Day 47 - Ust'-Kamenogorski, Kazakhstan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 47 - August 31, 2017
Ust'-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan
Countries: 27 KMs/Miles: 16880/10550
Breakdowns: 15 Time @ Borders: 50h 30m

The Kooks were abruptly introduced to the Supreme Leader. Elected by the convoy each day the Supreme Leaders job is to round up the troops, whip them into shape, and make sure everything runs smoothly. Banging a pot and marching around the camp site telling everyone to get up, Luke was like a prison guard banging on the cell bars – “time to get up Kooks”. What!? Ain’t nobody who tells the Kooks what to do. This deep into the rally everyone has their morning rituals of packing up the cars down to a T. There was time for a quick group photo and the convoy started the procession to the border.

The Aussie boys were leading the charge, followed by the Kooks, then the girls, and finally zee Germans. Following the Aussie boys and seeing the state of their vehicle put the Kooks position in perspective. It looked like they had one flat tire, the back was fishtailing wildly, and they had several cracks in their sump guard. The girls had the same engine problem as Yacks had but were somehow able to get someone to weld them a piston (which John still can’t work out how it’s still going). The Germans had recently had the rear of their car smashed by another team and their back half was only held on by some heavy strapping. Whilst the Kooks were down a car they were by far in the best position out of all of these teams.

Only having gone a short distance down the road Bindie (the Aussie boys car) started pouring out a heap of smoke. The Kooks quickly got them to pull over and turn the engine off. Oil was pouring out of their engine and they’d cracked the sump once again. Their car really was held together with glue. John had noticed that there was a bush (a piece that was holding their engine in place) that was worn and should be replaced. The Kooks and the Germans proceeded to the next town to find the part. On the way the Germans blew a spring. Man, these cars really are falling apart.

John and Marlin, one of the Germans scoured the town for the parts while Andy and Mike went to find a warmer sleeping bag. Upon returning no one ad really found anything. The Aussies rolled into town and it was decided to just press on to the border. It had been predicted all along that convoy life would be slow and it had proven it immediately. After about 5 hours on the road they’d mustered all of about 100km.

Getting out of the country was a breeze with short queues and a pathetic attempt at searching the car. The Kooks were finally done with the Stans and couldn’t have been happier. It had seemed that every Stan had started out so promising, but by the time they left them they’d had enough and couldn’t wait to get out. They had definitely had its good moments, and memories that would stay with the Kooks forever, but with all of the breakdowns it was a weight to be on the road and pushing for the second to last country! There was a short drive to the Russian border.

John was the first person to go through as he was one of the drivers. He handed over his passport, the border guard began looking through the passport and immediately called over a supervisor. He froze and the look of concern was printed all over his face. John had been a little nervous that morning as he was missing a page in his passport. It had been missing for a long time but he had only realized it was missing when he had applied for a lot of his visas so he couldn’t get a new passport. To make it worse the Russian visa was where the missing page should be.

Tense, tense times for the Kooks as John was quickly whisked away into a separate room. Time nd ticked away slowly as the Kooks made small talk with the rest of the convoy to try and make take their minds off what was going on. They were called into the room along with John and told that he was not going to be allowed into Russia and there was going to be a fine John was going to have to pay. Fuck! This was not good news at all. The finish line was in Russia, and the only way to get to Mongolia was through Russia or China. To drive through China costs $5,000 and two months of paperwork. It looked like this was game over for John.

Mike, Andy and Josh headed back to the car and saw the rest of the convoy off, who pressed on with Geej joining them. While they waited for John they had a chat through Google translate with the border guards. Whilst they all seemed to have a stoned face expression and enjoy barking orders they seemed like good people who were keen to have a laugh. Meanwhile, John was heavily grilled about his previous travels, how the page went missing, and about his family. Finally after four hours he emerged. The Kooks fears were confirmed that he wasn’t getting into Russia and the rally for him was almost definitely over.

Their only option was to head back into Kazakhstan and try to formulate any possibility of getting John any further on the rally. Maybe he could fly and meet them somewhere. It looked like the Stans weren’t done with them yet and still had their claws firmly in the Kooks backs. The mood in the car was completely somber. How could this happen!? They had all been through so much together and were absolutely determined to finish the rally together come hell or high water. The messiah had put so much effort into buying the cars and the hours he had spent on keeping them running through the rally, bringing them back to life when all seemed lost. If anyone deserved to finish the rally it was him. The 100km trip back to the smoggy city they had passed the night before seemed to take forever. Hopefully they could work out a solution when they got there.

Brothers be Trippin' we're in a similar boat where one of their team members had been denied from entering Russia. The plan was to go and stay at the same hotel as them and try to see if the teams could find a way around the problem. In the hotel the Kooks jumped on the net to turn over every possible stone and determine their options. It wasn't looking good. If John couldn't get to Russia the flights to Mongolia were ridiculously expensive and would take days. Their hearts were heavy as it looked like the writing was on the wall. John found a flight to Budapest for $100 which just seemed like the right option.

They headed to the pub across the road where the other team were drowning their sorrows. The pub had stuffed animals all over it and the poorly printed menu had a photo of a man with a gun on it who was clearly the guy serving behind the bar in his hay day. The menu seemed to consist of a wide variety of meats served in different ways. No place for a vegetarian. Chatting with the others raised the Kooks mood a little having someone to yarn with and discuss tactics. At least someone else was sharing their pain. Alas they had no better ideas though.

The Kooks headed back to the hotel 99% sure that John wasn't going to get into Russia and knowing that flying to Mongolia just wasn't feasible for him simply to have a couple of extra days with the team. How could it come to this? It was absolutely gut wrenching. All this effort only for John to be denied one country between him and Mongolia. This had been by far the hardest day of the trip so far. The team was literally falling apart. End transmission.