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Old 27th August 2013, 12:17   #61
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Default Re: GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Ca

First of all a big big thanks for sharing.
I havent read anything like this on TBHP or any other travel site.
A big round of applause to you guys.
Am glued to this thread.

Last edited by RROD : 27th August 2013 at 12:23.
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Old 27th August 2013, 13:31   #62
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Default Re: GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Ca

Hi RejoycJohn!

Good travelogue and right doses of installments as promised. By the way, this question might seem to be silly, but need to ask this anyway! How did you manage your laundry? Again insurance cover was cross country and cross continental? What covers are generally insisted in the case of insurance, is it only third party life and property? Inquisitive because these nitty-gritties though may seem irrelevant at the initial stage may actually lead to more complications when these actually crop up!
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Old 28th August 2013, 09:32   #63
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Default Re: GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Ca

Day 20

One of the main challenges that one will face in Russia is the language. Not many people in Russia know English. So communication was really hard. For things like ordering food without a menu or to find a hotel which is cheap or to tell the lady at the petrol station how much petrol need to be filled in – everything seemed impossible. I have never spent this much energy in my life to communicate with others.
Another thing that we noticed in Russia is their petrol. In petrol stations they offer 80 Octane Petrol along with 92 and 95. I suppose they are mainly used in vehicles made by Lava or Vas (Russian Automobile companies). The thing that made us really happy in Russia was the price of petrol. After Turkey the cheap rates that we saw in Russia were a big relief.

Our initial plan was to drive into Iran – Turkmenistan – Uzbekistan and then to Kazakhstan. But Carnet De Passage to drive through Iran was taking time and we did not get the visa for Turkmenistan and the visa that we got in the last minute for Uzbek was sent to Almaty (Kazakhstan) by mistake. So we had to cross the Black sea and cross Russia and enter Kazakhstan.

There are two routes that Google proposes when you do a search from Sochi to Atyrau. One is the shorter one which is 1425 KM and other is longer going through VolgoGrad ( Stalin Grad ). We preferred the longer one as the route looked like it followed highways. Secondly the shorter route passed through some parts of Chechnya which have some political issues. We also heard that the issues between Chechnya and Russia are increasing and being brown tourists we might not be getting any warm welcome if we get caught in a cross fire.So the decision was to take the longer route and be safe than driving into a politically disturbed region

The roads even though highways, were not really broad when we started from Sochi. There was a traffic jam ahead of us and we were stuck behind the long queue of vehicles which were trying to get out of the city. The highway that passes through Sochi is of great importance as it’s the main road that connects Georgia and Russia. Many trucks, buses and cars use the same road to move around. It being summer,there was also a huge influx of tourists to this port city. The weather was getting hotter as it became noon and as always we started missing an A/C in our car. After several hours we were still within the city limits.

Once the traffic cleared we drove towards Rostov on Don thorough the Russian highways. The midday sun’s heat had taken a toll on us. All of us were tired and except the driver all were sleeping.

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-russia.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-russia1.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-russia2.jpg
I had booked one hostel in Rostov on Dov through “ Hostelworld.com” from Trabzon while deciding our route in Russia. So the plan was to reach Rostov on Don and spend the night in that hostel. I had to pay 10% advance of the total sum.
Even though the roads were good, we were going within the highway speed limits so that we don’t invite any unwanted attention from the Russian police.

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-russia-trafic.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-russia3.jpg
After hours of driving we reached Rostov on Don at half past 1 am in the night. We searched for our hostel and drove around to find the same. Even though we reached the exact street we were not able to find the hostel. There were not many people around and those who were there did not understand English. Neither they were able to read English for them to guide us. Kent went out of the car after we parked the car.The city had almost fallen asleep by that time.



Luckily Kent found someone after a bit of search who understood English. They offered to go with Kent and find the Hostel but then they came after a while empty handed. However the guy was unhappy that he was not able to find the hostel for us. By then we were almost sure that we got cheated by the hostel booking website. The guy called his friend whom he thought would take us to a hotel so that we can stay there. His friend came in 10 minutes in his Black Land cruiser. Our Russian friend told his friend what we upto and our situation. His friend got the point and asked us to follow his car. The only sad part was that he did not understand English. Anyway we followed his car and he took us to the first hotel. I was at the driving seat , so Siby and Kent went with him to the reception to check if they have a room for us. Me and TV were sitting inside the car and trying to memorize all the horror stories that we had read about Russia.

