Latest Project: A Poor Man's Winter
Welcome to the bad colonies' website.This site is dedicated to the exploits of those individuals that find humor and adventure on the open road. You'll find detailed information on the 2006 Mongol Rally and extensive posts from our adventures. We are already planning the next catastrophe, which will be glorious. In the mean time we will continue to update this site with different gnarly tales of gnarly stuff.
What is the bad colonies motoring coooperative?
Way back in 2005, Dominic and I decided to participate in the 2006 Mongol Rally. We created the bad colonies motoring cooperative as catch all organization for like minded idiots that want to participate in a whole bunch of really stupid activities involving cars in the name of charity and free poorly written online literature (i.e. run on sentences). Keep your ears open cause the BCMC has just started to roll.
Life is like a Ford Fiesta on the Mongol Rally, once started it will stall if left to idle. - Seth
we would love to have more entries,if you would like to contribute, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Official Minstrel of the BCMC - Sven Curth
Sven is good people and makes better than average music that does not suck. Want proof, the team consistently played his solo release "Me and Jim" while driving on the Mongol Rally. In fact, the convoy has since requested copies to play on the radio in London. The real question here is why haven't you bought your copy yet. Available here.
Stop by www.hot-fat.com, say hi and buy a cd or two.
August 8th, 2006 posted by Vaughn
You may already know that Pocketmail has crapped out after acquiring enough dust and sand in the transmission speaker, so posts have been delayed and we have unwillingly left you in deficit of rally info. My task today is to update you of our progress from Aralsk to Bishkek. Let me first tell you of my experiences in Aralsk.
We found a hotel in which to stay not too long after making our way into town. While the others took care of the administrative details, I watched after the cars. It was then that a small swarm of local children came up to the driver-side door of the Seat and started poking their heads into the car, examining everything they could see and asking for names of things. Once they took a look at everything in the dash, the moved on to the back of the car, spotting our food & water, camping supplies, and loads of dirty clothing. The food held their interest most of all, with one of the girls making a biting motion, perhaps indicating that she wanted something to eat. In sync with what we’ve been doing most of the way, I pretended not to understand. After some time one of the children saw the legs of the tripod I’ve been using and asked what it was. Having earlier wrapped up the camera to protect it from the dust storms caused by driving, I removed the shirt and their attention was quickly focused.
I started by making hand gestures indicating that I wanted to take their photos; they seemed to understand and started smiling and nodding. I passed the camera to them at one point, all the time holding on to the neck strap, and they started shooting pictures of each other and a few of me with them. I topped off the roll and rewound the film. My first thought was of how to get some of those pictures back to the children without addresses, names, or even a good idea of how to mail items to Kazakhstan. I decided my best bet would be to mail the pictures to the hotel in which we stayed and night and hope the owner gets the idea. They were wonderful children, even taking turns using the videocamera and laughing as they saw their own image appear on the extendable LCD monitor.
My experience that night was also one I could not have expected to find. After dinner, a few of us went to walk around the town while others returned to work on the cars. We found a monument similar in type to that of the Vietnam War memorial in D.C., in the sense that a wall of names was erected in honor of those who died in WWII. While milling about the steps of the memorial, a teenage girl approached Patrick and they started chatting. A group of friends was with her and the rest of us made our way up to where they were all standing. After a few minutes of basic communication, this girl, Malhabe, asked if we would like to accompany her and her friends to the local disco. James of “See You in a Bar” and I were instantly sold on the idea and we managed to get the rest of our group to go. We picked up a few beers on the way and as we approached the outdoor building that contained the dancing entertainment, we realized something only too obvious: that we were all very much older than the rest of the people there. And when I say people, I should really say teenagers. We managed to attract plenty of attention and even went about the night with a two-man police lookout, both of whom later got piss drunk and made sure that Patrick didn’t get jacked while he was using a back alley as a restroom. Aside from dancing in a teenage disco in the middle of Kazakhstan, another strange part of the night was when girls would come up to us and ask us to dance, presumably exclusively. Unlike club dancing which may involve bumping and grinding, this was more of a face-off, with the occasional awkward hand touch that simply made me laugh. At the end of it all, we found out that Malhabe was only 15, leaving us bewildered and amazed about what had just happened. Not to be done too early, we hit another dance spot before the night was over, and in a moment more befitting, I danced with a girl my age who was 6′ 4″. Talk about humility.
