Wedding Crashers

20 Aug 2010, by Brian in Uncategorized

I couldn’t really say how nice of a town Almaty is since I’ve seen little besides the parking lot of our hotel, but following the the trend that’s been set since Turkmenistan the people have been overwhelmingly nice.

First order of business yesterday was to sort out our tourist “registration”… something you have to do at your hotel or at the OVIR office when you arrive, NOT at the border… an archaic throw back to the soviet era, and I think a weak attempt to track your movement, or at the very least to make traveling a hassle. But the receptionist at our hotel was very helpful and in another broken Russian conversation I was able to arrange for our tourist cards to be registered with our passports yesterday.

With that out of the way Tom took a look at the cars with Justin from Just A Steppe Away and we think they determined the drive shafts on 201 are *not* devastatingly harmed… so we rotated the tires and will carry on as is. We weren’t able to look at the possible exhaust leak on 206, but we did get radiator guards and rally fog lights installed, and changed the oil on both cars. Frustratingly we got 201 wired for lights and verified the electricity is live after the switch… but the lights still don’t seem to work. Maybe we got a bum pair. It’s too bad too because 201 has had it’s passenger side headlight constantly going out. We’ve gone through four H1 bulbs already and I got four more yesterday… At least 206 can lead the way with an extra 55watts each of rally lights blinding any oncoming traffic.

As we were out working on the cars, a wedding party started to assemble at the hotel. We worried for a bit that they might take offense that we had set up a make shift garage in the parking lot next to their reception hall, but on the contrary the guys started coming out and taking to us throughout the evening. They were fascinated by the rally, and the fact that we would come all this way to visit their country. The guests were mostly ethnic Ukrainians and Russians who had all grown up in Kazakhstan and call this their home, but do not call themselves Kazak. They were all dressed pretty sharply and seemed well off compared to most, driving nicer imported cars (mostly Japanese, all original right hand drive!). Throughout the night they would wander out for a smoke break and make conversation with us before heading back into the party… but by the end of the evening they were taking pictures with us and offering us champagne! One of the guys gave me his phone number and kept telling me to call him if we had any trouble with the police… at first we thought maybe he was mafia, but after the 4th offer to help with police I boldly asked him what he did, and he leaned in and whispered that he worked for the national security agency here in Kazakhstan. I’ll reserve some of the details until we exit the country (and posting this over encrypted ssh tunnel… paranoid maybe but I don’t want to draw the wrong kind of attention or get this guy in trouble, and who knows who’s filtering this internet connection), and I really hope I don’t need to call on him for help, but needless to say he was very convincing and I’m sure if we do have trouble with police a call to him will help us out big time.

We’ll find out soon as we make our way today from Almaty to Semey. Hoping to hit the Russian border in the next 48 hours and hit really nice pavement until we get to the Mongolian border in the next week or so!

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