The drive to Astana was very long but fairly uneventful. If you have a look at the map you can see we drove around a very large lake in the south of the country, which was an absolutely beautiful perfect turquoise colour, not unlike the Kazakh flag, maybe that's where it comes from.
Darkness fell between 7 and 8 when we still had a considerable distance to go. By that point we'd driven for about 12 hours and covered about 3/4 of the 1100km (passing our 10,000th mile on the way). Passing through Karagandy there were a couple of signed detours along surprisingly bad roads, considering that we were travelling from Kazakhstan's biggest city to its capital. At one point I was following a couple of cars along a flyover when they drove around a small road block. I followed, not thinking much of it. Then we came to another road block and both cars turned off the road. I followed. The road got smaller and smaller until it was barely a dusty track. We crossed several railway tracks. Kai started to freak out. Just as I was beginning to wonder if we should turn around we found tarmac again, and eventually met the main road again.
Reaching Astana at midnight we managed to find a hotel very quickly, and went straight to bed. We'd been driving for 16 hours.
The stories of Astana we'd heard in Almaty led me to imagine something along the lines of Ashgabat, lots of new but empty and useless/already fading buildings. But actually it was pretty normal as things go. Kai and I went to see the Norman Foster "tent" this morning. It looked disappointedly small from the outside, but it does manage to contain a six story shopping mall. As a measure of how bright it is here, I took a picture inside the shopping mall at ISO 100.
We're now rushin' to Russia. We'll probably camp tonight, hopefully inside Russia, and make Novosibirsk tomorrow.