So our night in Aralsk ended, we slept well in a cheap hotel, and we made our way out of the town by 10 a.m. The roads from Aral to Shymkent were much improved over the previous kinds of tarmac we had seen, so we made time like we hadn’t made in quite a few days. Another road side camp found the convoy down to three cars, as the “Dukes of Harlow” decided to push on in the night to make some better time (we later learned that tiredness and misaligned headlights kept Charlie from getting more than 50 miles; we caught up with them the next day at a road side stretch of shops where we ate some much needed hot food and the Dukes recieved a bodge-job setup for the General’s blown suspension spring). Before the Dukes set off, though, Patrick and Seth made a jaunt into Turkistan to find some beers. When pulled over by the local authorities, both of them determined that at least one Kazakh police dislikes Bush due to his excessive (hand signal of firing a gun) use of war and limited (hand signal of hands flapping talking mouth) use of diplomacy. The gents also figured out that Angelina Jolie is the best ambassador of all, clearly indicated from the police officer by the worldwide sign for vagina (index fingers and thumbs joined with the hands then brought together). It is good to know that despite any language barrier, hand signals of all sorts can get the point across.
Due to a visa foul-up that kept them out of Kyrgyzstan for a few days, James and Andy of “See You in a Bar” split up with us on the way to Bishkek through Shymkent and spent the night at the latter city. We pushed on to Bishkek, accidentally taking a northern route. Despite the small error, the scenery of our trip improved dramatically. Mountains on a scale I haven’t seen in a while became evident as the haze between them and us thinned. Snow covered their peaks, a fitting taunt to the heavy heat we entered as we came south. Eventually, we came through the same border through which we will now leave in a few days for our second entery to Kazakhstan. I can proudly say that the Kyrgyzstan border crossing was the most efficient and graceful event we’ve had in the past week. In fact, no records of our cars entering the country were ever taken, so if we need to ditch one in the next day or two, this would be the place to do it. Unfortunately, the line headed back into Kazakhstan at the same border was quite long, most likely due to the bureacratic hoop-jumping that the Kazakh Republic makes people do.
Interactions with the locals of Bishkek then quickly arose. On our way into the main part of the city, Patrick was being hassled by a cab driver who wished to pass, though with no room to move, Patrick simply couldn’t do anything. At the first opportunity, the cab driver passed on the right, yelling and gesturing, again using hand signals that can be clearly understood the world over. Shortly thereafter, we passed through a restricted zone in front of the president’s residence and were pulled over by a police officer with an orange wand of authority. In a well-played move, Patrick and Dominic were able to totally bedazzle the officer with a lack of comprehension and language, avoiding the confiscation of driving licenses and escaping the clearly (yet tactfully misunderstood) request for a bribe. We parked and while Patrick and Seth wandered the city with a few locals, Dominic ran into the Dukes while I guarded the cars. An hour later, after Patrick and Seth returned from their mostly misdirected guided tour (and after finding Patrick a date for Wednesday), we accompanied the Dukes to the Hyatt hotel, which contained the Xanadu Casino, a spot which one of their sponsors, Casino Life Magazine, asked them to cover on the trip. Through the generosity of the owner of the establishment, Ms. Jacobs, we were treated to a free meal with drinks and three rooms (though because the standard rooms were sold out, our only options were to sleep in king size beds…it was a really tough night, I promise). Laundry was done, long showers were taken, and we have started the day well with lunch that actually filled our stomachs. We plan to push into the mountains tonight for some camping that should provide us with some wonderful views of the mountains and the surrounding area.
Tomorrow, our plan is to meet up with James and Andy, spend another day in Bishkek, then head back into Kazakhstan for the push to Barnaul. Depending on how driving goes, and how that affects our timing, James and Andy may try to join us through the western border of Mongolia. The Dukes have also been evaluating their time commitments, though they have yet to make a final decision as to when to leave. I’m hoping the convoy can stick together as long as possible. I’m also hoping that we have the time to take the western border, because a drive through southern Russia would be too easy, leaving us only 200 km of tarmac on which to pass through Mongolia on our way to Ulaanbataar. We’ve got a stretch of time left and we’re figuring it out. Hopefully things go well so that we don’t end up getting into the difficult decision that may exist between those with lots of time and those without it. It sounds like the time crunched among us are going to push for more time off, but who can tell what the bosses back home will say. Then again, this is the Mongol Rally and there aren’t many chances to make it to central Asia in crap cars.
