The Fourth Week:
Monday, August 8th: It's up and out at 6:00 am. The family makes sure we're awake and supplied with tea for our journey across the border. They also give us their sugar because it's so valuable...our hearts melt. We will absolutely be sending them a care package with sugar and candy. Gil made sure we had the address.
The Turkenistan to Uzbekistan border is straight forward and pretty quick thankfully 'cause we're in the desert and it's just plain hot. We need to get to Khiva quickly because Fordnando's springs really do need help. Pim goes on ahead to Khiva to meet his friend Harry - we're sad because we're only moderately sure we'll see him again. Pim is 22 and traveling from London where he recently moved from New Zealand.
The change from Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan is instant. It's way less creepy and far more touristy. The people are A) actually out and about B) quite friendly! One little side note: there was an old woman going through the border at the same time as us and we helped her carry her bags and get to a shared taxi because what if that was my Grandma? She truly appreciated it and kissed Megan on the shoulder while walking together. Priceless.
The roads are crap because that's the part of the world we are in, but we push through to Khiva and find a hotel where we ask about a mechanic. Thankfully we get help for the car right away. Alice, Megan, and Paula stay at the hotel while Brianna and Tabitha head over to a hostel in order to save a little money. Who should be there but Pim and his friend Harry! It's a party at the restaurant that night for sure!
Tuesday, August 9th: Well, we kinda hoped that Fordnando would be ready to hit the road in the morning, but turns out the opposite is true: he needs a whole day of work. Bri and Paula ended up using the images in Fordnando's manual to communicate with the mechanic! He needs a whole hip replacement. A.k.a. his entire suspension system is needing some love.
Honestly? We're ok with the down day. It's the first day we've had in one place since before the rally started and we're more than a little weary. Naps, photo editing, sight seeing, errand running, and general resting happen and it is DESERVED.
By the end of the day Fordnando is back on his tires and we are set to head off the next morning feeling a little more human. And, Pim and Harry have decided to join us for the journey to Bukhara! Yay!
Wednesday, August 10th: We're off on the Old Silk Road to find petrol which is hard to come by honestly. While we're at the gas station (also described as shack with pumps) Paula goes to check the tire pressure on Fordnando. CALAMITY: the spring stop on the shock that was welded has not held and Fordnando is a low rider. NOOOOOO! Ok, so now what.
"Low-ride-er *ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-ba, ba, ba-ba, ba, ba, baaa" Photo: Blackstone Photography
The locals at the gas station pop Bri and Paula into their car and spin off into the dust leaving us to cook noodles in the noxious shade of the gas station. They're back in under an hour with a replacement spring. HOW is it that in the countries you can't get toilet paper in a single bathroom, but there are extra springs just right for a Ford Fiesta laying around?
This means we must drive very carefully the rest of the way to Bukhara. Which also means we need to lighten his load. Supplies and bags are moved to Babs (who is a champion) while Bri, Pim, and Harry hitch the rest of the way to city. It takes a long while, but we arrive in the old city center at sunset and I must tell you that it's beautiful.
There's a pool with fountain jets cooling the desert air, people are out and having fun, the street vendors offer delicious smelling foods, and we see refreshing looking beverages everywhere. So we head off to find a hostel that will have room for 7 at a decent rate. Our mission is extra successful because the rooms have AIR CONDITIONING! WHAT! Plus, the owner was a chauffer for years and knows where to take our car in the morning. SCORE. Then there's food, beer, and bed.
Thursday, August 11th: First thing Paula and Bri head off with the owner of the hostel to the mechanic and the black market. Apparently petrol is only available on the black market and so there's also this whole area of what can only be described as a motor oil spice market! Meanwhile, they find a spring that mostly works when the right leverage is applied...
4 Uzbeks and 1 Paula to compress the spring into place! Photo: Brianna
Bukhara: part of the Old Silk road and absolutely gorgeous. Photo: Blackstone Photography
All this takes most of the day and so we stay another night at the hostel after a little sight seeing. Bukhara is an ancient city along the Silk Road with gorgeous buildings and artistry. So we're happy to have a look around. While Megan and Tabitha were poking around a market they met a woman who is full of life! She's an unusual Uzbek woman in that she made the CHOICE to NOT marry and have children. "I live for me, not a husband or child." But because of the strict visa regulations she's not allowed to come to the USA. I've always know that the US was hard to get to for people from certain regions of the world, but the reality was never so apparent. Her brother lives just 30 minutes from Megan in Pennsylvania, but she can't go visit him because of the incredibly strict requirements and sheer cost. She's a sassy, delightful lady that you'll want to read more about in our e-book. We just love her!
This sassy lady is for sure going in the e-book! Photo: Tabitha
Sometimes you have to blow off a little steam. That's exactly what happens this night in the hostel! Can we also just mention that the Uzbek currency is a little ridiculous because of just HOW MANY bills you get back for your money? Stacks and stacks and stacks of Som are just ridiculous!
Ballin'. Photo: Blackstone Photography
"I can't take it seriously. It's like Monopoly Money." - Pim, making it rain.
Friday, August 12th: Let's start with a quote of the first thing Paula said in the morning,
"A piece of advice...when you're 48 don't try to party with 22 year olds." That's all I'm going to say in regards to the late start that morning.
