<![CDATA[Salem to Mongolia 2011 - Blog: What are we thinking?]]>Tue, 12 Jan 2016 17:21:08 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Day 25 - August 16 - Off to Mongolia! Again...]]>Sat, 01 Oct 2011 21:01:36 GMThttp://salemtomongolia.weebly.com/blog-what-are-we-thinking/day-25-august-16-off-to-mongolia-againPicture
We both slept well even though we were in a mechanics shop for the night. We were locked in and safe and comfortable in the bus so at least we felt safe for the night.

This morning was hard though. We woke up not really knowing what was going to happen. The mechanics came and went with parts and sullen faces. Every time Andrea asked them “All good?” (with a thumbs-up) more-or-less asking if the car would be fixed, the main mechanic would shrug and say “No” and walk away. This was not a good way to start the day. Spent half the day “fixing” the wheel bearing. This means banging away at it with a hammer until it gave way and then banging it with a hammer until it when back into place. At one point a car drove up and a man got out. Normally Bruce and I tried to shoo away any other customers so that the mechanics wouldn’t get any more distracted than they already were. But this guy was different than the prior drive ups. This guy was really sketchy, topless but wearing camo pants, blasting Russian techno-grunge and had a handgun in the passenger-side door pocket of his car… The sketchy-topless-handgun-wielding man didn’t pay us much attention and we were not going to draw any attention to ourselves but as we watched him he (1) got out of his car menacingly leaving the stereo blaring, (2) talked to one of the mechanics, (3) went back into his car, loaded his gun, cocked it, put it back in the passenger door pocket and then (4) walked down the way followed by the main mechanic who he had been talking to earlier. Thankfully they both returned and the sketchy man left without causing any more trouble.  

During the day Andrea’s rash became really itchy so she asked one of the men to take her to the “Apteca” (pharmacy). He agreed so he and Andrea got into his car and drove off. But the nice man did not go straight into town. He drove up a the road a bit and stopped at a house. He motioned for me to stay in the car as he went into a wooden house with a picket fence and small front yard. He walked out a few minutes later with two women and a couple of young girls. One of the women looked to be his wife but the other was about my age. He actually had brought me to his house where his English-speaking niece was staying. Yerna (which turned out to be her name) actually spoke fluent English because she studied a year in Arkansas on exchange.

She took one look at me and recommended we go to the hospital and see a dermatologist.

So we drove into town, Yerna, her uncle, and I. We pulled up to a green raggedy school building with a high metal fence surrounding it. Yerna walked up the building and waved for me to follow her through what looked like a side door. We were actually in the hospital proper. There were lots of people sitting, standing and talking to nurses, or at least people who looked less official were talking to people who looked more official. In the hospital-that-looked-like-a-school-building, the hardwood floors creaked beneath your feet and the paint was chipping just a little off of the wall and each “classroom” was designated with a different specialist sign on the door. We stopped a couple of times to ask for directions to the right door and Yerna met a couple of her friends who also spoke English while we were walking around. Finally we found the dermatologist’s door and Yerna went in to ask for an appointment. The doctor said that she would meet with me and I went in. The room looked SO MUCH like a classroom. The doctor was sitting at an old 60’s desk with the metal arm chair in retro orange just like the old school buildings back home.

The dermatologist seemed a little freaked out by my rash and asked if I had been bitten, asked to see my stomach (possible Shingles), and asked me a few other questions through Yerna. I said that it probably wasn’t bugs since Bruce and I always share accommodations and he didn’t have a blemish on him (damn him!). I thought that it could be an allergic reaction to the sheets in Kyrgyzstan. The doctor agreed. She recommended a couple of prescriptions but she also told me to stay away from sweet, sour, and spicy foods especially fruits and salty meet because these could cause the allergy to get worse. She also recommended that I stay very clean. The food advice was sound and a more holistic approach to antihistamine treatment than I am used to. The advice about staying clean was going to be a little trickier. We do try and stay clean as much as possible and I really don’t think we smell all that bad but really good hygiene is difficult to keep up on the road.  

We left the hospital-that-looked-like-a-school and walked across the dirt road to the Apteca to pick up the prescriptions.  We went to two pharmacies to pick up what I needed but thanks to Yerna I feel much better both physically and mentally.  I have seen a doctor and she also thought that it was an allergy and not some Russian/Mongol flesh-eating disease.

We returned and a couple of hours later they had put the BBB back together again and we left for the border with our wallets a little lighter but our minds reeling from yet another “experience” on the rally.

We got about 50km before realizing that the repair job was botched…. The wheel was getting hot, and occasionally smoking. But really what were we going to do? We decided to press on towards Mongolia as it wasn’t too far to the border. All we needed was to get the BBB across that border and we were home free. This meant that we were very, very careful with the bus today but the roads were good so we made good time, even with the dodgy repair.

The scenery changed every time we drove over a hill. Brush land was deeply cut with blue/aqua rivers. Then wet lands with pools of water below big, colorful jagged rocks. All we could see in the distance were beautiful mountains, peaks, and soft hills then alpine forests filled with coniferous trees and snow capped peaks. Then we drove over another invisible boundary right into the central Asian steppe. This distinct landscape was everything we had heard about, with rolling land on either side of the road covered with thin hay colored brush and robin’s egg blue skies with huge puffy white clouds rising high into the air. It was unreal.

You could see towns from miles away. They looked like little furry colored dots in a sea of yellow-green. There were a few of them ahead of us, dots connected by single lines through the landscape, which were obviously tracks or roads. We were on one of those lines heading right for a little town before the mad dash to the border.

We decided to stop and get some supplies before Mongolia and use up the last of our Russian rubles. We drove into this little town and the first landmark we see... a huge Lenin statue in what looked to be the town square or government building of some sort. Bruce was excited! We found the supermarket... if you can call anything here "super" as it means "big" and nothing here is very big except for the place itself. Once inside, you can imagine the weird looks Andrea got as she was buying up the cans of Mexicani Beans and bottled water for the journey. We also picked up some chips and pickled carrots of all things. We shall see how those taste later.

