Wednesday 9th August - Karaoke in Kazakhstan
We woke up with the sun beaming down on our tents making them a mini sauna. It was going to be a hot one today. Fitting everything back onto the roof tray was a bit of a Tetris game but we got there in the end. We headed out on the dirt road back past the Muslim cemetery to reach the paved road. All of a sudden we heard a car horn beeping. In the distance we could see our Swedish friends driving along the road directly in front of us! What are the chances?! Slim to nil. If we'd left the camp spot only five minutes earlier or later we'd have never seen them. They had been driving hours from Aktobe to the area we were in and couldn't have timed it better. It was absolutely meant to be. We pulled onto the main road and caught up to them
Today was going to be a Mongol Rally servo lunch day. No restaurants in sight we had to simply pull over to a gas station and see what was available. The Mongol Rally doesn't always involve nutritious meals that's for sure.
The Russian looking lady at the servo sat behind a tiny window. It works a bit differently here in that you need to tell the attendant how many litres you want, then pay, then go fill up your car. Once we'd done that we tried to explain to her we'd like to come in the shop. The door was locked and she wouldn't let us in. She must have thought we were going to rob her or trash the place or something. Eventually Natalie tried to explain that we were very hungry and needed some lunch. The lady finally gave in and kindly let some of us inside to buy some junk food. We must have been in a dodgy area because she definitely wasn't keen to let any of the Swedish guys into her little shop.
We then had to take our Sloth on an absolutely terrible dirt road full of holes. Of course in true Kazakh style we were required to drive next to a completely perfect paved road that wasn't yet complete. We have a Facebook live video on our team page if you're interested. Our Sloth was taking a beating, but she was doing okay. The Swedes were in front of us managing alright but their little lego block car was getting a suspension workout.
We ended up having to drive through a town called Tobol because the highway suddenly closed and there was no alternate route. We also needed fuel again. For half an hour we drove on the bounciest of (mud) roads with all the towns people looking at us as if we were aliens. They had no idea what to think of our weird little cars and why we were driving through their village. We got completely lost trying to find an alternate route back to the highway and eventually had to pull over and ask locals. At times the locals would beep at us and point the direction we needed to go because we were so obliviously in the wrong place. Praise the baby Jesus we finally made it back to the highway after our ridiculous detour! The Swedes car definitely did not enjoy it and they were very concerned for her wellbeing.
We pulled into a servo to fill up on fuel. The Swedes got out to inspect their car and found that they'd lost a bolt on their front left break calliper. Not good news in rally world. Some locals were standing nearby watching with curiosity. We got to chatting with them, and by chatting we mean they spoke Kazakh and we spoke English with lots of sign language. They offered the Swedes some bolts and then also offered to drive the Swedes to their house to look at other bolts. In the end our Swedish friends decided to reposition and tighten the top bolt and risk it until they could get a replacement. Mongol Rally style!
We arrived in Kostanay at around 10pm that evening. Checked into our hotel then asked where would be good for dinner. The hotel receptionist directed us to a place around the corner which ended up being a karaoke restaurant. An hour later we were eating some good meals listening to a large group of young people singing modern Russian pop songs. We'd had incredible difficulty ordering our dishes as the staff there spoke no English. We ended up having to google translate almost every single word on the menu page to figure of what it was. Just our luck we later found out one of the young girls sitting near us with her friends was a translator and could have explained all the dishes to us. Of course we couldn't come to a karaoke restaurant and not sing a few songs. We couldn't convince our Swedish mates to sing but the Aussies took the microphone! We initially asked the staff for Land Down Under but they didn't have it. How unAustralian! Haylee and Natalie sang Shake It Off, then the whole That's Not A Car team got together to sing Queens 'Bohemian Rhapsody'. Good memories made in Kostanay. We returned to the carpark of our hotel to randomly find two Rally cars parked next to us. It still trips us out that we can be in the most random town and still find other ralliers doing the same route as us and also stay at the same accommodation.