Day 31 - Part 1 - Ashgabat to Gates of Hell

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 31 - August 15, 2017 - Part 1
Ashgabat, Turkmenistan to the Gates of Hell
Countries: 24 KMs/Miles: 12525/7828
Breakdowns: 11 Time @ Borders: 40h 53m

The scorching sun creeps up over the hill early to wake the Kooks to a puddle of sweat in an unknown place. Josh serves up a quick breakfast of milk & cereal and the Kooks hit the road to Ashgabat to fix the ever-growing nuisance of Millie’s whining wheel bearing.

Timur greets the team bright and early at the Skoda dealership and escorts Mikey to the bank while John cracks on with the mechanical task at hand after receiving his expensive shiny new wheel bearing. Mike’s eyes are opened a bit to the strange inner-workings of the newly constructed Ashgabat as he peppers Timur with questions en route to the bank. Visa has only been introduced to the city in preparation of the Asian Games and getting cash is more of an ordeal than the Kooks would like.

Back at the dealership, John’s handy work is earning immortalising him with the onlooking Skoda mechanics as he replaces the wheel bearing outside their high-tech garage with nothing more than his trusty red tool kit and the ringing of his hammer belting any part within striking distance. His only request is to use their hydraulic press to get the wheel bearing in. Not even Thor could accomplish what was required with a mere hammer and some advanced machinery was needed.

Works completed and Millie nursed back to health, the Kooks head to the Grand Turk for a meal. If they couldn’t lavish themselves with a nice bed there, they could at least reward themselves with a nice meal…and WiFi. The beers were cold, the food was hearty and everything went down a treat. Then the bill arrived. $150. The Kooks had thrown money to wind again and realized their imported beers were costing them London prices. A lesson learned but probably soon forgotten in typical Kook fashion.

With the meal and beer slowing the Kooks progress to a lull, Mike, Josh and John decided to sit poolside for a while and work on their bronze while sipping local beers (half the price) while Geej and Andy walked off the feed through the quiet streets of Ashgabat. Walking magnified the oddity of Ashgabat. Surrounded by fountains and landscapes fit for Kings, Geej and Andy found themselves alone. Not a soul roamed outside apart from the odd military personnel telling them not to take pictures and where they were not allowed. Weird. This is what a dictatorship looks like.

Finally, the Kooks were ready to begin their characteristic late start and set their sights for the Darvaza Gas Crater. Not without a quick stop to the fabled 'World's Largest Indoor Ferris Wheel' on the way out though. It was a good end to Ashgabat and summed it up well, tons of glitz and glamour, no people to enjoy it. The top attraction was barren of tourists so the Kooks set up a photo shoot then hit the road.

The drive was smooth but they were scant of water and food so they decided to stop in a small village before their destination to restock. After a successful shop and a few high fives, horn toots with the local kids and their tiny bike gang the Kooks set off. In true Messiah form, John is able to giveth…and taketh. Our saviour to begin the day has rapidly become our destroyer as he decides to take Millie on a test drive up a Sand Dune. Fail. Millie is stuck and as the Kooks unravel their tow rope, they realise it is barely fit to tow a Red Rider wagon. Ballocks. The Kooks are stuck.

Aimlessly trying to tow Millie out with YACKS and a rope that is too short to do any good, the local Samaritans start approaching and offering assistance. YACKS failed. A Nissan Pajero failed. The children with their bikes and shovels in tow failed. And then. The 6-wheeled sand titan arrived. The driver smiled at the Kooks incompetence and hooked up the tow rope effortlessly. Although it was the Kooks only means of escape, the machine before their tiny vessel worried them and visions of the front end behind yanked off the car floated through their minds. A jerky pull that left the Kooks breathless somehow left Millie intact and got her out unscathed.

An hour lost, the Kooks carried on knowing that a daylight attempt to Darvaza now lay out of reach and what was anticipated to be a trying endeavour just became a lot more difficult. End Transmission.