Off we went again with our supplies (which a nice store boy helped me take them out to the BBB where Bruce was waiting, as we didn't want to shut off the bus....we were still wary of the solenoid). A few kilometers from the town we were stopped at a check point. They let us through without much hassle, which was good as we were in a hurry by this point. The border between Russian and Mongolia is only open from 9am to 6pm! There was a reason for that checkpoint though, we drove past some serious military radar dishes and armored people carriers and the like. Andrea started to take photos out the window and then decided that might not be the best idea when Bruce told her that these were probably sill active… not left in memorial… Why are the Russians armed and watching this border of all of their borders? This is interesting but not unheard of I guess. The land here was flat, open, and barren. No people, no other cars, no livestock, nothing. This was definitely borderlands and we have seen enough of them to know what they look like. But these borderlands were BIG. We were stopped again only 20km from the border and let pass. These guards were used to Mongol Ralliers at this point. I don’t think they think much of us.

We made it to the Russian border station finally (which was still 20km inside Russia) at 5.45pm; Andrea jumped out and asked to speak with the guards to let us though. She cajoled and argued and sign-languaged the hell out of those guards but we were not in time to go through.  Well actually… we were in time to get through the Russian side but not with enough time to make it all the way (25km more) to the Mongolian border before it closed. They were amused by Andrea’s attempts to explain that if we shut off the car then we might not be able to turn it on again. But they were strict with us. We were going to have to wait until 9am the next morning to get through. Meaning we had to sleep at the border, in line until the morning.  

We are second in line behind a very nice Mongolian couple. They were in one of those UAZ 452 vans that can go over anything! They asked if we would like to walk down to the magasin (shop) with them for some food. Andrea went and bought some fresh bread, oranges, bananas and a cold bottle of Coke (what a treat after Uzbekistan… not sure how long a cold bottle of Coke is going to be a treat but we are going to savor it as long as we can). On the walk back they introduced themselves (though we cannot remember their names sadly… those Mongolian names are hard!) but the wife did teach Andrea two words, “Sian bai nu” which means “hello” and “bai-er-la” which means “thank you”. I think these will come in handy so I practiced them several times and made the couple laugh.  We shared our chai and dinner of curried rice, mixed veggies, and pickled carrots with the couple when we got back to the BBB. They gave us pears.  We had quite a nice sunset meal with that couple at the Russian Mongolian border. A memory not soon forgotten.

As we sat and watched the fiery sunset several other teams pulled up behind us!!! Now there is a line 10-deep of Mongol Rally teams headed off by a Mongolian couple going home and us in the Big Blue Bus! We chatted with all of the new teams until about 11pm. Now we are sleeping in the bus. It is getting cold out there tonight but we will be warm and toasty.

Hope the bus starts tomorrow!

Tomorrow we will be in Mongolia!!!!

Viva tomorrow!!

<![CDATA[Day 24: August 15 – The Day the Bus Died… Again….]]>Fri, 09 Sep 2011 00:00:54 GMThttp://salemtomongolia.weebly.com/blog-what-are-we-thinking/day-24-august-15-the-day-the-bus-died-againPicture
This morning we tried to start the bus… All we heard was clicking…it wasn’t even trying to turn over.  The bus was dead dead… We aren’t going anywhere fast… Damn…

Zafir was wishing us farewell when we realized that the bus wouldn’t start so he walked up to the road and  waved down someone for a jump… It didn’t help, as it wasn’t the battery, although we were both mighty impressed that he could flag someone down in the matter of seconds! The nice man who offered to give us a jump also offered to take Bruce into the next town, about 10km down the road,  to see if they could get a new battery. We decided that Andrea would stay with the bus. Before Bruce left he told Zafir to take care of Andrea while he was gone and he actually did. Zafir did not leave Andrea’s side the whole time Bruce was gone. Andrea even tried to do a little laundry in the river near where they camped and Zafir helped her with that too. He made some disgruntled noises and took the sheet Andrea was washing out of her hands and showed her how to walk into the river and wash and rinse a sheet properly. It was very sweet of him to help, although it was a little embarrassing that I had to be shown how to wash my own sheets.

Bruce came back without a battery but with a Jeep willing to tow us to the mechanic. The new battery was over $100 and Bruce didn’t think it was the problem, even though the others did. Also, at first it was mentioned that we could return the battery if we didn’t need it, but Bruce didn’t get such a warm and fuzzy feeling from that promise from the shopkeeper! So we bid farewell to Zafir, took some photos, picked up our river washed and wind dried sheets, and headed off on down the road to another mechanic. Being towed in the BBB was an experience to say the least. It is a big vehicle to start with and the Jeep kept pulling and tugging us along. Finally, we got towed the 10km down to Onguday, the next town down the road. We got to the mechanics where no one spoke a word of English this time and there were no nice computers with Russian translators to help us out.

The mechanic’s shop was pretty run down but the three mechanics seemed pretty capable.  One of them had brought his beautiful little blond son along to the shop. He was incredibly cute but very shy. The boy actually had a little place to play in the mechanic’s shop; it was an old Lada with no wheels and less interior. He just had the driver’s seat and the steering wheel to play with. I guess in a mechanic’s shop inside a car is the safest place for a little boy.

After a couple of hours sitting in the hot sun and waiting to find out if we will ever get to Mongolia, we find out that the solenoid (a part of the starter motor) was the problem. Bruce and one of the mechanics went down to the same store that he went to for the battery earlier in the morning. They took along the solenoid that the mechanics had removed from the BBB to see if they could get a decent fit. They bought four back with them and managed to jerry rigged one of them to fit with the starter motor. It wasn’t quite right but it worked and we started the bus first try! Yay! But we heard a clunking in the right passenger side wheel when we were being towed earlier, so we asked them to check it out. It was the wheel bearing. Five hours of banging away prying the pieces of the wheel apart and they finally got it apart but then we were 15 minutes late for the auto parts shop down the road. With no new parts and no way of getting anything until the morning we had a choice, go into town and stay in the local hotel or stay in the bus for the night. We were both tired and fed up at that point with this whole situation that we ended up sleeping in the bus, in the mechanics shop, over the mechanics pit, with the bus on a jack for the night. What a night. We tried to make the most of it and set out our chairs and the stove and made dinner on the forecourt of the mechanics. We waved on many a wayward driver who thought that the mechanics we still open. Sadly they were not, but maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow we are off to Mongolia…

As always Viva Mongolia!

