Since leaving Kazan an Unesco Heritage sight we have been on a marathon trip across Russia. With many time trials and several sessions on the race circuits including the Moscow raceway Formula One circuit. As it was Sunday I said enough prayers as I was clinging to the roll bar as we sped around tight corners with brakes squealing., whilst Porches and Mercedes rapidly appearing n the rear view mirror! After our three laps the mechanics noticed our tires were low on tread so we opted to change the front wheels for the spares.In the process they also noticed that steering had excessive play so a second spacer was installed reducing the steering wobble. We celebrated our final night in Smolensk Russia with a couple of shots of Vodka
Just a quick update will write a full account of the last few days later.Yesterday afternoon Ruby said enough I need a rest. !! We bent a push rod due to lack of lubrication. With help from Max Stephenson and the rally mechanics we jury rigged a lubrication line which we hope will work until we get to Budapest. So we shall drive carefully for he next three days. It could have been much worse! We arrived at a great hotel in Minsk at 10 pm.covered in engine oil! Must be good for the skin. More later.
The weather since we left Novosibirsk had been wet and miserable. Not so bad when it rains during the day but to have to pack your car in the pouring rain is not pleasant.We stopped overnight in Yekaterinburg but unfortunately it was late when we arrived and so did not have the opportunity to visit the cathedral which has been built over the spot where the Romanovs were assassinated , it also looked a very nice city from what we saw. The days through Russia have been very long but two days ago we were re- routed through the town stadium . The whole town had turned out to see us . We drove around the running track and then onto a ramp up to a small stage where they announced our names and country we were from. Everyone was cheering and rushing to touch the car and hold our hands. Gifts and flowered were handed through the window, babies held up to hug, it was the most humbling experience. These lovely people obviously overjoyed to see us! Even through the smallest of villages which we pass through they are out waving us on. I enjoy the route through the villages. The women look as if they have not moved on from the thirties, the men all seem to dress in camouflage clothing some I am sure is ex army. They are all so cheerful but it must be a tough life especially in the winter. They have stacks and stacks of wood for heating and cooking and many of the houses are made out of logs.
Yesterday was an arduous day with three time trials, one on thick mud, one on rocks and stones and another on a slippery track in the rain. We also had to drive 650 Kms.When we thought were coming close to Kazan they threw another circuit in on the local racing track. I was terrified and spent the time asking Lloyd to slow on the bends and the rest of the time with my eyes closed!! Today is a rest day so we have been cleaning the car on the inside, tightening bolts and topping up the fluids. We are now off to explore Kazan and will write again soon. We are now just over half way and technically in Europe
First of all thank you to everyone for all your messages of support.Unfortunately I don’t have time to reply individually but they mean a lot to us. We left this very nice city early Sunday morning. Quite the send off with crowds cheering us along the way. The day started warm and sunny but later in the day we were hit with torrential rain. Of course this is always the point when the windscreen wipers decide to quit and I now know t he real meaning of multi tasking. The rain was pouring in through the roof and so I was manually working the wipers, cleaning the inside of the screen to prevent fogging, finding the waypoint, zeroing the tripometer and at the same time yelling directions to Lloyd to turn right or left !!
The landscape here in Siberia is very similar to Alberta and the Prairies. Vast fields and also muskeg and trees. We covered 700 Kms. to arrive in Omsk last night and a further 700 Kms today. The car is going well and seems to be popular with the other crews. This is the first time that a Nash has competed and so far she has done us proud. We are both tired with the long distances but doing well. More tomorrow.