In Russia there is a rule that only those hotels which have a permit can accommodate foreign citizens. Those hotels normally are really expensive in terms of their daily room rates. The hotel where we were taken by our Russian friend did not have the permit and hence we started again following him to the next one. While me and TV were waiting for the others at the next hotel parking, we saw one girl in his car who looked like his girl friend. She greeted us with a warm smile.

There was no luck in this hotel as well. So we went to the next one and to the next. We wanted to tell our friend that its enough, as we felt bad that he was with his girl friend and helping us at that time of the night.
Finally we found one which was expensive and that which allowed foreigners to stay.
We were relieved as we can finally say bye to our new Russian friend who took so much of trouble at that time of the night for some 4 strangers.

The whole incident really made us open our eyes. Every single second since we reached Russia, we were only thinking about the bad things that can happen to us from the Russians. The picture that we got about Russia from the internet was really bad and that made us make such an assumption.
However in reality what we experienced that day was one of the best things in our entire Rally. To be honest, I doubt if I would do the same or anything close when someone asks me a help in Bangalore.

Our Russian friend was happy that he was able to help us and he left with his girl friend. However the room rent was too high for us to afford and it was already 3 30 in the morning. So we thought we should just park our car in a petrol station and sleep inside the car. We drove towards Volgograd and spent our night in a petrol station in Rostov on Dov.

Day 21

We were awake by 5 – 5 30 am in the morning and started driving towards Volgograd. Volgograd is considered to be the capital city of Southern Russia. It got the name Stalingrad when Hitler was defeated by Stalin during the 2nd world war.

The good thing about the roads in Russia is that they are straight. I mean literally like an arrow. You don’t need any navigation once you know to which direction you need to go to.

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-straight-roads.jpg
Many of you would know about a site known as Couch surfing.Its a website for travelers. You can offer your couch to a traveler who is coming to your city. You can also request someone to host you when you travel to another city. Its basically allowing someone else to stay at your place without taking any monetary benefit. Its like a stranger guest.

Kent has a very good profile in couch surfing and hence when he sent couch requests, we got a couple of replies and one of them was from a couple. We decided to meet them and stay the night at their house.
His name is Sergey –a young lad who is living with his girlfriend. He read about our road trip in our request note and thought that it would be interesting to meet us. He knew that he will have to speak in English and may be a day’s of stay with us would force him to talk in English and in turn give him some confidence in the language. He was mentioning that in Russia hardly they get an opportunity to speak in English. As a person who wants to settle down in the west he believes his chances are high if his command over English is good.

Anyway very nice couple, we got a room for all of us to stay. We were tired after the long drive from Rostov on Dov and we also had to catch up the previous day’s lost sleep.

Day 22

The next day early morning they served us Russian pancakes for breakfast. We were having nice home made food after weeks. We thoroughly enjoyed our authentic Russian breakfast.
Seregey took us to show the city . The war museum situated in the middle of the city also have a big statue known as the Motherland calls – one of the largest sculptures in the world. This statue was raised to commemorate the victory of Stalin against Hitler.
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-stalin3.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-stalin2.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-stalin1.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-stalin-4.jpg

We later went to River Volga – the longest river in Russia , with Sergey , his girl friend and their friends.


GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-volgograd.jpg
We spent the afternoon and the evening in the beaches of river Volga.

That day evening they even hosted a party for all of us. We said good-bye to the couple and expressed our gratitude with some humble. We also invited them to visit India.