<![CDATA[Day 23 - August 14 : An Altai Perspective ]]>Tue, 30 Aug 2011 22:19:13 GMThttp://salemtomongolia.weebly.com/blog-what-are-we-thinking/day-23-august-14-an-altai-perspectivePicture
We woke up a little later than planned. We were both pretty grumpy from the late night and losing an hour the day before. We updated the blog in the little computer kiosk that they had in Hotel Barnaul. I have never really dealt with a Cyrillic keyboard before. It looks like a “normal” roman qwerty keyboard but with little red letters in the bottom of each key that are in Cyrillic. But you have to set the computer to recognize whether you are typing in Roman characters or Cyrillic. Have you ever seen you name all of a sudden appear in random strange character… I had to ask one of the surly security guards to set the computer so that I could type in English. This was not turning out to be a good morning…

But the Bus started okay. Even if it did sound like Harley Davidson on a cold morning… We think we may have blown a hole in more than the oil filter. We think there also might be a hole in the manifold… making the muffler (or what is left of it after Uzbekistan) absolutely useless…

We went to the supermarket down the way to stock up for Mongolia but everything is VERY expensive. So we bought what we wanted and needed but it cost about double what it would in the US for cans of beans, bread, water, gum and a package of nuts… We also picked up what looked like two apple Danish or strudels at the bakery for breakfast. They turned out to be a curried chicken pastry… Again… this really wasn’t turning out to be a great morning.

We needed gas before setting off from the last big city on our adventure. We stopped at many gas stations which were either closed, frustrating, did/not accept credit cards, bankomats that said they were open but then they were closed… We were even stopped by the police for pulling a U-turn out of one of the closed gas station… We were let go with a  warning and a stern look but still… not fun… When we finally did find an open ATM and an open gas station we find out that the gas station actually does take VISA… they just don’t advertize it anywhere. Again… as you can imagine this is really not turning out to be a good morning…

But finally we were out of Barnaul and off into the Altai Region of Russia. The mountains here are AMAZING. Big, pointy, rocky peaks with huge pine trees are cut down the middle by massive, cold, fast flowing rivers. The scenery was absolutely beautiful! This area is semi-autonomous meaning that they have more control over their region of Russia and other Russians from other regions even need special permission like an internal passport to travel in this area (even though it is all part of the same country). This area is obviously very special. So the afternoon was turning out better than the morning had…

As the afternoon started fading we stopped at a river that looked cold and awesome. We pulled off the road after a bridge into a semi-wooded kind-of grassy area that looked like we could camp there. Well actually when we had pulled in we noticed that someone else was camping by the river already. Here is where we ended up meeting Zafar.

Zafar is the care taker for a bridge building project on the bridge we crossed over right before we pulled over. He is like a night watchman for the project so materials don’t go astray and just in case anything happens in the night someone is there paying attention. We asked Zafar if we could camp in his area and he seemed to understand and said yes. He had a good little set up with a rough wood table  and a fire pit with a rough wooden bench. We cooled off in the river and asked if we could make dinner for him since we were going to be making dinner anyway.

Zafar’s English was very limited, actually just as limited as our Russian is so the conversation was slow going even with the infamous Russian phrasebook at hand. He was very interested in the book though which was good and the silence was at least companionable. We made chili and rice with some bread. Zafar offered some cucumbers and tomatoes for the feast and set about cutting and peeling while Andrea cooked the chili on the little MSR stove we brought in our aluminum pans… we felt kind of silly using such totally American cooking tools with a guy who practically lives at this river with a fire and a knife most of the time.

We found out that Zafar was from Tajikistan but moved to Altai to find a job. We had just been in Tajikistan and if you read the earlier post you would know that we absolutely loved that country and the people. So this endeared us to Zafar that much more since now we knew that he was from our favorite country. When I asked Zafar to put his email or address in my little travel notebook of contacts, he found Sayid’s hand written card of information from Tajikistan (the border guard who gave us the room to stay in for the night). This made Zafar really happy and I think it made us more real to him too.

As dinner was just about done a car pulled up to Zafar’s camp. This is where we coined the collective term for a group of Russians. A group of Russians is now a “Lada” of Russians. A Lada is the brand name of the Russian communist car manufacturer. Almost all cars in Russia during the Soviet era were Ladas. Even today MANY Russian cars are Ladas. And they know how to pack these cars full to the bursting point (or to the point where the suspension litteraly gives way) with anything from bricks, to wool, to tomatoes, to watermelons, to large groups of Russian men. We have seen it all at this point. A Lada of Russians ranges usually from 5 to 10 grown men (avg. 8 per Lada) who literally pour out of a single vehicle at any given time. There are never less than 4 people in a Lada and we have yet to see a maximum.

This Lada contained 5 men of varying sizes, shapes, colors, number of gold teeth, and level of intoxication. One could only say “Very good” and kept shaking Bruce’s hand over and over and over again. Another was dead set on having Andrea understand every word he spoke in Russian about where he was from and his family name. Another was just happy to watch the whole thing unfold with his friends and laugh at them… and us… A couple of them just stayed in the background which made Bruce and I a little leery and uncomfortable. Then we noticed that Zafar had disappeared and his friends were still with us… and we hadn’t eaten dinner yet… grrr… After about an hour Zafar returned from his walk (we think we understood that he actually walked to the local shop to receive a telephone call because he has no phone of his own). His friends were crazy but over all very nice. Even Zafar made the universal sign for crazy (one finger spinning around at the side of the head) for his friends when they left. We ate dinner with Zafar, washed dishes in the icy cold river, and headed off to sleep in the bus.

Overall this was a very strange day. The morning was just frustrating and long. The afternoon was beautiful. And the evening was absolutely strange but entertaining. You really never know what a new day will bring or what experiences you might have just a few hours into the future when you are on the road. I really like that about this trip. Every moment things can (and do) change. People are really interested in us and interesting to us so our experiences with them keep being more and more varied and rich. I guess when you aren’t comfortable in your surrounding you are more open to new experiences because you really have no choice but take part in them.  We could just bunk down in the bus and sleep but where is the fun in that? Most people are really good people.  They just look, sound, and act differently than we are used to. If we were home and in our comfort zone then they would be the outsiders, but here we are the outsiders. It is all a matter of perspective and tonight I feel like we got some of that perspective.

Viva the road! Viva Mongolia! Tomorrow we push for the border!

