A Travellerspoint blog

15 October 2010

We have arrived safely in Troyes just 200 km from Paris. The Princess was plagued with electrical problems, the alternator has had many problems not charging and as a consequence we have had breakdowns most days since leaving the Russian border. Two alternators and four voltage regulators were repaired or replaced by five auto electricians in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, and Turkey. We were despondent to arrive at Silivri near Istanbul with the alternator not charging again. Generously two dutch competitors, Maarten and Jan, from car 28 offerred to repair the car for us in the car park. After discussion the charging circuit was rewired to eliminate the relay which allowed the auxilliary battery to charge and after replacing our third fan belt the system worked. We have been electrically trouble free since, obviously the relay was the source of our problems.

We will add more blog over the weekend.

Posted by nbrice 14:49 Archived in France Comments (0)

09 October 2010

Arrived in Erzurum in Turkey after a pretty good border crossing at the Iranian border. The car is running well and we had an uneventful 606km journey. Just on the Turkey side of the border we saw Mt Ararat’s 5165m snow covered peak. The Anatolian plateau was impressive, we are in high really country, mostly over 5000ft above sea level. The Polat Renaissance Erzurum hotel we are staying at tonight is at 7000ft. The car really runs out of breath at these altitudes. Tomorrow we head off for Kozakli, then to Abant Lake, and Istanbul on Monday.

Blog entries for 28 and 29 September now added. I will try to get round to updating the runs to Samarkand, Tashkent, Turkmenabat, Ashgabat, Gorgon, and Rasht in the next few days.

Posted by nbrice 19:51 Archived in Turkey Comments (0)

29 September 2010

We left ahead of the pack again for the Uzbekistan border crossing at Cinoz a distance of 194km. Pretty easy roads with lots of traffic but pretty easy to average 60km/h which seems to be the standard.

With the help of the excellent staff from Kyrgyz Concepts, the in-country support group, we were clear of the border and on our way to Tashkent, a mere 65km away down the motorway and into the suburbs. Tashkent feels as big as Sydney with a mix of western and Islamic architecture and rapidly growing fringe suburbs. The place feels prosperous. All signage is in Cyrillic so we are heavily reliant on the ERA road book and Colin’s navigation skills. The local drivers are courteous and let us cut in when we need to. The Princess is a beast on the road: the poor visibility and bulk make it a handful. Add to this RHD in countries where the cars are LHD and drive on the opposite side of the road to what we are used to and you can get some idea. The traffic was heavy, some stop-go and 4 lanes wide. Colin navigated us to the hotel without a hitch, both relieved to arrive at the Intercontinental about 1:00PM local time. We are now 5 hrs behind EST.

Rinse off the road grime and dust down for a beer and sandwich before checking the car over and reconnecting our batteries. Now we are confident that our electrical problems have been rectified. Then dinner in the hotel followed by a good night’s sleep.

When you are up with the pack the rallying and driving is much more fun: you don’t need to push yourself and the car to breaking point and you can get reasonable sleep. From here on in, our philosophy will be to leave early and be at the front of the pack, especially at the borders where the delays and frustrations can be interminable.

Some cars have lightened their loads by discarding camping gear, but the organisers have said keep sleeping bags as some of the hotels in the next leg through Turkmenistan have beds you wouldn’t want your body to touch. We can hardly wait.

Fingers crossed for a good trip to Samarkand and another comfy Intercontinental hotel tomorrow followed by a rest day.

Posted by nbrice 19:45 Archived in Uzbekistan Comments (0)

28 September 2010

Colin woke bright and early at 4:30AM, we packed, took the bags to the car then had a hearty breakfast. We left the Almati Intercontinental at 5:45 AM ahead of the pack and headed south west on the 730km journey to Shymkent. We were making good time. The car’s vital signs were good - temperature 180 degrees and oil pressure between 30 and 45 psi.

We stopped to fuel up at the first Passage Control and another driver noticed a pool of oil under the car. I crawled under and it appeared to be from the between the engine and gearbox or the crankcase breather. I checked the oil, the level is difficult to read with new clean oil, I thought it was low and put a litre or so in and we continued at speeds up to 85km/h on good surfaces and below 60km/h on the rougher rutted corrugated bitumen. After about 200km we stopped for a comfort stop and rechecked the oil level. I thought it looked low and added another 2 litres and off we went. After another 200km we stopped for another pee and rechecked the oil - this time using toilet paper and low and behold it was spot on. All the time we had been overfilling the sump which overflowed and looked like a massive oil leak. What a relief.

The country we traversed was interesting rather than beautiful: there was a lot of smoke haze but we had glimpses of high rugged snow-covered mountains to our near south. Rolling plains and crops, and every village has its grim relics of the Soviet era in the way of abandoned concrete factories and apartment buildings. You can just picture the Gulags with political prisoners forced to work in the harsh winters. The main means of transport for the locals is the donkey cart. In every village there were roadside fruit stalls with apples, peaches, grapes, tomatoes and peppers. We stopped and bought some apples, they were great.

We breezed into the Shymkent Hotel at about 6:45 for a well earned shower and cold beer. The hotel was typical eastern bloc 4 star with dreary rooms and inedible food. The main course defied description: chicken in a grey sauce, I settled for a meal of bread and potatoes. The bath mat in the shower looked like an incubator for all manner of skin disease.

It was Greg Newton’s birthday so Colin ordered a bottle of red and white only to be advised that the hotel was out of wine but that they would send out for some. About an hour later after Greg and Liz had left the dining room for their beds a bottle of white arrived. Another table claimed it. Colin and I had a final cleansing ale in the bar before retiring when a bottle of red turned up we said it was too late and left. We had just gone to bed when there was a knock on the door it was the waitress with a tray with the bottle and two glasses. I sent her away, ten minutes another knock and this time Colin sent her away. But after three phone calls to our room Colin finally got the message through.

Posted by nbrice 19:42 Archived in Kazakhstan Comments (0)

27 September 2010

Disappointingly, the car didn’t arrive yesterday until approximately 3:00PM, thus there was not much work done on it yesterday. Today we tightened all the loose bolts, bolted the grille back into place, and repaired a broken shock absorber sway bar link. We checked the diff and shock absorber oil and topped them up. Then it was on to the all-important alternator. The repairs on this were completed, and we finished about 5 this afternoon - absolutely buggered.

Colin and I decided it had to be a room service dinner followed by an early night. There is a 6:00AM departure tomorrow for Shymkent – a mere 734 kms away: this is the greatest distance in one day for the whole of the rally. Depending on how things go, my next blog might have to wait until our next ‘rest day’ (perhaps the name should be changed to ‘repair day’?) at Samarkand in Uzbekhistan on 1st October.

Posted by nbrice 17:52 Archived in Kazakhstan Comments (3)

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