and turned off at the first hotel as soon as we hit town. We're terrified for bed bugs, but for $20, the cold shower and the stink will do. Also wifi, what a luxury!