<![CDATA[Day 22 - August 13: Semey to Barnaul - Coolant Leak to Oil Slick... ]]>Tue, 30 Aug 2011 09:37:05 GMThttp://salemtomongolia.weebly.com/blog-what-are-we-thinking/day-22-august-13-semey-to-barnaul-coolant-leak-to-oil-slickPicture
Okay, so we woke up early, thankfully with no construction next door. The blond behind the desk who wears way too much makeup was now in a white and hot green crochet dress that showed more than it covered. We had an ugly breakfast of rubber eggs and white bread… hmmph… We tried using the free wifi that the hotel said that they had up in the room. Big surprise that there was no connection on the 4th floor of a huge soviet concrete and steel building… But there was wifi in the cafe so we grabbed a table and started to check email and update the blog. ( I know we are a few days behind… it is hard!!!) But the computer was going to die for lack of charge. We do not have a European adapter for American plugs (we forgot ours at home). But we did see a few adapters around on American appliances and stereos. So we asked to borrow an adapter for an hour. We were given one to start but it was a square plug and all of the plus in this hotel are round… square peg, round hole issue here… so this adapter didn’t work. Then we saw an adapter on the end of a stereo cord and asked to borrow that one. We were allowed to borrow it(YES!!!) and updated the blog and some pictures.

Mind you when we went to plug in the computer with the adapter we almost caught the drapes on fire because there is no grounding pegs and the outlet sparked really far out of the wall when we plugged it in!

Hmmm…. Soviet infrastructure….

When we were done we asked to buy the adapter because it came in so handy. The hotel actually said that it was a gift from them and that we could have it for free! Wow.

Sometime the generosity of people surprises you.

So we left Hotel Semey and headed out in the direction of a car parts shop so that we could fix our radiator leak before we headed off to Barnaul.

The auto parts guy knew exactly what we needed within seconds (without a common word spoken between him and Bruce) and he even poured the can of stop-leak in for us and some extra coolant to-boot.

Within 20 minutes we were on our way out of Semey (Kazakhstan) and onto our last city in Russia, Barnaul.

The road from Semey to Barnaul was beautiful.

The road rolled and curved through pine barrens that made us feel like we were in Plymouth MA, going to Pinewoods camp that we go to every summer. The signage was good and there was even a place to stop and get a bit to eat. Andrea walked into a little restaurant looking place only to find two very rotund women puttering away behind the counter making something that smelled good. We wanted some more somsas (those meat pasty/empanadas we had been having up until now). But all they had in this place were “peroties”. These are fried dough filled with a little bit of mashed potato. They really aren’t bad. It is just strange that we had passed over another cultural line without knowing it. We had been in the land of somsas and now we were in the land of peroties. Andrea bought a few of these and we headed off for the border.

When we got to border and met 5 other teams!!! It felt really good to be with other teams and talk about our experiences and to have other teams in line as we were dealing with visas and passports.

One of the teams, a trio of Danish guys in big purple, furry car got turned back from the Kazakh border because their Russian visas started on August 15th, not the 5th like they had asked for from the Visa Machine (the company that works with the Adventurists to get all of the ralliers their visas). This wasn’t the first mistake we had heard of about the visa machine messing up visas for people. We had heard about one Australian team who were a father and son team. The son wasn’t issued a double entry into one of the countries that they were passing through twice but his father was. So the son was stuck in no man’s land. He couldn’t enter the new country and could return into the country he had just left for lack of double entry visa. We heard that he was trying to finagle a flight to Olgii, Mongolia to meet his father there in a week. We also heard about another team being deported out of Uzbekistan due to problems with their visas. They were all escorted to the airport and put on a plane home. Bruce and I are fortunate that our only issues we had had with Visa Machine were fixable before we started the rally. They had messed up Bruce’s letter of invitation to Russia when we went to get our Russian Visas in New York and then later we had to pay an extra sixty pounds to get expedite Bruce’s passport back from the Tajik embassy in the UK in time to get on the plane from the US to the UK before the start of the rally.

We really hope that the Danish guys are okay and end up sorting everything out. While we were waiting at the Russian side of the border to cross we actually saw the Kazakh border guard (who had been dealing with the Danish team) walk over to the Russian border post and have a cigarette and a chat with the Russian border guard about… something… the Kazakh guard was holding a bunch of passports and the Russian guard looked amused. We saw a few head nods and shaking of heads but we couldn’t hear the conversation from where we were sitting. If they don’t get through today they will make it through in a day and a half. All will be well.
A bunch of us all got out of the border post at the same time and we drove with a couple of other teams into Russia. The roads were smooth but the signage was terrible and we got turned around in a little town where there was supposed to be a ring road but there was no signage on how to get to it. Eventually after a few pot holes, back tracks, and turn arounds we found the ring road. Although on the way we lost two of the teams to a mechanical issue. They had been convoying together for a while and wanted to stop and sort things out here rather than later. So off we went with a SUV of 18-year-old English boys behind us (the only team left in our convoy), and off we went. They overtook us quickly in their pimped out SUV with new suspension fitted the night before the rally… we aren’t jealous… seriously… We didn’t see them again until Barnaul.

A couple of hours later, filled with rolling agriculture land again… and some sun flowers, we stopped right outside of Barnaul to get gas. As always, when you are on a long car ride and your trusty steed often dribbles some fluids when you stop… you do the quick under carriage check every time you stop the car, just to make sure all is well. Well all was NOT well at this gas station. When we checked under then car there wasn’t just an oil leak slowly dribbling out from the under carriage… there was a massive oil slick pouring from bus. The puddle was growing quickly and it is a Saturday evening (everything is going to close in 10 minutes for the weekend until Monday morning).
Thankfully, directly in fronts of us, on the same side of the street as the gas station, a Citroen dealership was just about to close when we pulled up pleading for their help. They took pity on us and pulled us in and found out that we busted a huge hole in the oil filter. They had a filter if we had the oil, which we did  and they handily fixed the bus while posing for pictures. We even had some of the local constabulary (Police) come over and chuckle at us as we were attempting to do our hand-gesture/Russian phrase book translations of what we needed and how they were going to fix it.

They ended up putting zip ties in the bus… not sure where they went or why… but we will probably find out soon enough. They were incredibly nice at this dealership and it only cost about 150 rubles to fix the bus (which is like $5 US). While we were waiting a few other teams stopped by and made sure that we were okay and chatted with us for a while. We met Alvin and Justin who are driving a little blue car and an ambulance with a bunch of guys in it. It was really nice of them to stop and check in. I hope we see them again sometime.

