Day 55 - Ulan-Ude, Mongolia

The Kooks have done it. 
55 days. 29 countries. 12,881 miles/20,610
Countless pivas (beers)

Done. Tick. Finished. Finito. The Kooks have mother fucking done it! Break out the god damn champagne! The culmination of a year's planning has come to an end. It certainly has not been easy and unfortunately getting every teammate (and car) across the line hasn't been achievable. But damnit, these crippled and disheveled Kooks have crossed the line against all odds.

The feeling is indescribable so we won't attempt to describe it. It really is a crazy mix of emotions which summarizes the rally perfectly. What we will attempt, is to show our appreciation to those who have helped along the way. To our friends and family who have followed from home and generously donated when they could, to our fellow Ralliers who have stood besides us with a war-story and beer, and to the strangers along the trail who have lent us a helping hand. Thank You. We are not on the podium without you. The Kooks are truly humbled by the feedback we have received and can't thank you enough.

We have raised a whopping $11,404 for First Descents which is $1,477 shy of $1 / mile. So although we have accomplished our drive, we are still short of our goal. But we will get there. We've come too far not to. So dig deep, tell your friends, donate $1 and help these Kooks give back to those who need it.

Come hell or high water, Kooks prevail.

Day 54 - Mongolia to Russia

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 54 – September 7, 2017
Wild Camp, Russia
Countries: 29 KMs/Miles: 20610/12881
Breakdowns: 15 Time @ Borders: 55h 15m

The Kooks were keen to go and check out a Chenggis Khan statue that was a bit out of town so they had arranged for a driver to take them. The 9:00am get up for the drive seemed sensible enough the day before but was far from appropriate after the night’s antics. The Kooks were all still blind drunk as their driver began the slow hour long crawl out of the city. The driver seemed to be a fan of the Michael Jackson and Eminem the Kooks were blasting even though he didn’t speak English.

Sitting in the middle of nowhere all of a sudden there’s a massive silver statue that appears from around a hill. Fwaahh! The thing is ginormous. Way bigger than what was expected. You can even go inside it and get on the horses head. After a bit of walking around the boys did one of their last photo shoots and treated themselves to a beer in the restaurant. It gave them a bit of time to reflect. All the hard work had been done and all that was required of them now was a cruise to Ulan Ude. It was a welcome change to not have massive days planned out ahead of them. Only one border crossing to go. How would they adjust back to real life!?

Shining on in their blazers the Kooks were a hit with the other tourists and had a bit of banter with a few passersby. On the way out they grabbed some photos with an eagle and a condor which felt obligatory when in Mongolia.

Back in town they braved the ice cold shower again and went out for some lunch. The restaurants here were proving to be god damn delicious. The slog out of town was slow as all the Prius passed the Kooks who were trying not to destroy the car so close to the finish line. The roads turned to custard once more for them with massive pot holes and sections of gravel. Very fitting. As it got dark the Kooks eyes beamed onto the road. They passed a busted car and a dead cow and were determined not to be a statistic.

The border crossing took a few hours but was nothing different to what they had been accustomed too. Thank god this was the last one. The Russian border guard found it absolutely hilarious when they opened the “kitchen” box to find a shed load of vodka. After the border the Kooks found a forest where they spotted a flat section of land for their last night camping. This was bear country. Cold beer country. It was strange to think that this would be their last night sharing tents.

Tomorrow the Kooks were aiming for the finish line and Ulan Ude. It really is a crazy though that this emotional roller coast could soon be over. It’s a strange feeling. This is the last blog from the Kooks. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and shared in this absolutely crazy, life changing, mind blowing, adventure we’ve been on. From all the Kooks we thank you for all of your messages and support as well. It’s been a hell of an adventure. Bring on Ulan Ude. Signing of for the final time – shine on, stay weird.

Day 53 - Ulanbaatar, Mongolia

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 53 – September 6, 2017
Ulanbaatar, Mongolia
Countries: 29 KMs/Miles: 20378/12736
Breakdowns: 15 Time @ Borders: 53h 15m

Up at the crack of dawn again the Kooks hit the road. All roads lead to Ulanbaatar! The roads seemed to improve and the Kooks were making good time. Finally after all of this driving, all of the kilometres, the late nights, the early mornings, and eight weeks on the road Ulanbaatar appeared as they came over the hill. The finish line had previously been located here but was relocated to Ulan Ude to make it easier to ship your car home. As far as the Kooks were concerned they had done it. They had conquered the rally. If the car were to breakdown here they would simply put it on a truck and take it the rest of the way. Che-ya!

I’m not sure what they were expecting but the city was situated down in the valley and was barely visible. You could only make out a few of the larger buildings in town under all the smog. It was disgusting. Big chimneys pumping out smoke and a massive power plant filling the air with black clouds. Turns out it it’s one of the most polluted cities in the world and only gets worse in winter when everyone lights their coal fires. It was a slow trek into the centre of town going through countless lights coping all the exhaust fumes and smog. The drivers here are extremely aggressive but after their previous exploits it was nothing the Kooks couldn’t handle. Strangely every second car is a Prius. Toyota must love Ulanbaatar.

After a hunt around for the hostel they finally found it. Walking in there were children’s toys everywhere. This seemed more like a family home rather than anything else. All part of the whacky world of the rally. Luckily the boys didn’t push through the night before because the shower was ice cold. The sort of cold that takes your breath away. They all needed a shower badly though and braved it. They were looking more like their old selves and went to a good restaurant to treat themselves. The beers were brought out and toasts made. To John!

After the best meal the Kooks have had since the start of the rally they headed to the black market. This place sold everything. Planks of wood, ovens, power tools, cloths, electronics. The Kooks weren’t interested in that though. They were interested in the bad ass traditional hats, the big ass knives, the sweet ass bow and arrows, and the old ass nick-nacks. The place definitely had the Kooks attention. It had been some long days and after a big feed and a few beers the Kooks were absolutely shattered so they headed back for a much needed nap.

When they woke up the Aussie boys and the convoy had rolled into town. Geej had found another rally crew at a pub so they headed there for a few warm up beers and some dinner. The convoy was down the road so they headed to see them. Barnesy (friends with the Kooks and the Aussies) was an absolute champion and had given the crew $200 to be specifically spent on cold, hard, liquor. Let the bar tab and debauchery begin. A bunch of other teams joined them as they pinned their ears back and took the night by the horns. Everyone was in good spirits and a cracking night was had by all. Sensible as always, the Kooks stumbled in at around 5am. End transmission.

Day 52 - Ulaanshiveet, Mongolia

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 52 – September 5, 2017
Wild Camp, Mongolia
Countries: 29 KMs/Miles: 19739/12337
Breakdowns: 15 Time @ Borders: 53h 15m

After the productive day the day before and after sinking a fair few vodkas, the Kooks had decided to wake up at 6am to hit the road when the sun was coming up. Still rolling drunk from the night before they powered down some leftovers from the night before and hit the road. They had a couple of hundred more kilometres of non-existent roads to do before the next big town. Josh was the man for the job and set a good pace until the 4x4 tire blew again. Bugger. The two spare tires were looking pretty bare but were going to have to do them for the rest of the trip. Cruising over hills and rolling through dried up river beds the Kooks inched further to the town.