Day 23
Our idea was to reach Astrakhan that evening. We were lucky to get an invitation from another couple in Astrakhan through couch surfing.
Most of us think of Russia as a cold country, well it is during winter. But then in August – September the temperatures go upto 40 degrees. Sergey was mentioning that the temperature goes below -40 in winter and then above 40 in summer. I had read about the Himalayas protecting the Indian subcontinent from the cold winds from Siberia, but then never thought the situation would be so harsh if it was not there.
The tarmac on the road was melting due to the sun’s heat. It looked like we were driving through melting tar than on road.
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-melting-roads.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-enrote-astrakhan.jpg

We reached Astrakhan and met our host for that day. He and his wife stayed at a very nice apartment in Astrakhan. His wife was particularly interested in India and Indian culture. She was also a student and teacher of yoga. They also treated us really well with nice dinner. We went to bed after enjoying that vegetarian dinner offered by our hosts
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-mariana-food.jpg
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Old 28th August 2013, 11:04   #64
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Default Re: GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Ca

I have not followed any thread like this so far. Someone mentioned making a movie out of this. i think you guys should seriously consider it and maybe writing a book too. looking forward to the rest of it
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Old 28th August 2013, 11:24   #65
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Default Re: GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Ca

Your journey is simply awesome and fantastic. You guys are really courageous to take up such a rally and it will be difficult to find someone in our country who has taken up such a challenge before. I bet there should be a Nat Geo or Discovery channel documentry on your trip

On a different note, how did you guys manage to get so many leaves, especially when you are from the IT industry?
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Old 28th August 2013, 11:38   #66
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Default Re: GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Ca

Quote:
Originally Posted by nishantdlv View Post
No! No rejoycjohn! Not more frequent! Or else my boss will fire me!
I just cant resist reading your updates!
Quote:
Originally Posted by RROD View Post
First of all a big big thanks for sharing.
I havent read anything like this on TBHP or any other travel site.
A big round of applause to you guys.
Am glued to this thread.
Thank you Nishantdlv and RROD. I am also having the same issue so thought of updating this thread everyday after work :-)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gokrish View Post
Hi RejoycJohn!

Good travelogue and right doses of installments as promised. By the way, this question might seem to be silly, but need to ask this anyway! How did you manage your laundry? Again insurance cover was cross country and cross continental? What covers are generally insisted in the case of insurance, is it only third party life and property? Inquisitive because these nitty-gritties though may seem irrelevant at the initial stage may actually lead to more complications when these actually crop up!
Laundry , well good question. First time we did our laundry was in Munich.
Then in Bucharest inside the luxurious bathroom of Hilton.
Then Holiday Inn @ Turkey. After that some rivers in Russian border and in Mongolia.
Vehicle Insurance that we took was valid till Russia. It was a full cover insurance. In Kazak and Mongolia, you can buy insurance at the border. All of us had travel insurance as well which in general covered all those that a normal travel insurance will cover.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mohan Mathew A View Post
I have not followed any thread like this so far. Someone mentioned making a movie out of this. i think you guys should seriously consider it and maybe writing a book too. looking forward to the rest of it
Thank you Mohan . Your words are really encouraging. Mr TV has overcome his " perpetual writers block " and is in the process of writing another one.I hope we will be able to convince him to finish that and convert that into something bigger.

Quote:
Your journey is simply awesome and fantastic. You guys are really courageous to take up such a rally and it will be difficult to find someone in our country who has taken up such a challenge before. I bet there should be a Nat Geo or Discovery channel documentry on your trip
On a different note, how did you guys manage to get so many leaves, especially when you are from the IT industry?
Thank you Aditya.
6 years in the same company, and this is the least that we can ask them. I think its after all not that difficult unless you have really really bad managers. Most of us I think refrain from giving an attempt in the fear of rejection. Even we had such thoughts in the initial phase. But then we were all so sure of doing this and in case they rejected and act kiddish, the only thing left for us was to leave our job. 6 years in IT , I am sure that getting a new job with a better pay after this rally wont be difficult.
Fortunately , all our managers were really cool about this idea and granted us the leave.

Last edited by rejoycjohn : 28th August 2013 at 11:47.
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Old 28th August 2013, 18:35   #67
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Default Re: GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Ca

Rejoy, have been following your thread since the first day. Well, most of the other members have showered so many adjectives that there is none left for me. It is indeed an epic journey. But even after so many posts and pictures, I am yet to figure out which one is you among 4. It would be nice, if you have a team picture with names. Thanks!
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Old 29th August 2013, 02:12   #68
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Day 24

As I was mentioning earlier our host was a Yoga teacher so she woke up early in the morning and started practicing it. Soon we too woke up and had our breakfast with the couple. It was a working day for them and hence they had to leave for work. Mariana our host offered to guide us till the city center where we can see Astrakhan Kremlin and a bit of sight seeing as well.
We bid good bye to Valentine and Mariana and started walking around Kremlin.


GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-astrakhan.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-astrakhan1.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-astrakhan2.jpg


GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_8876.jpg

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_8881.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_8888.jpg
After a bit of roaming around and meeting some locals we thought we should head towards the Kazakh border. Our plan was to reach Atyrau by evening and spent our night there.

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_8893.jpg


On our way to Kazkah border we had to cross the mighty Volga river. They had a floating bridge on top of the river for the vehicles to cross. It felt like we were driving on the surface of the water.

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_8902.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_8899.jpg


Soon we reached Kazakh border. The temperature was climbing up and the place was really dusty. We had a long queue of cars in front of us waiting to enter Kazakhstan. People from Russia and Kazakh can move around between these countries without visa. They used to be part of the great USSR before 1991.


GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-border.jpg



After a couple of hours wait in the hot sun we reached near the border post. I with the car was asked to take another route where the officers check the car and the other 3 went straight into the immigration desk to clear their passports and get the entry stamped in their passport. When they got in they were asked to go to a counter which was not the right one. The officer again asked them to go another one. When they showed their passport to the visa officer, she asked if they were from India. First time ever in our life we saw somebody getting excited seeing an Indian passport holder. In most of the countries that we travel, the border security officer treats you without any excitement. Here the situation was completely different.


The name of the lady at the counter was Indira – of course after our ex prime minister Indira Gandhi. She was so excited that she wanted to take a photo with us!!
My friends were not so sure how to react. They took photo with the immigration officer and got a VIP treatment too. She was also mentioning about Midhun Chakraborthi and his movies. Later we realized that in the entire Soviet countries Midhun Chakraborthi and “ Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy aaja aaja aaja song are really famous. She couldn’t believe that we were driving from London till Mongolia.
Initially she thought we were driving from India.

On the other side, I parked my car and walked to the security with my passport and car’s passport. Supposedly they call the documents of the car as passport. I understood this first when I was doing the customs formalities in Russia. I was asked to stand in front of a camera to take my photo along with my documents. The other officer who was in charge of checking the car looked very cool. He was asking me if I am from India and hows Midhun Chakraborthi doing. I told him rather I expressed in actions that he is old now and there are new boys in Bollywood

All of us were really quizzed about how and why Soviet republic citizens have so much knowledge about 80’s India and Bollywood in particular. Supposedly during the times of USSR, the government used to air Indian Bollywood movies in their televisions and theatres too. The Russian cinema of that era contained a lot of material against government and posted a threat to the rulers of that time. The cinema used to be so strong that it could cause another revolution in the Russian soil.
And when the USSR government looked for options they thought of showing their people Indian Cinema .Most of our movies have a general theme which is hardly harmful or have the capacity to stir up a population against their government.

I was done with my formalities and was waiting for others at the Kazakh side of the border. In the mean time I went around and found a place where I was able to buy Vehicle insurance. I also converted some dollars against the local currency.
We met some other rally – Silk Road Race. Its similar to our Mongol rally but the start point is Milan Italy and end point is Dushande ( Tajikistan ). I spent sometime with them till my friends arrived.

After that we said good bye to the team and wished them good luck for their rally.

We were really hungry after the long wait at the border and all those paper works. We wanted to eat something and so stopped at the next town for some food.
We also wanted to fill up our car and went to the next petrol station after our food. We filled in the petrol but while we tried to pay the money in dollars, the guy at the counter tried to take us for a ride. He did some calculation and gave us an amount which will be equal to twice the amount that we fill the petrol for. Finally after a bit of persuasion he understood that we come from a country where exchange rates get a lot of attention.