Note: once we’re out of Bishkek, we’re planning on being out of touch until Barnaul, so don’t fear. We’ll update there and let you know what kinds of things we’re thinking. For now,
August 8th, 2006 posted by DMF
Ever since Ukraine both the Fiesta and the Marbella have been idling roughly. To the point where we can’t keeps them running when stopped without feathering the throttle or pulling the choke (real nuissance in traffic). We’ve got a few ideas on what may be wrong, but are looking for a little help. Any knowledgable carburetor-heads out there?
We’ve seen vague posts by other teams with similar symptoms and read that they’ve had to adjust their timing to solve the problem. Not sure if this is the way to go or how to do it.
Our best guess so far is that the quality of gasoline has been steadily declining the farther east we drive. So we’re thinking maybe a clogged fuel filter (Note: we’ve been dusting off the air filters for quite some time). Next step here is to figure out how to get at it.
Slow idle on the Seat is already as high as it will go. Not sure about the Fiesta. Distributor contacts on the Seat are heavily pitted. Doubt we’ll be finding a spare around here any time soon.
Fiesta had new plugs when we set off, but we’ll probably take a look at them when we get a chance.
Any thoughts, questions, whatever are certainly welcome.
August 8th, 2006 posted by DMF
It’s been a long time since I’ve felt this clean. One of our travelling companions, the Dukes of Harlow, had a connection with the Xanadu Casino in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. The casino just so happens to adjoin a Hyatt. For some reason the manager took pity on us, allowed us to park our ridiculous automobiles front and center, fed us, and treated us to three king deluxe rooms last night. I think my shower this morning clocked in at about 40 minutes.
So after days and days of Kazakhsand (by the way, we’ve seen very, very little of Kaz that looks like the picture in a previous post), we’re into Kyrgyzstan. It’s been a long haul over everything from immaculate “western” highways to dirt trails in dried riverbeds. The cars have taken a beating but for some reason continue to carry us further. Cell phone coverage has been mostly non-existent and Pocketmail seems to have fallen victim to sand and dust.
Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to our friends Neil and James and the Mini Scamp in NE Kazakhstan. The fuse for the fuel lift pump blew fuses continually and eventually the electrical system caught fire in the dash. Useful items were divided up and the scamp left behind. Neil and James we dropped off in Aktobe with a local who spoke minimal English but seemed to understand that they needed to get to an airport. We’ve heard they made it back to the UK but that it wasn’t cheap.
Down to 4 cars in caravan we made a dash for Aral, a dried up port town on a dried up portion of the Aral Sea. Needless to say it didn’t take long for us to draw attention. We had dinner with a Frenchman named Phillip who is in process of cycling from Marseilles to China. He’d been on the road for 110 days. The children of Aral were quite amazing as well. Curious, playful, and fearless. They swarmed from the moment we parked the cars up until we left town.
In other news we decided against travelling to Uzbekistan. It’s disappointing, but probably a better decision in the long run. The original plan was to cross the NW border of UZ. Reports were that even though the map didn’t show a road there it did exist to some degree. Later we heard that the UZB threat level had been increased and that the area we would be travelling through was rather lawless. After hearing that one of the teams last year was shot at along that route we decided to stay in Kazakhstan and head for Samarkand the long way round. A couple of days later we ran into some drivers not affiliated with the rally who told us about the roads from Samarkand to Bishkek and how long it takes to drive them. The time factor stepped in and Uzbekistan is no longer on the itinerary.
So, we’re in Bishkek. Within 30 minutes of driving in Kyrgyzstan, Patrick and I were pulled over by police 3 times. The first 2 the cops just wanted to see the cars and wish us good luck. The third was for a moving violation. Apparently you can’t drive in on the road directly in front of the President’s house. Oops. We launched into a masterful game of misdirection with the policeman. Everytime he tried to tell us what we’d done wrong, we asked him for directions. Then he drew a picture of a “Do Not Enter” sign on some scratch paper and gestured that he was taking our licenses. We pretended to not undertand what “money money money” meant and a few minutes later returned to our cars with no exchange other than shaking his hand and thanking him for pulling us over.
