Wednesday, August 30, 2006
I think this picture illustrates the general idea. There you are being all aggressive and passing some slowpoke, when much to your surprise... you are the slowpoke!
How many crazy people can you get in the back Kia?
More pics are up
1758km to Irkutsk... this was a sobering sign. Of course, the fact that there was a sign held the promise of reasonable roads...
Sadly, those reasonable roads soon disappeared and turned into multiple 70km stretches of this crud:
Anyway, after two days of driving we finally arrived in Irkutsk. A nice enough city, but they seem to have a problem with people in wheelchairs...
After Irkutsk, we hit lake Baikal, which apparently was a triumphant moment for me...
Fast forward to Ulan Bataar, where the Brits and I carried on the tradition of stupidity by climbing the welcome sign. Climbing While Theo? Nope, no injuries. I'm the dot on the left.
And finally, the Lada is delivered to the orphanage outside of UB. The old man waits anxiously for me to leave so he can take her for a spin.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
The Lada has a new home
The orphanage was surprisingly nice looking -- nestled in a green valley, with lots of space around it. We pulled up to the administrative office, and immediately a cluster of old men were very interested in the Lada. One wanted the stereo, and another to take the car for a spin. Turns out that Ladas are very rare in Mongolia... I haven't seen one since we arrived.
After getting past the gauntlet and taking some farewell pictures of the Lada, I handed over the paperwork and keys and got the official "you've delivered the car" stamp... so now we're Lada-less. I'm actually a bit sad to see her go... we've been through so much together, and the car has been nearly flawless.
Irkutsk to Ulaan Baatar or Ulan Bator or Ulan Batar or something
The Russia -> Mongolia crossing was reasonably easy... got to the boarder around 2pm, and out around 7. The line to get into the line to get out of Russia (yes, a line for a line) was very disorganized, but after chatting up one of the border guards (Andrew, who spoke english!) we managed to sort things out and get into the next line.
Once in the actual line we got a new set of border guards, who were very very puzzled by the transit tags on the Lada. But after 45 minutes and a bunch of calling around to see what they should do with/to me, they decided to let me through with a stern warning never to bring this car into russia again. Ok. :)
Saturday, August 26, 2006
All in all, UB is a great city so far... it's cheap, and everything we need is readily accessible. Except a SIM... working on that.
Lots of new pics of Novosibirsk -> UB to come once I get home.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Theo's in Ulan Battor
We've been in the news!
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Speaking of transit tags... 95% of the cars on the M-53 going west (against us) were brand new cars with transit tags. It's amazing that it's cheaper to destroy the cars over rutted muddy roads than to stick 'em on a train.
Oh, and big albino mosquitos everywhere. Somehow their albinoness makes them more threatening... I think you can see the stinger better. Anyway, DEET FTW. And despite the annoyances, Siberia is very beautiful.
Now we're off to the Mongolian border, and hopefully to UB tomorrow. We have about 700km to the border, and 350 more to UB. Go Lada go.
p.s. Pot grows wild on the side of the road in part of Siberia. Who would have guessed??? No, I didn't roll it an smoke it. :)
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Mongolia or Bust!
- August 22: Alex went bust when I had to fly back to work from Novosibirsk (but I have now taken a hot shower in my very own bathroom, and that almost made the 17 hour flight on three separate airplanes worth it) and then there was one.
- Theo and the LADA are still going strong. I am now convinced that the Lada is capable of just going forever, deliver her to the poor Mongolians, Theo - they certainly aren't getting a better car our of this rally!
Made it to Barnaul, Russia and caught up with a couple of other teams to keep Theo company on the way to Mongolia (including Dan and Simon, who had managed to escape Camp Baku to Turkmenistan a few days before the rest of us left for Kazakhstan)
All terrain Lada
After this brief interlude (which was also the closest thing I got to a shower during the three days in Kazakhstan), we were faced with a choice: our map said that we needed to get Norht to the town of Aktogai, we could take the direct route there, but the locals had warned that the road was bad, or we could take a roughly 250 km detour. In the stupid spirit of the rally, we obviously went straight. Over the next three hours, we were driving along the singularily worst stretch of road I had seen so far on the trip.
It wasn't really that the were a lot of pot holes (of course there were), the real problem was that the road had turned itself into a giant washboard, that was threatening to completely shake the car loose. Eventually, I realized that the washboard was actually the worst in places that were more heavily trafficed, so I first started trying to pick parts of the road that had received less traffic. This shortly turned to simply trying to drive next to the road surface as opposed to on it whenever I could see the surface well enough. As if to underscore just how screwed we would be if the car had broken down or anything else had gone wrong, over the course of the three hour drive, I did not see a single other car on the "road" and I saw something resembling a settlement once.
Eventually, we reached another settlement, roughly where I thought Aktogai should have been, and I thought our off-roading days were done. This was once again proven thoroughly incorrect - Aktogai was still 18km away, and getting there now involved following tracks through open fields and meadows. Conveniently enough, there were actually people to give us directions in some of the most obscure places in these fields.
And then, we hit pavement again, and there was much rejoicing!
The final slap in the face came when we realized that our map had been copmletely wrong and we didn't need to go to Aktogai at all, and the paved route, that we thought was a detour would have actually been shorter... oh well, by then I felt being lost for 4 hours on unpaved roads in the empty middle of Kazakhstan was well within the spirit of the rally! The rest of the drive to the Russian border was fairly unremarkable, except for plenty more stretches of terrible roads, of course. And the Lada, for the record, came through the gravel washboard none the worse for it - these cars were built for this!
Monday, August 21, 2006
The Adventures of the Lone Rallier
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