Day 49: you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here

Miles: 243

countries: Kazakhstan -> Russia? NOPE -> Kazakhstan

We woke up by the restaurant to more looks, Justin had a baby wipe bath in the car only to realize the restaurant camera was pointed straight at the car window. Lol.

We packed up, still hungry and refusing to eat anything here and hit the road. We were 100km from the border and we both got a huge pit in the stomach. We've been so optimistic up until now that we'll just be able to show up at the border and bribe our way into the country. Well, we woke up this morning bright and early and it just kind of dawned on us that we were totally screwed.

We drove on anyway and got to the border by 9:30am. We waited in line on the Kazakh side for an hour before we were let through to the search bay and the passport control. The guard was super sweet and chatty since 90% of the rally teams came through this way and he finally understood why.

We got to the booth. We watched the people in front of us (who cut us off in line btw) go right through, scan their passports, get their photo taken, and go on. 30 seconds. Then it was us. We ended up causing a huge line up with people getting antsy for 20 minutes before we were called inside to an office. We were sat down, and a senior officer, very kindly, explained that we were screwed. They were willing to let us out of the country, however, it was 100% guaranteed that Russia will not give us a visa at the border. We will end up wasting hours in line and negotiating at the border for something we will not get only to have to stand in line to get back in. He recommended we go back where we came from to a city 300km away, Oskemen, and get a visa at the consulate.

Deflated, we turned around and started driving back. It was silent for quite a while until we needed food. We got out our emergency reserve oatmeal packs from the trunk and boiled some water. Things got better now and we got some music going.

Problem was we couldn't find Oskemen anywhere on the map. We came to a fork in the road with no signs and started wondering if it would be faster to go this way than back to radioactive city and down the main highway. We asked the locals who said yes but seemed real confused and couldn't point out Oskemen on the map.

We took the shortcut anyway and eventually stopped to ask another guy. Same thing. He said this was a short cut but seemed confused by Oskemen.

Turned out Oskemen was the Kazakh name for Ust'-Kamengorosk which was the Soviet name. THIS we had on our map so things got a lot easier. I've passed 4 mongol rally teams, must have been the convoy we were supposed to have joined a few days back, and they all looked confused we were going the wrong way. Felt a bit like the walk of shame.

3 hours later we made it to the city. It was HUGE and SO modern and beautiful. Again, no google maps (doesn't seem to work in Kazakhstan at all), we stopped for directions to the visa centre. A local called the immigration centre and gave us excellent directions and even wrote down everything we needed so we know what to ask if we had to stop again.

We got the general area she pointed us to and saw a cop car so we asked them for further directions. While I was doing that (I had gotten out of the car), justin was approached by another cop since he had stopped in a no stopping zone. I ran back after I got my answers and explained to the cop that we had just pulled over to talk to the cop for directions. He proceeded to explain the directions as well. At least they were consistent this time. We turned around and went the way they told us only to get lost and having to ask directions twice more.

We got to the immigration centre where there were huge line ups on two separate rooms with no indication on where we should be. After 15 minutes, I finally figured out we were in the registration line (if you're in Kazakhstan for more than 5 days, you have to register). Nope. That's not the plan, so I tried finding a worker to tell me where to go. I ended up just shouting across the chaos that was the "line" (it wasn't, it was a cluster of people all pushing ahead). When I mentioned Russian visas everyone said we were in the wrong place and we should be going to the DVD - some foreign department of something or rather. Everyone shrugged when we asked where that is, but two separate girls in the "line" decided to help with directions and address.

We got to the DVD and were told to dial a number from the phone there to get our answers. We couldn't get through the whole time until they closed but a local asked for our story since we looked sooooo defeated on the couch. We officially thought we were done the mongol rally. She told us tomorrow is the last day before everyone goes on vacation until sept 4. We were so done with no visas. No way we'd get them and make it to ulan ude in time.

Not knowing what to do, we needed food first. We found ourselves in a bar called "Oxota" (Hunting) and it was quite the decor.... I ended up being really sick out of no where for 10 minutes and then I was fine, it was so bizarre. Justin used that as an excuse to get a lavish hotel. He really just wanted a bed, he admitted it afterwards even.

We got to the hotel thinking we'll lie down for a while and then hit the town. I told him once we're in, I guarantee we won't leave. We made a bet and shook hands.

I got super wired around 9:30 but justin had tucked in and refused to leave so we watched really cheesy Russian music videos until we fell asleep.

We had also found out the consulate only does visas on Tuesdays and Thursdays 2:30-5:30 so we figured we'll try it one more time since tomorrow was Tuesday and then figure out our next step.

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