We were also introduced to Dasha the translator, at the Citroen dealership. Dasha is a very sweet girl who speaks English and is studying to become a travel agent in the area for English speaking tourists in Barnual. How lucky for us? Except that Dasha has more energy than Andrea. (Which is hard by the way). She was very excited to help us and wanted to help us make reservations at a good hotel and help us get parking and food and talk to us and take pictures with us and have us follow her in her little red Nissan Micra and chat in English and call her mother and tell her about helping the American tourists… Can you tell what it was like? She also fell madly in love with Bruce and kept calling him Chris…  If nothing else she was very excited to have her first chance at being a translator and tour guide and we were happy to have her help since it was getting later and darker at this point than we had anticipated. We followed Dasha and her friend Unna to The Hotel Barnaul. It took far too long to make our room reservations and Bruce had to stay with the car because we weren’t sure where we could park. So finally we thanked Dasha, parked the car, gave the parking police guy a Salem Sate Police Badge (He was ecstatic) and went to check out our room.

We had a double room on the 7th floor but when we got there, there were two tiny twin beds in the room. So we went back down to ask for a double room with one bed. This is where we met the EVIL front desk ladies. They hadn’t seemed so evil with Dasha as a buffer but now they were in their full glory. We asked for a double room with one bed and we were not told but pointed at and then pointed to a poster of prices… in Russian… in Cyrillic… that made no sense. Finally the stern faced, bleach blond haired Evil front desk lady huffed and pointed at my picture of one bed in a room and then pointed to a price that was twice what we had already paid. “No Way” we said. Bruce got out the Russian phrase book and said that the price was too high. It ended up being over $85 if we wanted the double room with one bed versus close to $50 for a double room with two beds. She came back with… “that is the price” … Essentially you pay for what you want in this city, not what you get. The room would have been the same but with one bed rather than two. We got really frustrated because that really seems like a rip off to us so we went back up to the room we already had and moved the furniture around so that the beds were next to each other and so be it. Let them expend the energy to rearrange the room the next day.

We needed some dinner so we went downstairs past the snarling Evil front desk ladies and we actually met another Mongol Rally team that had just pulled in. They are a couple of brothers, Billy & Tommy, and they also had issues with the Evil front desk ladies so we all decided to go out and grab something to eat together.

We tried to find a place close but there was no food to be found so after much hand waving and street crossing we finally managed to get a taxi - that was much harder than it needed to be. We asked to be taken to a restaurant. As always we were taken to a fancy/expensive restaurant. We look and sound American we must have money, right? Even though we were all road-weary and dirty, we had no other choice to go into this nice white linen restaurant. It actually turned out to be a beer brewery/ fancy food place.

Our little blond waiter boy spoke some English but he kept turning everything into an exclamation or a question. “Only one beer?!?”, “You want salad!”, “You don’t want salad?”. It turned out to be a good night and we stayed out till 1 am because we lost an hour at the border, due to a time zone change that wasn't signposted (again). We tried to get a taxi outside the restaurant to take us back to the hotel, however our Little blond waiter boy ran out of the restaurant all concerned. Apparently you can't hail a taxi in Barnaul, Russia, you have to telephone for one......anyway, he called us a taxi this time and we took it all the way back to the hotel. The taxi even turned out to be a Lada, so Andrea got her first ride in a commie car!

It’s an adventure right? (“It’s an adventure!?! Right?!?”)

Viva Mongolia!

<![CDATA[Day 21: August 12 - To Semey and (not) beyond!]]>Thu, 25 Aug 2011 14:39:20 GMThttp://salemtomongolia.weebly.com/blog-what-are-we-thinking/day-21-august-12-to-semey-and-not-beyond Today we drove from the middle-of-nowhere to Semey, Kazakhstan (essentially still the middle of nowhere but at least it has a name… and cyпep-markets = super-markets). We had breakfast with Chris and James… we lefts well ahead of them from our sweet camping spot… but they passed us very quickly with their huge tires, sweet suspension, and well… a car that isn’t the BBB… hurumph… we love you BBB!!!

If you didn’t know ahead of time… there are no good road signs in this part of Kazakhstan… We found a bit of construction on the roads that wasn’t signed.. of course. The bus dealt with it sweetly… we were doing really well and until about the last 150km into Semey and the roads really turned back into the Bad-Uzbek Roads… (if you don’t know what that means please go back a few blogs and you will understand what I mean.)

Finally we arrived at the Hotel Semey. Yet another commie block hotel but at least this one had marble floors… and the blond behind the desk… Her makeup would make Madonna blush. She literally had so much make up on that we actually didn’t know what she would look like without make up on…She spoke some English which was nice. She spoke enough English to tell us where to park (behind the hotel) and that you had to run the water in the shower for at least 10 minutes before you would get hot water… okay…

So we parked behind the hotel (kind of disappointed that no other teams would see our car). In the dirt and concrete parking lot we were followed around by a weird mute parking attendant that we had to deal with while Andrea was under the bus trying to catch the dripping coolant with a cut off water bottle and gorilla tape.

Oh yeah, so on those bad roads into Semey we re-cracked the radiator…or at least we dislodged the radiator stop leak which we had put in Taganrog, Russia (see previous blogs) while slamming into potholes left and right. So we were running in super hot temperatures with dripping coolant all the way into a city that we had little idea how to get around in… which is why we chose hotel Semey instead of a nicer hotel that we had seen in the Lonely Planet guide… Hotel Semey was on the road we ended up on first thing into the city. Hey it’s an adventure right?!

So yeah… we parked the bus and then were sliding under the bus trying to catch the dripping coolant with a water bottle… and it was seriously windy… so this was not easy… and had to pay 500 som for parking… hope it wasn’t a rip off. No matter, we will fix everything in the morning… We were hungry and tired and needed food and a shower… and some sleep…

We went up to the room... which was across the hall from an open room that was totally under construction… wet cement and everything… It smelled like new construction and we had to ask the front desk when construction would start in the morning because we were NOT waking up at 5am to sledge hammers and sweaty construction guys… Bruce does that for a living. We were not dealing with that in Kazakhstan. So we set all of our stuff out and went down to ask about food... and the construction. We were assured that construction would not start until lunchtime tomorrow so we asked for directions to a super-market or magazine (little market). We walked for an hour looking for a market, as the directions we were given didn’t make sense…. Finally we found one, bought water, snacks, and a couple of beers. Went back to the hotel and had dinner in the hotel’s restaurant.

Have you ever had Zel and Polka dots? Well I have. Well… at least I think we did…. The translations on the hotel restaurant’s menu were priceless… We had a dinner of salad of zel and polka dots, Meat on East, Mutton and Rice and we saw a few other things that we couldn’t even try. You can only imagine… We think that the zel and polka dots was actually string beans and peas??? Maybe?

