On the way to Ust’-something, we hit a mine field that had been incorrectly marked as a road on our map.

We pulled up behind a Land Rover kitted out like Bear Grills Car Club had a fire sale. Tony had enough of the lack of progress and passed the 4×4 on some less than pristine road way. My crying defeaned by the sound of the sump hitting the road.

The look on the face of the khaki shirted, Ray Ban wearing driver being passed at speed by a Fiat Panda must have been priceless . Too bad we couldn’t see because of cloud of dust, stones and humiliation we had just kicked up.

The dirt track we were on had been the most deplorable excuse for a road. Neil Armstrong had better road conditions than we did.

We were beaten. Bashed. Assaulted. Kazakhstan roads danced over us like Ali over Frazier.

We held up our hand and tapped out. We needed a night in a hotel but instead ended up in Brothers Grimm nightmare. Somewhere in the deep dark woods of Kazakhstan, we found what we thought was a hotel. If it was made of gingerbread, I wouldn’t have been surprised.

This place was run by the worlds most evil Hobbit. She was shorter standing up than sitting down and started by shouting at us in Kazakh or Russian or maybe just evil witch tongue.

Drag Queen Yoda led us up the stairs, past the trail of discarded bread crumbs.

My room was so bad even the bed bugs moved out. I did get a complimentary meal in the fridge after “housekeeping” failed to clean out the mould crusted tomato, half eaten bread roll and cheese slices in a lovely shade of green.

I would have assumed this was a crime scene but no one would be desperate enough to die in this room. Well, apart from the double murder/suicide of hope and despair!

I swore, on the way out, I saw a set of twins in blue dresses at the end of the corridor…

The next day we started with almost 160m of flat tarmac before we hit roads with holes so deep we needed our head lights to get out.

The Kazakh roads have officially been reported to the World Wildlife Fund for putting our Panda back on the Endangered Species List.

The Kazakh Panda Pounding was relentless and finally resulted in a bent suspension and a detour into the nearest settlement.

As always, a local wizard was hiding in a garage and weaved his magic by grafting a Lada suspension on to the Fiat. With a mix of Google Translate, and good use of Tony’s two years of Community Mime School, we were back on the road. Thank you Kazakh Gandalf!!

Our FrankenPanda is now an international testament to engineering. An Italian body, an
Iranian clutch, Turkish tyres, Kazakh suspension, Uzbekistan roofrack, Polish carburetor and two Brits and an Aussie on the inside.

If this was an ancestry DNA trace, you would say “Mummy got around…”

This was also the town where Dostoevsky was born. A famous Russian author…but crap at fixing cars apparently.

Onwards into the blue of the night…except for that red oil warning light that just came on.

Nothing a bit of black gaffer tape won’t cover. Problem solved….and turn up that music…


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