Week Six in Status Updates: Kazakhstan and Russia

August 27th – Kazakhstan

Ran into our first other rally team in over a week – “Team Sweden” – a guy from Stockholm named Gustaf in a Ghostbusters ambulance. Convoy!

Crossed the border into Kazakhstan just after midnight (border crossing involved half an hour of standing on a chair in front of a window ten feet off the ground). Now long-hauling it across Kazakhstan…trying to make it to the finish line in under a week.

August 28th – Qaragandy to Pavlodar, Kazakhstan

4AM. Hit a pothole and lost TWO wheels on the same bump (now down to zero spares), then discovered that our car is leaking coolant and the engine’s running way too hot. Here we go again.

Down for the count in Palvodor, Kazakhstan after 42 non-stop hours on the road. Got towed the last 250km by the Ghostbusters van, after losing three wheels and developing a major coolant leak in the engine. Possible culprits: bad water pump, leaky head gasket, or both. Back to the mechanic tomorrow. Looking like we won’t be making it to Ulaanbaatar on schedule unless a miracle happens…

Crashed a wedding in Kazakhstan. We accidentally parked right next to the processional, so the bride and groom walked by our dirty, broken-down rubber ducky mobile on the way to the altar!

August 29th – Pavlodar, Kazakhstan

Got some much-needed sleep and showers after 2 days driving and break downs in Kazakhstan. Trying to fix our battered little Fiat here…if not, we’re getting towed to Mother Russia to try again there.

Random Kazakh guy with broken english is driving around town looking for a new head gasket and water pump for our Fiat…apparently, Monday is the weekend in Kazakhstan and he’s the only one working today. Now we wait.

Staying in Kazakhstan for our car to be fixed means we’ll be around for their independence day tomorrow! We’re told it is “Big party. Big, big party.”

August 30th – Pavlodar, Kazakhstan

Celebrating twenty years since the fall of Communism in Kazakhstan! Hoping to get our Rally car in the independence day parade.

Sadly, Jeff will be heading home to the Rochester from Russia on Thursday because he has to be back for the first day of school. We’re sure gonna miss him and wish him safe travels! Pete and Chris will continue on to Mongolia – and probably arrive about two weeks behind our original schedule due to all of the car problems. Right now, our engine is getting some open heart surgery in Kazakhstan. Crossing our fingers we can revive her yet again.

Our last group photo together before Jeff headed off on his 3 day odyssey to get back to the USA. Our Fiat is also FOR SALE…looking for offers.

August 31st – Russia

Prognosis is not good: cracked cylinder head on the Fiat. Impossible to fix in Kazakhstan, so we’re getting towed to Russia. Not sure if we’ll fix it there, because it’s a really expensive part and we’d need to wait a week for it to be imported from Europe. The plan now is to somehow make it into Mongolia and then drive as far as we can go with just three cylinders and coolant leaking into our engine.

We’re off to Russia, getting towed by the Ghostbusters van again. But before we leave Kazakhstan, let’s pause for a moment for the National Anthem

September 1st – Barnaul, Russia

Got towed to the Russian border, drove across, and then self-amputated a cylinder…figured we would give the Fiat a try with just 3 pistons firing. It worked! Car sounds like a lawnmower, but we managed to drive it over 100km with a missing cylinder. Best news in a while.

September 2nd – Barnaul, Russia

In Siberia, trying to get our car slightly more drivable before we head in to Mongolia. We added inner tubes to our tires and got all of our dented wheels pounded back into shape. Our engine is still running on 3 pistons, but at least the car can roll forward!

Found Barnaul’s skydiving drop zone and met the pilot, who reaked of vodka. This weekend, we’re flying up in his old Soviet rustbucket and jumping out. What could possibly go wrong?

Jeff’s Update: Made it to the States! After a 15 hour Kazak bus trip to Russia where I sat in the 2nd bus driver’s seat, a 14 hour hang out in an airport, 1 5 hour flight, almost missing my next flight in Moscow, a 15 hour flight to NYC, and a 6 hour car ride…. I am back and very, very jet lagged…haven’t slept in 72 hours…or is it like 2 hours with time zones?

September 3rd – Kemerovo Oblast, Russia

Left the car on the side of the highway in Barnaul and took a detour to Kemerovo Oblast, Russia to go skydiving. After we jump, we’re heading back to Barnaul. If we’re lucky, the car gets stolen. If we’re unlucky, we drive the wreck to Mongolia. :)

Well, we officially missed the last Mongol Rally finish line party because we’re still 2400km away from the Ulaanbaatar. Dang! At least Siberian skydiving will be some condolence. Back on the road East tomorrow.

September 4th – Kemerovo Oblast, Russia

Four thousand meter Siberian freefall: check. Plus, we chucked our buddy Tim Reese’s rubber ducky into the clouds above Siberia. Bye-bye, Wildcard!

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