And...HEAVE. Photo: Blackstone Photography
We just have to get to Samarkand which is not too far and we're feeling optimistic when Fordnando's roof rack slides off the side of the car. It's a pretty easy fix, but it takes a little muscle. We're all feeling slightly betrayed by Fordnando at the moment because he just can't keep it together. But honestly, things were just about to get worse...
See how I was able to just use a picture of the day before because it looked exactly the same? Photo: Tabitha
The girls driving in Babs notice that Fordnando is no longer in their rear view mirror. We assume it's just another pee break or maybe the roof rack again. But the minutes go by and still no Fordnando. Babs doubles back and OH NO. The whole fix is blown again!! Fordnando is riding practically on the wheel. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, FORDNANDO! WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM!
The fact is that after all the work put into this car Paula was feeling pretty angry, but managed to keep it pretty cool while we arranged the cars and people appropriately to yet again enable him to make it to the next town. It takes extra long to get to Samarkand because Paula has to drive 25 mph. This damn rally.
Loading up Babs. Sorry, Megan! Photo: Brianna
The rest of Friday the 12 is several different stories some of which should and some of which should not be told. The basics are that there was sightseeing and also a wedding reception that desperately needed crashing and that's exactly what a few members of Team #WeLive did along with a bunch of French kids.
A wedding! A lavish, traditional, dance-filled, vodka soaked wedding reception featuring a famous Uzbek songstress, traditional foods, and an 18-year-old bride. Truly, such a great night! This wedding is another event to be featured in the book for sure.
Saturday, August 13th: The thing is that we actually HAVE to leave Uzbekistan tomorrow because our visas are running out and deportation is not the ideal way to get out. Which is why we're sweating both literally (it's 105) and figuratively because it's noon and we have no car yet. Finally, Fordnando returns, there's a broken verbal scuffle about the price, and also an awkward moment where we're told that the basic repair we asked for was totally disregarded and the whole package was replaced. Um, not what we expected, but ok.
5 hours of this. Photo: Blackstone Photography
We're finally back on the road heading toward Tashkent where Harry and Pim have headed to meet up with us. We get in really late (...always) and there's no room at the hostel. So we camp in the courtyard and have a good-bye celebration with Pim, Harry, a German, a Dutch guy, and two Italian girls. It's very loud and there is much shushing.
Sunday, August 14th: REALLY, WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF UZBEKISTAN TODAY. Thankfully the border crossing is close. Par for the Team #WeLive course we get a late start which is not helpful for our stress levels. Before we go we find out the hostel seemed like a ghost town by 10 pm because it was inhabited by a group of 15 year olds! Global Challenge is there and there's one girl in their group that Tabitha starts to chat with in the breakfast room...
"What's your name?!"
"My name is Tabitha."
You can imagine how excited our Tabitha got! Here are the Tabithas, 15 on the left, 34 on the right.
TWO TABITHAS! On the left: 15 and much calmer about the whole thing because she's English. On the Right: 34 and overly excited because she's just her. Photo: Blackstone Photography
Off to the border we go and are there shortly and all is good until...THE BORDER CROSSING IS CLOSED. Well shit. We backtrack two hours to the border we're told is open and hope that nothing holds us up or deportation is real. We creep through traffic and terrible roads to find the border thankfully very open. We finally cross and get out of Uzbekistan just in time. We're in Kazakhstan!
Our first impressions of this country are not good. The border guards are skeezy, the country is dirty, there's a donkey on the side of the road with huge wounds and no one taking care of him, and the "roads." Let's talk about these "roads." Utter mayhem. There may be patches of tarmac but honestly it would be better without. The dust, the air pollution, the enormous holes, and the trucks belching black clouds are everywhere. As the sun sets we fight our way to Shymkent in hopes of a place to stay.
Finally, we're in Shymkent in a hotel with a service station plotted on the map to get Babs' oil changed the next morning. We're dead. We have decided to go to Kyrgyzstan which is new addition to our route! Why? Because we're actually not sure we're going to get to go to Mongolia at all.
WHAT? But it's the MONGOL Rally!? It seems that Mongolia is fed up with the Mongol Rally and is imposing a HUGE import tax on all ralliers because too many cars have been ditched in their country over the years. Fair enough. But what does that mean for us? At this point in the game we're genuinely unsure, but we are optimistic that The Adventurists will work it out so we buy ourselves some time by heading to the lakes in northern Kyrgyzstan!
Summary: We really thought that Babs would be the trouble car, not Fordnando! Paula has started calling him the bad boyfriend. We all concur. We're having palpitations about paying for repairs, but you all have been generous and we're squeaking by!
We LOVED Uzbekistan and are hoping that Kazakhstan improves with time. We're hitting the groove of the rally, but we're still always exhausted. Hopefully we can meet up with ralliers to convoy with soon because we're very sad that Pim and Harry are gone.
We're looking forward to seeing more of the 'Stans, but we're feeling nervous about not seeing Mongolia! Worse comes to worse we'll take the engines out and have our car pulled in by horses!
We like to call moments like this the MonGIRL Rally. Tabitha cuts Alice's hair in Bukhara. Photo: Blackstone Photography
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