Road with deep lane grooves and potholes needs all the attention
We got warned that the road from Almaty to Astana will be, especially during the first 300 km, awful. Indeed, it was awful! Three times the bottom of the Tesla was scratching at the tops of the deep lane grooves. It took all of Benedikt’s attention to not drive in one of the deep potholes.
Drying to find a charging spot, part 1
Not only the road was challenging. Since there is almost no civilization except of two cities on the entire way between Almaty and Astana (1200 km), we knew that charging will be challenging. Team NoMiEV, one of the German Teams of the 80 E-days, send us charging points they and other team members have used on their journey through Kazakhstan and Russia. We approached the first spot of civilization (three roadside cafes) after 300 km of a tiring drive. Behind the cafes we discovered an old fuse-box that still had stickers of three 80-E-days teams on it. Unfortunately, it was locked. We asked at all the roadside cafes, but none had a key to the fuse box. Everyone pointed towards the close by “village” (3 other houses in the distance of 10 km) where an electrician might have a key. We didn’t want to waste more time searching for the key and left for the next gas station.
Drying to find a charging spot, part 2 and 3
The next gas station that we reached after 50 km had electricity, but for unknown reasons, didn’t wanted to let us charge there. With a battery that was less and less charged, we continued another 30 km to the next small village . At the first roadside cafe, we got told to wait until the owner is done praying. The owner showed us then a very old fuse-box in his car-workshop. Somehow Benedikt made it possible that we could charge. It was 7 p.m. by then. We tasted the fish of lake Balkash in the roadside café, enjoyed the company of some truckers and waited 3 hours for the car to charge. When it was fully charged, it was dark outside – time to find a quite spot to spent the night. Considering how few people are living in the Kazakh steppe it is not hard finding a quiet spot. We didn’t get disturbed once and left the next morning at 07:00 a.m. to drive to Balkash, a 70.000 inhabitants city at the western edge of lake Balkash.
The resort hotel Alma Tau is not far from Shymkent. The city is described as Southern Kazakhstan’s most vibrant city. Good for us, since we needed to do some “business” there. In an extremely efficient manor, we first bought a Kazakh SIM-card and later a car insurance. We were absolutely impressed on how little time (and money) we spend on organizing both of it. Something that is not to imagine in many countries we passed. In the late afternoon, we continued our drive to Taraz.
Finding a hotel and three-phase electricity in Taraz
Situated on the route from Shymkent to Bishkek, Taraz is one of Kazakhstan oldest cities. In the 11th and 12th century it was a wealthy silk road stop. It got destroyed by Genghis Khan and only had a Russian rebirth in the 19th century. The current appearance has still a soviet charm that we did not further inspect.
It took us a while to find a hotel that also allowed us to charge on three-phase electricity (this was necessary to have a fully charged car for the way from Taraz to Bishkek, about 320 km). We ended up staying at a modern hotel that offered us a room for 12 hours (for a reduced price – something that seems to be common in Kazakhstan). The set up for the charging took Benedikt quite long, since about 8 people thought they knew better what to do. In the end, our open adapter was connected to a fuse-box. We left in the morning before nine to drive to the border between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Border Kazakhstan – Kyrgyzstan
The border close to Chaldovar was probably one of the easiest of the last weeks. They quickly checked the car on the Kazakh side. Afterwards I drove to the Kyrgyz side, did a little small-talk, got the new stamp and left with the car. I think the whole border process only took us 30 minutes. Incomparable to some other borders we had before… (see this post).
To get our visa to Uzbekistan faster, we “bought” a letter of invitation (LOI) from a hostel in Tashkent. With this LOI we could easily and quickly get our visa from the Uzbek embassy in Istanbul (see this post). One condition of that LOI was that we stay at least a night in the hostel in Tashkent.
It was our first hostel since the awful hostel in Naien (see this post). Throughout the journey we didn’t stay in a “normal” hostel yet. Therefore, it was nice to have the feeling of a hostel-community. We enjoyed the company of many other travelers. There was, for example, a cyclist from Switzerland (checkout his blog, picture of/from him on the right), a German/Uzbek couple that are working on prolonging visa and many others.
Charging at a factory
Opposite of the hostel was a factory. We arranged to charge on their property. Benedikt found, together with the security kid, a terribly old main fuse box at first. This fuse box would have been hard to access, since the fuses don’t really have screws and seem to not have been opened since at least 30 years. Strong wires led to other fuse boxes that we ended up accessing. The connection was strong. After 2 hours, the car was charged again at 90%.
Tashkent itself seems to be a modern/soviet city. From its past as a Silk Road city, not much is left. We didn’t even bother going into the city center, but drove right east, towards the mountains. We spend a whole afternoon looking for a hotel. The concept of summer vacation in the mountains seems to play a strange (or no?) role in Uzbek culture. The road up the mountains is busy, probably of people swimming in the lake. But as soon as we started looking for hotels, it got difficult. Some hotels were closed, prices for others were outrageously high (almost twice as expensive as Bukhara), the rest was to disgusting or strange to stay at. After several attempts, we finally found a nice-looking hotel. The price of 60 USD was still too high for an average country hotel with small rooms (we stayed for less in both Samarkand and Bukhara). Considering these circumstances, we only stayed for one night, did a beautiful early morning hike and left in the late morning for the border to Kazakhstan.
