Rally Day 34 – 36
Game of Nyet
Russian is a common secondary language for all the Central Asian countries and it is widely spoken while almost none speaks English. This makes communication harder than in Europe and using hand signs, drawings and so on is often needed when communicating with locals. However, the first Russian word you learn as a foreigner is “nyet” – meaning no!
When walking into a restaurant and trying to order food you realize that in most places many of the dishes are not available. Instead of just pointing out what they have on the given day, the waiter will usually just answer “NYET” when you try to put in an order for something. We call this “playing the game of nyet”. You might have the urge for a huge burger and look forward to it but don’t get too excited even if it is on the menu, you will most likely be met with a loud “NYET.” They might have a sign on the door saying they take VISA but you will surely be frustrated when you hear the “NYET” when trying to use your little plastic card. Hotels also play the game – showers yes, hot water “NYET”. It seems that many places advertise with services and stuff that are not present when trying to make use of them.
When you play the game of nyet, you win or go hungry to bed.
Through the steppe
We packed up our camp early in the morning and hit the road around 8.00 am. We drove through the endless Kazakh steppe for quite a while without issues but then Team Raven Shoe hit a huge pothole which took out their right rear shock absorber. Luckily they had bought new rear shocks in Almaty the day before so the broken one could be fixed later on.
We motored on until evening and camped again in the middle of nowhere. By the way, we have bought a chair with a hole in the center of it. The purpose of the chair can be guessed from the following picture:
Don’t ask, don’t tell
After another night of camping in the wild steppe we drove towards Semey in North Eastern Kazakhstan. On the way we were on the lookout for a place to fix Team Raven Shoe’s broken shock absorber and we found such a place at an old gas station. The car was put on a ramp then the Team mechanics Chrisitan and Ben went to work while the rest of the teams wandered aimless around.
In the middle of it all Beejay found a human skeleton half buried in a small hill 20 meters behind the gas station. Of course we all had to see it and just as we were about to take pictures, the locals started appearing and we decided it might be best to walk away. Better to not end up buried in the hill ourselves… See the white stuff in the picture:
Later in the evening we reached Semey and got a well-deserved shower, the first in 3 days. The water was running black with dust, sweat and whatnot.
Our route through Kazakhstan looked roughly like this (don’t mind the driving time, it is not accurate):
Our only goal for the day was to buy some new memory cards in the local computer store and get through the Russian border. The first part proved to be easy, the second part less so. As we approached the border on the Kazakh side we could see a few cars queuing in front of us but nothing to worry about. A few cars were let through quite quickly and we were confident of a quick crossing. Suddenly two or three tourist buses appeared and they skipped the queue and went in front of us all, we realized they had priority over cars… If this is normal procedure or because the bus driver “smoothes” things out with the guards (bribe) we don’t know – in any case it sucked! All in all the crossing took over 4 hours and we waited in the 30 degrees heat with next to no shade. When we were finally in Russia we realized we didn’t have time to drive very far since we also changed timezone, so we drove into the nearest town and found a hotel, a bottle of vodka and some food. Welcome to Mother Russia!
Waiting in the heat:
Also we have a picture of a railway and approaching train, just because we can!
We have a few more days in Russia before we reach Mongolia but our final country is closer than ever, exciting!
– Team No Khan Do