People often say Kazakhstan is the most uneventful country in the rally. Don’t worry, we are here to spice it up a bit.
At nearly 40C, we endured the border crossing into Kazakhstan as best as we could, with nutella, bread and a good dose of humour. It was quite possibly the most disorganised and chaotic border area in the rally. Being part of the convoy makes it more interesting though, as rather than becoming frustrated by the nosey officials one can just relax and joke about it. Finally, after 4 and a half hours of waiting, filing forms and smiling we finally made it to the other side.
By the time we got to Almaty it was already rather late. Exhausted and unable to find a suitable hotel, someone made the excellent call of just getting something to eat and forget about acommodation. Burger King it was, I guess there is always a time on these trips where you just have to go to one of these places. It did the trick though and thanks to the best wifi in weeks we managed to contact Tuc Tales, the lost member of The Fellowship, who were also in Almaty. We will ride together once again!
We had not seen the guys since we said farewell in Bukhara. It was great to have them back and listen to their adventures in the Pamir Highway: poor roads for 4 days and high altitudes. We made the right choice skipping Tajikistan!
Next step was to get the front suspension on Honeymoon Hullabaloo’s ambulance checked out. Making use of our now excellent sign language, we had a long conversation at the Renault Service Centre in Almaty. They said the damage was not critical and that it was safe to drive the ambulance to Barnaul in Russia where they could change the part.
The good news gave us the last push we needed to tackle the 1600km of bad roads that Kazakhstan had in stock for us. Let’s go.
We get stuck
Led once again by our Norwegians friends, the convoy left Almaty and headed north. Roadworks everywhere and heavy traffic did not stop us making good progress and by 19.00h we found a perfect camping spot by the Kapshagay Reservoir.
With such a long drive ahead of us we decided to have a an early start and for once all 4 cars were ready by 8.00h. Except that just as we were leaving our camping spot Lola got stuck in the sand. It took us nearly half an hour, two shovels, sand ladders, two cars and a big push from everyone to get out of the situation. Good training for Mongolia perhaps?
Is this the end?
Driving in Kazakhstan would be uneventful if it wasn’t for the horrendous roads full of huge pot holes.
And it was on one of those pot holes where we thought for a long 15 minutes that our story in the rally was over. After hitting a huge bump the whole ambulance shook like never before and came to a halt. We just could not switch it back on despite having two mechanics, a civil aviation engineer and many people who understand cars in the convoy.
It is during those times when you need people with plenty of optimism and more importantly, people who can read the manual. “The manual?” I hear you asking. Yes, all we needed was to RTFM. While trying to find the fuse section, Josh came across a page with instructions on the fuel injection system. Apparently, our Renault Master has a safety mechanism that, in the event of a severe impact, cuts the fuel pump. “Only after the vehicle has been checked by an official Renault mechanic”, one can press a tiny button under the hood and everything is back to normal. Obviously we pressed the button, and Lola came back to life.
We are currently in Barnaul, Russia. The events from the last two days have served as a strong warning that the rally is not over yet and the slightest mistake can spoil all the hard work.
With that in mind, both ambulances are getting a sump guard fitted to increase our chances of crossing the finish line in Ulaanbaatar.
It has taken almost two days to get everything sorted but everyone in The Fellowship has welcomed the mini break as much as their cars. After more than 40 days on the road, the long days and the heat were taking their toll on the convoy. We all needed to recharge our batteries and regain our power to tackle the last leg of our journey.
Excited? Hell yeah!
Many have said before that the Mongolia Charity Rally does not start until you cross into Mongolia. Well, bring it on, we are ready, eager and in good company. Ulaanbaatar, see you in a week. May the Great Khan be with us!