Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 30 - August 14, 2017 - Part 1
Bojnord, Iran to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Countries: 24 KMs/Miles: 12227/7598
Breakdowns: 10 Time @ Borders: 40h 53m
The 5:30am wake up time was rough. No more late starts and early ends to the day. Rally life was upon them once again. But at least they weren't hung over, those days would return soon I'm sure. It was their last day in Iran. And although they loved the people, having a guide, a defined schedule, and no real ability to explore, the Kooks were okay leaving. The last two days had been a pretty much the same and a bit repetitive. They wished they could have gone south...on their own. Gone to the homes of the many people that invited them over. And gotten into a bit of trouble. The misinformation given to them by their guide time and again had gotten on their nerves. They longed to kiss their chaperone khodahafez. Maybe they just needed a beer.
Once Andy was back from the post office, they took off towards the Iranian/Turkmen boarder passing a billboard with complete with the Supreme Leader, a hand shooting missiles, and "Down with USA" painted across it. The first one they've seen. All the Iranian people they had met were actually happy to see the Kooks' American counterparts. But you can't always escape government and media propaganda. Without reading the news, it's doubtful any energy on hating the other side would even be spent. It's pretty sad honestly. Tis the world we live in.
Stopping to get a few snacks on the way out, they found a black market money changer giving a better rate then what they could find on their currency exchange apps. A bit skeptical this time, in the future, they would find these exchanges to be lucrative and useful. Just don't accept any small heads! (Old American bill's presidents have small heads compared to the new ones and are hard to get rid of.) They said goodbye and thanks to Reza, their guide. Not a bad guy but just not the right one for this group.
The Iran side was super easy and the guards were nice. Getting to the first Uzbekistan checkpoint, a one man booth, you could already see a complete switch in the appearance and dress of the local people. The women especially with their beautiful traditional dresses, colourful head garments, and gold chompers. And their facial features more East Asian looking. It was a bit of a jostle to get to the front of the line, one lady whipping her passport into the booth over the huge shoulders of the Kooks. Not her first rodeo.
Once through, they spotting pair of motorcycles with Mongol Rally stickers parked near the main building. The Aussie couple were doing the Rally in old Australian postal bikes. Quite the feat. They had been having a little trouble leaving Iran, once forgetting their passports back at the hotel a ways away. The other time accidentally entering a military zone near the border. On their knees with machine guns pointed at their backs cursing Google maps the whole time. But leaving Iran may be the easy part for them. Entering Turkmenistan, one of the hardest countries to get into in the world, could be the real challenge. Luckily, the Mongol Rally helps facilitate transit visas in to this heavily secretive land.
Entering the big building, the team knew they were in for a long haul. Rushing to a passport control window only to have it closed in their faces. The local people were all seated with their bags of fruit and boxes of tin and faces that looked like they'd already been there for awhile. Finally, passports checked, they were directed to the "bank" where they had to pay an array of fees to enter. When the lady who worked there finally showed up, she did her duties "Soup Nazi" style leaving the Kooks wondering if they should hire her as their new CFO. She gets things done! After, another long stretch of waiting, they entered the hubbub of people and sat in the middle of the floor hopefully securing their place in line and offering their border crossing candies to the old thick ladies around them. The ladies giving offerings of their own - healthy apples like only a mother would. They laughed at the boys sharing their golden smiles with the crew.
Another hour of waiting and Andy, Joshy, and Geej were finally sent into the X-ray area while John and Mikey brought the cars over to their vehicle security check. Emptying their pockets, Andy pulled out "Bertie." A little stuffed animal that he takes pictures of around the world for his GF. The guard laughing and making him put it all by itself on the conveyer belt to be X-rayed. The tiny toy, not heavy enough to make it through the hanging belts, stalls, needing Andy to give it a little push. All the guards now cracking up over the ridiculousness of it.
Meanwhile, the two registered drivers are having their own fun. They're told to go to a different "bank" to pay some car import fees. And while seated and waiting, the "banker' pulls out a bottle of vodka and fills their cups. A glass of Fanta to chase. And then another cup. Speaking a little English he chatted with the two and showed pictures of his family. And then another cup of vodka was poured. After six days alcohol free, the two were now three sheets to the wind. And they still had a thorough car check to do. Feeling no pain, they emptied the cars. Andy had hidden the drone under the dash the night before so that was okay before but not the drone's controller joy stick. He was just going to say that it was for a video game but forgot to tell John or Mikey.The two scrambled to find answers. Luckily, being inebriated, the excuses came fast and furious. Just try not to slur your words yo!
But alas they were out of Iran and in to Turkmenistan. Out of the land of the not free and in to the land of the also not free. Who knows what this country will bring. Find some beers tonight or more likely this afternoon. Then head to the Gates of Hell tomorrow. The Devil has them on the guest list. VIPs. End transmission.