When they finally arrived they bumped into Stananball and the postie bike couple at the service station. Kerrie was not looking her chipper self. It seemed that the Mongolian non-roads had taken their toll. The boys back windshield had smashed in the night so they were absolutely covered in dust. Their car looked like it was on the piss with a massive lean. Not long to go now guys. Keep your heads up and soldier on.

After walking around for ages trying to find a restaurant the boys were starting to get hangry, until they stumbled into a weird pub/restaurant. The lady showed them a dish on her phone and that seemed good enough for the Kooks. Mike and Josh shot off to grab some groceries while they waited and came back to see the woman still chopping vegetables. This could take a while. Mike and Geej shot off to see if they could get the tire fixed but quickly found out it was fucked. Damn. The spares were going to struggle to make the rest of the journey. Meanwhile in the restaurant Andy and Josh were being serenaded by the woman with an organ. The meal turned out to be alright and came with the usual milk tea and cheese curds hard enough to build a house with.

The boys had heard that the road was generally sealed for the rest of the way and were eager to see if they could possibly make it to Ulanbaatar that night. They were absolutely covered in dust and the thought of a shower was just too good, even if it meant driving late into the night. It wasn’t to be though as the roads began to deteriorate and it was looking like Ulanbaatar was a bit too far of a reach. They called into a restaurant on the side of the road where the woman called someone who spoke English so the boys could order. They filled their bellies with a heart stew and found a good camp spot a bit up the road. They were beginning to talk about the end of the rally. Not long to go now! End transmission.

Day 51 - Bumbugur, Mongolia

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 51 – September 4, 2017
Wild Camp, Mongolia
Countries: 29 KMs/Miles: 19739/12337
Breakdowns: 15 Time @ Borders: 53h 15m

Today was by far the most productive day in Kook history. They were the first ones up and were busy having breakfast and packing up. They convoy life had been a disaster the day before and they had fallen well short of their kilometer target. As they watched a couple of people in the convoy doing yoga they realized they needed to get out if they were going to have any chance of getting to the finish line on time and a bit of time in Ulanbaatar. They waved goodbye to the convoy and hit the road by 7:30am.

The road turned to a sealed surface 1km up the road and stayed that way for the next 400km to the next town. There was no one on the road and they were in absolutely flying. This was pretty much the best road they had been on the entire trip! They were in the next town by 12:00pm and had achieved twice the kilometres as the day before and they hadn’t even left at this time the day before.
Coming into town they spotted a mechanic with Mongol Rally signs and a bunch of ralliers standing around outside it. They stopped to call in and chat, went and had some lunch, got a sim card, and got some groceries before pulling out to head on. Mike even booked his flights for after the rally. Taking care of business. The convoy however were only just pulling into town as the Kooks were leaving. It was agreed to keep in touch and the Kooks to find a camp spot.

The roads were turned back to gravel after another 120km of good roads and it was back to rally driving. The scenery was pretty spectacular and so the drone was whipped out for a bit. Coming into the next town Mike had the hammer down and managed to clip a rock which put a small hole in one of the 4x4 tires. Bugger! The dream run had come to a halt and with daylight running out. They put the spare on and headed to the town to find someone who could help out. A wiley guy in the centre of town lea them to a small hut where a local did a quick puncture repair in no time.

After breaking their good run and with little light left in the day the Kooks setup camp with an amazing view just out of town. The bet now was whether or not the convoy would reach them. After such a productive day it was time to put the feet up and enjoy a drink or 10. Mongolians and the Kooks have one thing in common – they both love vodka. How many elephants would you like in your drink? Drunk and with the convoy nowhere to be seen they crawled themselves into their sleeping bags knowing they were back on track. End transmission.

Day 50 - Khovd, Mongolia

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 50 – September 3, 2017
Wild Camp, Mongolia
Countries: 29 KMs/Miles: 18534/10978
Breakdowns: 15 Time @ Borders: 53h 15m

The hostel was a bunch of gers setup with beds, which are the traditional Mongolian huts. Everyone was very hung over and had slept in. They grabbed breakfast at the restaurant next door and discussed the plans for the day with everyone. Aquaduck were keen to do the slower northern route but the convoy were doing the southern route. After the convoy had helped the Kooks out in the past it seemed to make sense to stick with them. Bugger. See you at the finish line Aquaduck. The Kooks had planned on buying a motorbike that day and going somewhere to see eagles but they had slept in too late. Luckily one of the Germans had a similar idea and had bought a bike off a local for $150. Keen to get in on the action it was decided that the Kooks would put in for the bike and we’d all take turns riding it.

After grabbing some groceries and waiting around some more it was finally time for the convoy of about eight vehicles to get away. It was 12:30pm and they needed to go 400km every day for the next four days on shit roads to make it to the finish line on time. Convoy life was fun but it certainly was slow. This could make for some late nights driving.

Pulling out of town the convoy looked bad ass. The Kooks quickly pulled off the road and did some real Mongolian driving. Easily distracted the Kooks spotted a big lake and decided to go have a swim in it while the convoy carried on. This would certainly wash away the hangover. After a quick photoshoot and a drive past some yacks the Kooks were back on track. The roads began to disappear and soon turned to gravel. They quickly caught the convoy having 4x4 tires and the extra height. John had given the Kooks the best opportunity to finish the race.

Andy was having so much fun driving the gravel roads he got a bit ahead of the convoy. They pulled over to do some running repairs on their roof rack and wait for the convoy. An hour passed and no sign of them. Maybe the convoy had taken a wrong turn? With the day disappearing the Kooks decided to push on. There seemed to be a big road being built on the same route as they were on thanks to Chinese mining companies but it was still under construction. The road weaved back and forth over it for a long time before parting ways. There is literally a wide valley and there are no roads but paths where clearly vehicles have driven in the past. All roads lead to Ulaanbaatar apparently!

It was getting dark so the boys called into a town to get some petrol, food, and Wifi. Tucking into dinner one of the Aussie boys walks in. Perfect! The motorbike had no oil and had seized so that was why they had taken so long. They had at least traded it for a bottle of vodka and a smell jacket at least, and some of that vodka was the Kooks. About to leave town the convoy decided they wanted dinner as well so everyone returned to the same restaurant. It was decided to make camp just out of town. They had only managed 200km and the roads were about to get a lot worse. This wasn’t looking good. End transmission.

Day 49 - Russia to Mongolia

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 49 – September 2, 2017
Ulgii, Mongolia
Countries: 29 KMs/Miles: 18296/11435
Breakdowns: 15 Time @ Borders: 53h 15m

She was an early getup in order to make the Mongolian border. The Kooks had a shower to wash the smell of brothel off them and hit the road. The roads were smooth and they were making good time when they called into a small café a hundred kilometres down the road to grab some breakfast and Wifi. As they pulled away they began to do the math in order to get to the border in time, which closed at 6pm. They still had at least 400km to tick off and were going to be pushing it to make it to the border before 4pm in order to have time to cross. They were going to be cutting it fine. Toilet breaks were going to have to be infrequent and petrol stops were going to have to be fast. No time for anything else.

The roads began to get windy and weaved them through beautiful pine forests and rivers. It then changed to rolling hills and marsh lands, then mountains with snowcapped peaks. Some of the leaves had begun to turn brown creating picturesque views as the land began to flatten and small lakes begun to appear. There were horses, goats, and cows crossing the road frequently which provided a fair bit of comic relief and a big road hazard. The road had provided great fun for the drivers and the scenery was by far the most beautiful they had seen on their trip. They had spoken to a dreaded local earlier in the day who said this was one of the best drives in the world and the Kooks would concur.

