Day 33 - Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 33 - August 17, 2017
Konye-Urgench, Turkmenistan to Nukus, Uzbekistan
Countries: 25 KMs/Miles: 12856/8035
Breakdowns: 13 Time @ Borders: 44h 0m

Battered physical and mentally from the previous night’s drive, the Kooks regrettably rise early to face the last slog to the border town. With no lawyers amongst the lot, nobody quite understands the legality of towing a rubbish pile disguised as a car across an international border and what the potential consequences would involve. They need to get YACKS fixed, in the border town, and they have under 48 hours to do so.

The last 30km into town is just as horrendous as the night before but with some sun guiding them and the destination so near, it doesn’t feel as tough. The town? Small. John’s hope dwindles as the Kooks roll in but they’ve begun to understand the resourcefulness of the people in this part of the world so a glimmer of hope remains.

Hotels are typically a good spot to aim for if you need to find someone with a basic understanding of English, internet and local knowledge so that’s where the Kooks aimed. To their dismay, the hotel only provided the later but that would have to do. They arrange a local mechanic to assess the situation with a quiet nod, the Kooks are told he can fix it, but he needs to get the part and it won’t be ready until the morning. Scepticism fills the air and the Kooks are not quite sure whether this is the case or if the hotel is just trying to get the Kooks to stay a night at their establishment.

The risks are weighed and the Kooks decide to leave for Uzbekistan and risk the border crossing with YACKS in tow. If Uzbekistan holds nothing else, it gives the Kooks time which is something they don’t have in Turkmenistan. (They are also hopeful that it contains ATMS, uncensored internet and most importantly, Skodas). Mike is given the final call as he is the owner of YACKS so if any legal boundaries are breached, he would bear the brunt of the consequences. He nods his approval.

Final provisions are gathered and the last of the local currency is spent. The Kooks waste little time and hit the border around lunch time. Apart from the odd border car laughing at the Kooks situation, the Turkmenistan exit goes smoothly. This one wasn’t assumed to cause many problems though because what country really wants a busted Fabia adorning their front lawn?

Crunch time. The Kooks tow YACKS through no man’s land towards Uzbekistan. Nerves rise as they pass a few broken cars rotting away between the gates. Please don’t let that be the fate that befalls poor YACKS. They reach the first Uzbekistan gate. The guard breaks his stern glare to smile at the situation in front of him. He opens the gate and the lads’ collective sigh of relief could be heard for miles. The Kooks are in, although they would still have more checkpoints to pass, the first is the one that counts. Jackpot.

A short 30km tow on average roadways seems a breeze to the hardened Kooks and they pull into Nukus. Civilization once more. A hotel is chosen for the night and the dwindling funds are restocked. Not too dissimilar to Zimbabwe, Uzbekistan has experienced massive inflation and the consequential devaluation that goes along with it. $100 USD is transformed into a stack of Uzbekistan Som that can only be contained by a plastic bag. This has also given way to a currency black market in which one USD can fetch upwards of 8,000 Som even though the actual market rate is just north of 4,000. People are betting against their own currency. This would become an constant hassle for the Kooks to navigate in this country where expenses could halve if they played it well.
The evening was spent eating, showering, catching up with friends and most importantly, planning the following days’ car repair. Parts were going to be a problem and John had finally resolved himself to the fact that Skoda and Volkswagens just did not exist in this part of the world so we’d have to rely on a local mechanics witchery.

The brim life that John leads finally gave the Kooks a leg up. Outside burning a heater while stressing over his burden that is YACKS, John is approached by the friendly Shaik. At 16-years old, he is not who one would typically seek out for help but alas, this kid had mastered the English language through a mixture of study and American sitcoms and told John he knew a mechanic who had helped previous Ralliers. A quick look of his wrist revealed a Mongol Rally wristband. This kid was our chance.

After some more friendly chat outside the hotel, Shaik informed John and Josh that he would return the next morning and help get the Kooks back on the road. Things looking up, the lads informed the other Kooks and everyone tucked in for a hard-earned sleep on a nice bed. End Transmission.