We were the only ones in the whole restaurant which was really fancy… the décor was marble and lace but the food was mutton and zel… the waitress was very nice and we ate well… no matter the translations…

Off to bed we went with full tummies and full brains since we had a radiator to deal with in the morning and another border crossing to boot…

Viva Mongolia!

<![CDATA[Day 20: August 11, 2011 - Into the wilds of Kazakhstan.....]]>Thu, 25 Aug 2011 13:10:49 GMThttp://salemtomongolia.weebly.com/blog-what-are-we-thinking/august-11-2011-into-the-wilds-of-kazakhstan Leaving Almaty...

Waking up in the cement block hotel room was… pleasant… At least we slept well and we were well fed from the night before. However, we didn’t know how in the world we were going to get ourselves out of Almaty today. This is the driving city from hell!!! There are no rules here and people don’t like when you try to follow them. We also had no idea where exactly where we were in the city nor how to get to the main highway out of the city…

Not to mention the floor mother from the night before was less than helpful when we asked where we were… But we went downstairs hoping to find a map or some other form of useful information on how to exactly get out of this city…

The very Prussian front desk lady (also from the day before … do these people ever sleep?) had an older map from 1998… That was actually oriented South-North… which was very disorienting… to say the least… finally the security guard that was helping us decipher the upside-down map offered to lead us out of the city. Woo Hoo!!!

He led us out of the city alright… He took us the back-end-of-nowhere, across-10-lanes-of-traffic, through-a-forest… locals way out. Then he said what they all say when they leave us somewhere… “Priama!!!” = Go straight… Don’t go left. Don’t go right. Priama! Go straight…

So we went straight… for a long time… Up hills and down mountains… we kept going until we got hungry… and the bus was thirsty… which are good reasons to stop. And where we stopped… we found a little piece of heaven… with stinky cheese… mmm….

We found a little pull off area where the nice little ladies with gold teeth and no physical space boundaries dragged Andrea from one stall to another. They had the mare’s milk cheeses like we saw on Andrew Zimmerman food network!!! We chatted with the sellers and tried some of the different sour, smoky, sweet, and bitter cheese things. And they were good… Then we got some Somsas that were baking in an oven outside. They were little pockets of dough filled with steak and onions stuck up on the underside of this rounded earth surrounded oven (like a tandoor?), baked to golden perfection…. And they were good… We also got a sweet millet, butter, and sugar cake that was… good….

We stopped in one town north of Almaty and Andrea went to the apteka (Pharmacy) because of a crazy huge rash from what we think was the laundry detergent from Shamkur Asia. The pharmacist was helpful and gave her some pills and cream.

The roads were in good condition today though, which helped us make some good distance. We did about 400 miles. It started getting dark and we found a great lay by on the side of the road as the sun was setting. We thought it was totally deserted, but actually it was the entrance to a little village that we couldn’t see due to the contours of the land. Lots of cars drove by as we were sitting making dinner.

As we ate dinner a couple of Mongol rally teams drove by on the main road and didn’t stop despite our efforts to flag them down….we were slightly set back, but we were hoping that they would see us. So we were all on our own and felt a little dejected.

Finally another team drove by and saw us pulled a U-turn and came and camped of the night with us at the lay by. It turns out that they were part of another event called the Mongol Charity Rally.  Chris and James were driving a sweet Nissan pickup truck with a roof platform for the tent. We offered them a cup of tea as soon as they showed up which they really appreciated! Got to keep civilized even in the middle of nowhere! We enjoyed chatting with them and we set the van up for sleeping and actually got a decent night’s sleep!

<![CDATA[Day 19: August 10, 2011 - Bishkek to Almaty]]>Wed, 24 Aug 2011 16:50:14 GMThttp://salemtomongolia.weebly.com/blog-what-are-we-thinking/august-10-2011-bishkek-to-almati Okay so today started on a hunt for gifts and internet. We found both. We were very successful. We were told that there was a place to buy gifts of varying types on Bishkek. We finally found it on the fifth floor of an old soviet department store building. After four sets of escalators we found kitsch heaven. All sorts of handmade crafts and silks and tapestries hung from small stalls each selling the same thing but hoping to sell it none-the-less. Andrea went out of her mind. We finally bought several different goodies for some of you at home (you will have to wait and see). We took taxi back to hotel and the taxi driver tried to overcharge us. We had already taken a few taxis and knew what they cost. This guy tried to charge us more than double! Bruce went all Scottish on him.. te he he… We paid the proper price.

We waved farewell to the “Okay No problem” Lady and headed out towards Almaty. We drove from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan to Almaty, Kazakhstan. There was one border crossing to deal with today. Getting out of Bishkek easy the border crossing was nuts.  People were selling EVERYTHING at this border crossing. They were selling window panes. I am talking huge glass window panes right at the border! What do you need a window pane for when you are crossing from Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan!

We used up the last of our som to buy potato filled fried dough and Coke. It was GOOOD! So maybe not all the stalls we selling window panes… Food is good.

When we got past the first of many barriers there was a sea of humanity surging forward, people cutting other people off, Cars pushing through people, families putting their children in front of cars so the cars wouldn’t move. I am talking a serious SEA OF HUMANITY!

The huge blob of a pedestrians started to flow over the line into the main border crossing area. Soldiers had to come out and make a human chain to keep people from pushing through the gates. Even still people tried to push past the gate-o-human-soldiers. We still weren’t sure why people were so desperate to get into Kazakhstan. We waited until the soldiers waved us through and watched out for people throwing themselves in front of the car.

When we got under the first main building, Andrea had to get out and give the passports to the Big Hat guy waiting for passports. So we gave him the passports and Big hat guy took passports and walked away! Andrea chased after him through the exit door and almost got trampled because Big hat guy walked into an exit door and trying to follow was not easy. Finally Andrea followed Big Hat guy into a room where they were stamping passports. They looked at me curiously when they saw that I was collecting two passports but I said “Driver” and pointed to Bruce’s passport and then there was no problem. We were stamped out of Kyrgyzstan and on to our double entry into Kazakhstan!

The sea of people for Kazakhstan was also crazy – soldiers linked arms to stop the mass of humanity pouring over the border.

We were immediately directed to overflow parking. This is not good. You never want to be in the overflow at a border… people have been lost for years here. We were asked to shut the bus off… we didn’t… since we didn’t want to spend another night at a border. We locked the car and set off to do the litany of paperwork than awaited us. We were shuffled through a couple of different lines but finally made it back to bus.