As they approached the Russian-Mongolian border the land flattened out. They could tell that they were high up as there was little vegetation floating about. Pulling into the border things looked promising. It was about 4pm, there was no one else around and they were let through the gates. The wind was cutting through the place like a knife as the Kooks waited for almost 30 minutes before someone came to serve them. With only two border crossings to go on the trip the Kooks couldn’t wait for this to be done.

Going through the motions it was realized that John hadn’t given them the piece of paper that registered the car in Russia, which they’d got in Kazakhstan. Nervous, nervous times for the Kooks. They handed over the one for Yacks to see if that one would work. If they were denied here the border was closed tomorrow and that would mean they would need to drive around Mongolia in order to make the finish party. The border guard scanned the documents thoroughly and picked up on the mistake. Bugger! He didn’t speak any English but that didn’t stop Mike from trying to talk his way out of it. Clearly they don’t care as much about paperwork at this Russian border as he eventually gave up and was happy to let them pass.

As they were about to head to the next part of the crossing who should turn up…. Aquaduck!!! Shit yeah. The boys were stoked to see one of the crews they had spent a lot of time with at the opening party. It was only a matter of time before they started bumping into a lot of teams as they neared the finish.

A lot of war stories were exchanged as the two teams headed to the Mongolian customs area which was 20km down the road. The Kooks managed to get through fine as it neared 6pm. Aquaduck on the other hand had their passports stamped but needed a small piece of paper stamped to be able to drive their car out. At 6pm on the dot as they handed their paper to the lady she got up and left. Home time apparently. Speaking with the other people there Aquaduck were going to have to stay there, at the border, with no food or water, for two days until the border re-opened. You’ve got to be joking! After some swift chat with the border security guy they managed to get let through.

The Kooks were in Mongolia and with Aquaduck in tow!!! After all of this time and effort they had finally made it. This is what they had driven 20,000km in 7 weeks for. All the blood sweat and tears had finally got them to the prize of the rally – Mongolia! Leaving the border the roads were sealed. Screw this. The two cars took it off road with people hanging out of cars, photos being taken, and bottles of vodka being passed between the cars. The Kooks seriously couldn’t have been happier. About 30km down the road a van was pulled over with a bunch of people standing around it. Did they need some help? Nope it was all of the border control guards having a party in the middle of nowhere. We danced with them and shared some vodka and carried on.

Pulling into Ulgii they spotted the Aussie boys on the side of the road who had caught up with the rest of their convoy. Time to have a few drinks and meet some new people. The Kooks had a blast talking rally stories with everyone and the drinks were flowing. It was decided that everyone needed to find a club so the 20+ people strolled down the road and found a near empty club except for a few locals. The locals seemed impressed with the Kooks dance moves and joined in showing off their breakdancing skills. Unfortunately it was more like your drunk uncle at a wedding than anything impressive. What a day and what a night. Mongolia baby!! End transmission.

Day 48 - Kazakhstan to Russia

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 48 – September 1, 2017
Biysk, Russia
Countries: 28 KMs/Miles: 17565/10978
Breakdowns: 15 Time @ Borders: 50h 30m

The next morning the Kooks and Brothers be Trippin' met downstairs for breakfast. They were served up a ridiculous 7 course meal as they talked a bit more about some alternatives for John. Everyone was still hurting. They reconvened in one of the rooms and it was decided. John would end his trip in Kazakhstan and go drown his sorrows in Budapest before heading home. That was it. The news was just as bad for Brothers be Trippin' with their option to get their visa sorted shattered. That very morning the US and Russia had started stupid political tactics with Russia kicking out the American embassy. The timing couldn't be worse. There is simply so much organising and things that can go wrong on the rally and when things go wrong they can go wrong in a big way.

Packing up Millie John got to say goodbye to the car he had taken so far. The Kooks had a big group hug and said goodbye to the messiah. He had been an absolute star as a team member. The Kooks as a crew had worked so well for what was basically a bunch of strangers getting together and driving halfway around the world. It was sad to see one more of their team members fall away and at such a crucial time. They tried to look on the bright side and all of the memories they had formed so far and what the group had achieved. Driving away John got the standard Dixie Horn send off and the three remaining Kooks headed off to try and catch Geej and the convoy.

Back at the border there was hardly anyone around. They knew the drill. At the Russian border there was a tense moment when they weren't going to accept the car passport. Mike had taken over the ownership of Millie but didn't have the paperwork yet. They didn't seem to be happy with the NZ passport and British vehicle. Finally the guy came back and stamped them in. Finally they were in Russia. Their mood lifted and they were determined to finish this god damn rally for the fallen comrades that could be there with them.

It was time for them to catch the convoy and Geej and to do that they needed to put some time in behind the wheel. With two long driving days they could catch the convoy in Ulgii. The roads had improved to what most people would consider a 7.5/10 but for the Kooks the roads seemed like straight 10s. It was heaven. After a couple hundred kilometres the roads turned into motorway. This was the first time the Kooks had been on motorway since Turkey! The horse and cart must fly up and down these roads.

A wrong turn from Andy put them in the centre of a big town which seemed to be having a big spring concert in the middle of town. The Kooks waded through the crowds receiving a lot of strange stares. The friendly personality that had greeted them in the Stans seemed to have faded. They managed to find a spot to dive into some pizza before making the final push.

They had been informed of a spot the convoy had stayed at the night before and decided they would head there. Surely they had done their research and found a perfect spot for a. Inch of ralliers. As they headed into town the roads slowly turned into dirt roads and the fog began to fill in. It was looking a little rapey for the Kooks liking and they began to wonder where they had been lead too.

When they pulled up to the spot the gates were closed. It looked like a large old rundown house. After ringing the bell the door was opened by two women in robes. Was this the right place? Apparently. The place looked a little run down but for $10 a night the Kooks weren't complaining. They were shown up to their room and given linen and robes. The place all looked a bit strange to them. Now the Kooks are no experts in this but after a brief discussion it was decided that the place was definitely a brothel. Not sure what sort of convoy they were trying to catch up with! It was 1am and time for bed. End transmission

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.

Day 46 - Ust'-Kamenogorsk, Kazakhstan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 46 - August 30, 2017
Wild Camp, Kazakhstan
Countries: 27 KMs/Miles: 16624/10390
Breakdowns: 15 Time @ Borders: 46h 30m

The crew woke up in a recently harvested field that was a lot closer to the road than what they had thought. Up on the hill there was a farmer on a horse herding cows and at one point another farmer in a harvester drive past who gave a friendly wave and seemed to be chuckling to himself. We consider that our countries are friendly and welcoming to outsiders but I’m sure if a farmer came across a motley lot in two clapped out rust buckets he would be pretty quick to grab the shotgun and see them on their way. One of the most amazing things about this part of the world was the general hospitality and friendly demeanour of the locals towards the Kooks.

It was the first morning without Yacks and Stananball had moved to a significantly small car so everyone was trying to adjust their morning schedule. Stananball headed off first and the Kooks followed shortly after with the plan to try and catch the convoy later that night. The roads were horrific again and made driving for John and Josh a test of their concentration with pot holes and raised sections that could put a quick end to their trip. Now that there was only one car they’d thrown all of their eggs in one basket.

