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Update: Tues 00:25

Monday, 29 August

I awoke to the sound of a train thundering past on the embankment 20m away. Not a huge surprise. Or perhaps the surprise was that I'd actually fallen asleep sometime around 3am. Still, the night sky was very pretty. A jolly good Milky Way! Lots of biting bugs, though, says Mr Spotty, here.

The downside of sleeping wrapped in a tarpaulin is that breath condensation/sweat/who knows what else forms a drippy damp layer on the underside of the top of the tarp which becomes a soggy top layer of your sleeping bag. On the other hand it remained surprisingly warm. When I eventually deigned to emerge sometime after dawn (6:20-ish) the temperature gauge wandered down to 8.4C and I can't say as I'd noticed which I normally would have (and probably been wearing everything in the bag which I wasn't, just a t-shirt).

On the road, then, for half seven and felt really tired so stopped for an invigorating coffee and a quick snooze. That did the trick and I powered on to Balkash at the northern tip of the lake.

I stopped there for some brunch and a couple of Brits stepped in on their Mongol Rally trip (you can't seem to avoid them!). They were equally inept at ordering food and opted for the "we'll have what he's having" routine although to be fair, his impression of a chicken for his kebab was well received. Well, the waitress didn't burst out laughing though she must have wondered what she'd done wrong to get three of us ignoramuses in at the one sitting.

Interestingly, they too complained of the cold (3C in their more northern wild camp) which is a touch worrying heading further north into Russia over the next month. They produced some very good photos of the Milky Way -- I should have gone and gotten my remote control and done the same! -- and talked about the Icelanders (whom I met in Dushanbe). The Icelanders seemed to have made an impression wherever they've gone. Apparently they were only up the road a couple of days ago.

All good stuff followed by a solid bit of motoring through to Karagandy where I've stopped for the night. Nearly 700km today which isn't too bad considering I'm not trying.

The hotel woman wanted me to take an 8000T room ($53) but I pointed at the 5000T option ($33) which she noted comes without a shower ("no douche"). That's OK, methinks, I can use the shared one. Except there isn't a shared one. Oops. I splashed around in the sink in the room and made a mess instead.

Nationwide are helpfully refusing to give me any money again. I'm not sure why, maybe the weekend's transaction has appeared today and I'm over some limit.

Over the road, luckily, to a good restaurant offering Japanese, Italian and generic foodstuffs at a healthy price. Beer was going for $6 a half litre. I drank a pot of tea instead! The bill was still 3800T. I don't quite understand that if so much money is changing hands the Central Asian countries are so poor.

The delightful A has given me a pointer to where we're due to meet up on Saturday (though I might be in Russia on the Friday to get value for money from my visa) which is about 800km from where I'd guessed. A good job I found out today! I should follow the M36 straight into Russia to near Miass but I might make a detour as I've managed to save a day today.

Currently at lat/long: n49 48.058 e73 5.373

Hotel Karagandy, Karagandy.

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