Then we were escorted through the rest of our border proceedings by a border guard (very army) who really didn’t want to deal with us messing up his flow. He turned out to be very nice and put all of our paperwork ahead of every line and got us out of the border in minutes. Thanks nameless border guard… who is probably calling us numpties in Kazakh right about now…

We had maps to and for Almaty but they did not jive with the lonely planet maps… we need to talk to Lonely planet Central Asia because obviously people use it for the Mongol rally but it is not set up well for driving at all like it doesn’t even tell you where the main highway comes in to the city!!

Had no issues getting to Almaty, but the city itself is an absolute zoo to drive in, perhaps even worse than Bishkek. Traffic comes from all directions and will stop, swerve or change lanes without warning.

Andrea finally found a street sign that was very close to where we needed to be and then we went around the one way blocks a couple of times trying to find our hotel.

We are staying in another Soviet hold over. This time complete with floor mother and elevators that only go up to the third floor (we are on the fifth). Also the fire stairs at the ends of the corridors are locked up, so you have to go to the central stair case (past the floor mother)…..breaks every fire code that I know…..at least they didn’t keep our passports…only made a copy of them.

There is another Mongol Rally team staying here, comprising of Farnell & Lane-Godfrey, so we left them a note on their windshield. We also managed to get their room number from reception, but no answer – probably at dinner already.

We took our night’s stuff up to the room. The room straight from the 1960’s from the Bakelite telephone to the smokey mirror on the wall… The works…..hasn’t been refurbished since it was built. We wandered around looking for some dinner…Downtown Almaty appears to be a jungle of commie blocks., big cement buildings with no style and a whole lot of gray! Although one had a rainbow painted on it.

We found a great Korean place at the end of commie-block row. We had fabulous seafood soup and rice and they had all the little accoutrements as well! It was very nice.  

So Almaty was a bust… not really the happening place we were told it was going to be. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Viva Mongolia!
<![CDATA[Day 18: August 9, 2011: Okay No Problem!]]>Wed, 24 Aug 2011 16:19:15 GMThttp://salemtomongolia.weebly.com/blog-what-are-we-thinking/august-9-2011-okay-no-problem We woke up at the Intourist Hotel and managed to get Bruce’s passport back OK from the front desk. Bus started up first try today too! Yay! We got 1000 Kyrgyz som worth of gas to keep us going (about 6 US gallons) and we headed up the road to Bishkek. The scenery is spectacular and got and more spectacular the higher we got. The green mountains reminded Bruce of Scotland and Andrea was just absolutely stunned at the beauty of the Kyrgyz countryside. The summer pastures were in use at the high elevations and we saw our first gers (ger is the Mongolian term for yurt or large tent that moves with them from season to season).

On our way up the mountains, we chatted to a touring cyclist on the approach to first mountain pass….he was from Holland. We gave him some encouragement and altitude information and left him to huff it up the mountain. Power to you crazy cycling mountain guy!

The bus did really well with the climbing. All we had to do was put it into low gear and let it crank away, all the way up to 3,500 meters (which is well over 11,000 feet). The weather turned cooler and crisper as we ascended past herds of goats, horses, and cattle. After a week in the stifling heat of the Uzbek desert, the air here was finally refreshing.

Like in most places the locals were selling their wares  by the side of the road. What they were selling looked to be dairy, probably mare’s milk and cheese.

We had lunch beside a cold mountain river on the descent from the first pass, which was over 10,000 feet. We made pasta and sauce on the camp stove with coffee. We were joined by some guys on a fishing trip. The four men were from Jalalabad, further south in Kyrgyzstan. They gave us a melon which they cut up and we all had some – very delicious! Although when they first came over, we had thought that they were trying to sell us the melon until one of the men (who spoke some English) said no. no  One had coffee with us and was very intrigued by the lump sugar we had! He was actually a police officer so we gave him one of the Salem Police badges….he was thrilled!

We started the ascent to the second, higher, mountain pass of the day….this will be the highest elevation on the trip – about 13,000feet. The switchbacks were pretty intense getting up to it, but the road was in really good condition which made the ride much better.

All of the grade signs are 12%...must have been the one sign they made.

There is a tunnel at the very top of the pass which was pretty scary – we thought about the touring cyclist who will have to attempt that in a couple of days…..not good! Also, we may have actually gone through the tunnel against the flow of traffic....we think that there was a traffic light which we didn't heed.....oops! It was a narrow tunnel and we had to tuck the wing mirrors in when we went past another vehicle. Oh, and there were no lights in the tunnel.

The descent back to the valley floor was incredible. We put the BBB in 2nd gear and just let it sit there for most of the descent – switchback after switchback, winding down the steep mountain side. It went on for a long time…..the scenery was spectacular. Blue sky, jagged mountain peaks all around, roaring rivers, that we bridged time and time again. Quite the drive. There were snow tunnels as well, so that the road doesn’t get blocked by avalanches or drifting snow. We crisscrossed two rivers and they signposted the same river at every crossing....it is a shame that they can't signpost everything that way!

A couple of curiosity stops by the police on the drive in Bishkek…..one may have been for speeding, but when we told him we were going to Mongolia, we think he may have seen other teams and knew the world of pain that awaited him if he decided to pursue his speeding violation! Thank you prior Mongol Rally Teams! Thank you!

The traffic got much heavier as we approached the city. It was bad in the mountains, not because of the volume but because people will overtake anywhere!! We were stuck behind a flock of sheep on the descent at one point and people were still overtaking while trying to get through the flock…..totally bizarre. Also, people have raced around us, only to pull into a side street or a parking place mere seconds later……very confusing.

Once in the city though, all hell broke loose traffic wise. Andrea navigated us wonderfully to Shamur Asia, a hotel we found in the Central Asia Lonely planet guide book. We loved the owner lady of Shamur Asia. She was a medium height, stocky lady with a bull cut bleach blind hair in a super short, satin house coat. Her favorite phrase is “Okay, no problem” said in a very high slightly Polish voice. But even still she let us park the bus in her compound with triple security. Door locks of two types and video security. The bus was safe and so were we! We asked and she called a taxi for us to go to a money changer (new country = new money). The taxi brought us to money changer, he would only change $100 bills not $20s like we had brought fought with him over that. Not only that but he gave us a REALLY bad exchange on Uzbek Som –  we haggled a bit and got better rate but still not good. Then we went to another changer, would not take $20s either. What is it with this country and hundred dollar bills!!! Finally we found a bank-o-mat (ATM) and took out money at a good exchange rate and no hassle. Then we took the same taxi back to the hotel.

