Saturday, August 19, 2006

The car is OUT of Uzbekistan!!! but I'm not...

Well we always knew the lack of a double entry VISA would bite me in the ass and it did.

Let me give some background. All three of us had to get VISA's to Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan. For Uzbekistan & Kyrgyzstan we needed single entry VISA's. For Kazakhstan we needed double entry VISA's and for Russia we needed a multiple entry VISA.

Now for Alex and Theo this process was simpler since they could ship off their passports to Washington D.C. and get the VISA's they needed. However since I've been traveling non stop for a while I needed my Passport with me so that wasn't an option. As a result I got my Kazakhstan & Russia VISA's in Hong Kong and my Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan VISA's in Beijing. The only slight issue around this was that the Consular official for Kazakhstan in Hong Kong wasn't authorized to issue double entry VISA's. However he told me to call him and he would arrange for a VISA to be waiting at the border for me. He also said I could get a three day Transit VISA at the border if needed.

Needless to say I wasn't overly confident this would work out fine so the night before we went to the border we hatched a plan during Bart's birthday celebration. Bart is a Dutch guy we met in Baku who has been bicycling around Europe/Asia/Africa for the last 6 months and we talked him into joining our group to go on to Mongolia. Anyway the plan was I'd just show up at the border and try and bluff my way into Kazakhstan and if it didn't work out I'd meet up with the crew and hitch a ride into Kyrgyzstan which is the direction the rest of the Camp Beku group was going.

So we got an early start only to be waylaid by the incredibly inefficient banking system in Uzbekistan. It took us over an hour to get money at the bank. We asked around if this was normal and everyone said the bank was always broken. So we made it out of the city by 11:00 and then stopped on the side of the highway about half way to the border so that we could have yet another Customs Agent change (we change customs guys in each city) and that took over 3 hours in 100 degree sun. Then we drove for about 30 minutes before we had another 45 minute "Watermelon" break. Finelly we got to border but try as we might they wouldn't let me in. We had to convince them to send just me back and let Theo & Alex continue on with the car. Otherwise the car would have been in Customs hands again and we didn't want that.

So I caught a ride into Tashkent with one of the guards while Theo and Alex continued on to Almaty. Unfortunantly for me the mobile phone coverage is such crap in this country that I wasn't able to get a hold of the Camp Beku crew until they had reached the border to Kyrgyzstan.

So I'm in Tashkent now and I'll have to fly ahead of Alex & Theo to keep ahead of them. This means either I fly on to Novosibirsk (On a Tupoluv..) and join up with Alex and Theo there or fly back to Beijing and go back to work. We'll have it decided in the next few hours.

Hello, i'm making a documentary about the rally and am currently in Almaty. It's taken me ages to get here with lifts from different teams and consequently most people going through the western mongolia border have already left.
Just wondering if you dudes could give me a lift from Almaty to UB? Send me a text +447810176801. Cheers, all the best... Liam!
Go for it Cy... You can catch up with them... You've come this far and it will be sooo great to have a beer at Dave's. What a journey this has been. What's it like in Tashkent? I've been reading constantly about that part of the world and It's just so fascinating. Keep going if you can Cy. This is amazing.
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