We woke up in yet another field. A lot of driving lay ahead with another push for yet another border. The Russian/Kazakzstan. We'd driven 3,548 miles since home and that was more-than-likely not even half way to our destination. We were hoping for a quick border crossing but this wasn't to be.
The Russian/Kazakzstan border was undoubtedly the most miserable experience of the trip. The guard had obviously been given something nice as a bribe by a previous team and kept pointing through the window into the back of the car saying "Gift!". We needed everything we had and didn't have anything to give away as a gift. He gave me a phone and said "Speak!". I listened. The phone was dead. Was this some sort of ctazy mind game? My tired mind couldn't fathom out what was going on. I held the phone to my ear and pretended to speak for a bit. I gave the phone back and the guard went back to this "Gift!" spiel pushing his face right into mine. I rummaged through the car and found a tin of mints with "Grumpy Git Mints" written on it. Seemed suitable. "Valuable mints." I said and pushed them at him. He waved us through. Trust me as you read this that encounter lasted for a great deal longer than you're probably thinking. Words cannot describe what a properly miserable experience the Kazakstan border.
We'd heard news through the Rally Team grapevine that the Mongolian border guards weren't being paid and that the border was closed. Not good news. Not good at all.
On the plus side I saw a man is herding goats on a camel so swings and roundabouts.
Satursday, 1 August 2009
Tweet > 2pm. Someones car isn't starting so they're off to get some new spark plugs. Fingers crossed.
Tweet > Why is it raining in Kazakstan? Surely that can't be right.
Tweet > Must have been on this road for over four hours without a single bend.
Tweet > Eagles are soaring above us.
Tweet > We've just clocked our 4000th mile. We're halfway to Mongolia.
Tweet > This road is amazing. Much smoother than the M4. Honestly.
Tweet > Every 15 minutes or so people are camped out on what is essentially a motorway selling watermelons. I can't imagine they sell many.
Tweet > Hot dogs wrapped in tortilla with American mustard. Best campfood yet. Wish I'd dropped less on the floor though.
Sunday, 2 August 2009
Tweet > Having spent yesterday travelling North to avoid an awful road; today we get to travel East towards Aktobe.
Tweet > In a cafe in Aktobe. Seven hours driving in a straight line.
Tweet > Really feeling sorry for John. Stuck in Prague and now the hostel has lost his passport.
Tweet Pic > The view of our cars out of the cafe window.
Tweet Pic > My tired face.
Tweet Pic > Another hole. At least this one flushes.
Tweet Pic > Street scene.
Tweet > Time to get a little closer to Aral (not to be confused with Oral which is where we started off from this morning)
Tweet > 11:30pm and we've pulled off the main road, away from some shanty towns and into a... field.
Tweet > Oh... and we just saw either a jet or a UFO. Not sure which.
Monday, 3 August 2009
Pleased we have our petrol canisters with us as the last two petrol stations we passed had run out of fuel.
We stopped in the worlds dustiest town and saw a pudgy faced baby.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
An amazing driving through some of Kazakh desert. We drove into the darkenes with desert wolves (not the technical name i'm sure) around us. Finally getting to the edges of the desert we came across a house and the people sitting on the porch beckoned us over. We joined them for a midnight feast of gherkins and vodka. A lot of gherkins. A lot of vodka. We slept on the porch which was covered it a LOT of moths.
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Headed towards Baikonur. By 2am we were still driving. 16 hours and counting.
3am and we stopped to sleep. We're pretty sure it's a landfill site. We have warm gin and tonic. It's been a LONG day. Warmed by a pair of Andrew's trainers burning merrily on the path.
Thursday, 6 August 2009
We stayed on the M32 towards Shimkent. Got some petrol, had a breakfast of what we thought may have been lamb ribs and signed the garage owner's fridge. Got stopped by the police fairly early in the day and showed our documents.
On the way we continuted to see people selling watermelons by the side of the road and figured it was about time to buy one. Figures were drawn in the sand and as far as we could make out they were asking for about fifty dollars. Perhaps they thought we wanted to buy the van. We handed over the equivalent of a couple of dollars and for some reason this seemed to equate to about ten massive watermelons. In a cramped car, or indeed even for a big car that's really nine too many watermelons.
Knackered we treated ourselves to a four star hotel. £10 a person.
Sunday, 9 August 2009
Kyrgystan gets the vote for the most beautiful country.
Kieran, my co-rallyer was not really enjoying the trip so far as we disagreed on the issue of whether it was best to travel in a big convoy for both safety and the camadery whereas I felt that a big convoy makes it feel like a package holiday with all the best experiences we'd had (sleeping on a porch in Kazakzstan and feasting with their family), we'd had because it was just a few of us. The trip is changed, I argued, by turning up en-masse. Kieran got a flight from a local airport and went home. Just me in the car now, though thankfully continuuing to tag along with Cat and Andy. God bless Cat and Andy.
The car really struggled going up the mountains due to the lack of oxygen. Foot down on the accelerator and you'd get nothing faster than twenty miles and hour. In Bishkek we watched the second music fountain of the trip (the other being in Ukraine). We heard through the Mongol Rally Grapevine (tm) that a team had crossed Mongolia in four days. That gave us hope. We camped in the mountains and it was amazing.