June 27: NOTE: this is being posted by daughter, Lilla since for some reason we cannot access our blog here.
We’ve been in Kazakhstan almost three days now. We are both well and Stewball is too. Crossing the border from China to Kazakhstan on June 24 will be another blog. That turned out to be one of Doug’s promised “opportunities for adventure” 17 hours to drive from China’s border to Almaty, a distance of 195 miles. Just to say, it’s a relief to be out of China.
Today finds us in Karaganda, somewhere between Almaty and Astana. Actually this is the second largest city in Kazakhstan. But the story is how we got here.
The day started out easy enough and we only had a run of 251 miles. Well, not so easy for Clay. He had loaded his 32 Ford onto a trailer when he broke down on the drive from Almaty to Balqash yesterday. Seems the oil pressure dropped and by the time he realized it and added oil, the engine would not turn over. This is really bad news since he won’t find parts in Kazakhstan for a 32 Ford. We saw him off early this morning as he and his grandson Blake, his co-driver, are heading directly to Astana with hopes of find a garage and taking off the oil pan to see how damaged the engine is. Clay is resourceful and we hope he knows more by the time we meet up with him tomorrow. Fortunately we do have a day off in Astana but right now we don’t know if he will be ready to run with us on the 30th. We certainly don’t want to lose them now!
OK, but back to our story. First, there are not a lot of roads in Kazakhstan. The only thing I would trade in Kazakhstan with China are the roads-that is most of them. We did have our share of road horrors in China. The Kazakhstan Highway is a two lane, often bumpy surfaced road. The washout of the undersurface produces potholes and broken surface near the shoulders. The good thing is traffic is much lighter, especially truck traffic, but we still have to make our way around many broken down trucks. It’s quite straight from Almaty to Astana but somehow we managed to lose our lead vehicle and Jerry’s corvette. It’s really not hard if you get stuck behind a couple of trucks and out of range of the walky-talkies we are using for communications. We really expected they would be waiting for us at the city border but they apparently thought we had stopped to let Jack in his Model A and the back support vehicle catch up. Point is, we entered the city (remember, second largest in Kazakhstan) with no-one to guide us to the hotel. Not without our own resources, we stopped by the side of the road to wait on Jack. We knew we were ahead of him. Minutes after we stopped a car stopped behind us and out popped three young people (see photo). With no common language-there is a lot of English here- they gestured, could they photograph themselves with our car? We of course said yes, then with a bit more sign language, they wanted to know where we were heading. I pulled out our World Race itinerary and showed them the name of the hotel. The young man indicated he could lead us there.
Now this is something you have to understand, in Kazakhstan and Russia, there are lots of informal “taxis”. People pick up money by taking on passengers. This is well described on pages 218,219 in The Long Road to Paris. That was Moscow, but it could have been any city in Kazakhstan as well. We followed them easily and with only a slight degree of anxiety. They lead us directly to our hotel, which was quite close to the side of the city where we entered. There in the parking lot was Jerry’s corvette and our lead vehicle wondering how we had found the hotel since we were not with Jack or the other support vehicle. This guidance was not for money, just friendship and interest. We introduced our guide to our new friends, pictures all around and a wave good-by!
I don’t think we need a lead vehicle again on this road to Paris! You may not read another post until Russia, but all is well. Stewball is over his bad fuel problem, no more dieseling and Jan and Ed are well too.