After standing in the blistering heat for almost 2 hours Tom is through the border. He wasn't allowed to go with the driver and Saskia was driving at that point. So now Tom is stamped in but no sight of Saskia yet. We have been in contact through SMS as we both have reception here so Tom was aware that Saskia and Boris were not really moving. The cars had hardly moved at all throughout the whole time Tom was standing in line. Meanwhile Saskia did not understand why everything was taking so long. Kirgistan out had taken ages but that seemed to be because there was a queue Kazakhstan in and they were just letting 5 cars in every half hour or so. Stamping out and checking the car was a breeze. Only the wait in the hot sun in fumes of busses everywhere and numerous beggars coming up to cars was not really great for her spirits. Kazakhstan in also took a while and when she was finally in the gates all the drivers switched their car off and walked to a booth so she did the same. No other driver spoke English but they were all more than willing to fill in her details and shout for the correct forms and when it was finally her turn the customs officer in the booth looked scared at the car document (plastic card and not a paper booklet) and sighed and said something in Kazakh which probably was something like "why can't everything just be in a language I understand"? But with the help of Google translate everything went fine. Next up was Boris' check and Saskia drove the car slowly towards the soldiers with guns and dogs who were busy stripping a car in front. One of them walked up to her and asked if she was stamped and spoke Russian. "Yes and no" she answered. Then the guy said she should wait and switch the car off. As soon as she had another soldier came running towards her shouting and saying that she could not park here and wanted to know if she was stamped. Of course she was confused and handed over her documents. The soldier looked and said she had to drive somewhere opposite the exit, probably for stringent checking of the car. "More waiting, more questions and more confusion" she thought to herself and started Boris to drive off. But before she could drive off yet another soldier walked in front of Boris and forced her to stop. He did not want her going anywhere. Now this soldier was the personification of a James Bond Russian KGB secret agent with a very strong Russian accent in the English words he used. He ordered her to give him her passport and read aloud "Elizabeth". No use in contradicting him so she answered "yes, da". "Tourist" he asked and again she said yes. He asked her to open all doors and during this he asked "Spion"? She did not understand so he explained: "bandito". No! He looked at her, straight in the eyes and she could see he had a number of scars in his face. He gave her back her passport and said with the most Russian accent you can imagine : "goodbye Elizabeth". She drove off and when she parked to look for Tom he had already spotted Boris and was standing next to the car. Country number 16 is a fact!
Welcome to Kazakhstan! Saskia gets a fine because her immigration form wasn't correct. There was no passport number filled in but the border patrol had stamped it through so this could hardly be our fault. This is bull shit! Saskia has to walk with the guard, who has blood on all his front top teeth, inside an office to his superior. They have her driving license, passport and car document and after leafing through her passport the superior looks at Saskia and tells her: "Daz Vedanja" (that's goodbye in Russian). The other guard pushed his right index finger to his mouth: "ssssht." Ok, very strange and when they drive off the first thing Tom does is write the number on the immigration form. We head off to Almaty and both feel really bad so maybe take a hotel tonight.
We just hit 10K! That's 10.000 kilometers the three of us are together now. There isn't a party mood in the car though. Boris is struggling, this is because both rear shock absorbers are broken and at the front right wheel something is loose. We can't find the problem but due to these things Boris is struggling to keep a straight line. And no it's not the beers we've been drinking. Because we are not. Besides these issues we have heard news that all Mongol Rally cars must pay an import tax of at least 4500 dollars to get in to Mongolia. This new law has been put into action 2 days ago. So yeah, no party mood but decide we really need a hotel because one more night of sleeping in the car will kill us.
Check in to hotel in Almaty. We are knackered and our backs can't take sitting up anymore and are needing some rest. Also time for a shower and we realize that we aren't as brown as we thought.. It was just oil, dust and dirt. Time to update our tracking and figure this Mongolia problem out. We also discover that some kind of bug liked us. Saskia is covered in small bites all over and it resembles chicken pox and Tom's bites are just located on his stomach in a small cluster. We suspect bedbugs and bad hygiene to be the cause.
Alarm and we have both had a great nights sleep. Get dressed, have breakfast and check Boris as there seems to be something with his front right wheel. When we drive it feels like he's a bit wobbly like a shopping cart which is not how he should be and were not sure if it's safe. While we are having a look a guy stops and asks if we speak German. "Ja". Turns out the guy was Kazach but lived in Germany now and was so surprised and intrigued that he had seen a Dutch rally car yesterday that he had been waiting around to talk to us! He was extremely exited and happy about our trip and wished us all the best in the world. What a great way to start the day!
Out of Almaty and on the perfect roads.. This feels like heaven. No on and off smell of burnt rubber we have been getting the last couple of days. So we told you that Boris' both rear shock absorbers had died which means that when he goes over a bump or in a hole there is not really anything to catch the weight but the housing of the wheel. So every time we go over a bump, hit a pothole, encounter lava roads or washboards we have a short smell of burnt rubber from the wheel. And just so you know, we are bouncing A LOT! We've decided not panic with every smell only if the smell lasts longer than 3 seconds..
