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The Mongol Rally Guys

19 Aug, 2009

Bukhara

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

The next morning we all parted ways and struck out for the walled merchant city of Khiva. We drove along the main road looking for an off-shoot heading south towards the city but were unable to find what we were looking for. After asking multiple people we were still not sure where the road was and we decided to just skip it and head on towards Bukhara. This involved a multi-hour drive through a wide Kyzylkum desert that separates eastern and western Uzbekistan. It was quite hot out, and we were thoroughly soaked in sweat and covered in sand by the times we reached the city limits.

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18 Aug, 2009

Western Uzbekistan

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

We entered the country and were bombarded by children selling water and ladies in veils offering to exchange money. Everyone was hanging off of our car and assaulting both Collin and I from every side. We were vigilant against would-be thieves and exchanged $100 with one of the ladies for almost 200,000 Uzbekistani som. Because of inflation the highest denomination bill is 1000 som, so we were left with a huge brick of cash to carry around.

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17 Aug, 2009

The Uzbek Border

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

It didn’t take long to reach the Uzbek border the next day. All of us arrived and started the six-part registration process with no problem (other than in the middle of our applications the border guards having taken a two-hour lunch break). We had been there for over five hours and I had just finished the car import paperwork when I saw Collin standing outside of the border zone. I motioned for him to come over to complete the visa-stamping process but he motioned for me to come to him. He had just been rejected entry into Uzbekistan.

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16 Aug, 2009

To Uzbekistan

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

The other teams we had came with were heading across Kazakhstan eastward, so The Alchemists and us decided to team up on the way to the Uzbek border. The road leading out of the city and south towards Beyneu was amazing–newly paved, it was the best road we had seen since Germany. We made short work of the next few hundred kilometers, traveling at around 80MPH the whole way and passing Dossor and Qulsary. We were hoping for these roads to last, but once we got to Opornyy our good times ended. Back to the pot-holed, sand and gravel roads that we had dealt with when entering the country–in worse condition this time. We stopped to fill up our car and checked the oil. The 80MPH driving in the heat had caused us to burn about two pints of oil which we promptly replaced. We had also had enough of our roof rack. It had sat empty for a while, and we could now fit everything inside of the car quite easily, so why have the extra drag on the car? (It also dripped into the car whenever it rained since the straps went through the rubber lining on the doors.) We took it off and gave it to a passing Kazakh family that seemed interested in it. They’ll ut it to good use I’m sure.

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15 Aug, 2009

Kazakhstan

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

The change we noticed after crossing the Kazakh border (and even at the border itself) was pretty drastic. All of a sudden we had people waving at us, kids saying hello, and an all-around general friendliness that was somewhat lacking prior to that point. It was a nice change. We headed off towards Atyrau, Kazakhstan and stopped at a truck stop on the side of the road for food. As we couldn’t read the menu each of us picked a different number on the menu and hoped for the best. Collin and I got fried eggs, spam, and a bowl of hot grits mixed with meat–not too bad! After we finished eating another team pulled up at the truck top, one from Italy. They were making a documentary on the rally and had left a week later than everyone else and had already come this far. The five teams took off towards the east and were soon left in the dust of the Italian team–they had to keep up their crazy pace I suppose.

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14 Aug, 2009

To Kazakhstan

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

We headed towards Astrakhan, the last major city in Russia before the border. Again, we were routed through the city, this time during rush hour. Outside of the city we ended up going over an interesting floating bridge where we had to pay a toll to cross. We were stopped for the fiftieth time by AK-47 welding border security guards because of our lack of a front license plate. After a brief explanation of how we don’t have front plates in Michigan, they let us go. Note to anyone planning on doing the rally with a US car–make sure you have a front license plate. It’s quite a pain getting stopped all the time.

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13 Aug, 2009

Lack of Photos…

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

Sorry for the lack of new photos guys, but the internet is much too slow to get anything online! Will continue to have postings everyday, and will probably be able to upload new pictures when I get to Almaty, Kazakhstan in a bit more than a week or so.

Thanks for your patience!

13 Aug, 2009

Kalmykia

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

Instead of heading in a diagonal line towards Kazakhstan we decided to go south and then over so that we could see Kalmykia, the only Buddhist province in Russia. Situated in the middle of the jut of Russia that contains Volgograd, Kalmykia is a mostly agricultural province with an extremely high Asian-population. As we headed out of Volgograd the change was immediate. All of a sudden the people were Asian and there were plains and livestock everywhere. It was a big change from Volgograd. I’m not sure as to why there is a Buddhist province in Russia, but it’s there!

