Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 20 - August 4, 2017
East Turkey to Georgia to Yerevan, Armenia
Countries: 20 KMs/Miles: 9205/5720
Breakdowns: 7 Time @ Borders: 23h 46m
The Kooks and the U.K. team - Stumped But Never Walking - arose amist the cow pies and dirty dishes the "forgot" to do the night before. Washing isn't so easy in a putrid lazy river but it must be done. There was only time for cereal this morning as the team had a long drive to the Armenia capital of Yerevan. There were some thoughts of skipping Armenia as it was quite out of the way and they were going to only be there for a matter of hours plus the costs of getting across the boarder. But that's kind of what this trip was all about. Not taking the easy route. And trying to stick to the game plan no matter how tired they were or how seemingly irrational the plan was at times.
They parted ways with the Brits planning on meeting them again soon again on the Rally. Bowel problems were starting to affect more of the team now. And in squatter country, going to the toilet can be an adventure in itself. John definitely needing a lesson. "Do you take your pants off or keep them on?" And although Geej has had a bit of experience in the matter, his aim was a little off. Mikey, the Kooks pharmacist, was a busy man, doling out Imodium like it was candy.
Life without data is starting to make the team a little jumpy. What were they supposed to do? Talk to each other? With Mikey the only one still with some megabytes left, the other five had to hotspot off of him at gas stops, draining his battery quickly. But all this was for important things like booking accommodation, checking on visas, and trying to buy tickets for a club they were going to hit the following night.
Back on the highway, they were once again treated to more unbelievable views though their windshields. The mountains turned red and while most of it was dry and barren, the valleys were lush and green and reminded some of home. What didn't remind one of home was the common practice of driving in the middle of the road or trucks so piled so high and wide, you'd think that they would topple over with the slightest wind.
The Skoda could use a little wind push too, as car after car would pass them on the uphills including a black checkered station wagon that could pass for a Mongol Rally. Rolling down the window, they found that they were from Holland going mountain climbing in Georgia. Its always fun to meet other travellers going on adventures. "Catch up to them!" yelled Mikey, wanting to give them a KK business card but only if he could do the handoff Fast and Furious style.
Do to construction, the boys got detoured though the heart of a small town near the Turkish/Georgian boarder. Garnering stares, which they all loved of course, they were able to do a little small town exploring. Little run down shops lined the streets with fruit and vegetable stands at every corner. Seeing the four Dutchies parked up ahead, they decided to make a pit stop and say hi. They had some unfinished business with a mountain they tried to climb a few years back so they decided to do a little road trip themselves. Mutually interested in what each other was doing, they decided to meet up for beers the following evening in Tbilisi. Some grapes for the road and they were off to the boarder but not before a final nice gesture by a Turkish man who went out of his way to find them ice. Nicest people they've so far. Thanks Turkey!
Vast plains now guided them towards Georgia. And they would have to step on it. Two boarder crossings and a ton of driving were on the agenda. And when time is a factor, sometimes teams have to resort to time saving measures. Though not ideal, MURs (mobile urine receptacles), commonly known the in trucker universe as "piss jugs", are a decades old proven method of shaving minutes off road trips. Just don't forget to dump them before boarder crossings!
After getting stamped out by the police in Turkey, the Kooks entered the Georgian side expecting the worst. They couldn't have been more wrong with the guards quipping jokes and interested in the rally. Too easy! And then Mikey got to the window. Shit. Being a duel citizen of New Zealand and the U.K, he was travelling with two passports for this tour. Using whichever one didn't need visas or were cheaper for any given country. For Georgia, he opted for the British one. The problem came when he was asked to provide a drivers license, which is from Australia (where he lives now.) The license, not being front he same country as his passport, This could prove to be a major issue in the future for other countries.
Once again the scenery changed and proved to be the best they have seen so far. Georgia was gorgeous. Green and lush. Raging rivers. The winding roads up and down the mountains gave them a chance to have a little fun. John took full advantage pushing Millie to her brink. He has in true rally car mode, skidding around corners at top speed while Geej and Joshy silently prayed and made out their wills. Rally car style! The narrow roads made passing a true test of courage and stupidity.
Leaving Georgia at sunset was quite spectacular. But it was also a little depressing. Passing though some poor run down areas, its hard to see sometimes. Its also a reminder of how lucky they are to do something as ridiculous as this rally. Yes, they are raising money for charity and spreading some good will, and had to quit jobs, be away from loved ones and spend money they don't have but the reality is they have the option to do this. And for that, they are truly grateful.
There was a fair amount of research that went in to the next border crossing. Georgia/Armenia. Mostly coming from other people's blogs. It's always hit and miss when you use these blogs for important information. They're often from years ago. And like TripAdvisor or Yelp, it's only a certain type of person who takes the time to write them. How accurate are they? Are they just having a bad day? How do they have time to write these things...probably not driving or something. Anyhoo, aside from the cost, the Kooks were really only hoping for one thing, Mikey being able to do the old passport switcharoo between the borders.
And with with his power of persuasion, he did it! Not only that, he scored the team a large bag of potatoes from the boarder guard. He was on quite a roll!
Now with only three different border payments to go, they were home free. Except for Josh, who trusted Andy's "No mate, you don't need a visa for Armenia" advice and had to sprint through no man's land waving cash around to get things sorted. Everything looked good to go but they still had to be careful, there was no way they could out run the Lada police cars...maybe the flashing cardboard cut out ones, as long as it wasn't uphill.
Now dark and late, and with the worst roads since Ukraine, they slowly - very slowly - made their way towards Yerevan. Potholes crept up out of nowhere and their exhaustion made them see shadows throwing themselves in front the the car. Josh's face as close to the windscreen as humanly possible, knuckles white in process. Bottom out after bottom out. John, grinding his teeth in back unable to sleep, hoped his babies weren't getting beaten up too bad. Slow the f**k down! Yet it was hard to go slower than what they were doing.
They pulled into Yerevan after 1am not being able to appreciate the city. Happy to check into a nice hostel and hit the sack. Some were grumpy. Some were sick. Some were hungry. All were shattered. Have your six minutes of silence. Have your magic pill. Have your dessert for dinner. Whatever it takes to feel better. There's always tomorrow. The new Kooks motto. End transmission.