Well folks I finally made it to the big K. Had 10 days of drama waiting around in Chelyabinsk, Russia that put me behind schedule so I took a train yesterday , arriving here this morning. The story Cody left on the last blog covered the high points but the details would have made a good tv movie. Met Demetri and his traveling partner Gille from France, traveling in two Landrovers on their way to Mongolia.Broke transmission on Demetri's truck due to the Paris mechanic they trusted not putting enough oil in it. Made it 5000k's to the Landrovers credit. I serviced it up and after a night of camping out and partying with a group of Russians out in the bush, we limped into Chelyabinsk.
They had a contact at the Catholic church there which turned out to be pretty nice, with a nice garage and a nice place for us to stay. After a day at the Landrover dealer, deciding against a partial rebuild since I was already pulling needle bearing out of the muck, and a 1 1/2 month wait for a new transmission and/or parts, we were going to just serviced it up again and hope Demetri could make it back to at least Poland where his insurance would tow the truck back to Paris.Then the local mechanic jumps in and promises us a blackmarket "mafia" new tranny for 2/3rds the price and here in two days from Kazakhstan. The fathers at the church vouched for this guy and I said I'd stick around the required 3-4 days to receive and swap the part. Then it turned dark.
After the euros exchanged hands the mechanic wouldn't come to work or answer his phone. When the fathers contacted the police after 3 days the guy shows up, tells a tale of trouble and promised the part will be here in three days. Gille leaves for Mongolia, I already have the truck apart, ready to drop the gearbox. So we wait. on and on it goes. No contact, our woman who's the translator mysteriously doesn't understand english when hard answers are demanded. We suspect we're being played by everyone but the fathers. This whole thing playing itself out on the grounds of this church, with happy nuns and children and volenteers running around. We set drop dead timelines and each time something would occur to string us along for another day.
Finally the guy shows up one morning with some cash, a story of how the tranny made it to the border and it was the wrong model (which we kept trying to ascertain since he hadn't in our presence written down the VIN code, "don't worry I know what I'm doing") So on the 28th I put it all back together, next day we put the camper back on and Monday 6/30 I hit the train station and Demetri's going to try and hobble back to Paris thru Moscow in 4th gear. Say a prayer for him, the best parts of the mainshaft forward bearing are in a plastic bag. thru it all I knew I was blowing time but the challenge if we could pull this rabbit out of the hat and he could continue on kept me in it. Also hanging out, and going thru it all with Demetri, a first class guy who's adventure got cut short. We'd sit around every night drowning our sorrows and combing thru the latest days events. Hey at least I have a couch to sleep on in Paris!
Kazakhstan is quite different than the European/Russian landscape I've been traveling thru. More prairie like, you can tell it gets hot here. The people are a mix of Russians and the Kazaks, a blended bunch where some look very Chinese and many others who you'd swear your looking at an American Indian. Astana is crazy! Soon as I left the station I'm in traffic where everyone is constantly honking at each other. They must not have much regard for traffic signals, every major intersection has a policeman directing and even then all 4 directions cars are honking at this guy to let them go.They even honk at me as I'm tooling along, I just give them the finger but apparently they don't know what it means.
I wonder what's going to happen next. tomorrow I'll head east, try to put on some good time and hopefully just spend about 20 days here before hitting China. If anyone ask me if I know a good mechanic I'll refer them to my brother in Escondido. Today outside the station I met Tim, a cultural exchange worker from the US state dept. The first American I've talked to since leaving Holland. Never thought about it until we met. Sorry about the pics, but loading them is a frustrating process on these systems they have here. I'll try to do a few today. The wheels keep a rolling, I'm feeling good and I'll talk to you next time. Be cool. Brian