Wed 8th Aug.
Last nights camp was selected to be well away from the road so we could get an undisturbed sleep. It was a kilometre or two off the road through scrubby ground, elevated with some shade. Well, the darkening sky was a portent to what arrived once we were asleep. The Caranex started whipping around as the wind grew. Fortunately the rain was only mild but the storm was enough to give us another sleep disturbed night.
On the road by 9.30am and the road was the feature of the day. What a nightmare Kazakh roads are. Well, most of them. To hell with policemen warning us not to drive in the gravel, the vehicle is our No 1 priority so in the gravel we go. The roads are just too punishing to drive on. Vehicles fly past us but invariably we pass them later on with the bonnets up or changing tyres.
Driving through a town that is broken in every visible way, (except for the people) we where stopped to get some provisions, a chap motioned us to stop. He took me around to the back of the wagon and pointed to our diff. Yes, there was a bit of oil covering it, so we thanked him and he departed. We had bought some EP90 diff oil yesterday so it could be changed.
Throughout Kazakhstan and other ‘Stan’s too, ramps are provided at the roadside to enable people to check for things that drop off and for changing the oil!! Just drop the oil on the ground! With the first available ramp we backed her up and I did just that. Dropped the oil and fashioned a funnel out of a discarded drink bottle to refill it. There were a couple of looseish bolts holding the diff plate on, so they got tightened and the oil washed off the diff with diesel. I suspect the plate will have to come off at some point and a new gasket made, to stop the minor leak.
Bit of a hiccup today. We have been using the App ‘MapsMe’ on Jen’s phone, for directions. It’s a great app, which once the country’s map is loaded into memory, no wifi is needed to use it. Well, Jens phone stuck it’s hands up in the air and cried, “enough”. It wouldn’t work. No matter how much we tried to charge it. So, resigned to using the map and the compass on the GPS’s and a white stick, we were struggling a bit. It seems the phone must have got cooked sitting in the sun. Oh well!
Something else happened too, a couple of days ago the on/off switch for the fridge, stopped switching. Then today the knob dropped off the fridge temperature control. What a hammering we have been having. Fridge still works fine but we are having to improvise.
A hundred or so kilometres down the road we came to a diversion, off a fairly new piece of road. The two cars ahead of me ignored the sign and pile of dirt across the road as a barrier, so I thought, me too..:). A kilometre or so further they turned off into a town. Continuing on for several more k’s there were trucks and machines everywhere, obviously we had reached the reason for the diversion. What now? Jen said, “ask the truck drivers where we should go”. No way, they were already gesturing for us to turn around and go back. I hate retracing my steps. Over a bank we go and across the field but came to an uncrossable stream, never mind, we’ll find away, and we did. Jen said, you cant go down there! No? Watch this…:) They can go in and out of amazing places, Land Rovers…:). God knows what the truck and machine operators were thinking but we didn’t turn back. Jen was looking bit pale but she started talking to me again, after a while…:)
Tonights camp is along a track and through a field. It’s a scrubby area again, but a good distance from the road, and it’s tranquil. The days are slowly cooling now. Down to 36deg at 5.30pm. Life is great. Camp set up and a lovely cool beer to wash the dust down and settle the nerves.