Tuesday, 19 August 2008

So near and yet so far

Before I report on our adventures of the last few days (more adventure than we would ideally have liked!) I can report that Cedric is doing extremely well and is almost fully recovered from a pretty nasty stomach infection.  It is amazing what a needle in the bottom from an enormous and scary Russian Helga can do for the immune system but it seems to have ridden him of the little bugs that caused us a fright over the last 2 days.

After our Migration Card problems in South Kazakstan we headed quickly North for the Russian border hampered only by the exhaust pipe splittling in two resulting in the already pretty noise car making a horriffic racket.  Despite us both wearing ear plugs we couldn't stand it any longer and found a garage to weld the pipe back together.  I've seen the odd welding kit before, but never one like this Frankenstein contraption, plugging it in was achieved by sticking two bare wires directly into the mains, and winding it up to get it started.  Here's me thinking the sparks are only meant to fly after you start welding!  The youthful 135 yr old welder did an excellent job (without gloves and with some very dodgy glasses) and it seemed that our ears could be unplugged and we could continue in peace.  100 miles later, the ear plugs came out as the weld split... an excellent $40 that was!

Crossing the border into Russia we met a rally team driving a London Cab stuck in no-mans land between Kazakhstan and Russia.  They had left Kazakhstan but their Russian visa was yet to start and so they were stranded for 5 days in a 10m square section of what they deamed "Taxi-stan". They weren't helping their chances of finally getting into Russia by playing the National Anthem and The Great Escape at full blast each morning to the extreme annoyance of the Russian border guards.

At this point both Cedric and I had a "funny tummy" and had to have the odd emergency stop whilst driving, but nothing more than standard Travellers problems.  We drove up to Barnaul, a large town on the Edge of the Altai region of Russia in the car which was now sounding more like a Jet Aircraft than a 970cc Suzuki to such an extent pedestrians covered their ears as we approached.  So there was nothing else for it,  a tin of Peaches (minus the peaches) was moulded around the pipe, removing the odd decibel from the exhaust pipe and resulting in a nice caramelised peach smell for the next 50 miles.

Two days of driving and 500 miles later and on Sunday night we arrived at the Mongolian border ready to step foot on the hallowed Mongolian soil only to find it closed for the weekend. We camped there for the night with a few other teams and at this point Cedric's condition worsened.  Yesterday (Monday) morning it was clear that we had no option but to head back to a large town and find a doctor.  With Cedric in increasing pain and running to find a tree by the side of the road every half an hour we drove back to Byssk, 400 miles and 10 hours away to seek help.  It was at this point that the car and the weather decided to do everything in their power to prevent us getting there.  Firstly we were hit with the recurring problem with our fuel line which results in it temporarily getting blocked by some rubbish in the tank.  The engine doesn't like this and stops, the only current remedy being to disconnect said fuel line and blow, with the aid of a foot pump, the rubbish out of the pipe.  This happened twice on the drive back, both times in pouring rain.  Then we got our first flat tire of the trip... perfect timing!

Finally we arrived at Byssk, found a hotel and got a doctor who quickly carted us both off in an Ambulance to hospital.  Well I say hospital but it could easily have been a prison.  I will never complain about the NHS hospitals again whose floors are absent of rubbish and (at my last visit anyhow) there are no flies and unidentified rodents running around!  After much searching through a Russian-English dictionary (anyone know the Russian for diarrhoea?) Cedric was kept in overnight and given the magic injection and is now pretty much better, if a little lighter. 

As for what is next, we don't know.  We will see how Cedric feels tomorrow, work out the options and decide on a plan of action, will keep you posted...

(A massive thanks to everyone who has posted messages below and who we have been in contact with over the last few days, your help and support has been very much appreciated, we are both very grateful!!)


Carine said...

Glad to read that Cedric is feeling much better.
Even if you need to stop now your trip, it was a really nice adventure. You should be happy.

the english parents said...

So nice to get a call from you this morning Paul, and really pleased that Cedric is so much better. Loved your last blog. Whether you stop now or carry on you've done us proud the pair of you. Well done. Big hugs from us both.
Love Mum and Dad x
P.S.If you keep going it gives my workplace something to talk about for the first half hour of each day!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Well done guys. Ced I hope you're ok (and a few kilos lighter eh?) Come on... not far to the finish now.. you can do it!

Anonymous said...

If you feel you have achieved all your goals there are twice weekly flights from Olgi to UB, about 120USD, and also flights from Olgi back to Khazakstan and thence to civilization. If you can make it to Olgi you can ditch the car and see Mongolia from the air instead!