We drove towards Atyrau. The roads were straight , well they don’t need to give any turn or twist as the landscape is plain and devoid of any mountains or valleys or anything of that sort.The biggest worry for us was the heat. The other 3 were taking all their frustration of sitting in a car with no A/C on me, as I was the person who decided on the car. Every time someone gets out of the rear seat through the narrow gap between the front driver’s seat and the car, they ensured that I am scolded at. Anyway I take all that , because it was obviously my mistake.
All these cribbing and whining gave way to smiles and happiness when we started seeing this. A herd of horses running in the open field creating a big trail of dust!

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-kazakh1.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-kazakh2.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9000.jpg


Oh man, we literally forgot everything around us. It was beautiful beyond explanation. The Pic that we took above was just one of the herds in that place. All throughout the way there were lots and lots of them making our journey memorable.

There were also dried lakes on our route. We tasted the white thing and ensured it as salt. Anyway all these scenes on our way to Atyrau ensured that we get diverted from the hot dry weather and the inconveniences that the car was causing to us.


GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9008.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9003.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9014.jpg
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Old 29th August 2013, 07:02   #69
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You guys did an epic trip . It reminds me of the bike trip called 'Long Way Round' which was done from London to New York through Europe and Asia.
But reading a trip report like this is better than watching a documentary.

I am sure when you had told people in Kerala about this, they would have thought your nuts.

Last edited by tharian : 29th August 2013 at 07:06.
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Old 29th August 2013, 09:35   #70
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I am short of words @rejoycjohn

Awesome initiative there. You guys are truly living your life. Rated a much deserved 5 stars. Keep them coming
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Old 30th August 2013, 01:52   #71
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Day 25

In Kazakhstan there is a rule which states that any foreigner who stays in Kazakh for more than 5 days shall register in the local authority. We thought we will not be staying in Kazakhstan for more than 5 days, rather we were not sure. We spoke to the hotel authorities regarding this, but then they couldn’t help us. So we thought we should just leave it for the time being and check this later in Astana.

From Atyrau we can either go to Almaty or go north to Astana. If we go to Almaty there was a possibility of getting the visa for Uzbekistan and then visit that country as well. But then it’s almost 25 days and we were sure we would definitely take another 10 days to reach Ulaanbaatar. If we plan for a detour towards Almaty and then Uzbek, it will definitely take add another 5-7 days to our plan. We were confused as to what to do. The visa for Uzbek was not sure too. One more reason for us not to go to Almaty and Uzbekistan was that we wanted to reach Ulaanbaatar before the final Finish Line party organized by the Mongol Rally officials. After that party you can still finish the rally but then there won’t be any function, it would be more or less handing over the keys of the car.

The other route was definitely shorter than our Atyrau – Almaty – Astana one and would definitely save us time.

So all decided we started our journey towards Aktobe. The plan was to reach Aktobe and spend our night there. Note the distance and time given by Google maps, 616 km – 8 hrs 26 minutes.


GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-google-maps.jpg
After driving through a few hundred kms in Kazakh we were sure that we would be able to complete the journey in 10/11 hrs maximum. Sibinho was at the driving seat and the route seemed to be decent. Of course as I was mentioning earlier you can close your eyes and drive in Kazakh, the roads are so straight!
The weather however was getting worse and worse. The temperature was hovering around 38-40 degree Celsius. In one of the petrol bunks on our route, there was this board which showed the current temperature. We saw the temperature to be 40 degrees when we got into the station, after filling the petrol we got out of the petrol station and to our surprise we saw the temperature noted in that board to be 42!!. That is 2 degrees in a matter of minutes!
Similar to the exchange rate fluctuation that is happening now :-D

The only thing that we could do was to drink more water to fight the heat and continue driving. We crossed around 80 odd kms in a matter of 2 hours.


GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9045.jpg


We stopped for lunch in a small village. It was a tiny place. In all these small places we actually dint have a choice of food, we just ask them to give food by enacting the same and they serve us whatever they like. The only good thing was that most of them served the costliest food in their menu. This at least made sure that there was enough quantity of food so that we don’t starve.

We also had a custom of loading our cars with lots of drinking water. Any pitstop that we take we ensured that we refill our water bottles. TV always ensured that we do this even if the other 3 forget.

