A matter of mere hours before our Kazakhstan visas expired we crossed the border into China. The long-anticipated entry was a landmark for us – 281 days of travel overland from England to China; and six separate attempts for the visa.
Journey: Almaty (Kazakhstan) to Urumqi (Xinjiang, China)
Mode of Transportation: Sleeper Bus
Cost: 8,900 Kazakhstani Tenge ($AUD56)
Duration: 24 hours
Is that Priscilla Queen of the Desert? No, it’s our sleeper bus.
vast spaces in high places
imagine living here
When you’re travelling some days turn out scrambled and others sunny-side up. Our day in Almaty was going the way of the former: scrambled. The apples, we were told, were no longer on the trees, and the co-ordinates we’d been given for the wild apple forests were more than a day’s walk away, beyond the reach of Almaty’s public buses and the elasticity of our rapidly shrinking budget.
In the Sayran Bus Station we picked up a weak wifi signal, slapped out the laptop, and stared in befuddlement at a Google Satellite image. N43.22.11’, E77.40.36’ was a nameless collection of bunched green ridges, gullies and veins of rock. With a little over 24 hours remaining on our Kazakhstan visas, finding Malus sieversii would be like looking for a needle in a haystack with the added diversion of a ticking time bomb resounding in our ears. Admitting it hurt like a shot in the foot. “Sorry guys it’s off the cards”.
Our timing in Kazakhstan had been off from the start. By the time we entered the country on the 14th of October half of our 30-day Kazakhstan visas had already elapsed. It was our fault really, a foolish burst of optimism that had made us think we could dance our way around Russian visa red tape in Tbilisi in under three weeks. The two unscheduled weeks in Astana waiting for our China visas was the final undoing. We’d gone about it all wrong, and as a result, we’d be entering China sans the precious Malus sieversii seeds. Continue reading
VISA ADVICE FOR THE HAPLESS AND HOPELESS ROMANTIC WHO INSISTS ON TRAVELLING OVERLAND FROM GEORGIA TO CHINA
Acquiring a visa for Kazakhstan in Tbilisi
Cost: US$45 in cash
Type of visa: 30-day tourist
Length of wait: Five days
Ease: Fairly straightforward
Note: Biggest bumma about applying for a Kazakhstan visa in Tbilisi is that the Kazakhstan consulate is at the top of a really big hill. I mean really big! You can catch bus number 66 from the main bus station on Chavchavadze street and it will drop you directly out front of the gate, which is handy. Otherwise, you could grab a taxi or stretch your legs. There were very few people applying for visas, therefore the service was fast. No unruly queue.
As well as submitting our application form we submitted a copy of a hotel booking and a cover letter – the latter was unnecessary. Note that the consular services are NO LONGER on Orbeliani Street. You need to go to 23 Shatberashvili – the security guard will show you what to do in order to be seen. BE AWARE THAT THE VISA STARTS TICKING FROM THE DATE YOU SPECIFY ENTRY ON YOUR APPLICATION. WE DID OUR CALCULATIONS WRONG AND ENDED UP LOSING HALF OUR TIME IN KAZAKHSTAN BY STAYING OVERLY LONG IN GEORGIA. Continue reading
Filed under Culture, Travel
View of Astana from steps of Khan Shatyry
Acquiring a Chinese visa has become a tale of two cities: Tbilisi (Georgia) and Astana (Kazakhstan).
Hapless bunglers that we are, we had hoped, indeed expected, that the wide world of borders would stay open to us even after we left Europe. As it turns out, Georgia is the last ‘easy’ country for holders of a British or Australia passport to enter. Since crossing the land border between Turkey and Georgia at Sarpi, border-hopping has become increasingly difficult, time-consuming and costly.
A word of advice to the brave-hearted: it is possible to travel by land from Georgia toRussia, Russia to Kazakhstan and Kazakhstan into western China. The route that we took (we’re not as far as China yet) is as follows: Tbilisi to Kazbegi (mashutka), Kazbegi to Vladikavkaz (private vehicle), Vladikavkaz to Mineralnie Wodi (train), Mineralnie Wodi to Volgograd (train), Volgograd to Aksaraiskaia (train), Aksaraiskia to Atyrau (train) and Atyrau to Astana (train). HOWEVER, if you haven’t already acquired visas for these countries in your home country, then count on it taking some time and a reasonable amount of expense.