TPS Report: Russia and A Night in Astrakhan

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August 2nd 2006



date: 07.31.06
current location: Between Volgograd and Astrakan
mileage: 76427
price of gas: 15 Rb/litre
temperature: 83.3F

12:00 pm
We are a few hours from Asia and the most challenging section of the trip thus far. We are getting stopped at every other police checkpoint. Our general policy of dumbfounding them with idiocy has proven to work very well. We now give them our international driver's licenses and answer every question flatly with, "Kazakhstan" while pointing in some random direction. This seems to irritate them enough that they will let us through with no hassles.

The Scamp continues to have issues. Dom and I have taken the lead on the Jerry Rigging exercises. I was convinced we had utilized every possible technique. I mean we had rebuilt their rear suspension with tie-wraps, hose clamps, silicon, all thread, and two part epoxy while their alternator is held to the frame with tie wraps. I truly thought that was about as far as we would go. Then their main belt pooped its pants just outside of a police checkpoint at 11 pm in the rain. Dom and I proceeded to replace it with a pair of panty hose we bought in Germany. She ran well for about 40 or so clicks until it started to fray and fell apart. Apparently we did not wind it tight enough, I was amazed it worked at all.

7:00 pm Astrakan

We pushed through the 450 km trip to Astrakhan with no major mishaps. In our world of junk automobiles this constitutes a minor miracle. The Ford has a subpar right front shock. We are trying to source one in the UK to have shipped to Uzbekistan along with the slew of parts that the Scamp

Our cell phone is starting to have issues, it may be difficult to post over the next couple of days.

Into the desert...

We rolled into Astrakhan in our typical" oh crap we are hopelessly lost" battle formation.

We rolled into Astrakhan in our typical" oh crap we are hopelessly lost" battle formation. Having flawlessly executed the "spend 3 hours hitting every pothole in town" formula many times prior, we decided to pull over and formulate a new hopeless plan. Whilst milling about, two young ladies that spoke English rolled up and graciously offered to escort our sorry caravan to the local supermarket. We filled up on supplies for the desert and purchased a guitar, which may prove essential while sucking sand for 4 days.

While at the supermarket I had the opportunity to teach some young kids the ins and outs of wiffle ball. The looks in their eyes as they made contact for the first time was priceless. This was, by far, the highlight of the trip to date for me.

We quickly found a hotel and were out for some food by 10:30 pm, a minor miracle for this crew. There was some local difficulties obtaining beer, as in the waitresses making a "x" with their arms whenever we asked for beer. Patrick and I decided to source some outside and were looking adequately pathetic. A policeman pulled us aside and inquired if we were looking for beer. He gladly gave us directions, "You go down street, left at big man, 15 meters, door with hole in it, you get beer there." I asked if it was okay to bring into the restaurant place we were in. He replied, "It's okay, here, there, everywhere, it's okay."

It sounds as if many teams are skipping Uzbek due to a raised threat level and bandit activity in the Northern corner. We debated it a lot last night and decided to keep it in KAZA as long as possible. All may change depending upon the state of the KAZA roads.

Off to the border - seth

thin cops