The drive was unremarkable other than the fields of Marijuana / Ganga / Mary Jane / The Old Whacky Backy / Devils Lettuce / The Sticky Icky / Ubonic Chronic / The Shizzzle My Nizzle / The Old Whaka-chang-chang. It’s crazy to think that in some of the Kooks home countries this stuff is illegal with serious penalties for possessing or selling it. Yet here it was growing wild on the sides of the road in Kazakhstan.

Driving for hundreds of kilometres the view was predominantly flat tussock grass with the occasional field of wheat. The Kooks tried to keep themselves entertained with podcasts and caught up with Stananball for a bit of lunch in a small town. As it began getting dark they passed through a town where the smog was so think you could smell it and the headlights were struggling to push through it. As they came over a bridge in the town it was clear that what was causing it - several large chimneys pumping out think black smoke. This is kind of what some of the Kooks had pictured this part of the world to be like.

Shortly after the town one of the Kooks spotted a car on the side of the road that looked like it was a rally car. They flipped a bitch only to find out it was the Aussie boys and Geej. Woohoo! They’d found a good little camp spot with a car of Germans and a car of Norwegian girls. Tents were thrown up and drinks were poured as the Kooks had finally caught up with the Aussie boys who they had been planning on travelling with since meeting back in London. The head chefs combined to cook a Michelin Star tuna pasta dish. The Kooks were happy to have Geej back and a new group of people to exchange stories with, and better yet they were going to be done with the Stans tomorrow. Good riddens. End transmission.

Day 45 - Wild Camp, Kazakhstan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 45 - August 29, 2017
Wild Camp, Kazakhstan
Countries: 27 KMs/Miles: 15950/9969
Breakdowns: 15 Time @ Borders: 46h 30m

Geej was up early to head off with the Aussie boys who were in a large convoy heading north. Convoys are great for socializing (having a yarn and kicking back a few cans) but move about as fast as John getting out of bed in the mornings. The plan was to catch up with the convoy the following day and head with them to Mongolia.

There was no need for a mechanic today so it was John’s day off. After working his hands to the bone over the past few days it was time for him to kick back, relax, and most importantly, check out what Kazakhstan Tinder had to offer. Mike, Andy and John headed to a nearby café while Josh went and finally got his visa sorted for Mongolia. Breakfasts had largely consisted of luncheon, strange cheese, cut tomatoes and cucumber, the occasional cold hardboiled egg, and lots and lots and lots of bread for the past few weeks. You can imagine the boys eyes lit up when there was a big breakfast and eggs benedict on the menu. Wa-wa-wa-wa-wi-wa! It’s the little things you appreciate when living the rally life.

Back at the hostel a couple of the guys from team Stananball had heard of how the Kooks were ditching a car and had come over to do the exact same thing. They also had a Skoda and had pretty much the exact same problem as Yacks, except they didn’t have an in house mechanic. Hearing their stories and how much time they’d spent sitting in towns waiting for the car to be fixed made us all realise how much of an asset John was to the team.

After waiting for hours for the guy who was getting rid of the cars to turn up he finally arrived. As with the previous day the hostel guy was playing translator. After a 30 minute run down in Russian about how the process was going to go, exaggerated hand gestures, and a lot of words that sound similar to ‘problem’ it was translated down to three sentences indicating that we needed to go to a lawyer to get some letters written and then a truck would take the car. Perfect. Let’s get this show on the road so we can get rid of that bloody car and back on the road.

It turned out there was a lawyer in the building so Mike and the guys went to see her. After a another big run down in Russian that lasted about 15 minutes the hostel guy indicated that we just needed to write letters indicating that we had swapped the cars. This definitely didn’t sound legit but if that was what she was saying and Mike could cross into Russia that was all we needed. It also turns out that there was the possibility of getting $700 for the car as technically the Kazakhstan government was buying the car. This had to be done back in the UK so who knows if this was true. Getting a deposit back for not having to ship the car at the end of the rally and this meant the Kooks were literally printing money for scrapping Yacks. She was definitely worth more dead than alive.

Back at the hostel the pen and paper was ripped out and letters were penned in Russian and English outlining the trading of the car. So official! John and Josh had returned from picking up a new tent just in time to see Yacks get shoved onto a tow truck and taken away. It was mixed emotions. On one hand this car had taken the boys most of the way through the trip. There had been plenty of good times and great times in the car. Yarns had, podcasts played, and beers drunk. On the other hand there were also a lot of bad memories with constant breakdowns, hard work towing and fixing her and days wasted. Most importantly though the Kooks were free to push forward with a car that was working.

It was time to get rid of the excess baggage to lighten the load so the boys headed around the corner to a post office. The Kooks were shipping back big backpacks but they only seemed to sell boxes that were half that size. Not a problem for a Kook. Shove that bad boy in there and get out the sticky tape. With the box looking more like a poorly wrapped Christmas present with the bags poking out at every angle the long drawn out process of trying to fill out the forms in Cyrillic began. It seemed that half of the store had to help out but after an hour the bags were on their way. Hopefully they’d make it back to Australia.

The Kooks hadn’t eaten since breakfast so headed to the mall only to find there was a Burger King, Carls Jnr, and delicious chicken covered in all 11 herbs and spices of the Colonel’s secret recipe. Time to really branch out and get cultured and see if the KFC chicken tasted any different in Kazakhstan (note: it’s still finger lickin’ good).

Back on the road with the music turned up to 11, the sun setting, and blazing a trail north, the boys were all absolutely pumped. Finally they were ticking off the k’s again with a car that had no problems with it. The suspension was cranked up and Millie was flying over all of the bumps that used to cause them so much grief. John and Josh were the only ones on the insurance and they had heard there were a lot of crooked cops around so they were the ones lumped with driving. Andy and Mike made the most of it and decided to lighten the load of the car by drinking all of the vodka and whiskey in the back of the car. Someone’s got to do it!

Stananball had bought a Micra off another rally team that had disbanded in Almaty and were also back on the road. Hyped up on energy drinks the Kooks soon caught up with them and began a convoy. Pulling into a service station Stananball tried to fill up their tank using a Jerry can. They had been told there was a problem with the tank where you needed to stick a second tube in the opening to let the air out. This backfired massively with fuel spilling out absolutely everywhere. It seemed that none was going in and it was just spilling all over the forecourt, much to the Kooks amusement. John had the idea of lifting up the back seats and taking the fuel pump off the top of the tank. They tried again and it seemed to be working until Mike noticed there was fuel pouring out of the top of the fuel tank and into their car. The tank had been full which was why it wasn’t taking any gas. No smoking in the car for a while boys!

The roads were starting to get worse and it was getting late so the convoy found a paddock and setup shop for the night. Time for bed. End transmission.

Day 44 - Almaty, Kazakhstan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 44 - August 28, 2017
Almaty, Kazakhstan
Countries: 27 KMs/Miles: 15504/9690
Breakdowns: 15 Time @ Borders: 46h 30m

The hostel was located smack bang in the middle of town with a massive westernised mall located just across the road perfect for some breakfast. This part of Almaty was a far cry from the more low key area the Kooks had previously been staying or what had been portrayed in Borat. There were even signs for Burger King and KFC which had been non-existent for a couple of weeks. Their mood was still a little low with the state of the cars and the constant breakdowns.