After lunch, I took over driving seat from Siby and got cracking. I just drove around 5-6 Km and the road started to disappear. Initially we thought we are taking a wrong route. But then we confirmed our route again and again using our mobile GPS. We also remember seeing a railway track all through our way from Atyrau. The road was going parallel to the railway line and so it was easy to confirm if our route was correct. But then the road condition was giving us doubts if it was the right route. Anyway we dint have any other option other than driving forward. There wasn’t anyone that we could confirm the same with.
Our hope was that the road will get better in a while.

When I say the road was bad, I am not sure how to explain how bad it was. Honestly I have never driven in a road similar to that. I come from Kerala and have been seeing the roads in that part of our country for the past 25 + years. I don’t remember seeing anything like this in my entire life. It was just unbelievable. The roads had potholes which were similar to wells. As the ground clearance of our car was pathetic when at full load we were going at snail speed so that we don’t cause any damage to the car’s components.


The heat of the sun was almost getting into my nerves. It was dusty too. We could see many trucks and tankers taking detour from the main “road” and zooming past causing a trail of dust behind. Every time a truck goes by we had to roll up our windows and lower it when the dust trail that it created settles.


GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9031.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9037.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9034.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9036.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9038.jpg

It was just horrible. There were a couple of Land cruisers and Ladas that was zooming past not bothering about the potholes. Even they were not taking the main road. This made us think that we should follow the trail that these locals take rather than the main road.

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9061.jpg

So we took our car into this trail. But for our car it was not making that much of a difference, the potholes were still big enough to cause damage for our car if driven faster than 10km/hr – like literally above 10km / hr. This was the only day during the entire journey where I was getting restless! The first time in our entire rally we were kicked out of our comfort zone- that too by miles – at the least expected place. We had heard of really bad roads in Mongolia, but we never thought even in our dreams that we would have to encounter something like this in Kazakhstan.
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_90531.jpg
However I was telling to myself that may be getting through that road and such a situation is what that differentiates this rally from other or may be from a Euro trip or American trip. I wanted to be patient and keep my cool so that I control my urge to go fast through that road. Any attempt to go faster was going to cause damage to our car and may be it can cause our rally to have a premature end.
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9051.jpg

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9028.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9059.jpg
All these thoughts were going in cycles in my head and we just drove on.

After an hour of driving in that road, I thought I should just accept that the road condition is going to be that bad till we reach Aktobe. The more I expected the road to get better, the more I was getting restless. So the best way to keep my brain in control was to just accept the situation as it is and make plans to overcome the same.
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9068.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9069.jpg


My friends too were speechless seeing the road condition. We stopped on the road after a while and got out of the car to do a bit of discussion on our situation. We decided that we should ask someone about what lies ahead. At least we can be sure that there is a road and we can reach Aktobe “eventually “.We planned to intercept one of the trucks and ask the driver questions like how far will the road remain like that , where will be the next petrol station and if there is any place to stay in the night.
TV and Kent were on this mission. They ran towards a truck that came from the opposite direction.
Truck driver told that the road was of similar condition for kilometers together. And we will have to travel around 100-150 Km to find a petrol station. Regarding stay he mentioned that we might find something in around 100 kms.


GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9052.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9055.jpg

When I use words like ‘ask’ /’talk’/ ‘said’ , please don’t take it literally. All I mean to say is that some way or the other both my friends and the truck driver communicated and the end result was what I mentioned above.

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9032.jpg


The positive thing after that pit stop was that we were sure that eventually we will reach Aktobe and there is no reason to go back and take the route through Almaty.

The only thing that was following us in that road was this railway line running parallel to our road that I was mentioning before and the occasional trains that uses the same.
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9070.jpg
Anyway we drove almost 60-70 KMs further in that condition and reached another village. We took around 5-6 hours to cover the same. It was getting dark and driving in that road was getting harder. We missed a couple of potholes and before we make any huge mistakes we thought we should call it a day.

Luckily we found a place where the truck drivers were taking rest. We stopped there and had our dinner. The lady who was managing the place had place for us to sleep but then she insisted that we pay her in local currency and not in Dollars. We dint have enough local currency to pay her. We asked around and none of them were actually willing to take our dollars.