The fourth car in caravan, See You In A Bar In Ulan Bator, is stuck in Kazakhstan at the moment. Their visas don’t begin for another day. This afternoon the plan is to head up into the mountains and find a spot to camp for the night. Not sure whether the Dukes will join us. Yesterday their front right spring snapped. A temp fix at a roadside truckstop by fellows who claimed to be both Mafia and Taliban didn’t hold. They may stay in town to get that sorted.
A quick update on our vehicles. We’ve covered about 5100 miles now. Tyrone’s (Seat) been fitted with spotlights on the front bumper - courtesy Scamp. Though they haven’t been wired yet, it does make the car look more tough. The exhaust pipe is pretty much broken at the manifold. Annoying, but not serious. May even help out with river crossings later. Yesterday I noticed a noise that can also be felt through the steering wheel. It’s inconsistent and nothing looks amiss with the steering. Both cars are idling rough. Seems to be more fuel related than anything else. I’ll let Nathaniel handle the Ford Fiestavus.
With that, I’m off for now.
August 8th, 2006 posted by nathaniel
You know the section of any adventure movie where everyone gets demoralized and does not believe they will make it through. We are currently at that stage of the adventure.
We dropped off James and Neil at the train station in Aktobe. As usual it took longer than expected to motivate and move one. A gentleman in the parking lot offered to show us to the road. When asked about the quality of the road, he replied Ah good, president drive, good. We were all very pleased with this news and eager to get to Aral. The convoy rolled on, minus two.
About 100 km down the road, we stopped to fill up on gas. The Fiat blew a radiator hose while stopped, nearly burning Andy badly. Alas, his hand was a bit heated but okay. The Fiat, however, would require some time to fix. While waiting, a Mercedes Benz wagon came to a screeching halt on the road. This car had seen better days, the left window was taped over with duct tape and the entire left side was scraped off and rusted. From the right side, a bearded lanky fellow stumbled with a map in hand. James and I were not at all eager to talk directions with this raggedy looking fool. He came straight at us, albeit leaning heavily to the right. Upon final approach, he stated, “Right then, you are on the rally, yes.” It turned out that he and his friends had created their own rally called the “Russian Roulette Rust Bucket Rally” and were heading for the far end of Siberia. Somehow he was tied in with the Mongol Rally and had decent information that the road we were on ended quite bluntly. We pressed on. Sure enough shortly down the road things went dramatically pear shaped as the road turned into rumble and we were once again forced into the dirt track. Patrick was at the wheel of the Fiestavus and later described the incident as, “The road ended, we were in the air for a second, then there (lots of hand motions indicating swerving), I thought we would get rear ended for sure.” Our dreams of Aral were crushed and we were forced to camp in the desert for a fourth straight night.
This was by far the most remote location we had camped to date. The closest civilization was 200 miles away in either direction over shody roads and dusty paths. The landscape was as flat as can be and no signs of human influencew could be seen in any direction. It was simply amazing. I slept under the stars for a third straight night, the best night’s sleep to date.
We awoke early and started our push to Aral. I had the wheel, but definitely was off my game. The under carriage paid the price as I continuously misread the terrain smacking the biggest potholes I have ever seen. The General got buried and required the Seat’s assistance to get out. At the same time, Andy was performing a new jerry rigging job, using a condom to mend their tired and beat radiator hose. Patrick, Dominic, and I relaxed with a cup of Awake coffee on the side of the road in the desert. Soon the road changed to beautiful, smooth tarmac and we made good time to Aral.
We sorted out a dodgy hotel with hoses for showers and an old lady that told me to pull up my shorts. Nothing changes dude. After 4 days in the desert and at a price of $10, no one complained. I was waiting in the lobby for the others, when a French guy introduced himself. He had just pulled in on his bicycle, HIS BICYCLE. He had been on the road by himself for 110 days and was heading for China. When asked why he stated plainly, “I needed a little sport.” And they called us nuts.