After the most western feed they’d had in ages they set to work. Mike and Andy headed up to get stuck into some admin work, whilst John and Josh set about taking the front left wheel back off Yacks and determining what was going on with the bloody thing. John was busy dreaming of his garage back in Auchterarder where he had all of his tools laid out and hoists for the cars. He had spent way too many hours sitting and lying on the ground trying to work on these vehicles. To be fair the rest of the Kooks were sick of seeing him taking the wheels off so you can only imagine how he felt.

After tinkering around swapping parts out and reassembling the front half of the car he came to the conclusions that the gear box and the diff were on the way out as well and that was where a lot of the noise was coming from the night before. So Yacks had an engine and a gear box that was on the way out and was realistically a massive car ending breakdown around the corner.

Not looking good the Kooks decided to gather for a serious meeting of the round table over some food. Fairly quickly it was determined that it was time to cut Yacks from the team. The time that had been used up on the vehicle and the time it would take to fix her just wasn’t feasible if the Kooks were going to make it to the finish line before the last day. There had been grand plans to cut Yacks in half when she was going to break down and use her as a trailer but that was going to take even more time that they just didn’t have.

The decision was made and felt like a weight off all of their shoulders. The problem now was how do you get rid of a car in these countries. We knew we couldn’t sell it as it was a left hand drive car, and we also needed to get specific documentation to indicate it had been dealt with appropriately in order for Mike to be able to leave the country. It seemed that none of the other ralliers were able to help and those who had indicated it was a drawn out process. Bugger. Was the best option to drive back to Kyrgyzstan to flick it off!?

After some research it they asked the very helpful guy at the hostel. As with every other hostel we seem to ask for help there was ‘a guy’ who would be able to help us out. Even better he was going to come around in an hour and help us get rid of the thing. The guy ended up being a mechanic for Lexus and didn’t speak a lick of English. He seemed to enjoy talking for 5 minutes at a time with the hostel guy translating it all into a simple sentence. The good news though was that it wasn’t going to cost the earth, the paperwork would be done that day and then the car would be taken away the next day and the final paperwork exchanged. Perfect!

The boys were absolutely pumped to just have progress and all banded together to start stripping the two cars apart and consolidate two cars into one. This is what they were good at – making sh!t happen. Tearing the cars apart and stripping anything they didn’t need it was amazing how much extra baggage they had been carrying. All this going on as two bums smashed vodka and took a surprising interest in Joshy and kangaroos.

The Aussie boys that the Kooks had got on with at the opening party (Karn you good thing) turned up to see what was going on. They had been travelling in a big convoy and offered to take one of the Kooks saving much needed space and weight.

After a big trying day it was time to let off some steam. A bunch of the teams were going to meet down at a nearby pub. It looked more like an American pub rather than a watering hole in Kazakhstan. The beers were flowing and the Kooks tried the local dish of horse meat, talking with all the new faces from the massive convoy. Everyone seemed to have some crazy story to tell which puts your own problems into perspective and makes you realise you’re all in it together.

Buggered and with half a buzz on the Kooks hit the hay with high hopes for getting out of Almaty the next day. End transmission.

Day 43 - Almaty, Kazakhstan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 43 - August 27, 2017
Almaty, Kazakhstan
Countries: 27 KMs/Miles: 15450/9656
Breakdowns: 15 Time @ Borders: 46h 30m

The Kooks headed to the free breakfast pretty chuffed with their choice of place to stay with the biggest car parts mega centre they had come across located only a couple of minutes’ walk from where they were. If they were to find some parts for the car surely it would be here. There had been a lot of talk over the past few days about the McGregor / Mayweather fight but with time starting to run low and plenty of kilometres to do before reaching Mongolia they needed the car fixed ASAP to get back on the road.

The centre aptly named Car City was several stories high and had hundreds of tiny little stalls on every level numbered from 1-300+. It seemed like everything under the sun was sold here and even better, there were plenty of Skoda and VW signs around the place. The first item on the agenda was a bolt for the suspension which had corroded and was no good after replacing the suspension the day before. Searching up and down the corridors and asking everyone in sight the Kooks got sent on a wild goose chase. After an hour of searching they were no closer to finding the part. This was not a good start. Not a single bolt that would be useful!

The Kooks were getting frustrated until they stumbled upon a small shop with a bunch of people hanging around it. It was the fight being played on an illegal stream on a tiny computer screan and the first round was seconds away from starting. Boom! Looks like the Kooks would watch the fight after all. John, who had made his thoughts on wanting McGregor to win very clear, became a boxing expert pointing out that McGregor was definitely winning the first few rounds. With the stream cutting out at times it soon became clear that the fight was swinging Mayweather’s way and it was soon over. Back to work for the Kooks and on the hunt for a god damn bolt.

Trawling the centre they finally found the bolt they were looking for. They also stumbled across a guy who sold Skoda parts and stocked up: Two suspension arms, a new CV joint, and one suspension cylinder. Plus they had found the bolts they needed. Kazakhstan was looking up!!

They didn’t have a piston though which was the thing the Kooks really needed the most. Yacks was a ticking time bomb waiting to happen and who knew how much further she had to go. Another team who had a Skoda Fabia were potentially going to scrap their vehicle so there was hope yet. The Kooks would have to wait and find out the verdict though. This could seriously be an absolute savior.

John and Mike set to work fixing the car while Josh and Andy tried to track down possible parts if we were to get the new pistons. In the blistering sun John was hard at it and proving his worth fixing both cars back to near new (minus Yacks engine). It had been another long day of working on the cars but everything was starting to look up, and the Kooks could even get out that evening and get some kilometres on the board.

The hotel had a sauna room which came complete with a bar, private sauna and pool, and private bedroom, all for $15 for an hour. Ignoring the creepy plow room with the bed, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. It was time to sit back with a beer, realx, and take some time out to reflect on the trying days that had unfolded over the past couple of weeks.

Feeling fresh and quietly proud of their achievements it was time to get back on the road. Pulling out of the car park there was a clunk coming from Yacks. Everyone’s heart sinks a little. It turns out it’s the outer CV joint of the one John had replaced which had come out. Another quick fix it job and we were back on the road. After about 30 minutes on the road and just getting out of town Andy decides there is a noise coming from Yacks again. We pull over and it’s the outer CV joint that has come out again. After slogging his guts out and taking these cars apart for several days straight John finally snaps. This is getting beyond a joke. After a stressed out cigarette he pulls himself and the car back together, but it’s decided that they will disappointedly head back to Almaty and lose at least another day on the road.

After checking into the hostel the Kooks are in need of a beer – stat. Here everyone is a taxi where you just throw your hand out and someone in a normal car will pick you up. Mike was keen to give this a crack and sure enough the third car to drive past pulls over. There were a couple of teams drinking at a pub down the road, and more importantly the boys who were potentially scrapping their Skoda. The teams traded stories of breakdowns, dramas, massive money expenditure, and trying days over a few beers, shots, and some pizza. Everyone was pretty buggered though so it was an early(ish) night for the Kooks to prepare for another day of trying to get these cars back on the road.

The rally is proving to be an emotional rollercoaster. Surely their luck had to change…. End transmission.

