We got the bikes!! Turns out the workers did not unload them last night, rather they left them in the otherwise unloaded wagon which waited overnight in the station. We asked for them to be unloaded…there were two workers on duty and they did not have a fork lift. Rather they lifted the 200 kg bikes in 30 kg wood frames 50 cm down onto a gurney and then onto the floor by hand!! We tried to help but the added benefit of two such girly men was likely purely symbolic.
We gave them generous tips and were on our way. We drove 100 km to the Kazakh border where both the Russians and the Kazakhs were friendly and uncomplicated.
We reached Kostanay after 200 more km-s by the evening with no further stops for food, gas or drink so we were rather starved. We checked into the hotel “Tourist” here which as of this moment has no hot water but is otherwise decent. We went out after dark, looking for the restaurants listed in our Kazakhstan guide, but the supposedly German “Bavaria” seems to have gotten closed down, and the pizza restaurant in the center pedestrian zone has been converted to a Doner shop. We had some decent fish soup and pizzas in the Doner shop regardless. Jerome was disappointed that they did not serve alcohol, so he did not get his daily beer.
I have to say, Kostanay is a very cleaned out place, it reminds me of the small Hungarian cities in the countryside. All the curbs are painted with red-white stripes, and there are lots of flower beds everywhere. Most of the center streets are closed to cars, the trees have Christmas lights, and all the buildings in this area are clean and illuminated. It was a welcome change from the bleakness of pretty much every city we saw so far.
We walked through a shopping mall, and were surprised to see a boutique offering World-of-Warplanes style combat plane action in 3-DOF flight simulators. We paid 700 T each for 5 minutes of stomach wrenching action. The simulators were actuated by 2 electric motors, with a central cockpit suspended like a gyroscope, and able to rotate along any axis very rapidly. The game was quite hard to play as one had to strike a balance between shooting down enemy planes and not losing one’s lunch (actually dinner, in our case). It was a lot of fun.
We plan to drive to the south east direction from here tomorrow morning, but there is no major city that way before Aktobe, so we will likely be camping. Expect spots on the map and the next update in 48 hours or so.