Week Five in Status Updates: Pamir Highway to Kyrgyzstan

August 19th – Dushanbe and Pamir Highway Day One

Heading up the Pamir Highway through Tajikistan for the next 4 or 5 days. Second highest road in the world. Last update for a while, so catch y’all on the other side!

SOS Children’s Villages wrote a nice little article about us. We’re proud to be raising money for such a noble cause.

August 20th – Khorog (Pamir Highway)

Craziest road we’ve ever driven, hugging sheer cliffs on the edge of the Hindu Kush River and the Afghanistan border. Falling rocks. River crossings. Breakdowns. Landmines. When we rolled into Khorog, we were told that it is “almost impossible” to drive our car in on that road. Whoops.

Pamir Highway Day 1: Broke a wheel, punctured our oil pan, bent our sump guard and got stuck in a lot of sand. Pamir Highway Day 2: Fixed everything from day 1… luckily we found some good mechanics in Khorog. Continuing tomorrow, and they say we’re through the worst of it. Crossing our fingers.

August 21st – Khorog to Murghab (Pamir Highway)

Broke down somewhere between Khorog and Murghab, and the car refuses to start. Blinking “FPS On” and some truckers helped us figure out that no fuel is getting to the engine. Paid a Land Cruiser filled with 7 men to tow us to the nearest town…a yurt village with no electricity or running water…

A Tajik witch doctor worked his magic, jerry-rigging some wires to go from our battery straight to our fuel pump and we’re able to get the Fiat started. He also somehow fixed our Speedometer, which hasn’t been working since England. Amazing.

Car is leaking oil like a sieve. We’re pouring it in as fast as it pours out. Not good. Not good at all.

August 22nd – Murghab to Kyrgyzstan

Broke down just outside of Murghab last night with oil pouring from our engine. Got towed to a surreal guesthouse manor in a fortress in the center of town. Our car won’t start and we don’t know why…

Okay, our starter’s dead and we’re leaking oil like crazy. We somehow managed to get the car going after an hour, so our plan is to drive all the way from Murghab to Kyrgyzstan without turning off the engine, and bum “masla” off of anyone we can find. This will be interesting.

No Man’s Land between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, the road was COMPLETELY WASHED AWAY with a 10′ drop into rapids. Had to drive through the river, and of course, our Fiat and stalled out right in the middle. Got towed out by a pickup truck full of Kyrgyz soldiers who were out shooting woodchucks.

Fifteen liters of oil down the hatch, and we’re still running on empty. We’ve bummed all manner of questionable oil from other drivers, creeps selling it out of soda bottles, people living in yurts and rowdy drunks.

August 23rd – Osh, Kyrgyzstan

Limped into Kygyzstan last night. Our Fiat got pummeled on the Pamir Highway. Starter died (only way to get the car going is to push it down a hill), sprung a huge oil leak (took 15 liters of oil to keep her running yesterday), broke 2 wheels, fuel pump died (fixed by a witch doctor in a Tajik mountain village with no electricity or running water), and we took more bumps than we thought possible. Now getting everything fixed…we hope…

We have gotten towed 7 times in the past 4 days.

Our car is now getting fixed by a bunch of 12 year-olds in Osh. We were a bit skeptical, until we watched them rebuild a truck engine earlier today. Hopefully on the road tomorrow.

Pamir Highway body count: two wheels destroyed, starter ruined, oil pan broken (twice) and went through 15 liters of oil in 6 hours. We also met some of the most genuine people on the face of the earth. Thanks to the Tajik auto witch doctor, the yak herdsman, the many truckdrivers, Aziz our Kyrg translater, Shanoza our Tajik translater, those who bartered oil with us, those who towed us (for money and those for free), and all the yurt dwellers.

August 24th – Osh, Kyrgyzstan

After two days at a whole string of mechanics (whose average age was 13), our rubber ducky mobile is back up and running! We also treated ourselves a much needed car wash to remove about 6″ of dust. Now driving through the night to Bishkek to try to get back on schedule. Onward!

All night drive through Kyrgyzstan and our scariest police encounter yet. Corrupt cops set up a bogus speedtrap, and when a trucker resisted, six cops jumped him and beat him bloody. Not wanting to meet the same fate, we paid a $10 bribe and got the hell out of there.

August 25th – Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Google “Fiat Seicento sucks” and tell us what is the first search result… In Bishkek getting the car repaired again… I guess we shouldn’t have hired 12 year-olds to fix our car after all.

August 26th – Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Another day in Bishkek as we wait for our oil and gas leaks to hopefully be fixed for good. Last night we stayed with a friend of our mechanic, who took us out to a Kyrgyz dance hall with a wedding singer style cover band who closed the night with an, ahem, interesting rendition of Strangers in the Night (dedicated to us).

Our car is finally fixed!! En route to Kazakhstan and then long-hauling it to Russia to make up for lost time. Energy drinks locked and loaded.

Thanks to Jenya, our host in Bishkek and Yura, our mechanic, for their great hospitality — and for actually fixing our car. The oil leak that nobody could repair was in the gasket between the engine and the transmission, in about the hardest spot to get to in the entire car.

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