That Part of the Movie
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.
"Right then, you are on the rally, yes."
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 rubble 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 shoddy roads and dusty paths. The landscape was as flat as can be and no signs of human influence 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.