Stops: Shetpe -> Beyneu -> cop stop -> Aterau -> Koktogay
Playlists: Various Rock, Disney, and again DJ Bruno
We drove on, stopped for lunch, and grabbed a new jack in a bazaar. When I asked how much, the guy said 3500. I made a comment how the building said "negotiation centre" and asked if I should bother to negotiate. He sighed heavily and just replied 3000. I considered this a victory and didn't bother negotiating further. It was too hot and I was parched.
We grabbed some lunch which was an enormous amount of my childhood foods just like grandma used to make it for $4 and got back in the car.
Again, uneventful however many hours in the middle of nowhere. We were driving along the Ural River, the first source of water we've seen in Kazakhstan aside from the Caspian Sea. We were sad to learn that the Ural River divides Kazakhstan into Europe and Asia, and that we were, in fact, still in Europe.
The sun was setting and we wanted to make camp before it was fully dark. Even the highway was questionable where there was a point we were going LESS than 20km/h and still scraped the bottom of the car. Definitely not a road for the dark.
The nice part was we were along the river, and if we could just find a path from the road to the river, we could camp by the water and wash away the day's sweat. Let me assure you, there was a LOT of it.
It was the first village in at least 100km but it was the only path to the water. We found our way right down to the water where there were a few other cars and families swimming. They walked over and introduced themselves insisting this was a very hospitable town and we could knock on any door and would be invited to sleep inside.
We said we didn't want to impose and sleeping in the car was fine. He ran off saying he'll come back, drove up the hill into town and came back with 2 beers and 2 ice creams. He handed me the ice cream, opened the other one and handed both beers to Justin. He was curious about our trip, wanted to hear everything, and in between every sentence kept barking at justin to drink his beer while it's cold and that he only brought 2 so they stay cold but will bring more.
We chatted a fair bit and he went off to go get us a watermelon. He brought us a whole one as a gift and if we didn't want it now, we can have it for breakfast. We were amazed at the hospitality, but something in the back of my mind wasn't right. He was really pushy with the drinking, and the staying the night, wanting to know our exact timing of going to bed, waking up, etc. I, right off the cuff, told our robbing story so he knew we had nothing worth stealing. He was super sympathetic and kept insisting we'll have no troubles here, it's a great town. He wanted to exchange numbers and really wanted to us to call him to make sure it was right, but we had no service. And it bothered me that he now knew this. He was super nice, and super hospitable, yet as the night went on, something in my gut felt wrong and I became uncomfortable.
I'm not sure if this trip has ruined me and made me paranoid, but this seemed a little sketchy to me. This guy was either super hospitable and really cared or was trying to get us inebriated for whatever reason. He was on his phone quite a few times, laughed with the locals in Kazakh, and disappeared home a fair bit throughout the night. This sat with me all night and only got worse - I started picturing them ganging up overnight or god knows what. Initially, we talked about making a campfire and sitting around together chatting later in the evening once we finished setting our car up. He didn't drink beer so we agreed we'll have some vodka. But the more he was insistent justin enjoyed his cold beers quickly, and was really hovering over me, the more I decided against this. Justin spent an hour hammering the tire and rummaging throughout the car so it was just me and this guy chatting off to the side. He was getting more and more touchy feel-y, and anytime he put his hand around me, it was such a tight grasp I couldn't maneuver out of it. I could handle that though, until he tried planting kisses on me or smelling my neck. I got out of it a few times, and it wasn't until he planted one on the lips that I was like NOPEEEE this is not ok where we come from. Especially considering he had just asked us if we were newlyweds and I said yes (easier than explaining why we don't have kids 3 years later. Yes, I know, I'm an old hag by now).
There have been nights I didn't sleep because I was waiting to get robbed, this was not it. I knew we won't get robbed, but this was the first time on this entire trip, the first time ever, actually, that I became uneasy about my safety. Omitting the details of why, I told him it was time for bed, thanked him and sent him off.
There was a group not far from us sitting around drinking and he went to talk to them. While he did that, justin and I debated driving off but decided against it for various reasons. Justin also said it would be ridiculous if this guy had any preemptive plans and had given us his phone number, fair enough.
He came back to tell us he told the locals I'm his visiting niece and to not pester us in their drunkness. If anyone approached us, to give him a shout. He wished us good night, planted another hug and a kiss and went off.
We climbed into bed hugging our weapons of choice and one of us was more paranoid than the other whenever a new set of headlights came down the hill. I eventually slept through night until we were awoken by cows mooing and staring right at us through the curtain crack from less than a foot away.
Look at that, I was just paranoid. Now I got all sad that we had an opportunity to mingle with the locals and chose not to. In the morning, he had another guy come down to the beach so he could speak with us on the phone. He was a taxi driver and was about an hour out in the direction we were going. He wanted to make sure we got to say goodbye so we arranged a meet up place along the route (again, Kazakhstan is all one road). We were going to treat him to breakfast or coffee before we left to thank him for what turned out to be true hospitality but he even beat us to that and paid for that. We didn't have much to gift him since he didn't smoke, so of all our Canadian pen/pencils/toys, we though the keychain with a gold Moose on it would mean the most for a taxi driver. He was SO touched when we presented him with it and put it on right away. He didn't have a keychain, so this was perfect and he would remember us. He made us promise to keep in touch, and we noted he cleaned up quite well for work today and was super respectful. In fact, when we went to take a picture together and I asked if he wanted to be in the middle, he looked at me all shocked and that he would never come between a man and his wife. We were wondering if he had a bit to drink last night and just couldn't help himself? He didn't seem drunk then, but he was a completely different person in the morning.
Overall, it was still a great night/morning and we actually slept quite well regardless. Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to our final comrade as he was completely destroyed and just getting in the way at this point. We gave the second Moose head a proper burial by burning it.