Saturday 5th August - Are we eating Phar Lap?
We checked out of our hotel after eating some breakfast. Cows were hanging nearby at the rubbish bin, quite a typical sight in these small towns. We drove to a nearby petrol station to fill up. Two huge lines were at the bowsers. We decided to join one thinking we might not see another servo for a long time. A few locals kept pulling up beside us trying to chat. We thought they were attempting to push in so waved them off saying "no!" They all kept wanting to talk with us. Forty-five minutes later we finally made it to the bowser. The attendants came over and we asked for petrol, they started telling us this was only a gas station. What!? We'd just waited forever in the heat for some damn petrol and couldn't even get it. No wonder all the locals were pulling up next to us. They were simply trying to help, not push in. The attendants told us to drive a few seconds down the road to an actual petrol station. We pulled in there to find no one waiting at all and were served immediately. We were kicking ourselves thinking we could have saved so much time.
We drove on for a few hours. Our aim today was to reach a city called Atyreu. We stopped in a small town to look for some lunch. The first place we thought was a restaurant ended up being a wedding reception venue. Next we drove to a bakery which didn't end up having much at all. We pulled out google translate to chat with the two women in the store and ask for directions. They ended up having their friend who was a taxi driver come over to us. After telling him we'd like somewhere with food and a toilet he got us to follow him to a nearby place.
We've had to use some dodgy toilets on this trip but the squat toilets next to this restaurant were a bit too much for Haylee and Natalie to use. Pat and James braved them though. Ordering food at the restaurant was difficult. The lady at the counter didn't know any English and the menu had no pictures. The best option was to point to what others were eating at their tables and hope for the best. We pointed at a soup dish another customer had and were digging into it ten minutes later. No idea if it was horse meat or not. Kazakhstan is well known for eating a lot of horse meat. We'd only seen a few days earlier horses loaded onto our cargo ferry ready to become someone's dinner. If we were eating Phar Lap then we're sorry to say but he tasted alright (but we're quite confident it was beef). Amazingly none of us got sick from the meal we had at this tiny roadside restaurant. We're all expecting the worst for our stomachs from here on out so every day we survive without having a bum explosion is a good thing.
Miss Panda was thirsty again so we stopped at a nearby servo. Haylee then jumped in the drivers seat to give it a go and get the team to Atyreu. She managed to get out of the servo without stalling so that was a great start. God help us all she managed to get out onto the highway! James and Patrick reminded her when to change gears but she eventually got the hang of it. Three hours later and we were approaching the city of Atyreu. Haylee still wasn't too confident with city driving so switched over to Patrick.
We'd done a bit of research and found that there was a church in Atyreu with a 7pm Mass. It was now 6:45pm so we'd probably make it in time. We found the church quite easily; Nat stayed with the car while Haylee, James and Patrick walked over to the entrance. The door was locked and it looked very quiet inside. Things weren't looking good, we must have got the times mixed up. We walked around the property until we found the building out the back. The young priest came out to have a chat with us. Turns out Mass was actually at 5pm not 7pm. The Priest was incredibly nice and curious about our trip. We eventually got into talking with him about the roads in Kazakhstan and which ones to avoid. He offered to open the church so we could look inside then gave us a blessing because we'd most likely have to miss Mass tomorrow morning. He explained the beautiful stained glass windows in the church and how they showed the history of Catholicism in Kazakhstan. It was then we found out he was Polish as he told us of the Polish community that used to live in Kazakhstan before the first churches were built. Haylee explained that her father was Polish and then spoke a few sentences with him. We farewelled our Priest friend and jumped back in the car to find the hotel we'd booked. We've worked out a pretty good system that we book a hotel on booking.com about a hour before we hit our destination.
We checked into the hotel then went to grab some dinner. Surprisingly there was an Irish pub right next to the hotel. We had a nice hearty meal there with all of us commenting that it reminded us of meals from home. Quite funny though that the pub had no Guinness or Baileys, what sort of Irish pub was this?! Our destination for tomorrow would be a city called Oral, we'd finally be heading into northern Kazakhstan!