FrankenPanda has risen like a Phoenix from the Ashes. We had our doubts but this has been a bigger come back since Lazurus walked in and scared the crap out of his wife and the milkman!

If this was a patient, the local Priest would be reading the Last Rights and two guys would be standing to one side with shovels.

So, last night, we were in bad shape as the Panda staggered into town like a drunk three legged dog in stilettos.

To give the Panda a chance to compose herself, we picked a relatively half decent hotel but the receptionist at the hotel had a face that would curdle milk and the personality to turn it into frozen yoghurt.

If it was just me, her and a goat on a deserted island, I would be getting her to hold the goat.

We woke and headed down stairs to the Panda and much to our shock and pleasure it STARTED!! This, like all worldy pleasures, was short lived.

Three blocks away the Panda yawned, farted and rolled over to play dead. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Bugger all!

With no sign of a Panda pulse, Hew and I decided to walk to find a mechanic. 45 minutes later and no luck, a miracle appeared to our left…Tony pulled up beside us…IN THE PANDA!

A very helpful truck driver and his defibrillator battery had given Tony jump start. He also got the Panda going. Thank the world for truck drivers and their big ass batteries.

Not wanting to risk breaking down in the Mongolian desert, we decided to get the Panda looked at.

After three mechanics were too reluctant (or smart) to assist, we were eventually referred to the sole BMW dealership in town….posssibly even Kazakhstan.

It was so modern and clinically clean, that we felt like backpackers rocking into Dubai’s famed Hotel Jumeirah Al Qa. And asking for The Presidential Suite.

The prognosis wasn’t good. Our Panda had been savaged by the Uzbek, Turkmen and Kazakh “roads”. The engine block had broken off its mounts. The oil pump was smashed in to the sump. Oil pressure was zero and the steering arm was goneski…she was in a bad way.

But as always, skilled surgeons got to work on the Panda and told us to leave them to it and they would see if they could save her.

We headed back into Ust-Kamenogorsk city. Set on a wide winding river at the base of some imposing mountains, you can see the beauty the locals talk about. And…it had a nice personality.

As it was seriously hot and we had the Mongol Rally Runs. It was so bad we could have qualified for the Kazakhstan Olympic Relay Team. We headed back to the hotel for a Spa Day.

As the day dragged on, news trickled through like an extra teary episode of “Greys Anatomy”. With every message from Dr McDreamy Mechanic, things were looking less critical and hope flickered like dim flame in the night. We prayed Karma didn’t let one rip and blow it out.

We were risking lunch when finally we got the news. And it was good…ish! They had fixed her heart and might even be back on the road within a day.

Cue dramatic music and soft focus lenses as we hugged and cried and swore we would take better care of her…actually we just ordered three more beers and a kebab (bloody sick of kebabs).

Next day, we were finally reunited with our Panda. After many tears, thank yous and hand shakes, we took the now standard photo with the Panda and the mechanics. We seem to have met more mechanics than locals on this trip.

And add a Japanese oil filter to the Panda’s United Nation of Parts and questionable DNA….

We are now driving through endless fields of bright yellow sunflowers on our way to the Russian border.

As with every show, there is a plot twist. As we lost three full days of travel, I won’t be able to drive to Ulaanbaatar (UB) with the Mongol Mongrels due to family and work deadlines.

I am currently writing my resignation letter and entering a Witness Relocation Program.

Alternatively, I am looking to make it into Mongolia and then getting a regional flight to UB.

This trip has always been about the journey and not the destination (gotta love fortune cookies) but it’s called the MONGOL RALLY….not the BROKEN DOWN IN THE ASS END OF KAZAKHSTAN RALLY!!

Eastward it is…for now!

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