Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Tbilisi to Tashkent - Sorted

Nearly two months into my adventure and we have reached Tashkent in Uzbekistan.

We left Tbilisi and drove a short way to Stepantsminda where Matt and Sara spent a day walking (why?) before we crossed from Georgia into Russia.  The road wasn't too bad but there were sections where the recent floods had washed away the road and repairs were being undertaken

Queuing in no-mans land

Whilst the border wasn't too far away it took some time as we spent around 5 hours queuing in no-mans land after exiting Georgia and before getting to the Russian border control.  The crossing was relatively straightforward but as ever I seemed to attract some attention with the Russian border guards writing on the car (wouldn't let Matt take a photo) and then  looking at the engine, the luggage area and generally tapping me here and there to see if I was real I suppose. Also the customs officer dealing with the paperwork when entering Russia nearly wet himself when he saw me and called his mates over to have a look.  When we reached the Kazakhstan border the person dealing with Sarah couldn't believe I was yellow until I drove up and he saw me with his own eyes.  At least I'm making border crossings a little more fun for all concerned.

This stage of our journey was simply to get to Uzbekistan without the need to hang about Georgia or Azerbaijan until the 29th so we could enter Uzbekistan on time.  This involved driving around 2,500 miles through Russia and Kazakhstan.  I managed to get to Shymkent in 9 days but we had to hang around before continuing to Uzbekistan because Matt and Sarah's visas weren't valid until the 3rd of August.

With the exception of the road from the Kazakhstan border to Atyrau, which was awful, the roads were generally good and so I could maintain a nice easy pace and simply cover the miles averaging around 250 miles a day.

The road to Atyrau
We came across a couple of minor problems that were resolved en-route.  The first of these involved discovering that one of the spares was flat.  We found this out mainly by accident when checking that the tyre pressures were OK.  No problems though as the inner tube was promptly removed and a patch put on then re-inflated - Done! As with anything that involves a garage the chaps doing the work wanted to have a look at me (I am beautiful) and in many cases get in and have their photo taken from the driving seat.

Let's have a go!
We travelled on good roads from Atyrau and with one or two roadworks having to be negotiated but nothing too serious we arrived in Shymkent where all the fun and games began.  So, while driving here and thereabouts there have been some really rough sections of roads with big pot holes and ruts to negotiate.  Well all the bumping and shaking around meant that a piece of trim had come loose and the bulkhead had popped (probably from everything in the back coming forward).

Matt had discovered the trim issue during the drive to Shymkent and put a temporary fix in place.  Basically he removed the trim and put some bolts in place to hold the panels together.  Not pretty but effective.  Anyway we had some bolts that could be used to make the missing studs and all we needed was some washers (two to be exact).
Missing Trim

Although Matt had washers in his spares the hole was too large for the small bolts needed so how difficult could it be to get washers? - You have no idea and I will leave Matt to tell that story suffice to say I generated some serious interest with all the mechanics in garages around and about coming over to look at me and get their photos taken as well as looking under the bonnet at my engine which caused some hilarity (why?)

What is it?

Anyway, once the washers were obtained and on the way back to the hotel the rattle we couldn't find returned and fortunately some mechanics outside a garage could see the near-side wheel wobbling they called me over and it turns out that I had slightly bent a tie-rod (at least that's what I think it was).  Wheel off, disconnect tie-rod, couple of judicious taps with a bloody big hammer, wheel back on and all sorted.  Best of all we weren't charged.  I think that's because they had so much fun while I was visiting their establishment.

Bent tie-rod (Sorted!)
That's an engine?

The tie-rod team

After sorting out the washers and rattle the next job was the bulkhead.  Not too hard that as the screws had simply come out and so Sarah crawled into the back and screwed in some large eyelets which secured the bulkhead back into place.  Job done!

We left Shymkent and crossed into Uzbekistan (after a veerrryy long border crossing) on the 3rd of August nearly two months after leaving blighty. Some stats of the trip so far;
  • Miles traveled from Potton to Tashkent- 8,162
  • Miles traveled to last tank full - 7,860
  • Gallons of petrol used - 187.5
  • Miles per Gallon - 41.93
  • Actual days driving - 32
  • Number of speeding fines - 1
  • Number of other fines - 1
  • Number of problems requiring a mechanic - 4
  • Number of minor problems solved by Matt/Sarah - 2