There were loads of children swarming the cars and we figured it would be best to get something to eat before dealing with the poor cars. After a feast of kebabs, Dominic, Andy, and I headed back to the cars and the others headed to the club. Within seconds of setting up, we had acquired two young helpers. These two girls followed us around the cars holding flashlights and tools, pumping the foot pump, and keeping the multitudes of drunk locals away.
On to Shymkent…
August 8th, 2006 posted by nathaniel
We all awoke on our private salt flat in the desert, well rested and anxious to hit the road. It has been the first evening in a long time that we were not bothered by drunk locals. By 6:30 am were on our way. The roads were absolute crap and we had it on good information that they would be for 200 km. Its difficult to convey how bad these roads are, it was basically a series of 3-4 foot wide holes. These holes dropped straight off and were generally a solid foot in depth. The Fiesta had taken a few good shots the day before and was now having difficulties with finding gears. In a stroke of genius Ford put the linkage arm between the shifter and the gearbox as low as the muffler, unprotected.
After an half hour of navigating the crater laced road, The General scooted off the side road and starting railing down a dirt path parrelleling the main road. The convoy followed. When the roads get trashed enough, the Kazaks start making their own. I felt right at home on the dirt and the Fiesta was chewing it up. To be perfectlz honest, we are driving the worst possible vehicles for this style of driving. That did not stop us from beating the living snot out of the cars and having a blast. For a day, it truly felt like we were rally drivers.
We had been making decent time, averaging 30 = 40 mph, when the Scamp went down with its first ailment in days. Something in the electrical system was faulting and blowing the fuse for the fuel pump. Some hasty and regretful wiring was performed and the Scamp fired back up albeit without lights and a few other essentials. About 30 minutes later, we were bombing down a dirt path with the Scamp skidded to a halt. We pulled up alongside, you could see the faint hint of smoke, the look of James and Neil face told the story. Game Over was all James said. After all the mechanical jerry rigging exercises, it was an electrical fire that ended the ScampĀ§s run. It was a somber moment as we scavenged through the contents and divided amongst the remaining vehicles. Once loaded, we pushed on until dusk, miraclously finding a secure campsite. The cars were all still running but definitely needed some TLC.
We are now in Aktobe to drop James and Neil off at the train station. I am a bit worried the Fiesta may be the next to go. She took a couple of good shots yesterday and I am worried the Tranny is suspect.
We push on…
August 8th, 2006 posted by nathaniel
Welcome to the desert, its 109F, sand storms, torn up roads, and crappy one litre cars, just delightful.
This has been our first full day in Kazakhstan and the game has changed. There is nothing for miles and miles. The main roadway has potholes the size of small villages. We are now loaded up with gas and water, effectively giving the Fiesta a nice low ride. While a hit with the kids, it means we are scraping the muffler and under carriage fairly often. We have been forced off road a few times and sand is absolutely everywhere. We have covered our intake with panty hose to minimialize the filter clogging.
There are loads of animals roaming about the country side. We have been delayed by the crossing of 10 - 20 horses at a time, goats, sheep, camels, and cows. Seeing these herds of camels meandering about is amazing.
All the cars are feeling the effects of the roads, sand, and crap gas. The Fiesta has started to idle rough and still has a blown strut on the front end.
We are now sitting in the desert, literally with no lights in sight. The whole convoy is currently sitting on the salt flats trading stories of the rally over a couple of beers. This really is what its all about, middle of nowhere, bunch of new friends, and a load of good tales. We have a hard long push tomorrow hopefully the cars will hold up. We finally decided to not go through Uzbekistan due to danger level, so its on to Aktobe and then Aral.
August 8th, 2006 posted by nathaniel
We successfully entered into Asia via the Russian-Kaza border near Astrakan. As is our fashion, it was not without incident. There were three sketchy river crossings, first on top of a rickety floating metal contraption, then on a tiny little barge, and finally over a bombfield of an asphalt covering.
