In April of this year, adventure cyclist and publisher Cédric Tassan, 45, from France travelled to the Mangistau region to experience the culture of Kazakhstan. He saw many beautiful landscapes and met interesting people. More than 30 years ago, he became interested in cycling, which has become his life's work and created his publishing house VTOPO nearly 20 years ago, which produces and sells a collection of mapped routes for mountain biking around the world.
Among the countries Cedric has managed to visit are the United States, Peru, Iceland, Great Britain, Portugal, Spain, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, China, Israel, Jordan, Oman, Dubai, Tunisia, Egypt, Kenya, India. This year, he plans to travel to Mexico, Georgia and Nepal. Kazakhstan is the 40th country on his list.
Love at first sight
I discovered Mangystau in November 2019, during a photo exhibition in Paris. A fellow countryman visited Mangystau in 2018 and brought back some great shots. I immediately fell in love with these landscapes and started my research. I learned that besides the magnificent scenery in Mangystau, there is a culture, unlike anything I’d seen before.
Despite all odds
I wanted to make this particular trip by myself, to test my abilities in harsh conditions, like the desert. So, I chose the sites I wanted to see and made an itinerary. Then, I contacted several local agencies. Everyone was telling me I shouldn't go to Kazakhstan alone on my bike. But I kept looking and found an agency where my new friend Yersultan kindly agreed to help me out on my adventure.
Sleeping under the stars
I started the day at 6:30 or 9:00, depending on the distance I planned to cover. I slept overnight either at a locals' or in mosques, sometimes under the stars. When I told the locals I would sleep alone outside under the stars, they all told me I was crazy, saying there were wolves out there! I didn't see any. But I did meet a lot of turtles and a snake once.
Guest of honor
Wherever I was invited, it always felt like a holiday. There was so much food on the table. Of course, I tried beshbarmak, and it was very good! I really enjoyed everything I ate and drank in Kazakhstan, especially shubat.
12 sights in 8 days
My route included all of Mangystau, from the Caspian Sea to the border with Turkmenistan, from the north to the southeast. In eight days, I managed to see 12 sights, such as Bozzhyra, Tuzbair, Karynzharyk, necropolises, underground mosques of Beket-ata and Shopan-Ata, Valley of Balls, and endless beautiful landscapes, probably few have ever been to.
No problems during the trip...almost
I hardly had any truly dangerous moments during the entire trip. There were only doubts during one stage when I had to spend the night at Tuzbair lake. The locals assured me that there was an easy road for vehicles. But when I got there, I realized that wasn’t the case. On a bike, it's a considerable distance. It took me 3 hours since there was no path or trail. I had to dismantle my bike and go down a steep cliff. But, in the end, I made it to the lake!
One of a kind
I can say with confidence that there is no such beauty anywhere else in the world. Even though it's a little sad, I'm happy I got to overcome this challenge and experience such an unforgettable journey.