countries: Still Kazakhstan, it never ends.
We found a really nice truck stop in the middle of nowhere with a hotel and a restaurant (and wifi!), but we slept in the car anyway. We're finding it's infinitely more comfortable.
The food was awesome though and using a sink was really nice for a change. Although needing to soap and rinse at least 4 times for the water to run clear off our hands was pretty gnarly. Everything is so dusty here! I can't even tell if I'm actually tanned or just absolutely filthy. Hint: correct answer is both.
We walked in, and a girl at a truck stop, as per usual, is quite attention grabbing. We were invited to join a table for dinner, we discussed our routes, and we weren't charged to use the bathrooms. The security guard even came out at one point and just gifted us a really nice lighter that said "Kazakhstan" on it without a word. When we tried gifting him a Canadian souvenir, he refused it and just said good luck.
5-6 hours more of driving through literally nothing, we rolled into Aral, a town on what was once the Aral Sea, one of the four largest lakes in the world. Sparing you a full history lesson, the Soviets screwed up royally by trying to be the biggest cotton exporter. By diverting all the water channels, the Aral Sea has dried up to less than 10% of what it used to be with a salt level higher than the Dead Sea killing all living matter within it.
With the lake drying up, it left the towns once prospering on fishing and their harbours in a poor state with the ships and boats now laying in the sand unused. Most boats were a 50km detour which we couldn't afford to go check out, especially on these roads (or lack there of), but we did venture to go see some old ship skeletons. In doing so, we got stuck in some deep sand and after trying to push the car out and me ending up covered in a thick layer of sand, some locals showed up in a jeep.
They towed us out and led us to the skeletons we've been trying to find for the last hour. On our way out we heard the dreadful dragging and justin got down on all fours to discover our sump guard got unscrewed. Ziptying it together and hoping it'll hold, we set off towards the cosmodrome, the first and biggest space launch facility.
We got pulled over for the 5th time. The cop walked over to my window and demanded our passports. Fed up at this point, I'm no longer scared of the cops and straight up looked him in the face and asked "what for?" He looked around the car, said have a good trip and just left....
We drove a little further and saw a lake. We were covered in such a thick layer of sand/dust/dirt from the roads that just scratching my forehead, my nails would get clogged. Despite it reeking, with probably camel poop from when they come to refill, we jumped in and soaped up. Not sure if we're now cleaner or not, doesn't feel like it, but it felt right at the time.
We found the cosmodrome town.... and got kicked out. We were confused by the first white people we saw in this country and by the gas station prices... Turns out it's still Kazakhstan land but is leased to the Russians until 2050 and everything was in rubles.
We made our way to a little truck stop along the highway that was full of junkyard dogs. One pooch chose us as his new family. If other dogs barked at us, he got in the way. He followed us EVERYWHERE, and was such a sweetheart. I don't think anyone's played with this dog because when I first squeaked an empty bottle at him, he flipped out. But eventually he was all over it and it was SOOOO cute. I wanted to keep him. He even looked a bit like Pippin <3 they could be bffs.
Speaking of dogs, there was a pooch crying and it broke my heart, so I went to investigate (the other day a 1 month old junkyard puppy locked himself in the toilet and I saved him so I figured it would be 2 for 2). Unfortunately, this was a cry I could not fix. This crying pooch was stuck ass to ass with another dog. I started freaking out that they're caught on each otherand gathered the truckers and the security guard asking them to do something. They laughed and said the dogs are enjoying themselves. I said they weren't, they're stuck. Justin came over and began to explain the birds and the bees to me and now I feel like an idiot.
Speaking of ass. The toilets have all been squatters for as many countries back as I can remember at this point. Yesterday's stop had a toilet so gross (they're ALL outhouses, even at restaurants), that my eyes legitimately stung for an hour after use and justin refused to even use it in the first place.
Today's topped it though. There was no door whatsoever, facing the road, and it was 4 holes facing each other in the outhouse. I noped out of that one.
We ended the night with debating playing cards and drinking wine, but after opening the half empty bottle from the plane ride that smelled like vinegar (that's 6 weeks old now), we poured it out. Our new 4 legged friend came over, licked it, started sneezing non stop, lifted his leg, and peed all over it. Clearly, it wasn't very good, even the junkyard dog refused to touch it. We gave up on that idea and climbed into bed where justin duct taped his pants that are now more tape than fabric. But I guess it's better than him having walked around all day with his butt flapping.