Day 42 - Krygyzstan to Kazakhstan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 42 - August 26, 2017
Osh, Kazakhstan
Countries: 27 KMs/Miles: 15450/9656
Breakdowns: 14 Time @ Borders: 46h 30m

John had been doing a lot of work over the past few days so Andy and Mike decided they would head back to the car bazaar to get the remaining items on the list. It was another stinking hot day and being a weekend the place was absolutely rammed. Having navigated the maze the day before Mike knew where to go and immediately went to our man to get the new springs. After he disappeared for 20 minutes he finally came back with different springs than yesterday. They were going to have to do and hopefully John could make them work.

The next stop was a new spare tire. Andy got whisked away to buy a new one at a separate shop and landed a steal with a used Bridgestone tire with plenty of tread on it. The wheel balancing machine revealed that the rim was all over the place. Coughing up more money the boy went out the back where there was a lot of loud hammering heard, while Mike and Andy changed stories with the other workers. Finally done the boys grabbed a few other pieces before trekking back to the hostel. A successful day at the car market. See, there was always tomorrow 😉

John and Josh had tried to find a tent with little luck, whilst Geej was looking sharp after getting a haircut. It was lunch time and the Kooks had found the best shop which sold the closest thing they could find to a pie. Healthy eating as always! John put in the front suspension for Millie and the Kooks were good to go. Finally they would be leaving Bukhara and with both of the cars looking like monster trucks. After running from pot holes Andy was determined to start aiming for them to show them who is boss.

The border was only a few kilometres down the road and they were soon out of Kyrgyzstan and into Kazakhstan. The guards barely looked in the cars and they flew through in less than an hour. By far the shortest crossing they had come across.

Sitting at the border the Kazakhstan flag was waving above them with all of the boys picturing Borat – “A very nice to meet you. My name a Borat. I like you, do you like me?” but what they got was very different. No one sounds anything like Borat, no one looks remotely like him, and no one is wearing a mankini. There is definitely heavy Mongolian history here. Somehow Hollywood had got Kazakhstan completely wrong – go figure!

The Kooks met another team with a Skoda Fabia whilst getting insurance and traded stories. It sounded like they were having a hard time as well after butchering their car on the Pamir Highway and several dodgy mechanics. On the road the Kooks were ticking off some kilometres and loving the nice, flat roads. It was dark and the heavy slow trucks were dragging the trip out, but at least they were moving.

About 80km out of Almaty there is a crunch noise that comes from the front left tire of Yacks and Mike is forced to quickly swerve off the road. John has a feel around in the pitch black and deduces that the CV joint that had been put together in Nukus has spat the dummy and has fallen to pieces. Time to get the tow rope out again.

The tow is horrific. The cars have been raised up so Mike can barely see any of the tow rope. He also needs to keep his foot on the accelerator to ensure that Yacks doesn’t stall, in order to have the engine assist with putting the brakes on. However, when he does brake the engine automatically goes to idle as a safety feature so he has to work like a tap dancer on the pedals. Its hell for the boys and coming into town they decide it’s a good idea to pull over and find a hotel near there. Luckily for the boys there is a cheap hotel right around the corner, and better yet it’s next to a big car parts sales area.

Another long day for the Kooks fixing cars, border crossings, breaking down, towing, and getting in late. Standard. End transmission.

Day 41 - Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 41 - August 25, 2017
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Countries: 26 KMs/Miles: 15200/9500
Breakdowns: 14 Time @ Borders: 44h 0m

Andy was up bright and early taking care of business, getting shit done, after having an early night. It turns out that drinking until 5am does not make it easy to get up early and get chores done. So fair to say that Mike, Josh, and John were a little slower to drag themselves out of bed looking like death had cast his siecle. They had also picked up a straggler on their adventures the night before with Patrick found lying on the ground on the hostel room. Seeing him in his defeated state made the Kooks feel a little better about themselves.

Everyone had a list of chores to do for the day. Andy was all over general interneting (website, route navigation, and border crossings), Josh had to go get his visa and pick up a few bits and pieces for camping, and John and Mike were tasked with going to the car bazaar to pick up a large list of car supplies.

Mike and John headed off still drunk from the night before and feeling worse for wear. It was a stinking hot day with cars pulling out everywhere on the jam packed roads and pedestrians walking out in front of them. After getting all of 1km down the road they realised they had forgotten the springs to compare to the new ones they wanted so they turned back. After getting another 2km down the road they realised they had forgotten the spare wheel that needed replacing. FFS. That was just going to have to wait until another day. There’s always tomorrow right!? This was going to be a long day.

The car bazaar was a busy place made up of shipping containers which were piled two stories high. Walking around there seemed to be a lot of shops selling all sorts of goods. The people here seem to be a clear mix of two types of heritage - Mongolian and Russian. There were women walking around with little carts selling drinks and food, and everyone seemed to have an eye problem with the boys.

They managed to find a guy who seemed to sell everything with half of the bazaar keen to come over and help out. First things first was the springs. The goal was to crank the car up so they could fly over any bump or pot hole. You wouldn’t believe it but he had them. After running around he came back with a bunch of springs. It looked like the back ones were spot on but they were unsure of the rear ones so only bought one set. They inquired about a bunch of other parts but were unsuccessful. The boys found a new jack as the old one had given up and grabbed a light bulb. Hardly the extent of the list but at least they had accomplished something.

After a feed they headed back. Everyone was beat so while Andy ran to do some postcards the boys took a little time out for safety and got horizontal. When they rose John set to turning the red car into a monster truck. A few other ralliers had blown into town. The Kooks were finally starting to catch up with other cars and had some amigos to trade battle stories with. After a couple of hours hard yacka the red car was looking like a tank. There was no way Yacks was going to have any ground clearance issues. Any other work was going to have to wait, it was beer o’clock. There’s always tomorrow right!?

All the ralliers headed to the restaurant from the night before. The place was pumping compared to the night before. The beers and yarns were flowing. It was kind of nice for the Kooks to get some good time in with people other than themselves after being so cut off from the rest of the rally and the rest of the English speaking world over the past few weeks.

A few of the ralliers wanted to push on but the Kooks were in tatters. A clear indication of how much they had been burning the candle at both ends. The boys crawled into bed broken. End transmission.

Day 40 - Bishkek, Kyrgyztsan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 40 - August 24, 2017
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
Countries: 26 KMs/Miles: 15186/9491
Breakdowns: 14 Time @ Borders: 44h 0m

After finally waking up next to a body of water following a night camping the Kooks decided that the lake just wasn’t clean enough to go for a wake up dip. Rubbish was washed up all along the shore and it didn’t look the cleanest. The lake had proved to be good from far but far from good. No point in hanging around so after breakfast and a cleanup it was back on the road. Bring on the Pamirs! Well at least the nice and sealed section given Yacks was not in a fit state to even drive down to the dairy to pick up some bread and milk.

The road followed the lake before heading upwards towards the hills. The landscape was generally mountainous but was still quite dry and barren. Extending up from the lake was a river that the road began to follow and the Kooks decided this would be where they got their daily shower. Running straight off the snowy mountains the water was ice cold and definitely gave them the shock they needed to jump start the day.

Back on the road they were clearly starting to gain some altitude as the air got thinner and the snow seemed to be getting closer. Joshy had never seen snow before so maybe today would be the day. The sides of the road began to widen out and grassy banks began to form next to the river. The paddocks had stock and horses grazing in them. There were gers (Mongolian style huts) placed on the side of the road with smoke coming out of them and young children waving at the passing cars. The Kooks were still a ways off Mongolia but this is exactly what they pictured it being like.

