Kazakhstan/Tajikistan/Uzbekistan/Kyrgyzstan 2019

Another week and we will arrive in Almaty and hopefully find the red Elan waiting at our hotel. After a long period of idleness, the first day is some 600 kms so hope its feeling good! Start day -4 Just heard from the rally organiser that the Elan has got stuck in reverse gear – what have they been doing out there? Off to see Graham Bolton tomorrow and hope he can give me some ideas; there’s not much he doesn’t know about these gearboxes.
Start day -2 and the rally organiser sends a what’sapp video of him driving the elan round the container park – forwards! Never a problem, just the guys unloading the container didn’t know how to change gear!!

Sunday 7th and we have arrived in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan.

the evening sun softens the stark communist era concreterie in the main square

We landed in Almaty (ex capital of Kazakhstan) in the early hours of Friday 5th when our first task was top visit Customs to register our arrival as part of the process to clear the cars. That was achieved later in the day and we got back to the hotel in the late afternoon. Even then it was apparent that it was seriously hot – in the thirties. On Saturday we set off for Shymkent in the west of the country – a long hard drive on variable roads of 8 hours without the stops. We had sun, rain accidents, crooked police but fortunately no breakdowns. I was stopped for so-say doing 64 in a 20 limit at some road works and my USD40 went straight into his glove box! What did happen was that the oil degraded and oil pressure dropped alarmingly. For my peace of mind we changed it once we got to Taskkent. On Sunday it was the Uzbek border crossing. Our organiser was adamant that we get to the border by 11.00 am and prepare ourselves for a 4 hour wait in the sun as the Uzbeks plodded through their procedures to ensure there was a queue. In the event the process was quite smooth and two hours was enough to get out of Kazakhstan and into Uzbekistan. We had also been told to get the cars full of fuel as Uzbek quality is awful. We didn’t quite manage that and hope that a couple of gallons of Uzbek 91 Ron will mix with the Kazakh 96 to enable the car to run.

Statue of Tamerlane

Tomorrow is a rest day as we’ve done about 15% of the distance (but not the hours already). The car needs a rest as its been so hot and the guage is hovering between 90 and 100.

Tashkent Imam Hazrati Complex

Tashkent Sheikhantur

Over-the-hill route to Samarkand

Gur Amir – Mausoleum of Tamurlane

Bibi Khanum

The Registan

July 11 we drive to Dushanbe in Tajikistan after a day looking at the sights of Samarkand. Another border crossing which the organiser thought would take about an hour but was probably twice as long. The first car through was unloaded but they gave up on that by the time it was our turn. lunch stop at a small museum in Panjakent beside a muddy pool with over-ripe apricots falling around us. Then a long climb to about 2700 metres and the Iranian built Tunnel of Death- a 5km barely lit and unventillated tunnel; we followed the mechanics as they had lights that showed them where to go! We stopped on the way up before we overheated.

To avoid overheating

View on the descent

July 12 a rest day in Dushanbe. The heat is the killer! When we got out of the car last night, the ignition key was almost too hot to hold. At breakfast we listened to the rally organiser outline the route ahead for the next few days as we head into the wilderness of the Pamirs. Everything will be in short supply except for heat and dust! Should we take the by-pass route to the campsite in 3 days time, with the offer of easy tarmac, a shorter day but without the most scenic part of the drive along the Afghan border? Its posted as a 7 3/4+ hour day but bound to be longer for us. Bad news for the sweep as we will be the slowest car and he will have to stay with us. We’ll go for it but first we have to get to Khulaikhum and Khorog!

July 13 another long day as we head away from the capital and into the provinces. Dushanbe has wide tarmac roads and magnificent buildings – not so in the rest of the country! The first hurdle was another 5 km tunnel and we managed to find a passing local to lead us through.

Cyclists memorial

We passed a memorial to 4 cyclists killed in a terror attack a year earlier and then the halfway point of Kulob. Here we visited the mausoleum of the Iranian writer Hamadani where we were greeted like royalty – though as ever the car stole everyone’s attention. Our next stop was unintentional as the ascent to the pass proved too much for our cooling system so we stopped before we boiled over. That happened twice so that evening we removed the thermostat which we hope will let more water through the radiator. Police checkpoints were forecast to be a feature of this section of the rally as we are now in the semi autonomous area of Badakhshan. Visas and lifting the car headlights are what they want -every time!

First view of Afghanistan

Bridge to Afghanistan but not for us!

From here we are travelling the Afghan border – just across the river – and you know it looks just the same as where we are! We followed on and off tarmac to the overnight stop at khuilaikhum where the hotel was on the main road and the sight of 6 oddball classic cars was a magnet for every (annoying) kid for the whole town! We have a couple of niggly faults- the gear stick gaiter comes off which allows quantities of heat, noise and dust into the car, the passenger door jams and cannot be opened from inside and the headlight vacuum system (which lifts the lights) has a broken junction piece (and the new one broke as well!) so we’ve had to bodge an old damaged one.

July 14th an 8 hour drive at an average of 30 kph along off-road roads. This was the Pamir highway, the main trucking route from China with huge lorries plus trailers. The start of the day was unusually cool – thankfully – as we followed the river and the Afghan border all the way to Khorog.

Afghanistan over the river

(now out of internet for a couple of days – camping in the wilderness………)

Comments are closed.