After dinner we thought we should sleep in the car and then wake up early morning and continue our journey. The wind was still blowing and every passing truck was creating a dust trail behind. As we dint have A/C there was no option of rolling up the window so we had to park our car in such an angle so that the least amount of dust got inside our car. The window was rolled down just enough to get ample amount of air inside and at the same time the least amount of dust. Our whole car, our dress and we were immersed in Kazakh mud.

All of us were trying to sleep. The truck traffic was still coming and every time a truck comes Sibinho would roll up the window to stop more dust coming in. However I was able to sleep, but then I have a problem of sleep talking. Infact I even do long speeches when I am asleep. That day being so disturbed and restless, my mind was filled with the images that I had all through our day in Kazakhstan. In my dreams I was seeing our car to be parked across a railway track and a train is about to come and hit us. So I was asking Sibinho to move our car from the track. Poor my friends were worried listening to me. My sleep talking was also stopping them from having a decent sleep.

So, GKEIC team was in some place in Kazakhstan – with no local currency – inside a car filled with more dust than the petrol that it has in the tank – trying to sleep with a psychic!! - Welcome to Mongo Rally!!
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Old 30th August 2013, 10:01   #72
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Talking Re: GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Ca

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Originally Posted by rejoycjohn View Post
The lady who was managing the place had place for us to sleep but then she insisted that we pay her in local currency and not in Dollars. We dint have enough local currency to pay her. We asked around and none of them were actually willing to take our dollars.
Maybe because they doubt they would ever find a foreign exchange in the desert!

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Originally Posted by rejoycjohn View Post
In my dreams I was seeing our car to be parked across a railway track and a train is about to come and hit us. So I was asking Sibinho to move our car from the track.
You remember it even after a year! It was really a memorable "Dream"!
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Old 30th August 2013, 18:59   #73
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Default Re: GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Ca

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Originally Posted by rejoycjohn View Post
Day 25

So, GKEIC team was in some place in Kazakhstan – with no local currency – inside a car filled with more dust than the petrol that it has in the tank – trying to sleep with a psychic!! - Welcome to Mongo Rally!!
This one had me in splits

Btw, you REALLY have to write a book on this journey.
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Old 3rd September 2013, 11:07   #74
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Default Re: GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Ca

I was out of town for couple of days without any access to internet. Was feeling so depressed as I would not be able to catch this story as it unfolds. But alas!! I come back to see it in the same stage as I saw it on Friday. Whats happening??

I have been pressing 'F5' button for quite sometime now and nothing seems to change. I am eagerly expecting a flurry of posts from you, dude. Please.

And, am also surprised that this thread is getting so less number of responses. Just 5 pages till now and no responses since 30th Aug. Really surprising!
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Old 3rd September 2013, 11:10   #75
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Default Re: GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Friends, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Ca

Day 26

Lack of sleep, dust and more dust – that’s how we will describe our Day 26 morning of the rally.

Among the 4 of us, I was the person who had the maximum sleep and the one who disturbed others with my rants all through the previous night. So the driver seat was given to me that others can catch up some lost sleep.

The road condition was still the same. As it was early morning the temperature was manageable.
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9077.jpg
The biggest difference though was our attitude. All of us had got in terms with the whole Kazakh situation. The only complaint that others had was about my sleep talking. Else we started to enjoy the condition of the road and were taking it easy. Kent was the coolest among us. One thing that was still a concern was the fuel level in our petrol. It was nearing the empty mark.
We dint have enough local currency to buy petrol even if we find a petrol station or in the black market.

So we drove on with the hope of buying petrol and convincing the local about how valuable USD can get at times of domestic economic slowdown! We dint take long when we reached a place that looked like a small town with roads that did not have potholes in them. And hurray we saw a petrol station too. We drove inside and asked him if he will take dollars. The standard answer as expected was a no. Then we met one Lorry driver who was going to Atyrau, and thought of exchanging our dollars with him for the local currency. Honestly when we heard that he agreed to give us the local money, we were in cloud 9. I still can’t imagine us getting stuck in that dessert one more day without food water and petrol. And the best part was that he gave us an exchange rate which was in our favor! I was almost in tears. Even if he offered us only half the exchange rate we would have taken the local money. The word God- send may sound a bit like a cliché, but then it would be the apt one to describe him and his presence in that dessert. Anyway good news is that we have enough money to buy petrol and food for the day.