They pulled over to take some photos and a few rally cars drove past that had been parked next to them the night before but they hadn’t met. They had a quick chin wag before continuing the climb up the mountain. As they got towards the top the whole area opened up to reveal a wide plateau. Livestock were grazing the fields and there were more gers dotted along the road. They called in to get some gas and ditch their rubbish. Andy was trying to find the rubbish bin and was shown to the edge of the service station where the rubbish was thrown into a big pile and lit on fire shortly after. I know these guys carbon footprint must be small but surely there’s a better way. Andy was not impressed.

The road continued to wind up the mountain with switchback after switchback. The view was tumeke (meaning very good in Maori). It looked like we were going to hit the snow and Joshy’s eyes were lighting up, but as the Kooks neared the top they entered a tunnel and that was as high as they were going to get. On the other side they pulled over to take photos of the deep valley only to see that there was a massive mountainside with heaps of switchbacks. They’d hoped to do the Transfargalbargin (incorrectly nicknamed by the Kooks), considered one of the best driving roads, located in Romania, but had to miss it. Screw the Transfargalbargin this looked beast.

Andy ripped out the drone and the boys started driving with John and Mike on the roof – standard Kook behavior. A few turns down the mountain all of a sudden they hear a siren from a cop car and quickly stop and leap off. They expected the worst, except the cops just pointed at them and carried on. Classic. They did a photo shoot and Mike seemed to be a hit with the local ladies getting asked for a few extra snaps with them. Time to head on though and get to Bishkek. This small section of the Pamirs had been stunning and some of the best scenery of the trip. Pamirs, tick.

Coming into town Andy had a hell of a time driving the red car trying to make sure she didn’t stall while vehicles pulled out left right and centre. It had become a nightmare to drive with the stuffed engine. The town wasn’t anything special but did seem to have a couple of nice squares. They checked into the hostel, which was one of the cleaner ones in a while, and shot off to get some dinner in town. The restaurant seemed strangely western and had the most awkward waiter who seemed overly attentive and a little creepy. The Kooks seem to attract these sorts of people. Stardoms a bitch.

The cars were in need of some serious work and general admin had been neglected for some time so lists were made and tasks were assigned for the next day. Time to be productive boys! They had been messaging another team with a Skoda Fabia who seemed to have the same problem as them and were talking about scrapping their car. With any luck the Kooks could grab their spare parts and get Yacks back running. There was a small chance Yacks would be able to carry on. So how do you convince a team that they need to give you their car? Ply them with liquor of course!

Back at the hostel the other crew came around and war stories were exchanged over a few beers. It sounded like they had been having a hard time as well and were done with fixing their car. They weren’t making any decisions tonight though so Josh, John and Mike went with the other team to the bar down the road. The place was called Coyote Ugly and was very western. It was 12am and very quiet though. The shots were coming thick and fast and the shisha was ripped out. Finally at around 2am the place packed out with locals and it was time for the Kooks to show off their mad dance moves. Naturally, they killed it.

All of a sudden it was 5am and everyone was wasted. Patrick from the other team had lost his mates and could barely walk. Taking him under their wing the Kooks went on the hunt for food but came up with dick all. Time for bed. Taxi! Tomorrow was supposed to be a big day. End transmission.

Day 39 - Toktogul Reservoir, Kyrgyzstan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 39 - August 23, 2017
Osh, Kyrgyzstan to Toktogul Reservoir
Countries: 26 KMs/Miles: 14840/9275
Breakdowns: 14 Time @ Borders: 45h 45m

Sometimes a short blog is a good blog and with beer to be drank, this will be just that (although whether it is ‘good’ isn’t certain). As many of the Kooks are engineers, the day’s events will be broken down in a bulleted list. Short and succinct.

-Began the drive towards the final scenic section of the Pamir Highway and was immediately pulled over by a crooked cop for speeding. $30. Bastard.
-Closing in on the Pamir, the Kooks were pulled over again by another crooked cop. Damnit.
-Got away with a trivial fine ($7) but were forced to part with some Kook T-Shirts and Duct Tape. The police gave us grapes and yoghurt in return.
-During said traffic-stop, John and Geej tore some local shrubbery from the side of the road for a late-night fire and loaded it into Millie. The police were visually confounded by this, laughed, and finally waved the boys on. Oddest traffic-stop ever
-Market stop to stock up for the camp saw the Kooks load up with cake, Kyrgyz empanadas, beer and John bought his much sought after ‘funny’ hat. The locals were impressed.
-After well over 5 weeks on the road, the Kooks finally got a scenic drive through the mountains. About damn time.
-Pulled in to wild camp at a lake with great views while the sun was still out. What a treat. The first time the Kooks have set up camp during the day.
-Still managed to pick the worst ground ever to pitch a tent. Slept like shit. Drats.

End Transmission.

Day 38 - Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 38 - August 22, 2017
Tashkent, Uzbekistan to Osh, Kyrgyzstan
Countries: 25 KMs/Miles: 14498/9061
Breakdowns: 14 Time @ Borders: 45h 45m

With their departure of Uzbekistan approaching, the boys were quick to rise and hit the road ASAP to make the 7pm border crossing closing time. Some tricky calculations were made over breakfast to determine the amount of fuel they would require and how much money it would cost them. They would attempt to leave this country with not a drop extra of crap petrol and no a cent amongst them of worthless currency.

The roads were laden with potholes and bumps but these Kooks had seen much worse so they were making good ground. A mountain pass saw their speed decrease to match the overheating trucks in front of them and tested John’s idling ability in YACKS but they were rewarded on the other sied with a nice roadside café for soups. Their charades skills were still subpar so the chef just took Andy to the kitchen to show what would be served. Looked good. A thumbs up and nod made the order and the Kooks were treated to a delicious soup.

Back on the road the Kooks were confident they would make the border well before the 7pm closing time. But as with everything of late, nothing came easy to the Kooks. Police checkpoints started creeping up every 50km and the Kooks were easy prey to be told to pull to the side of the road. All that appeared to come of these checkpoints was an officer who would ‘draw’ the Kooks passport details (since Cyrillic is their alphabet, English letters are written with the same ease as Westerners would draw Chinese characters).

Sick of the stops and not wanting to be stuck is this country for an additional day if they missed the border crossing, the next policeman who waved them down was giving a hello wave from the Kooks as they sped past. No flashing lights. Phew. 10km down the road a crazed man pulls up in a beat-up Lada waving frantically at YACKS, they just smile and wave back butt ignore his efforts to pull them over. The man tries his luck with Millie and she is a bit more receptive to his plea as they pull over. Turns out he was an officer. Damn. He escorts the Kooks back to the checkpoint to completed the pointless drill and the Kooks are off free from fines but short on time.

The Kooks pull into the border a exactly 6pm Uzbekistan time but are scared that the hour lost on Kyrgyzstan side of the border will screw them. To their relief this is not the case. Lights weren’t even turned on to search the bags in the dimming light and the only real questioning being around that damn $7 Shisha pipe they had purchased in Iran. That thing was so more hassle than it was worth. An easy border crossing with guards who were eager to leave for home saw them through in less than 2hrs which was quite rare for these Kooks. They even received a small treat on the exit which would turn out to be a cheese curd delicacy in this part of the world. Gross. The Kooks wanted candy and were quick to spit out the sour imposter.

