As the Eagles song goes…

‘You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave!’

The Rally Runs hit us hard and we were too scared to move more than 8 feet from the safety of our luxurious hotel toilet. This was a game of boxer shorts roulette! Never bet on brown!

We eventually made it out of the hotel, after “borrowing” several toilet rolls from the house keeping trolley.

Shymkent, our first stop, was a surprisingly modern city. Progress is making its steady march in this growing city, with smooth wide streets, modern cafes, neon signs and duck faced selfie teens everywhere.

We even got a fillet steak and beer at 2am. (note:- a school boy error- refer to first paragraph)

Borat has a lot to answer for. The Kazakh are a friendly, well educated and yet quiet people who obviously work hard and take pride in themselves, many of whom speak great English.

We, on the other hand, were three brash smelly westerners driving a very loud small car with a dead animal and nude leg stuck to the roof. Starting to wonder who is the tourist attraction.

Next day, we headed 700k’s to Almaty along a great driving road..

Kazakhstan is an amazingly beautiful and fertile land, making for a cooling contrast to the dust and heat of the last few countries.

A Caravaggio landscape of rolling hills of straw gold grass and scrub contrasting against the towering brown folds of snow capped mountains set againt azure blue skies, tainted with the whites and greys of billowing clouds.

It’s amazing the details you can take-in having a wee by the side of the road.

Once in Almaty, we checked into separate rooms. Although we had to spend more, the benefit of a cold uninterrupted toilet seat far out weighed the cost.

We got changed and went out for a beer and steak dinner (we are slow learners). FYI, Medium rare steak in Kazakhstan is just short of smacking the cow’s ass as it walks past the grill. Pretty sure mine put itself on to my plate.

After dinner we decided on a quick walk by a post Communism War Wemorial (that looked suspiciously like Captain America) when we heard the doof doof call of a local club.

We walked into a night club that was meant to be modern and upcoming. It was, in 1996. The tunes were all 90’s classics as was the fashion. The night was warm but was still colder than the beer.

Full of warm beer and raw beef, we headed back to the hotel, each of us grabbing an extra toilet roll from reception and the solace of our cold toilets.

At breakfast, the reality of what was ahead of us hit us like a bus. And then it backed over us for a second go before tooting its horn and flipping us the bird!

We only had three countries of the original 20+ to get through but they are the biggest, involving over 5,000kms of the worse roads yet.

These will make Uzbekistan roads feel like a shiatysu massage and cold glass of coconut water.

This trip has been like going to a smorgasbaord buffet meal, gorging ourselves senseless on the free bread and smaller starters but forgetting that the main meal was still to come.

Except the mains were a whole cow, a whole sheep and 152 chickens! With a free side of “You bloody idiots!!”

Oh well, time to slip on the baggy pregnant pants, tuck in the serviette, bite off more than we can chew and chew like hell!!

Next is the 1,100k drive to Ust-somerhing, where the guide book says….”some roads look liked they have been bombed out”.. starting to wonder where that nearest airport is.

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mongolrally2019

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