Welcome from Glorius Nation Kazakhstan, home of Borat and cheap vodka. I’ve had enough of heat and sunshine, give me some English cloud and drizzle! I can now accurately predict the weather also. Today will be a cloudless sunny day with highs of 45degrees, the same as tomorrow and probably all week, with a fine layer of dust which will be covering my body.
This update comes from the second worst road on the rally so far, we’ve hit our sump guard and nearly got overtaken by our hubcap, but lets reflect on the last weeks antics in the ‘stans!
Our exit from Iran, the world’s friendliest country, was slowed somewhat by getting stuck in no man’s land… the area between the Iranian exit gates and the Turkmenistan entry gates. The Iranians rushed to get us out before 5pm, but at 5.01pm the gates were closed literally as we pulled up to them. So after a night ‘in limbo’ camping with the ‘Trekkers with tekkers’ boys (who had been waiting at the border for 3 days!) we crossed another country off and headed to Ashgabat.
Have a go at trying to picture Ashgabat. The capital of Turkmenistan. The reality is probably the polar opposite. Every building is made out of marble, Gold statues, water fountains and parks everywhere. You wouldnt beleive… it was ridiculous. Check out the photos attached to this post! Many many teams decided to camp up and enjoy themselves in this mad city, with a British pub (it was our first stop), a cerfew of 11pm, but many ways to get round it. At this stage in the journey sleeping in a tent at any point after sunrise leads to instant death by oven-tent.
Turkmenistan also saw our first proper shocking road from Ashgabat to Mary. Not just pot holes, but huge holes, random bumps, ruts and a combination of all the above. We were frequently browning the underwear, im quite surprised we havent killed Lucy already despite doing the whole 300km at 40mph.
Turkmen down, we crossed off another border into Uzbekistan. Every border now is getting slower and more dodgy, with guards starting to rub fingers together to signal for money – its a good thing for the purposes of this rally i dont know what that means, and they dont speak english
Uzbekistan wasnt that noteworthy if we’re honest. We spent a couple of nights camping in the proper desert and making cool light-writing photos. Uzbekistan does however have an extreme lack of fuel. In fact there was NO fuel ANYWHERE but in the Capital Tashkent. We had to find hijack a small Uzbek child to take us to some woman selling 5litre bottles of ‘petrol’ otherwise we wouldnt have made it.
Tashkent, the last stop before Kazakhstan (Yag Shmersh) saw us staying at ‘Ali-tour’. The owner, Ali’s second word to us after ‘Hello’ was ‘Vodka?’, and the crazy old man sat us down with a bottle (self-service and free) and regailed us with tales of how he’s being fucked by the KGB, before telling us he has an ‘Australian channel’ and switching the TV over to Hustler. Surreal. He also thinks we have some sort of ‘Spy Camera’ after showing him the light writing photos.
At the Uzbek/Kazakh border the guards have started to get a bit less shy to ask for the odd bribe. When i say ask, i mean ask in the most polite way possible. As i was the driver of the car i spent 15 minutes in the customs office filling in forms. After the stamping and signing i went to leave. He sat me down, wrote on a piece of paper ‘$10′ and as a child would ask for an ice cream on a hot day, just hoping i’d say yes, looked at me and pointed to the paper with a cheeky smile. I said no, so with another smile we shook my hand and said goodbye. I’ll never forget how funny that moment was.
By pure chance, the ‘Hard cat to follow’ boys we’d been convoying through europe with happened to be 200km away in the next town, so it was happy days when we were reunited (although not happy days for them after a night which included an attempted mugging), swiftly followed by the strangest trip to the market. We came away with a fishing net, 2 novelty horns, a dress, a shovel and 2 mobile phones.
Until next time! Its off to the pub