A Change in Des’Stan’ation

Before we set off from Bukhara towards Dushanbe, Tajikistan we carried out our usual checks (oil, coolant, screen wash etc.) and noticed that the sump guard had taken such a battering on the Uzbek and Turkmen roads it was basically hanging on by only one bolt. Fearing that if it came off it may rip most of the underside of the car with it we gingerly crawled to a local mechanic to get it re-bolted on. We thought we may as well mention the strange creaking that came from the front suspension when we went over any bump. This noise first started outside Cologne and had got gradually worse during the drive. When we demonstrated the creak to the mechanic a horrified look came across his face and he said (via a translator) that the suspension was completely broken, although we did sort of know this but were half-pretended it wasn’t, and there was zero chance we’d make it to Mongolia unless we fixed it. ‘Fair enough’ we thought and asked him to make it so. Unfortunately, like petrol and good roads Uzbekistan lacked most car parts and we would have to drive to the capital Tashkent, some 575km away.

Re-planning with the mechanics in Bukhara – In Mongol Rally fashion, original plans never work out

Re-planning with the mechanics in Bukhara – In Mongol Rally fashion, original plans never work out

This presented a few issues as Tashkent is north-east of Bukhara and Dushanbe south-east. Due to time and visa restraints this would mean that we would have to completely miss out Tajikistan and the Pamir Highway and head straight from Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan. That’s just how dedicated we are to our jobs that we would cut out a country and a Mongol Rally highlight to make sure we were back in our offices on time. Hopefully this level of commitment won’t go unnoticed…

It would however cut out several days worth of driving and perhaps give us some rest days something that might be sorely needed after nearly 20 consecutive days doing 10 or so hours driving.

In Tashkent we spent a night at a charming hostel before heading out to find a mechanic to fix our suspension. We did find a ‘master’ mechanic who spoke pretty good English and who promised would be able to repair Lexi. Seemingly like all mechanics they worked using a ‘mechanics committee’ style and we had about 7 guys tinkering around while another 10 stood by watching. A short spot of haggling ensued and we settled on an agreeable price, they would also mend our axle brackets which apparently was on the verge of disintegrating. All fixed and ready to go!

The two ‘master’ mechanics (they are 20 years old) on either side of Ash and their apprentices

The two ‘master’ mechanics (they are 20 years old) on either side of Ash and their apprentices

Lexi undergoing a suspension transplant

Lexi undergoing a suspension transplant

 

Night under the watchful eye of a guard with an AK-47

On a dark, dark night there was a dark, dark hill. On the dark, dark hill there was a dark, dark town. In the dark, dark town there was lots of dark, dark streets. On the dark, dark streets there was dark, dark…literally nothing. Out of the dark, dark literally nothing some border guards…er…guarded! There was friendly guard with a big AK-47, customs officer guard proud to be a customs officer and quiet military man who mainly just sat watching TV.

It was with these border guards that the three of us ended our time in Uzbekistan. After a long drive over steep mountains and standardly poor and bumpy Uzbek roads we had reached the border town of Uchkurgan. Although we were almost certain this rural border crossing would be closed by this late hour we thought it best to at least have a look and if need be camp close by.

Here we stumbled across a military checkpoint and in horrible English and mimes we were told that the border crossing was about a mile back down the road but were welcome to sleep under their watchful, and armed, guard for the night. Just as we settled down to sleep the shift changed and the friendly guard left us and the new guard told us to move our camp to the border gate itself. Quickly throwing the sleeping bags and roll mats in the back of the car we drove to the gate and went to sleep on the road under the stars. When daylight broke we woke to a further friendly guard standing over us… it seemed they really had been guarding us all night.

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Our friendly Uzbek armed guard at 11pm

The benefit of having a watchful eye on you all night is that by the time you enter customs everybody already knows you by your first name! So when you misplace your customs declaration they’re willing to let you dig through the car to find it.

Kyrgyzstan was a stark change to Uzbekistan having said hello and goodbye to the Kyrg border guard we immediately pulled onto a blissfully smooth highway. It’s the little things on the Mongol Rally that make you smile sometimes.

Whilst Uzbekistan is largely flat farmland, it looks a bit like Norfolk… no really, Kyrgyzstan is a truly beautiful country. We planned to drive most of the way across the country to the capital Bishkek. The first half of this drive was rocky and hot, so much so that we took a quick stop at a huge crystal blue lake in the mountains.

Washed and refreshed (we actually took a bar of soap in) we continued our drive

Washed and refreshed (we actually took a bar of soap in) we continued our drive

After another few hours driving we found ourselves in an entirely different landscape. Lexi heroically climbed up two 3500m peaks where we found ourselves amongst rolling green hills, yurts and wild (debatably) horses.

Horses roaming the pastures

Horses roaming the pastures

Local nomadic herders

Local nomadic herders

Manas a legendary Kyrgyzstani hero

Manas a legendary Kyrgyzstani hero

Yurts at 3500m

Yurts at 3500m

Whilst driving through the hills we were mysteriously pulled over by the police and sternly told off for not having our headlights on. They wanted to ‘fine’ us $50, after quite a bit of patience we managed to persuade them down to 50p. Based on the fact that the Queen is really, really important. They seemed happy anyway.

The Kyrgyzstani police officer 50p richer – Ash definitely feels happier than losing $50

The Kyrgyzstani police officer 50p richer – Ash definitely feels happier than losing $50

On our way down the mountain we stopped to take in some local delicacies… see below

Whilst their cheese balls are not to our taste, the people were lovely. The young chap suited Ash’s sunglasses better than him

Whilst their cheese balls are not to our taste, the people were lovely. The young chap suited Ash’s sunglasses better than him

Arriving in Bishkek at dark we hunted around for somewhere to stay finding ourselves at the delightful Ultimate Adventure B&B we mentioned in a previous post.

Happy Days.

Ash, Henry and Will

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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 4 Comments

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4 thoughts on “A Change in Des’Stan’ation

  1. Dipti Dey

    Go Lexi.

    Like

  2. Sue and Warwick

    Comment ? I can’t comment. I am simply speechless at what you guys are going through – amazing – and that’s an understatement! Bon courage and carry on……

    Like

  3. Beth Price

    Just caught up with your trip Ash! Looks incredibly difficult but a lot of fun! Both Shimal and I are sitting here wondering whether we’re depressed at our lack of adventure or happy at the fact we aren’t sleeping in a tent every night.. we will carry on the debate until home time in LTQ!! Enjoy! x

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    • Hey Beth (and Shimal), you’ll probably have decided the lack of adventure being the better option, as we had our first wash in 6 days today, we’ve been camping out in the Mongolian deserts/wilderness the last few nights where there isn’t much rain or even any flowing rivers to wash in. So was glad to grab a shower this evening, albeit a cold one. Hot springs today, if we can find them. We’ll be updating the blog soon when we have a good internet connection.
      Lovely to hear from you both. Ash

      Like

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