We have officially caught up on our itinerary and are no longer a day behind. In fact, every kilometer we drive now is what we were supposed to do tomorrow so we are actually ahead of schedule! And we feel great so no stopping yet!!!
Roads are not bad at the moment. We can do 80 km per hour. Over these not so bumpy roads the radio suddenly stops and won't go back on. Tom pulls it out of its socket to check the wiring. Everything seems fine. Then we see the fuel meter go down to 0 saying the tank is empty. That's not a good sign so we put Boris on the hard shoulder again. After trying to restart Boris and concluding the starter isn't doing anything Tom checks all the fuses. They seem fine all except the fuse that protects the alternator. It's switched off which means the batteries aren't being charged and Boris' battery is empty. We attach the jumper cables to Boris' battery and the backup battery and there he goes again and the music is back on as well! Here we go again!
Tension is growing as we want to get as far as we can but the roads won't let us. Boris is going from left to right with each bump he hits. Is like you're constantly drifting on a snowscooter. So that and the occasional potholes make it hard to drive. We are just hoping Boris will stay in one piece.
Although the road won't let us go as fast as we want, we did manage to gain one entire day on our original schedule! So that's a win for us!!
Just stopped to switch driver and check how Boris is doing and we have to conclude that he is doing bad! When we looked inside the boot we saw that Boris' frame was tearing just above the right axel. Not a good sight.. He is literally coming to pieces. Hope he can last the last 3800km. It's going to be tight and we can use all the luck we can get!! This might also be the reason Boris feels like a shopping cart. Oh and during the time we were outside to discover this catastrophic fact, which was a couple of minutes, Sas had acquired two new mosquito bites.
The special moves and gasps have returned as the road had been sprinkled with potholes by giants and it feels like we are in a computer game again only the consequences are slightly worse than in a game.
08-10 21:30 continuous bad roads cause our average speed to have dropped to 40km per hour. But with no other traffic on the road apart from the occasional truck we can merrily use the entire road to maneuver back and forth.
Quite hungry and in dire need of a beer we finally see something that says kafe in Cyrillic. Sas goes in to inspect and it's a kind of living room diner where you can order food. After not making herself understandable whatsoever to the cook she goes and gets Tom and with pointing, words, gesturing and impressions we finally get the order through. A couple of moments later our beer comes ! Cheers, we've made it this far. Then food comes for Sas and for a brief moment we fear that they did not understand our great impressions of eating for two but then Tom hears a ding from the microwave and his dinner comes too. Just a great moment to relax and take a break in the middle of nowhere.
We decide it's been enough for today, get out our sleeping kit and go to sleep in our chairs. Tomorrow a fresh start!
Finally awake after snoozing for about two hours. We want to cross the border today but have to conclude that sleeping in the uprights position is not healthy.
Driving along we realize that Boris is not airtight, watertight or even dust tight anymore. As the roads have turned to white gravel the car fills with a cloud of dust making it hard to breathe. Yet a new challenge!
Boris is getting more and more dangerous to drive as he is developing an own will! Every time one of his right hand side wheels goes over a bump or hits something on the road he hurls himself to the left and just for your understanding that usually the lane with cars coming towards us. So apart from looking out for holes in the road, police, road signs, other rally teams, not breaking Boris even more, other vehicles and keeping a good speed we are also having to keep Boris from crashing us into other vehicles.
We've passed the crossing and are now heading towards Semey (also know as Semipalatinsk - known best for the Soviet Nuclear Testing Ground in their back garden, The Polygon). Another 150 kilometers to go and at this moment the Tarmac is completely gone and it's gravel all the way again. When we stop for a quick toilet break at the side of the road Sas acquires two more mosquito bites.
As Johnny Depp would have said if he was with us in the car at this moment: "This is grade A 100% pure smooth tarmac ladies and gentlemen; disco shit!" Thank god the roads have improved! We just passed our 11K marker. So that's just 3K to go on this adventure. Right now it's like 100km to the border and we hope to make it before it closes today - not sure what the opening times are at all.
Just passed another rally team and it turns out to be The Galavanting Quines, two Scottish ladies in their late sixties. One of them was supposed to do the rally with her husband last year but he passed away just before so now she's doing the rally with her best friend ! We had seen their story on Facebook and now met them in real life and had a cup of tea together before heading on to the border.
Made it to the queue in front of the border which has not moved the last 15 minutes. Not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. But we've counted 13 vehicles in front us of which seems to be an ok amount. Hope we can make it to Barnaul tonight which is about 300km into Russia with hotels/hostels. The sleeping in the car is wrecking us so we want to try and find a place to stay tonight, we really miss our bed in Boris!!
Waiting for ages at the border we decide to use our time wisely and change our Mongol Rally stickers to something more suitable as the Mongolian government has made it almost impossible for us to visit. Our three rally stickers are now the Boris Rally, Saskia Rally and Tom Rally. Russia here we come !