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Posted by Charles Yaxley at 6th August 2012 at 13:32
Having issues with posting pics, you may have to wait until we get back or see Facebook
Posted by Charles Yaxley at 6th August 2012 at 12:34
A synopsis of things so far. The journey has been very interesting so far, crossing through cultures from the familiar to the downright mystifying - taking us through our first night in a Belgian Motorway service station car park, then to Heidelberg, where we found a pub that served 101 different types of schnitzel! We rendezvoused with every other team at a delightful medieval castle at Klenova in the Czech Republic for a spectacular party. Then on to Budapest and a brief stay with friends who are summering there (they claim working on legal research for their careers as academics!)
After that we ventured onto the seemingly lawless roads of Romania and Bulgaria in our aim to reach Istanbul. The Turkish border saw our initiation into the chaos of administrative disorganisation that starts to be commonplace once you leave Germany. Istanbul is truly a magnificent city and well worth a long weekend visit. Judging by the number of other teams we bumped into there, we were not alone in seeing this as a 'must see' place. We then went down to Cappodocia to see the extraordinary geological formations and underground city near Goreme. Then up to the old city of Trabzon to catch the ferry to Sochi on the Russian Riviera. This is one strange place with very visible signs of extreme wealth and behind that the seedyness and poverty that so often comes with it. Here, we encountered our first real problem with beaurocracy: getting car insurance is not as easy as it would seem, and we were held up here for 24 hrs trying to find it.
Then we set off along the roads of Russia, having picked up a team of boys who are friends of my oldest son and a team of Brazillians who are making a documentary on The Rally. We stayed with them for a night in Majkop in possibly the worst hotel I've ever stayed in and witnessed our first taste of the darker side of Russia - a street fight which seemed to have ethnic roots.
The following day we made for the Kazakh border at Astrakhan and became separated from our followers. Things started to get interesting: we crossed a pontoon bridge over the Volga on the main road from Astrakhan to the border, this should have given us some idea of things to come! Between the Russian side and the Kazakh border control, in a 'no man's land' of about a mile, we lost our exhaust pipe. We stopped to strap it up with rope and limped through the border. Then we took the main road to Atyrau. This is probably the worst road I've ever been on and yet it is shown as a major road!
In Atyrau we found the Kazakh equivalent of 'Del Trotter', who mended our exhaust for £31. We over nighted here, seeing the close juxtaposition of oil wealth and poverty. The next day we set off for Aktobe but disaster struck. On yet another of the 'A' roads we hit a pot hole about 5 ft across by 2 ft by 10 ins deep which took out one of our suspension arms and caused us to lose oil from somewhere. Lady luck shone for a brief moment - a passing Kazakh stopped but 10 minutes after this had happened and called someone to come and tow us back to Atyrau (130 kms away). The price went from $120, as told to us by our 'saviour' to $800 as demanded by the mechanic - I thought that when he said $800 as we were under way that he was quoting a price to mend the car and had agreed this: we were stiffed but had no choice.
At this point, things were looking bad! However, Charles's sister in law , who is a business security analyst specialising in Kazakhstan stepped in and gave us an invaluable contact. This person and those whom she has roped in have shown a humanity and kindness which is exemplary. One of them lent us his flat whilst we found a cheap place to stay, which another found for us. Then we have been ferried around to these various places by friendly Kazakhs. There is much more to this story, however, not for now!
We have been unable to find the right part here as French cars are not popular here. So it looked, two days ago, that we were going to have to give up. However, Amanda (my wife) and Toyota in Bristol worked overtime to find the piece and Amanda has sent it to us by DHL - amazing as she has also been running The Lansdown on her own and being a full time Mum whilst I am away. It will end up costing us an extra £1,500 but we are not giving up: this car is going to be delivered to the orphanage by hook or by crook: we made a pledge and we're sticking to it! So we wait until Wednesday for the part and hope to be on our way by Friday.
We are very grateful for your support and to all who sponsored us and we hope that our determination will be a good example to all. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank those with whom we do business for their contributions, I just wish that all my suppliers had your vision , generosity, and community spirit.
Amanda for holding the fort and being a genius in getting us a part and sending it here.
Toyota Bristol South
St Austell Brewery
Pearsons Educational Recruitment
Bath Ales Severn Vale Brewery
Great Western Brewery
Severn Vale Brewery
And all our families and friends who have supported and donated to the cause
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