Day 31 - Part 2 - The Gates of Hell

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 31 - August 15, 2017 - Part 2
The Gates of Hell, Turkmenistan
Countries: 24 KMs/Miles: 12525/7828
Breakdowns: 11 Time @ Borders: 40h 53m

The sun is setting across the desert sky and the Kooks pull off the main drag to face many a Rallier’s arch nemesis. The Darvaza Gas Crater, a.k.a. the Gates of Hell.

All Mongol Rally blogs and Facebook posts had warned the Kooks of this short stint of treacherous roads and soft sand that lead to the crater. The consensus being that is was gonna be a bitch and had broken many past Ralliers cars and dreams.

As the Kooks pulled up to the final stretch, the vultures circled. A dozen locals on Russian motorcycles and a beat down tow truck descended upon the Kooks in anticipation of their likely demise. Like a plague of mosquitos, the Kooks swiped the pests aside and continued on determined and undeterred from the local’s pessimism. The consensus being “F*ck these A-holes. We got this.”.

Millie lines up first with John at the helm. Andy, Josh and Geej run ahead to play scout and offer their advice as any sound Rally Car nav man would. “Two sharp bends after the hill” “Soft sand for 2kms” “Lower the tire pressure to 15psi” “Don’t let off the accelerator whatever you do”. With John equipped with as much info as he could take, it was time to gun it. Fail. Try again. Fail. Andy runs ahead to do a bit more scouting when all of a sudden, the Duke’s calling card blares through the horns and Millie appears over the hill in a dust-ball of glory! The adrenalin kicks in and Andy sprints behind for a couple kilometres until he finally catches up to John who is victoriously sucking back a heater and lining up his camera for the perfect shot of the incredible spectacle the stars were putting on above their heads.

10 minutes pass. 30 minutes pass. 1 hour passes. No YACKS. Where were the others? AS any good teammates would, Millie decides to carry on to the crater and set up camp for the boys and get started on the beers. YACKS would want it that way.

With the hard yards behind them, John and Andy revert to their Kook tendencies and get a bit cocky. Andy pies into the nav seat to save from waling and they charge on without scouting conditions. The sand starts to grow soft and in no time, they’re well and truly stuck. Andy gets out to scout conditions and decide whether to attempt to go forward or backward. A camel spider is spotted in his iPhone light and Andy turns around and immediately heads back to John to say that retreat is the best option so they set abut digging. To no avail. Then the locusts swarmed and the boys conceded victory and agree to $30 to get them out and back down the crater to see their friends.

But wait. What’s that on the horizon? A car’s headlights are rapidly approaching and the boys quickly recognise the problem in this scenario and sprint towards the headlights waving them off before they hit soft sand and shared Millie’s fate.

Meanwhile, YACKS was doing it a bit tougher with their smaller engine. Try after try and they couldn’t quite peak the crest. The locusts swarmed and offered them a tow for a mere $150 which was met with resentment and an infuriated Mikey who was more determined to do it solo. This was the boost he needed and next try would be the one. Surely. Nope. Same spot. Thankfully out of the blue, a friendly Polish couple in a beefy Toyota came to the rescue. They had been told by Andy and John about their struggling friends down the hill, and had come to inform them Millie was at the crater drinking beers (John and Andy may have been premature in their assessment when conveying the message). They offered a tow which YACKS was all too happy to accept to keep money away from the pesky locals and YACKS was off until they saw some dark figures running towards them and waving their hands. The teams were united.

The locals are told YACKS will now be going forward and they quickly get released from the sand's grasp and are back on the road to the crater. Although both teams required a little help and $30 was lost to the vultures, spirits were high and they chalked it up as a win.

The crater’s glow was just over the horizon and as the Kooks approached and the flaming hole revealed itself, they knew they had reached their prize. This would be the second time Turkmenistan left the Kooks awe-struck. With the cars parked on the rim of the ever-blazing pit, the Kooks had a chance to survey the massive gas crater that lay in front of them when some fellow Ralliers, Taz and his Irish compatriot, pull up in their astoundingly intact Yaris.

Everybody was on a high so the beers and vodka went down quickly, photos were taken and the two teams carried on with Consuela’s Turkmen brother keeping them all giggling late into the late. Geej would need to be led to the tents as his weariness overcame him and he mistook the crater for a ski lodge fireplace to curl up and sleep next to.

The Kooks had danced with the devil and won this round. Confident as ever. Nothing from here on would stop them. Boy how they would be proven wrong. End Transmission.