The border crossing was less eventful than previous crossings but not without its moments. Dominic was sent through the mother of all bureaucratic messes, basically walking back and forth from the insurance salesman to the customs official trying to get all the entries to match. I gave the drug sniffing German Shephard, “OneOne”, a wiffle ball and instantly became fast friends with his owner, a border guard whose name I couldn’t pronounce and can’t remember. He invited me to sit with him through his break. We traded stories about our families, work, and life in general. This included him telling me that the customs guys are real assholes and just bitch bitch bitch. Of course this happened while the customs guy was sitting on the other side of me trying to get a souvenir. (Cliche Time) Its amazing, I am sitting at a border crossing in Western Kaza and there is not any great difference between the guard and myself. He even liked hip hop music.
Once across, we drove for awhile and found a typically sketchy campsite. As expected, we were confronted by drunk, techno playing Kazak teenagers around 1 in the morning. It took quite a bit to get the little jerks to leave us alone. The best part was that after blaring techno from their crap Lada, the battery was dead and they had to push start to leave. Everyone gets a bit spooked by these incidents, unfortunately we attract a bit of attention everywhere we go. From now on, we will put a bit more thought into our camping spots as the chance of bandit incidents will rise.
August 7th, 2006 posted by Nick
One always wonders if it is prudent to pass along information which one has not learned first hand. Well don’t worry, I have no such standards of journalistic integrity to prevent me from throwing up some hearsay and calling it useful information. Caveat emptor Here’s the word on what we’ve heard:
So, this one time, when Patrick was driving a really cheap little car through the antiquated backwaters of Kazakhstan, the police pulled them over. Through a roadside game of charades, the officers’ intentions were gesticulatedly communicated to the beleaguered travelers. They were looking for something to whet their insatiable appetite for corruption and production of lifelong anecdotal fodder for eclectic westerners. In short, a bribe. Patrick would have none of it:
“DO YOU SEE WHAT WE’RE DRIVING? LOOK AT THIS THING! DO YOU ACTUALLY BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE ANY MONEY?”
Belligerence will apparently get you pretty far in this world of ours, because the boys are now reported to be resting with the others in the caravan, making repairs and hanging around in bars somewhere in the desert of Kazakhstan.
Distance traveled from the beginning of the Rally: 4100 miles. Oh and if someone comes asking, don’t tell ‘em I told you…
August 7th, 2006 posted by Nick
If you’re not a fan of endless semi-arid steppe and decaying industrial cities, Kazakhstan (Kazakstan) may seem bleak, but those who enjoy remoteness, wide open spaces, lunar landscapes, long hypnotic train rides and horse sausage will definitely be in their element.
Scams & Warnings
There is an occasional scam whereby customs officers won’t let you pass if they see that you have computer disks or videotapes with you. Typically, they’ll pretend that the materials could contain ‘propaganda footage’ and ’state secrets’ and have to be cleared by the KGB first.
Electric Plug Details
August 7th, 2006 posted by Nick
word is that the team is somewhere in the middle of the desert of K-stan.
That’s all we got right now. In the meantime, maybe you should take up cardio-knitting or something.) More to come. (but don’t expect too much.)
August 7th, 2006 posted by Nick
Cancel the search parties, the teams are alive and not kidnapped in the desert of someplacistan. The silence in recent days has been apparently due to performance anxiety from their fancy schmancy e-mail-by-phone doohicky. More details to come.
August 1st, 2006 posted by nathaniel
Date: Tue, 1 Aug 2006 01:23:20 -0700 (PDT)
The Scamp continues to have issues. Dom and I have taken the lead on the Jerry Rigging exercises. I was convinced we had utilized every possible techique. I mean we had rebuilt their rear suspension with tie-wraps, hose clamps, silicon, all thread, and two part epoxy while their alternator is held to the frame with tie wraps. I truly thought that was about as far as we would go. Then their main belt pooped its pants just outside of a police checkpoint at 11 pm in the rain. Dom and I proceeded to replace it with a pair of panty hose we bought in Germany. She ran well for about 40 or so clicks until it started to fray and fell apart. Apparently we did not wind it tight enough, I was amazed it worked at all.
7:00 pm Astrakan
We pushed through the 450 km trip to Astrakan with no major mishaps. In our world of junk automobiles this constitutes a minor miracle. The Ford has a subpar right front shock. We are trying to source one in the UK to have shipped to Uzbekistan along with the slew of parts that the Scamp
Our cell phone is starting to have issues, it may be difficult to post over the next couple of days.
Into the desert…
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