So the god-send with us.
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9071.jpg

We also met another local guy who was interested to know who we were and where we from and where we going to. We said we from Atyrau on our way to Aktobe. He was shocked to hear that we were driving from Atyrau. To describe in his own words “ Its impossible to drive from Atyrau till here in that car !! “. I wish we had taken a photo of his to post here, may be that would have explained the expression that he had on his face better.
We were happy that we managed to get through something that the localities describe as impossible. Something like that was required to keep our spirits up.

We thought roads will get better after that petrol station, but then after a few kms it returned to its previous form. The rule of thumb was to follow trails but never the main road.

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9074.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9076.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9084.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9086.jpg

We drove on. Soon we reached a small bridge over a dried river. The bridge was filled with large potholes, so we thought it would be better we drive through a trail that the locals made through the dried river bed. When I looked at it I felt there was a bit too much of sand on that trail to get our car through it. But then for some reason all others found it in the other way. Even I dint have the patience to get down from the car and see the trail. Anyway I just droved down through the trail and as expected got stuck! . I tried everything to get our car out of that trail. Well Micra is not a 4*4 , so expecting it to get out of such a situation by its own is a far cry. However luckily there was this Land cruiser coming from one side. Sibinho grabbed his attention and asked his help. That guy was not in his senses and was not in a situation to help us. But he kept offering us chocolates, water gifts etc and said that he is part of Kazakh Army!!!

Realizing that he won’t be of any help to us, we asked him politely to leave. He went and then in 2 minutes he came back in his Toyota. His car stopped so close to us that it almost hit our car.
He started talking to Sibinho and Kent, by that time me and TV found another route and I drove our car back to our side and took the car over the bridge to the other side.
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9079.jpg
Land cruiser guy was still talking to my friends. We somehow managed to say Good-bye to our Kazakh army friend and started driving further. The condition of the road was still the same. We were hardly going at 30km/hr. Our hopes of staying at a better place dint seem bright.
Seeing our speed our Kazakh Army man stopped his car and offered to give two of us lift in his car. He was also going to Aktobe and our car’s ground clearance and full load was making us slow down literally at every potholes. So we thought we should it give it chance.
Brave souls Kent and TV offered themselves to try out their luxury ride in the desserts of Kazakhstan.

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9090.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9093.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9100.jpg

To be fair his offer did help us to go faster than what we were doing for the past two days. We could however see the land cruiser all over the place in front of our car. We were wondering what the situation of Mr Kent and TV is inside. Later they told us that the guy was not keeping his hands on the steering wheel but crying and occasionally drawing the direction in which we need to go to reach Aktobe. He was trying to draw the map on the dashboard in front of the passenger seat. All these were done while the car was still in motion. The only reason that the car was still on four wheels was that it was a Land cruiser.

Soon we saw the Kazakh Army person stopping the car on the road with our friends getting out . They rushed into our car as soon as we reached and asked us to just driveee!! They were supposed to be with him till Aktobe or till we see a good road. However the plan was short lived as the Army guy started telling stories of the fights that he had with the local policeman that morning. TV and Kent thought that the things are not going in a good way and may be they should just leave him by his own and continue the journey in our car.

For me and Siby it was just another experience in our rally. But I am sure if someone asks Kent or TV , they would be explaining this with much more excitement , details and emotions!

Soon we started seeing roads that were devoid of any potholes. Infact the roads widened and we were back to the civilized world.
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9105.jpg
The weather was getting better too. The sunset and the colours made the evening look very beautiful. It kind of gave us a sense of relief that finally we were out of dessert without much causalities to us or to our cars.

GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9175.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_91081.jpg
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9112.jpg

We reached Aktobe and had a nice dinner. Met some locals and updated them that Midhun Chakraborthy’s era is over and now we their sons and daughters to rule Bollywood. The local crowd was really nice to talk with and we spent some good time with them.
GKEIC's Road Trip - 4 Average Joes, 16000 KMs, 16 Countries, 40 Days in a Puny Car!-img_9111.jpg
We found a cheap hotel near to the home ground of FC Aktobe to stay that night.
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