A Travellerspoint blog

22 September 2010

I woke at seven, after an hour's sleep, dressed and went to the dining room for a revolting Russian breakfast, then to the car. Peter Banham confirmed our alternator was kaput and charged our battery. This enabled us to keep the engine and fuel pump running and we travelled over 200 km towards Khazak border and Semey before the battery was flat and we stopped. The sweep mechanics caught up with us and loaned us a battery and we were off again. About 15 km from the border the engine died again. The mechanics were right behind us, swapped batteries and towed us to start the engine but there was no response. There was fuel to the carburettor, power to the coil and it was getting late for the border crossing so it was decided to tow us there and check further while we were in the queue. Almost immediately Peter found that a connection to the coil had shaken loose. With this replaced the car was towed and started immediately, but was misfiring, so the idle speed was increased to reduce the chance of stalling. We cleared customs in less than two hours and set off on the 110km journey to Semey. We had no chance of making it before dark. We pushed on in the failing light then fell in close behind the sweep mechanics' car to use their lights for the 70 odd km left. It was quite dangerous with the oncoming traffic. We reached the outskirts of Semey only to be stopped by the police. No problems as they only saw us as a photo opportunity. After sitting in the driver's seat for some pics the officer waved us on our way, pheww that was lucky. The mechanics led us into the car park of the Semey Hotel at about 8:30PM, our earliest finish yet. We took our bags into the lobby to pick up our key to find about another 10 people from the rally arguing with a young blonde receptionist. The hotel was full and there were no rooms for any of us. It got quite heated, one participant produced money and she found two single rooms. We were on the room list but our room had been given away. The rally organisers were nowhere to be seen. Finally Dinara, a representative of Krygyz Concepts (the in-country tourist agents) arrived. She offered us rooms in another hotel which we agreed to. We left the Semey Hotel and our car and she drove us to the NomAD hotel, a very comfortable establishment. We had a bite to eat then up to our rooms for a shower and some much needed sleep, after less than four hours' sleep in the last two days. Colin said at breakfast that he didn’t make the shower but sat on the bed and woke up hours later. He is still very unwell, weak and needs to rest for a couple of days before continuing. I had a large bath tub and fell asleep in it under the hot water - it was heaven.

It is impossible to convey how relentless the schedule is. If you slip behind they call it playing catch up to rejoin the rally. In reality the rally is so full on it is almost impossible to catch up unless you are prepared to drive day and night over terrible roads which will wreck your car. The fatigue is worse than either of us have ever felt before. In spite of this the camaraderie is brilliant: the stories will be told and retold with added embellishment for many years to come.

Posted by nbrice 13:12 Archived in Kazakhstan

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