Friday, 15 October 2010

Ashgabat to Mary

We spend the morning carrying out a little maintenance to the car - The ignition points have magically closed up a little and need re-setting,. Also, the constantly deteriorating quality of fuel means that each day I need to re-set the timing, which is running more and more retarded to keep the ‘pinking’ at bay.

Meanwhile, our guide Angela spends the morning carrying out our 'OVR' registration with the immigration police. Yet more forms and rubber stamps, the country is very secretive and appears to be fairly paranoid about foreign visitors…The previous evening we were told how our visa application would have gone through five different national security departments before being approved... Its common place for visa applications, especially those from Indian and Russian nationals, to be denied for no apparent reason.

The drive takes us onwards through the Karakum desert, past countless camels and an endless vista of sand dunes. Strange looking miniature straw fences jut out from the dunes, the latest effort at preventing the shifting sands from engulfing the road - We're told how just a few years ago two school buses collided in this area, around 50 people died in the tragedy which was partly due to narrowed lanes from blowing sand.

Its hot and the road starts to make its way up hill, an incline that goes on and on and on…..Two hours later and we’re still going up! Its the hill from hell that just keeps on giving… But with the auxiliary oil cooler fans on, the engine maintains a healthy temperature and eventually we reach the summit for lunch.

It’s a long drive, but despite our best efforts at avoiding night drives, we eventually find ourselves once again heading into the abyss. The roads once again start to deteriorate and we’re back to the Porsche destruction derby….. The car crashes and bangs its way through countless craters and troughs. Our headlights are no match for the swirling clouds of dust and sand, it’s just a case of point, shoot and hope for the best.

All of a sudden there’s a serious BANG! The car decelerates and swerves right, stunned we pull over to the side of the road. Right behind another car that has also just driven straight into the 2ft pile of tarmac left in the middle of the road by workmen…It had dried rock hard in the sun, Jerry had clipped the side of it with its offside front torsion bar cover.

A quick peak under the front with my trusty Maglite showed one side of the front suspension caked in concrete and tarmac, I walked around to the rear of the car where one of the rear light units was found dangling by its earth lead, completely ejected from its housing by the force of the impact. This wasnt the time or the place to be fixing things properly, so I set about duct taping the light unit back in place.

The other car appeared to have come off slightly worse, its engine wouldn’t start and its occupants were pretty peeved about the whole incident. Satisfied that we’d had a lucky escape, I turned the key only to hear the rapid whine of our high torque starter but no ignition….After running some basic checks on the engine, I find that the force of the impact had jolted the distributor, which I now leave only hand friction tight for ease of adjustment, to an excessively retarded position. I re-set it, turn the key and we’re off, this time more slowly.

An hour later we arrive at Mary (pronounced Mahreeee and nothing to do with a Lady). it’s a busy town, notable for its lack of interesting sights…Just an endless stream of HGV lorries making their way to the Uzbek and Iranian borders. We check into our hotel “Rahaat” and after a dinner of vodka and kebabs, hit the sack.

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