A Long Couple of Days in KZ

Barabajta, KZ to Somewhere between Semey and Palvidar, KZ

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Aug. 14th 2006



The Dukes graciously offered to give Andy and James a lift to Mongolia. With an happier air about the convoy, we motored on making good time through-out the day. We were fairly optimistic about our chances.

Then with near perfect dramatic timing, the Seat went down with a broken clutch cable. Amazingly, it broke directly in front of a garage and predictably 4-5 Kazakhs were soon huddled over the car smoking and wildly suggesting ideas that none of us could understand. Unfortunately, what we needed was a new clutch cable and that was 120 km away.

After trying unsuccessfully to fit up an accelerator cable, I started looking at something a bit extreme, a passenger operated hand clutch. These cars are right hand drive but have an engine designed for left hand drive cars. As such the clutch is located on the left side on the engine, making a perfectly straight pull for the passenger. We found a near perfectly placed penetration to the interior to run the cable through. We used a piece of rebar, that Patrick had picked up a week earlier, for the lever.

Vaughn was designated ''Clutch Boy'' and the Seat was ready for its first go. To the amazement and enjoyment of all, the car lurched forward and off into the distance after only a couple of tries.

We drove until we reached Karragandy. A hasty campsite was located on the outskirts of town. We ate a feast of Kaza pasta gumbo and quickly drifted off to sleep beneath a sea of stars.

I awoke in the morning to a bitter chill and a distinct lack of sunshine. For the first time in weeks, the sky was clouded over and the temperature was hovering in the high 50s. After spending two weeks in daily temperatures exceeding 100F, this cold snap was brutal for all of us.

We drove into town and located a garage. The mechanics were less than helpful but did point us towards the town bazaar where a clutch cable could be purchased. A few hours later, Dominic returned with two VW Golf clutch cables in hand. Another couple hours of fitting and testing and we were ready to roll. The clutch was stiff and had a much different feel but it worked.

The Dukes had to be in Russia as soon as possible and were blazing a fairly fast trail. Our cars were taking a beating as a result. After one stop, we walloped a massive rock and snapped an exhaust support. Patrick and I quickly rigged the exhaust back in place but it rattled with vigor as we drove.

Dominic declared that he was drinking beer and not thinking about cars, all I could do was wholeheartedly agree.

It started raining and grew mercilessly dark. It was then, in the worst weather of the trip in the dark of night, that the Seat's clutch went again. The actual clutch pedal was bending under the necessary foot pressure. We gave the Seat a tow to the nearest garage.

We were down, dirty, and sick of working on cars. The Dukes were eager to push on and it became evident that the convoy was on its last legs. In the driving rain, we said our final good byes and parted ways, the end of a good long partnership.

For the first time in three weeks, the bad colonies' cars were on their own. We settled the cars in along side a big truck. Dominic declared that he was drinking beer and not thinking about cars, all I could do was wholeheartedly agree.

There was a really dodgy looking concrete cafe next to the gas station that looked rather warm. We walked in and had a seat by a bunch of truck drivers drinking vodka. It felt incredible to be out of the cold and the rain, however frightening the reality of the situation was. We feasted on anything we could negotiate with hand signals. At a bit past midnight we settled into the cars for the evening.