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October 28, 2015 1 Comment

Monday, 26th October 2015

Avalanche Tunnel Bishkek

Other ‘traffic’ on the road to Osh in the Avalanche Tunnels

We entered Kazakhstan on September 28 – pretty painless. I think I mentioned the customs guy was busy strip searching the adjacent Subaru and two young fellas, so Lynn and I got through easy.

That night we stayed at a place called Semi. Took ages to find a restaurant – a pectopah, but pronounced ristorunt.

Cryllic is funny, I think. They seem to use the same word as anglicised, but use their own letters. So, a P in Russia is an R everywhere else. Go figure? Why couldn’t the mob coming second just use the mob coming first’s letters? Things about these countries turn some of your perceptions on their head.

Anyway, the pectopah was great, waited on by uni students, keen to practice their English, nice South American wines and the grub was good.

Semi was not a huge distance south of Siberia, so it was a balmy eight degrees C during the day. Further south please sir.

On our way out of Semi (south!) I was pulled over by the traffic police. This time for no headlights, clearance, or “running” lights. I held my ground, wanting to argue, wanted a ticket, wanted a receipt, wanted to know “how much” etc, but Barry, who’d parked nearby, came running over with a fist full of Russian Rubles. He had 4000 of them. The older cop, (they work in threes and fours), got Baz to put the cash in his (Barry’s) passport, and disappeared to the police car. Came back with a passport, no cash and told us both to piss off. So we pissed off.

But the Kazak people are awesome. Every 20th car will toot their horn, or give us the thumbs up sign and a big smile. The cars are fairly conspicuous now, covered in autographs and stickers from the last 10 countries and they look a bit battle weary. (Barry’s Ford more than our Cruiser).

After that episode, I popped into an Abtomaniac shop (auto parts) and bought two LEDs that will run straight off the solar panels. Trouble is the LEDs were 12v, so, I blew them quickly, as the solar panels put out 20v. They can’t have been LEDs, or they had some gizmo in the way. I pulled one apart and it looked like someone had fried an egg inside!

Anyway, on we went, but I had been noticing a radiator coolant leak. We stopped at a wild west town and the mechanic charged me a fortune to put in some “Barrs Leaks”. It improved the leak, but after a few days I still wasn’t happy. At that wild west town, one of his mates took my busted LEDs and disappeared. He came back with three sets of LED running lights, so I bought the 24v ones and spliced them in. They’ve been good ever since and I am informed that they will satisfy the traffic police in Kazakhstan (you have to drive with lights on). I’ve driven through two traffic police catch points and they’ve let us through.

At Almaty, the second biggest city, we found a mechanic who arranged for a radiator guy to fix the radiator. It turned out that the new radiator cap I bought in Bali was defective, held too much pressure and was popping the radiator apart. All good now, got a new cap.

Again, awesome help from the people.

We haven’t seen any squabbles, or real agro behaviour anywhere.

Another Day – Another Border

Wednesday, 28th October 2015

It’s easy to get in to Kyrgyzstan. In fact, crossing the border from Kazakhstan was a pleasant experience.

The guys at Kazakhstan, on the way out, were more interested in our car than what drugs, guns or other contraband we might have. They ask the question, sure, but when I made friends with their Alsatian dog, rolling it over and tickling its stomach, they were fine. They explained to me later that the dog could smell gun oil, explosives and 20 different types of dope from a mile off, so they put us in as a low risk!

So we shared a couple of apples the guy had received from another visitor and waited until Barry could find his “slip of paper” to prove that he had legally come into Kazakhstan. Poor Baz could have cooked an egg on his forehead, as the immigration guy told him he’d have to drive back to Almaty to get another one – 800km return! No help from me and the customs guy, I just pointed to Barry and spun my index finger around my right ear and said “cuckoo”! He thought it was a great joke.

The customs in Kyrgyzstan were the same. Only 100m away, over no-mans-land, but more interested in the cars. They asked for, and received, permission, to draw on our car! So they wrote a welcome note, and also, very importantly, wrote “Say Hello, we’re driving from Australia to Portugal”, in the Kyrgyzstan language!

We had put it on the cars in eight languages (English, Chinese, Mongol, Russian, Kazak, Persian, Turkish and Spanish) and we were delighted to add Kyrgyzstan to the mix. In Indonesia, I felt at times a sadness from the locals that Indonesian was not on the car. Here in Kyrgyz, I point out the custom’s handwriting, mention border control, and they know immediately. It’s good.

In Kyrgyzstan, at a shop in Osh, Lynn and I bought some baclava and a custard tart sort of thing. I misread the price of the baclava and gave the lady way too much money ($4 instead of $1.80), but she soon set that right to give me the right change. We sat out the front of the shop, on a park bench, watching the world walk by, when the lady from the shop brought out two cups of tea to have with the cakes! Who in Australia does that!

See you!

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  1. Barry says:

    If you happen to see a comment by the one and only Alan Taylor about an admission that the burnt out Land Cruiser is a better by me just disregard it.

    I actually helped poor old AT out the other night to stop the old Land Cruiser from going up in smoke. It was seconds away from total destruction. Half a dozen wires completely burnt out almost igniting the entire car. They now drive with masks on in their smelly old Cruiser, why would I want an old wreak like that.

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