19th of September, 2015
Hurry and wait, just like film stars. Traveling can be gruelling if you need to be somewhere, however if you have time and patience then lengthily waits can be relaxing, time to absorb. Five became Ten became midnight, the engine roared into action. Twenty hours is the call, yea right. The freight ship is a beast, built the year I was born, but looks like it's had a harder life, I was guessing the fifties not late seventies, wink wink.
Getting me and Ben on the ship was epic, getting carried up an old gang plank by four truck drivers that have no English, a thin plank with the ships hull on one side and a big drop into the Caspian on the other. Pure trust in total strangers is something that I have learnt to live with on this trip, as everyone wants to help. So I just go with it, touch wood, so far no disasters.
Four foot passengers, one Frenchie and a bunch of long haul truckies is the passenger list, the boat feels totally empty. With two cabins to our name, tonight is pure comfort. Considering we haven't slept for 24hours, plus Crazy Dave's night in Georgia still catching up on us, ship bunks never felt so inviting.
Feeling refreshed after an epic sleep, deck and sun where calling. Not quite the luxury liner, with the smoke bellowing from one of the two stacks, but definitely way more character, with Russian warnings and rust kill covering its acne. At 15km/hr we knew this trip was going to be longer than 20 hours, (again apparently) with two engines it takes 20 hours, with one it's saving fuel. How long who knows and really who cares. It is an amazing break for all the team. Plus the truckies are awesome, Mustafa, yup from Turkey takes the prize for the most awesome, a genuine beautiful man. He couldn't speak a word of English but, made sure I had food (which trust me wasn't easy), helped carrying over the door arches, it is a ship. All up rockstar. Another standout was scar face, a beast of a man with a heart, from Uzbekistan. An ex bare fist boxer, who could dislocate his jaw and knee as a party trick. Definitely the hardest character on the ship, what a superb dude. I love the international communication, body language and smiles with a few fun words, winks and noises thrown in, this trip we were all over it.
Twenty hours turned into thirty, loads of time out, bad food, chill time. Some wheelchair races, the truckies loved playing in our wheelchairs, like a bunch of kids. Sunsets to write home about and time to reflect on the trip so far, plus what's to come. It started to sink in on the other side of the Caspian there is no turning back, this is what you call exposure.
I tend to stay away looking at the dangers until they are in my face, but for those that don't understand my disability I will paint a little picture. I firstly am dependent on help of a carer e.g. Nicky the legend, if we get separated not too cool. I need drugs for my bladder (which are mandatory) drugs for my body spasm (I can live without but wouldn't be nice), antibiotics I carry for bladder infection (in these environments is inevitable) and worse case have antibiotic for chest infection (I only breath with my diaphragm, no chest muscles, prone to infection as weak lungs). If I loose, get them wet etc, not too cool. Next to pee I use a catheter every time, so I also carry these with me, loads of them. If I run out or worse loose, don't even go there. Blood pressure issues, disreflexia bad bad. Pressure areas, no temperature regulation...... You get the picture. Not one to let things stop me from living the life, anything can happen to anyone, any day. No risk no reward. I also have an incredible team of legends, who make anything possible for this crazy cripple.
Thirty six hours latter we awake from cabin bunk to the sound of a dropping anchor chain, excited to see a new continent, I roll up to the sun deck. Aktau, Kazakhstan glowing in the rising sun. A time to get real, have a team meeting. "I'm hip about time" but time is visas. Looking at our options our next step is an epic 6000km through Kazakhstan's desert, into the unknown. A few tips from our new trucking mates we feel we have the route sorted. Perfect timing as the ship pulls anchor, here we go. The tugboat flying Kazakhstan's majestic flag, sky blue with a golden sun and souring eagle a perfect greeting to such an unknown destination. Welcome to Asia.
The next step was just frustrating, our longest customs to date, just Kazakhstan time, no issues just good old Kazakhstan time. So much paperwork, Camo and Sonny went back and forward from immigration to customs at least twenty times stamps, papers, stamps papers, stamps....... Eight hours latter and a pack of American cigarettes we are free to roam the deserts of Kazakhstan. Cheers to our photocopied vehicle documents, they didn't blink an eye at them. Reason for such a stupendous boarder crossing, it was a freight liner. They only deal with trucks and freight, had no idea how to handle a bunch of Kiwis and token American in a couple of Yaris's. Bring on the Kazakhstan desert, I think..........