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Monday 7th August - When Panda met Patrol

First things first today we had to fix our roof rack. The front roof rack had moved off place after our bumpy trip yesterday. James got out the hammer and started smacking away to budge it back into place. It seemed to do the trick. We started convoying with the UK guys (or as well call, 'boy band'). The inside of their car door has a tally of all the times they've run a red light, pulled over by the police, fuel stops etc. A great addition to the car! Adds a bit of character.

We drove for a few hours then decided to stop for lunch. Most of these little towns have just one random cafeteria to eat. The one we'd pulled into had just a few tables and some ladies standing behind a counter. They had no idea what we were asking for. Ten mins later we'd all managed to order either soup or some meat in rice. Once again, a bit questionable what sort of meat we were eating but it was either that or starve. Of course, nature called and we all needed to go to the loo. Majority of us went to see the loo, then returned deciding no, just no. The loo was a squat one which is quite standard here in Kazakhstan. It wasn't that though which turned us off. It was the fact the the loo had no door. Just free for all to see what you were doing in there. Only a little wall separated the ladies from men. Guess everyone at this restaurant likes to put on a bit of a show when they're doing their business.

We decided to fill up on fuel and use the toilets at the servo. Not much different there though save for the fact it had a door. Haylee braved the loo but nearly gagged from the pungent smell.

Two hours of driving on the road (which turned out to be nice and paved) and we were at another fuel stop. These cars were always wanting a drink! Out of nowhere another rally car pulled into the servo as we were about to leave. It was Team Two Gingers And A Rat. Three guys from Sweden. We marvelled at their tiny piece of shite; which surprisingly was a 0.9 litre car. We'd gained another convoy member! We were now three cars strong.

We drove on to Aktobe, a very large city in central northern Kazakhstan. We were now like celebrities driving around. Everyone wanted to wave at these three random tiny cars with stickers and junk all over them. We had countless cars beep at us. At first we thought they were pissed off but then discovered they simply wished to smile and wave at us or ask where we were going. Loving Kazakhstan!

We pulled into our accommodation for the night, 'Nice Hostel' and got the shock of our life. A Nissan Patrol car from Western Australia was sitting right in front of us. What on earth? It was a huge Patrol and looked like the hulk next to our tiny lego block car. We could finally see just how inappropriate our car actually was for this rally. The Patrol was the ultimate rally car, complete with snorkel, proper roof tray, 4WD wheels etc. We made it our mission to meet these Aussies that had managed to drive their car to Aktobe.

After checking into the hostel we finally had a chance to chat to our fellow Aussies. They were a young group of four who were all connected through Scouts. They'd been planning their trip for five years and would be driving from Perth, Australia, to Perth, Scotland. They'd shipped their car over to Asia and started driving from there. Three blokes and one girl were in their team. They were aware of the Mongol Rally (which now seemed like a tiny journey compared to their six month trip) we ended up chatting to them for about half an hour getting tips on where to drive in Kazakhstan and Mongolia. It's funny how well you can get along with random Aussies you meet overseas, it must be just the Aussie way that we understand each other no matter where we are in the world. Onya mate!

We were pretty much starving so went next door to the hostel and ate at a pizza place. It was actually something everyone had been crazing for weeks. Pizza in our belly we decided why not kick on and find a pub. Fifteen minutes later and we were inside a weird function centre type place which indeed had a bar. Turns out a hens night was also taking place so a bunch of local women were playing Desposito a thousand times and dancing on the main floor. We drank quite a bit at this function centre, the staff seemed pretty happy to have us there all night (most likely because our young Swedish friends had spent hours there the night before becoming best mates with the bar tenders). The hour crept on to 2am so it was time to retire for the night; no idea how we'd all fare driving tomorrow morning. Oh well; stuff it. This is the Mongol Rally way to do things, all caution is thrown to the wind.

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