We cleaned up for the first time in a long time and put on jeans again!!!! Rather than filthy traveling pants (lots of pockets and very durable but still get filthy after wearing them for a week).  Also, for the first time in a long time it was cool enough for jeans!!! Sweet!  In the Lonely Planet guide we found a good sounding place for Udon noodles. So we called another taxi to bring us to dinner. When we got there it was closed. I am talking windows boarded up kind of closed… No Udon noodles for dinner. We asked Taxi driver for a place with good food and of course he took us to the most American place possible with no local beer and who offered us chicken fingers and onion rings for a starter in BISHKEK!!! We got some dumplings called Mantu that were at least Kyrgyzstan-ish and called it a night. Over the other side of the restaurant we saw a kid with an Americorp t-shirt on sitting at a table with a bunch of people who sounded like they were speaking English so we went over to say hi. They were not overly friendly which was surprising after all of the wonderful experiences we have had with people on this trip, the Americans were the least friendly so far… Not cool. They pointed us towards the center where we had read that there was a water and light show at 9pm. We went and watched for a while and sat and laughed at all of the kitsch sellers.

We noticed that the little kids (I’m talking 2 and 3 year olds) around here walk very very well. We think it is because all of the streets are so uneven that you learn balance very young here. We also saw remote control baby cars with older siblings steering their baby siblings around. Thought about what would have happened to Bruce if his older brother Stewart ever had a chance to drive him around in a remote control car as an infant…hmm…

We don’t know if the show actually started or not, but we got bored and started being shadowed by sketchy dudes, so we caught another taxi back to the hotel and went to bed.

We even got an “Okay! No problem from the mini-housedress wearing hotel owner on our way up to the room…

Viva Mongolia!

<![CDATA[Update from UlaanBataar. Monoglia!!]]>Wed, 24 Aug 2011 11:41:16 GMThttp://salemtomongolia.weebly.com/blog-what-are-we-thinking/update-from-ulaanbataar-monogliaPicture
Hey everyone!
We made it! We are in Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia!
We arrived at the finish line yesterday on a packed mini-bus from Khovd, Monoglia. The BBB is now in Ogli where it is being repaired and sold off to make money for charity. The Mongollians we left it with really LOVED the wheelchair lift!  It was really hard but we made it and we are here and safe and experiencing Ulaan Bataar. We have been blogging all along the way in a word document so now that we have internet connectivity we will be updating this blog with the day-by-day goings on of Mongolia. We might even put up some pictures!
Miss you all and love you!
See you soon! We get home on Friday!

Viva Mongolia!

<![CDATA[Mini Blog: Mechanical Issues with the Bus so far…. Before Mongolia!]]>Sun, 14 Aug 2011 03:48:33 GMThttp://salemtomongolia.weebly.com/blog-what-are-we-thinking/mini-blog-mechanical-issues-with-the-bus-so-far-before-mongoliaNetherlands: Blown tire at 100km/h on highway – we replaced with spare within half hour!

Romania: Balance and rotate the other tires to get two of the same type on the front and rear.

Romania: Brake line leak (probably due to improper jacking up by Romanian tire guy and corrosion). This was repaired with a new brake line.

Moldova: Oil Leak – fixed in Unghen for about $40. Still not really sure what happening here, but it hasn’t occurred again!

Russia: Coolant leak (Found in Ukraine but solved in Taganrog, Russia). Poured the radiator leak gel into the radiator and then the mechanic topped it up with coolant.

Russia: In Astrakhan we discovered that the front driver’s tire was bulging badly and some of the steel belts were starting to show through. At the mechanic’s this lead to us finding the source of the problem which was the tie-rod that had sheared on the driver’s front side. Also in Astrakhan- new brake line leak and loosened all of the bolts that the Romanian Vulcanizare had tightened far too much - so much so that we could NOT get them off. Even the mechanics ended up stripping one of the nuts and even the pneumatic gun couldn’t get them off and he had to use a 10 foot long wrench to loosen them

Kazakhstan: Russia/Kazak border – bus died and needed a jump after accidently leaving headlights on for too long with engine off.

Kazakhstan: At border with Uzbekistan we got a puncture from the awful roads out of Beynau and glass in the vicinity. Changed no problems (although very hot and dusty!)

Uzbekistan: Nukus - Removed exhaust pipe because it sheared right through and was hanging on by one hook. We had the punctured tire from the border repaired.

Uzbekistan: Between Nukus and Bukhara – Bus died after parking in shade behind a truck. Probably issues with the fuel pump.

Uzbekistan: Between Bukhara and Samarkand – next blow out tire front passenger side (this one really burst), pulled into shade to fix tire (successfully), then the car wouldn’t start. Had locals help push us into the sun, and then the car started after half an hour or so. Team Wong Way Round had arrived for moral support at this point. Then we noticed that the Brake warning light was lit up on the dashboard. The parking brake was stuck in the engaged position. We finally managed to disengage it by tugging on the cables beneath the bus and applying WD-40 to the connection points…however the springs are toast….so no more parking brake.

Tajikistan: Oybek border crossing. After lengthy discussions with customs officials (during which we left the bus running, fearing not being able to start it), we set off to leave the border post. I move the gearshift from Park to Drive and the bus dies…..it won’t start again. The sun is setting at this point so we can’t warm up the bus. We try a couple more times to start it with no luck. The next morning the rising sun warms it up nicely and the bus starts up….

Kazakhstan: Just before Semey. Noticed that the temperature gauge was starting to climb. Pulled over and noticed a coolant leak. Topped up coolant and made it the remaining 25 miles into Semey. We think this was caused by the brutal road conditions for the last 100km into Semey, which may have dislodged the prior repair down in Russia. We got more Radiator stop leak fluid and applied it and it seems to be holding. We bought a spare can for use in Mongolia.

Russia: Just as we were pulling into Barnaul, we went to get gas and noticed a huge oil leak from the BBB. Luckily there was a Citroen dealership next to the gas station and they looked underneath and set that we had blown a hole in the oil filter!! (how I don’t know!!). Anyway they replaced the oil filter and also put some zipties underneath and we seem to have stopped leaking. However the BBB sounds like a Harley Davidson now….any pretence of a muffler is gone!