Rolling into Osh was a welcome sight for the Kooks. Neon lights advertising restaurants, pharmacies, banks and hotels were lined up and down the streets. Pulling up to the recommended hotel, another welcome sight befell them, fellow Ralliers! An entire 3-team convoy to be precise. The Kooks decided to stay there and share some beers with the other teams but after a quick meal with a pestering drunk DJ, exhaustion overcame them and they were passed out well before any comrades could be found. End Transmission.

Day 37 - Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 37 - August 21, 2017
Bukhara, Uzbekistan to Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Countries: 25 KMs/Miles: 14082/8801
Breakdowns: 14 Time @ Borders: 44h 0m

Breakfast saw the Kooks in a haggard state making big decisions of the day to come and what to do about YACKS and her presumed damaged piston. The hostel owner, Beck, offered to take John to a local mechanic who would be able to give John have the equipment required to test the engine compression and would know whether there were spare parts available. The Kooks decided to head down this path before making any final decisions.

After only a few hours, the lads return and arise Andy from his sly little hungover kip. The news is grim. John’s suspicions were confirmed and the piston is blown. There are no Skoda parts in the country, shipping is too timely and YACKS is in trouble. Some big decisions would need to be made at the Round Table.

With all options exhausted, the decision became glaringly clear. The boys would need to skip the Pamir Highway. This cut deep. It was the coup-de-grace of the Mongol Rally and the Kooks had been eager to tackle it from day one. Time was quickly becoming a factor though and if these Kooks were to have a legitimate shot at crossing the finish line before it closed, they just could not risk taking a terminally ill YACKS over the treacherous pass. The route redrawn, the boys will skip Tajikistan altogether and cross directly into Kyrgyzstan. Import taxes in Uzbekistan make it a very expensive endeavour to scrap a car so if YACKS needed to be put down, she couldn’t be put down here. Off to Bishkek where the boys were hopeful they could either:

a) Get Skoda parts and do an engine overhaul or;
b) Cut YACKS in half, register as a trailer and buy a motorcycle to lighten Millie’s load (quickly becoming the preferred choice).

Heads hung low, the boys join Beck for a cheap and cheerful lunch of arguably the best kebabs they have had on the trip (and they have had a LOT of kebabs). They return to the hostel to say goodbye to the girls….again. This time would be the last.

The Kooks limped into Tashkent late with tails between legs and YACKS still unable to idle which was certainly increasing their driving skills. Stops needed to be planned well in advance and quick hands & feet were a must to keep the revs up while braking or pulling the hand break. The boys would be true rally car drivers soon enough.

Before pulling into town, the boys made a running adjustment to the route and decided that the final section of the Pamir was obtainable if they crossed at Osh. It was a short section which fellow Ralliers had ensured was good roads with great roads. More time in Uzbekistan would be required with dodgey petrol and funny money but it was worth it for a taste of the Pamir. Not the grand trophy they desired, but a consolation prize nonetheless. End Transmission.

Day 36 - Bukhara, Uzbekistan

Kublai Kooks - Mongol Rally 2017
Day 36 - August 20, 2017
Bukhara, Uzbekistan
Countries: 25 KMs/Miles: 13501/8438
Breakdowns: 14 Time @ Borders: 44h 0m

Morning saw the Kooks rise a little slow as they weren’t in any rush to face YACKS and her latest issue. They mulled it over a tasty hostel breakfast and decided to crack on to Dushanbe where they could get some higher quality petrol and hopefully have a better chance of diagnosing & solving whatever the problem with her engine may be. But first, sightseeing.

Kathy and Mirjam had kindly offered their services as tour guides for the Kooks since they had spent the previous day taking in the Bukhara sights and were now practically locals. Bukhara was quite a surprise to these unsuspecting Kooks With market laden alleyways, beautiful mosques and shisha cafes, they were finally getting a glimpse of what they had anticipated Central Asia to look like.

Walking through the city in the desert heat had drummed up the Kooks appetite and they found a café to fill their stomachs and quench their parched throats with some cold beers. With Dushanbe near and nobody exactly thrilled to be behind the wheel of YACKS, the Kooks enjoyed their lunch and a late start was to be the result.

Back at the hostel, the Kooks bid farewell to their tour guides and set off to fill the jerrycans with just enough petrol to make it to Dushanbe and not a drop more. No benzine to be found. Shit. The Kooks would not miss this inconvenience when Uzbekistan was in their rear-view mirror. Hesitant to trust any petrol from the local’s ‘stash’, the Kooks headed back out of town to brave the horrendous roads from the previous night and get to the petrol station that had served them before.

After filling up, John, ever thinking of YACKS dying groans, once again had an idea and went about testing the one-way valve. Although it appeared as broken as the rest of the car, it was not the culprit and left the Kooks scratching their heads once more.
With the rest of the Kooks being mechanically imprudent (up until this point many had barely even changed a tire), sometimes important feedback to John can be lapsed because it is just not deemed ‘important’ to the others. Many just prefer to turn the music up when the car grumbles at them. This was one of those instances and a small piece of information came to John’s attention that had not been previously made aware. Millie had seen YACKS coughing up blue smoke earlier that day. Immediately John knew the problem, YACKS was burning fuel and her piston was f*cked. Not an easy fix made even more difficult in a country lacking Skodas. Kooks had a real problem. Back to the hostel, Dushanbe would need to wait.

Beers divvied amongst the troops at the round table, the options were weighed. As the rounds increased, the option which rose above the rest was the work of some real creative brainstorming. Cut YACKS in half, attach a tow-bar and register her as a trailer. Five would jam in Millie with their gear in YACKS. Genius. The beers were definitely working.

Kathy and Mirjam returned from their daily excursion and were happy to see the Kooks but felt pity on their situation. Seeing the Kooks so disheartened, the girls dragged the boys out by their rubber arms for dinner, drinks and Shisha. Just what the boys needed and soon the vodka shots were being dispersed as the attitudes were lightening and the worries shed.

Eventually the Sunday night merriment wore on the tired restaurant staff and the bill was handed out while the lights were turned off. The Kooks and girls were not ready for bed though, that would only bring them closer to tomorrow and tomorrow’s problems that they were ever eager to put off.

The French are often given a bad rep of being ‘pompous a-holes’. The Kooks know this not to be true but on occasion they are still guilty of stereotyping when a French accent is within earshot. An Uzbek local barking French to them from across the restaurant immediately hit the group the wrong way. As it would turn out though, this guy was indeed an A-hole. Promises were made by the French speaking Uzbek that a late-night disco was near and the weary Kooks agreed to the venture since the girls wanted to check it out and frankly the lads wanted to kick on too.
Everyone managed to pile into two clown cars that would do the circus proud and made their way to the supposed ‘disco’. All back alleys exasperated and no disco found, the French turd with his empty promises was wearing the Kooks nerves. The group told their French captor to politely ‘F*ck Off’ and everybody piled into a friendly local’s van to head back to the hostel.

The rest of the evening is a bit blurred to the Kooks and thankfully their vodka stash was not discovered. Sober level-headed Kooks must have hidden the bottle from their unruly counterparts. Those Bastards. End Transmission.