Days 20 & 21: Sand, Sand and More Sand

Day 20: So that’s the noise a camel makes.

We were awoken fairly early by a large herd of camels. That’s not a phrase I’ll get to use again any time soon I suspect! We were most interested to learn that camels make a noise at all, its sort of a cross between a cow mooing and a long groan. 

Anyway, now heading a longer way round but on allegedly better roads (we are slightly dubious, other teams have described the road we’ve been directed onto as a the “road of death” due to its ridiculous potholes) we set off trying to make up some lost time. We’re potentially quite a few days behind schedule now, which is eating into all our contingency time.

We missed a turning at a small town which got us a bit lost for a while, we found our way back to the main road, to find the main road had turned into a 100m wide pothole ridden track, it was a case of weaving between the least damaging looking potholes and braving the sand/dirt tracks at the edges where posible. This was the “road of death” we’d originally been trying to avoid. 

We spotted a European looking car with a stupidly overloaded roofrack behind us, and slowed to have a look as we’d seen from a distance a few vehicles that looked like they could be on similar rallies. It turned out to be a Mongol Rally team, in a small corsa. We shared expletives about the road, they were probably worse off than us with their Corsa hugging the ground, but at least they had air con!

We played cat and mouse with the Mongol team for quite a while, on the rough we were faster, on the rare smooth bits they could fly past us. They also stopped to take lots of photos of camels. Have they not seen a camel in the middle of a motorway before? They told us there was a rocket launch planned at the cosmodrome in East Kazakhstan (where the Russians launch all their space missions) for Saturday, sadly it doesn't look like we’ll make it at this pace.

Eventually we grew further apart and we continued on alone, we stopped at one point to donate a ratchet strap to a stranded Kazak car-on-tow whose tow rope had broken. Eventually we camped up in a crater not far from the main road. We’ve seen quite a few teams from the Mongol Rally whilst stopped. Guess they must all be following a fairly rigid route to have seen so many in one day. Seems a rather dull way of doing it ;)

Day 21

We’re doing everything we can to try and pick up the pace today, as we get used to Bertie’s offroad capabilities, the style of driving and the terrain we can get more speed on the dirt tracks and stop less to check our ground clearance, size up dirt tracks and embankments etc.
Its still ridiculously slow progress though, previous teams seemed to have got through Kazakhstan in 3-5 days, and we’d worked to a similar schedule, but we have no idea how they’ve managed it! We’ve been stopped a few times and offered directions – we’re definitely going the right way (and the best way) but we can only hope the route improves ahead or we’ll be in Kazakhstan for approximately forever.
We camped up fairly late near Emba, under the watchful eye of a herd of horses, who nodded their approval of our pitch.

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