Qarabutaq to Qostinay
13 August, 2012; 11:24
Well, our adventure from last night is finally over. After our initial relief at being towed half way up the country, things did not go well.
We pulled along behind our driver for several hours, and eventually, he pulled alongside a gas station by the highway. For a brief moment, we were terrified that he was reconsidering his offer of towing us all the way to Qostinay, but our fears were relieved when he told us he was stopping to get a drink. We offered to pay, but he wouldn’t let us. We pulled out our map and he mimed to us that the main road was in very bad condition (nothing new to us), and showed us the detour we’d be taking; or at least he tried. He only read cyrillic, and our map was in latin letters. Then, we were back on the road.
Shortly after dark Chase and I did one of the more exhilirating things I’ve done in a while. We were moving slowly through a small town when I realized that my back couldn’t take much more driving, and Chase and I decided to switch. The only problem was, the car wasn’t stoppy, being tied to the trunk in front of us. In one fluid motion, I exited the car through the window using the luggage rack for a hand grip and Chase slid into the driver seat. Then, I had only to crawl across the hood and slip back in through the passenger window. It was at a low speed, but even still, it was scary.
We went on like that for a while, but, with the hour late and Chase inexperienced in being towed, we ran into the most discouraging problem of the night; our two strap caught under our tire, and the friction burnt through it, leaving us derelict as our truck drove away, not knowing our plight. Alone on a small road that wasn’t on our map in a country where we didn’t speak the language, we hurried along on foot to try and get his attention. We despaired as his lights vanished into the distance and we went back to the car to assess our chances of driving very slowly into town on our own. The gears were all useless, and we opted to push as far as we could before sleep overtook us.
Fortunately, about twenty minutes later, our trucker returned with a questioning look on his face. We gestured an apology for our ineptitude and quickly tied the remainder of the strap to our frame, using duct tape to secure it more tightly. It was a good thing he came back, because, unlike our assumption of a short distance, we were still three hours short of Qostinay. The rest of the night, I managed the car, and we arrived in the auto repair area of town around five this morning. We tried to pay our rescuer for his invaluable service, but, again, he wouldn’t let us. He shook our hands, took a picture with us, and went on his way. I know I’ll never see him again, but I am forever in his debt.
This morning we woke in the car and walked next door to the auto shop to see about getting our clutch fixed. After many labored attempts at communication, we reached a temporary conclusion. If ours is one of three possible problems, it can be fixed relatively simply, quickly, and inexpensively. If not, we’re not sure what’s going to happen. The downside is that it will cost us around $100 for them to look at the car and find out. For that price, though, we got a free ride to a cheap hotel and we are going to get a free ride to the police station to get our passports registered in an hour. With a bit of luck, we’ll have the problem fixed soon enough and be on the road again. I think our plan has changed, and, instead of seeing the capitol city of Astana, we are instead going North into Russia to Omsk, hoping for better roads and faster, less damaging travelling. I am still worried that this may well be as far as we get on the Mongol Rally, but, if it is, so be it. I miss home and my friends and family, and at least this city has an airport.