Day 30 - Part 2 - Turkmenistan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 30 - August 14, 2017 - Part 2
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan
Countries: 24 KMs/Miles: 12227/7598
Breakdowns: 10 Time @ Borders: 40h 53m

The Kooks have finally entered the much sought after ‘Stans’. 
Spoiler Alert: These ‘Stans’ will knock the Kooks down, kick em in the guts, and spit in their face for good measure. The narrative is going to darken. The Rally is about to get real.

Back to the day at hand though. The Kooks were welcomed into the Stans by arguably their most beautiful drive to date down a windy mountain road. Ever looking for the perfect snaps and having lacked good driving shots through the boring Iranian landscapes, Mikey mounts the 360 camera and the Kooks ride with their bodies half out the car acting like the idiots they are. Andy loses a hat. Mikey breaks a camera. Shenanigans over. Onward to Ashgabat.

Few instances along the road have left these hardened world travellers lost for words. Ashgabat; however, successfully forced their jaws agape in utter bewilderment. An unexpected Atlantis emerged in front of them out of seemingly nowhere. A metropolis built entirely of Italian marble and Gold. Every intersection adorned with a monument fit to be featured in the centre of an ancient Greek plaza. The grandeur left the Kooks speechless and has left this Kook struggling to put words to ink to properly describe it. It there is a quintessential artist’s rendering of what Utopia should look like, Ashgabat is it.

Driving the beautiful roads could not distract the Kooks for too long though as they had problems to fix. Namely, Millie’s wheel bearing which was quickly on its way out and John had accordingly moved it to the top of the ever-growing ‘things to be fixed’ list. The Kooks wasted little time and beelined it to the Skoda dealer where they met Timur the helpful Skoda dealer. He navigated the language barrier and found them the correct part in no time. Only problem? $200 to an already strapped Kook team. Ah well, money spent on safety is money well spent and the Kooks pulled the trigger. With no credit cards accepted and cash hard to come by, the Kooks would need to return in the morning to finish the wheel bearing business.

Next item of business, a place to lay their heads for the evening. The Grand Turk was a Rally favourite but at $60 per head, the Kooks could not justify it with their car parts bill looming over them. They decided to find some nearby WiFi and research their options. Along the drive that ensued, the Utopia of Ashgabat was beginning to seem a bit…odd. Lone women garmented from head to toe in the sweltering hear were sweeping the streets and seemed to be the only people on the street at second glance. Where were the cars? Where were the people? How could such a grand spectacle of a city not be bustling with activity? Geej aptly described the scene as a, “movie set where everyone is waiting to hear the word ‘Action!’”. The Kooks were on the Truman Show.

Still dazed from this city which was beginning to light up like the Vegas Strip, the Kooks found a Starbucks and plugged in to the outside world via WiFi. Andy set about trying to rescue his money from the thieves at Citibank while the other Kooks caught up with home and set about getting food for the evening and trying to find a place to wold camp. Five lattes were ordered to fuel the Kooks for their upcoming camp spot search and were greeted with a surprise when the employees offered them the coffees for free in return for a small photoshoot on their cars. Being the people pleasers they are, the Kooks happily obliged and went to the parking lot to adorn their Shinesty gear and pose on the cars. The Starbucks employees correctly noted that the Kooks had clearly, ‘done this before’. Damn right. Every chance they have.

Side note: The Kooks encountered another oddity of Ashgabat at this point when one of the friendly Starbucks employee gently tapped Mikey on his phone and said he was approached by a security guard earlier who wanted Mike to delete a photo he had taken earlier. Mike looked through his phone and sure enough, there was a video taken of a government building with military personnel in front which was to be deleted. Little resistance given, the Kooks were left to ponder, who was this security guard, why did he approach the Starbucks kids to tell Mike instead of approach himself, how did he know Mike had the video, who was watching them? The city was becoming stranger by the second and the Kooks needed to make their exit.

The sun now completely set, the Kooks went on the search for the perfect camp spot. They had done this before in the middle of the night so dusk seemed like an easy task. They were wrong. Hours searching proved fruitless. They quickly abandoned their plans and went back to town to find a hotel. Unfortunately, this was equally as fruitless and YACKS decided to set off back out to find a camp spot with giving up not an option. Andy and his trusty phone mistakenly navigated the Kooks down a dicey alley and Millie quickly passed to warn that ‘somebody was following’ and sped off ahead leaving YACKS eating dust. After 10 minutes, they finally found the main road and waited for the mysterious stalker to show themselves. Turns out, he was just a friendly local who was worried about the Kooks and wanted to point them in the right direction. The mistrust of this crew has been engraved from their environments growing up but they are realising that the world is filled with more nice people than is portrayed and they should give people the benefit of the doubt out here. A happy lesson learned.

Passing a police check point on a quiet stretch of road outside the city and en route to the President’s residence, the Kooks finally found a spot to wild camp and assumed they’d be safe given the amount of security in this area. The logic may have been flawed, but it worked. End Transmission.