So when I last left we were stranded in Baku, Azerbaijan hoping to annoy the people in charge of allowing us onto a ferry so that we could move on to Kazakhstan. We had been stuck a week a we were getting a bit discouraged.
We had seen teams come and go and we were starting to feel we had gone about this wrong. However, we did finally get a call telling us we had 45 minutes to get to a ferry in Alat which was a roughly 45 minute drive. Plus we had to take this other passenger with us. Good enough.
Regardless of the circumstances, spirits were high that we were finally getting out of this place.
We settled in to the ferry for a solid 24 hour journey to Aktau, Kazakhstan. I threw up either from sea sickness or from the crazy Russian cook who may have tried to poison me, we forgave her though because she sold us cheap booze. Everyone else seemed to have a good time.
We arrived in Aktau way too late to get our car through their customs, so we did what we do best, camp in a parking lot.
As I was the only one with a legal driver’s license I had to get the car out of customs, which to this day is the biggest nightmare of bribery and bureaucracy I have encountered. We needed roughly 4 stamps to get our car out which involved me getting to four different locations in a large port with no sign at all. The usual routine was I would wander into somewhere I shouldn’t be then someone would escort me to where I should be. Then at every one of those locations someone would ask for a bribe, which I did not have. Usually it was cigarettes or vodka and if I had any I would have given them over at this point. When I didn’t have their bribe, they proceeded to search our car multiple times and thoroughly. Fortunately most of our stuff was in our parking lot campsite. Their goal was to find our clearly hidden booze or porno magazines and confiscate them. I should note while I was doing this the rest of my peeps got to hang on the other side of the border where they were super relaxed.
Eventually, we got through customs after they “found” our super well hidden vodka we bought from the Russian cook on the ferry. We were in Kazakhstan and ready to roll…after a brief karaoke stop.
One thing I want to mention is Kazakhstan Cola, clearly a knockoff but better than what it is trying to copy.
Now here we said goodbye to Matt, restocked our dwindling booze supplies, and heading on our….OH GOD LOOK CAMELS PULL OVER!!!!
Ok, NOW we can go…
So from here onward pavement was a blessing and our Skoda was not well equipped. Harry and Conner’s Micra was much better off but that car is considered cheating so they had to wait for us because we were carrying most of the booze. Additionally, the story now becomes less easy to sort out in a linear fashion so I will be posting stories with pictures that are not necessarily in order because sanity has faded now.
Camping in the desert was very relaxing at first. The stars you can see were ridiculous and it was dead quiet.
Some of our more spelling disabled teammates were trying to write words using the long exposure on the camera as well.
Now we had many great experiences on the road and the first I want to mention is getting pulled over by corrupt cops again!
At this point we were all pretty comfortable with the fact they couldn’t force us to pay and we were 75% sure they wouldn’t shoot us. So when these Kazakhstan po-po pulled us over we made sure they wouldn’t forget us.
OH SHIT LOOK MORE CAMELS I’M GONNA FEED THIS ONE
Here we found a campsite by an old monument commemorating the earthquake that happened in this area(I think) in the 8os, it was quite nice once you made peace with the mosquitoes.
Here we are trying to cook and eat horse meat…actually wasn’t bad.
At some point we wanted to visit the Aral sea which was dried up but we read you could find a lot of ship ruins there. Sounded interesting so we made our way there and promptly got very stuck because Skoda’s are not meant to drive in sandbeds.
I had to walk back to the nearest village, which looked like it was still waiting on electricity, to get help. I roughly communicated to a man using gestures that we were stuck and he offered to get us out for a price. It seemed fair enough. His daughter who spoke some English also managed to ask one question, “Why are you here?” and all I could do to respond was “Well I wasn’t really doing anything else…” but I don’t think the humor got a across. I hopped on this guys motorcycle and we all drove back to our stuck vehicle which he examined and returned with a tractor.
We left our Skoda in that town and piled in to the Micra to a campsite near an abandoned boat. It was a bumpy ride.
Ultimately there was only one abandoned boat, but the pictures were not terrible…
We made our way back to the village to pick up our car a who would have guessed it, we got robbed!
Now these “thieves” were not amazing at their job. Besides the broken window they had taken a couple fuses, our dashcam(which was broken), and the caps for our tires which we had extras for. They also left my kindle alone on the backseat. However, one thing they did take from us was irreplaceable.
We were pretty furious but oddly enough the town was completely empty at this time. We packed up and left and did they only thing we knew we could to cheer up. FIND MORE CAMELS!!!!
Harry managed to ride one and almost caused a camel stampede…
Oh right then we got stuck again.
We decided to take it easy in the town closest to Aral for a bit. When we pulled in people kept coming up and asking us what we were doing with genuine curiosity. Though I am also sure they thought we were idiots. They were not wrong.
Eventually we ended up finding some animal bones in a campsite and we did bring back Estoban in a very badass way.
We also had another minor engine issue that we just wrapped wire around and chose to ignore from then on.
The Micra finally got a flat tire, took long enough for them to have some problem.
This eagle would probably kill us if we were only slightly smaller…
We passed another team on the road and stopped for a delicious fruit break.
We also encountered a stranded van and gave one of them a ride to the next town. He seemed pretty terrified to hang out with us. It was likely our driving or the knife I kept waving around. Probably the driving.
Here’s us trying to race, the Skoda usually lost…
At some point we had to duct tape our bumper back on.
There was another guy stranded all night waiting for help and since we are generally good people we towed him 40km.
From here on out Kazakhstan was a blur of camping, people acting confused as to why we were there, and vodka. I’m going to wrap up this part as I realize how long this post is and I haven’t even gotten into Mongolia and Russia yet. Those will be in the final part I promise!
Final Part Here Mongol Rally 2015 Part Three