Sunday June 29, 2014 On Friday morning we were up early to visit the Kazakhstan consulate before our appointment with the Uzbekistan consulate. When we arrived at the Kazakhstan consulate the gate sign read open 9-12 except on Wednesdays when they are closed. Nice working hours. We waited until the opening then presented our applications and were told to deposit $160 USD each at the local bank. So we rushed to the bank only to find out that it didn’t open until 10. At the opening we found an English speaking person and asked to use his Turkish ID number in order to perform this transaction. While in Istanbul we had to do another transaction and fortunately a man volunteered. For all bank deposit transactions in Turkey an ID number must be used. Armed with this $320 receipt we rushed back to Kazakhstan consulate who said, “Come back next Friday and your visa will be ready”.
At that we hired another taxi for the ride to the Uzbekistan consulate. At our appointment time another citizen took us to another bank where we were able to use her ID to deposit another $320. That is $640 valuable USD that we spent. We returned to the consulate and our visa was approved. Another taxi ride took us back to our hotel where we had lunch, loaded up the bikes and travelled through a very precarious and steep downhill to a warmshowers host. Did I say that bicycling with a fully loaded bike in Ankara is nuts?
We did make it to the very nice apartment of Deniz and Banu along with their three cats. There is another touring cyclist from England, Mark, staying here. He is also going through the visa process and going our way. Deniz and Banu are very generous in allowing us to stay all this upcoming week.
Yesterday morning at 2:30 am heavy drums were beating up and down the street announcing that Ramadan is starting at sunrise and everyone should get up and feast before the one month sunrise to sunset fasting time begins. The usual morning call to prayers at 4:30 am was exceptionally long too. Our bikes are also in a local bike shop getting a check on the new wheels’ spoke tension and trueing along with a few other minor issues.
This delay is disappointing because we want to get going and have many miles to cover before reaching Azerbaijan which has a firm visa entry date of July 23rd. From Ankara through east Turkey then through Georgia to the Azerbaijan border is approximately 1100 miles. To make up time and distance we will have to travel east by train. Without this ride we would be required to cycle 78 miles a day starting Friday. That won’t happen in this mountainous country.
Monday June 30, 2014 Yesterday was graduation day at Middle East Technical University where Deniz and Banu work. They also graduated with PhD’s in Information Systems. This university of 40,000 students is amazing and has students from 36 countries including the U.S. We watched part of the ceremony then met them after their graduation to participate in a sport orienteering hike around campus. We had never done that before so it was lots of fun. After that it was dinner at a really cool travel themed bar/restaurant.
Once again the drums blared at 2:30 am and will do so for a month. Along with the call to prayers at 4:30 am sleep is easily interrupted. I discovered an error on my entry date for our Tajikistan visa. It seems as though I was 3 weeks behind. Thanks to Mark from England for helping us figure out our route through the Stan countries. He is very knowledgeable about this and has been a great help. We went to the Tajikistan consulate this morning but found out that only the Istanbul office, where we received the visa, can change the dates. After talking with the Istanbul consulate madam we mailed our passports to her. She said we will have them back by Thursday. In the meantime we returned to the Kazakhstan consulate and our visas we ready! It was another success.
We then traveled to the local bike shop and picked up our bikes after some minor issues were addressed. If not for my Tajikistan entry date error we would be ready to roll tomorrow without a train trip. Curses! After the bike shop we rode to the local train station and purchased tickets to the eastern city of Erzurum, Turkey. This will help us reach our required goal of July 23rd in Azerbaijan. We will miss cycling those 500 miles but we are now on a dreaded schedule. Fortunately Kyrgyzstan is still a free country and we can enter anytime. From there we will apply for our China visa in the city of Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. We have our fingers crossed!
I have to admit that all this has been very frustrating to me. But I have learned to accept these small roadblocks and have made peace with the visa process. It will all work out in the end. Thanks to David at http://www.STANtours.com and our new friend Mark.