Charging connection on hotel fuse box
We were lucky that the hotel was very cooperative to let us charge. They had 3 fuse boxes and only the last, where the key was lost, had “normal” fuses. They found the key after an hour and Benedikt set up a connection with open wires on this fuse box. Since he couldn’t clearly see what was going on in the fuse, it took him quite a while until both wires, the one from the fuse and the other one from our adapter connected in the fuse. In the end it worked out and we charged the car to 95%.
The city of Gorgan is situated between rich farmland close to the Caspian Sea and hills, covered with the “jungle of Iran”. We intended to stay in a hotel close to the green hills (we were so happy to see green trees again, after the hot and dry landscape in the south of Iran). Some bargaining helped to lower the room rate to a reasonable price. Our initial question, whether the hotel could offer us three-phase electricity, was denied. The hotel complex was too large, as that we could believe this. We talked to the receptionist for about 20 minutes. Pictures of other hotels helping us convinced him finally. It’s important to not give up!
Yeah – the car is charging
After a missed try at some cable that the hotel’s technician suggested (there was no electricity on it), Benedikt found three-phase connections in a tiny hut, outside the hotel building, containing the hotel’s water pump. The technician helped him to connect the wires. After a bit of forth and back, the car started charging at 10 amperes that evening. That way it was fully-charged the next morning.
Hike in the woods
That upcoming morning, the car was ready and we were ready to finally move our legs again. The hot weather in the south made it impossible to walk for a longer time. We enjoyed a wonderful hike in the green hills and later a visit to a beautiful waterfall.
At least Benedikt and I don’t really mind high elevations. It didn’t affect us to sleep at 3000-meter elevation in the Elbrus mountains between the Caspian Sea and Tehran (not to be mixed up with mount Elbrus in Russia ;-)). The mountains are impressive and once more, we enjoyed the loneliness and quietness of a camping night.
Press conference, video take and photo session in Tehran
We arrived in Tehran from the north. Our hotel was in the north of the city and we didn’t have to go through Tehran traffic for too long. Traffic in Tehran is crazy. There are too many cars and everyone seems to not stick to the street lines. This leads to cars blocking each other’s way and just being way to close to each other. Benedikt is actually managing that kind of traffic really calmly and good. For me it is already enough to be the Co-pilot 😉.
At the hotel, we met Tafazoli and Hosein, both working for an Iranian car magazine (asbe bokhar – horse power). We took wonderful pictures of the car with them and a video. On the second evening in Teheran, Tafazoli organized a meeting and press conference with BYD, a Chinese car manufacturer that is also producing electric vehicles (this article was published about the evening). Feeling the interest of so many people on our journey, our mission and our thoughts on EV is very special. Benedikt and I were overwhelmed with the kind and welcoming attitude towards us. It is very special to us to see pictures of our Tesla in a daily car magazine.
Tafazoli and his team got aware of us after a Instagram post of our charging experience in Zanjan by kish cars (see this post). Kish cars is followed by roughly 250.000 people. After Tafazoli and his team found out about us, they asked us, if we can meet in Tehran and take pictures/videos. It was a wonderful experience to do that and I am very glad we didn’t miss it.
Charging at the hotel
The hotel could offer us three-phase electricity. Charging the car right in front of the entrance door of a hotel is just so luxurious. We enjoyed staying in a good quality hotel and calming down from the adventures we had so far in Iran. Benedikt and I feel that sometimes it is just too much and we need less input from all sides. We should treat our selves more often with less action and more time to relax (and to write blog-posts 😉).
It was a windy road along the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan that guided us to Kapan. We saw on google-maps that there should be a “ARK-Eco-camp” in Kapan. Not knowing what that would mean, we reached in the afternoon an area looking somehow like a garden in a suburb of Munich. The “garden-manager” Armen welcomed us in his camp. Tiny cabins, fitting exactly two air mattresses, were the place where we would spend the upcoming night.
Armen tried his best to help us with arranging something to charge our car. Even though the Eco-camp has itself not much electricity (a thin, one-phase connection, that allowed us to charge 1kW at only 9 amperes), we managed to charge overnight about 15kWh. That would have been fine to reach Meghri, a town very close to the Iranian border. In Meghri, we should have better found a three-phase outlet though, to have a fully charged car before entering Iran. Of course, we had no information if that is possible. Considering all of this, I was happy, when Armen came the following morning to the camp and told us, he found three-phase electricity in the village. A furniture-making factory would be happy to let us charge.
Charging there was one of the greatest experiences of hospitality and help. The owner of the workshop helped Benedikt to set everything up (we put the three phases and the neutral wire directly on the cable outlets of the fuse box – see picture). While the car was charging 22kW at 3 times 32 ampere, he invited us for tea and Armenian sweets. 1.5 hours later we left Kapan with a 99% charged car. I wish, it would work always just like this.