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12 Aug, 2009

Volgograd

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

Previously known as Stalingrad, Volgograd is a large, patriotic city in between Ukraine and Kazakhstan. We didn’t have much time to explore the city, as we wanted to be on our way to Kazakhstan by that evening. One thing we definitely couldn’t miss though was the giant Mother Russia (Rodina) statue looming over the city. We drove up to the hill it was perched on and marveled at the scope of the thing (larger than the Statue of Liberty). There was also a gold-roofed Orthodox Church as well as various memorials to those that had died in World War Two (along with Russia’s version of the Eternal Flame). It was all very surreal and a reminder of how much influence communism had on the country for 70 years or so.

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11 Aug, 2009

The Long Haul: To Volgograd

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

We continued on the Russian side towards the city of Rostov-Na-Donu. Again, the freeway took us a circuitous route through the city, and we almost got lost a number of times. After we got out of the city we eventually came upon another team of four Brits doing the rally. We followed them for a while and when we stopped at a gas station we talked a bit and decided to convoy to Volgograd, as that’s where we were all heading.

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10 Aug, 2009

The Long Haul: To Russia

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

We were behind schedule and had to try and catch up. To accomplish this we decided to drive straight on through the night and try to hit Volgograd, Russia sometime the next day.

In Ukraine freeways don’t go around cities as much as right through them. And not directly through them–they take you in a confusing maze of paths through each city. This resulted in us getting a bit lost almost every time we hit a mjaor city. Signs would often disappear (see previous post), and we would be left circling city streets trying to find where the highway started up again. This is even harder to do when it’s dark out, which was the case for our entire drive through Ukraine.

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09 Aug, 2009

Odessa

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

Odessa is a nice mid-size city situated along the Black Sea. There aren’t many tall buildings in the area, and most of the streets are lined on either side with oak trees, so it gives the city a small-town feel. After we woke up the first evening we went outside to do some reconnoitering of the area. We were situated near the center of the city, just two blocks from the central train station. We headed east to check out the beaches, as I had heard good things about them. Following that we had dinner at a kebab/sushi place (interesting combination, but it works!).

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07 Aug, 2009

The Road to Odessa

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

It was midnight and pitch black outside at the end of the border ordeal. We were tired, hungry, and dirty. We were also very relieved and very thankful that we had gotten across into the country.

We had looked at a map the day before and saw tat Odessa was approximately a 300 kilometer drive from the Moldovan border. Should be doable in about three hours I thought. Well, I was expecting on doing most of the traveling in daylight. I was also expecting road signs and roads that didn’t look like they had gotten blasted to pieces during some recent conflict. Upon driving that first stretch of road past the border I could only think of one thing: the Ukrainians must really not care about anyone getting in and out of Moldova from their country. Massive pot holes everywhere…simple massive. A semi truck in front of us was having quite the rough time with the roads and we were doing our best to follow its path at a leisurely 5 MPH.

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06 Aug, 2009

Ukrainian Border Ordeal: Part Three

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

So, keep in mind this is all in sweltering heat–not even the commander’s office had air conditioning. We hadn’t eaten much more than some granola bars and dried fruit over the past twenty hours. Neither of us had gotten more than a couple hours of fitful sleep in the car. We were low on water. We were dirty from road dust. We just wanted to get through this stupid checkpoint and make it to Odessa before nightfall to check in to our hotel.

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06 Aug, 2009

Ukrainian Border Ordeal: Part Two

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

Why couldn’t our car accompany us in? Why, we didn’t have a passport for the car of course! It turns out that all cars registered in this section of the world receive a card that allows them to drive through other countries. As the car is a US car and also registered in the US, and because this ‘car passport’ doesn’t exist in the US, we didn’t possess one.

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05 Aug, 2009

Ukrainian Border Ordeal: Part One

Posted by: Scott In: The Rally

Here’s where the fun begins.

So we completed our one mile tour of Moldova and entered the Ukrainian border check point. To our surprise we see not one but three other rally cars waiting there. As there is a line about ten cars deep I go over and talk to the guy in the nearest rally vehicle. Their teams were from the UK and he sad that they had been there almost six and a half hours, as one of the three cars in their convoy had some vehicle registration papers that didn’t seem to match the numbers on the car. Oops! Each one of them had had their car’s contents inspected and had been fined for numerous offenses, including having money stowed in the vehicle ($15US fine). He was just waiting on the final paperwork to be finished before they could head off.

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Synopsis

In the summer of 2009, two guys from Metro Detroit traveled 10,000 miles from London to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia in an effort to raise money to assist underprivileged Mongolian families in becoming self-sufficient.

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