Well here we are in Novosibirsk, our third day in Russia. My first impression will always be the enthusiasm of the Russian people for this rally. Crowds of people along the roads as we come through and even in small villages they were standing in the pouring rain waving and cheering us along! The first of the serious time trials started two days ago. These are a series of timed passages between places and hard on the cars. We did all the trials the first day but our car is slow compared to many of the others and we only have three gears which makes going up hill difficult. The classic cars of course are very powerful and even if you pull over to let them pass they will not slow down and you are constantly covered in stones and dust ! We did complete all the trials but had been thinking that it was putting a lot of strain on Ruby and our main goal is to get to Paris. Yesterday we were discussing at breakfast what to do. To maintain the gold medal status you have to compete in every trial. Neither of us wanted to make the decision to take it easier. However the decision was made for us one hour into the day, our brakes failed and we narrowly missed crashing into a truck ! We pulled over and Lloyd discovered that we had lost a spring that connects the brake pedal to the rod( my mechanical knowledge is lacking here) anyway we realised we had to have it fixed. As we were under the car , car 31 pulled up, Ruth and Steve Lambert from Australia, they had just lost their clutch and they have had so many problems. We called the mechanics and they arrived and managed to fix our brake problem, unfortunately car 31 ended up on a truck. Because of the time it took to fix our car we missed the time trial so now we are at silver which is fine with us. We will continue to compete but if we miss a trial it will not be so important. Novosibirsk is an industrial city here in Siberia. We are in the central part and parking for the rally is in the Opera House parking lot. The Opera house is very impressive and was built during the Second World War.Tonight there are two concerts one outdoor and the other in the Opera house which we hope to attend. At the moment Lloys is in a garage checking over the car, switching wheels and fixing a shock absorber!
We have been without Internet connection for the last week so here is an update on what the rally has been up to . We left Ulan Bataar after a ceremonial send off in the main square. Lloyd and I were surprised when the Canadian Ambassador arrived to send us on our way. He had heard there was a Canadian entry and came to see if we needed anything. I believe we were the only country to have their Ambassador there! We then started the most toughest of the rally days. Seven nights of camping and extremely rough road conditions. Ruby managed very well and we maintained our gold status throughout so we were very happy. Not so for many of the other crews who suffered damage to their cars. Three cars rolled over with no harm to the crews, but some shaken contestants. We had a very deep water crossing where they towed some cars and the tow rope broke and one or two cars had water damage. The campsites on the whole were good but one night some rather drunk local Mongolians came into camp and the Nomads the camp organizers tried to control them. However in the end the police arrested half the Nomad team and the local people and so we had sparse food the next morning.Mongolia is such a beautiful country. It is unspoiled and there are stil Nomadic tribes with their herds of goats and cattle on the plains. This time we travelled a different route and the scenery was less desert and because of recent wet weather very green with lovely spring flowers.
We crossed in to Russia, the border crossing slow as usual and arrived at the next camp ground to find that the camp had had to be moved ,there was one shower for two hundred people which in fact was a bucket to pour over yourself and three washrooms with flapping plastic curtains so one could see all! The Altai area is beautiful and we had a concert by local people depicting the various ethnic groups in the region. Kazak and Russian. I will continue about Russia in the next post. Unfortunately I only have photographs on my camera for this part which I cannot download to the I pad. But will have some in the next few days.
Shortly before noon yesterday we arrived in the beautiful Gobi Dessert. However as soon as we were on the track we had to tackle two time trials! Now when it has been four yeas since your last rally panic sets in . Can I remember how to bring up the waypoints? Can I give Lloyd quick enough directions? We set of on the first trial driving as fast as we could over stones and sandy tracks, the problem being which track should we take! We were doing well when suddenly we realised that we going further away from the waypoint. We decided to head across to join the right track but had drifted completely off course. Then Mark Buchanan in his Mustang appeared he had lost all his waypoints in his GPS but knew where the check in was. So we led him to the check in and both cars managed to get clocked in in time! The next trial we did really went well so we were pleased and headed off to the campsite.
At least it is light here in the evenings and we had time to get the tent well organised and have time for a beer befor dinner. Then we were entertained by Bruce and Harry Washington, father and son from Australia on the bagpipes! Rather weird being in Mongolia and singing Waltzing Matilda to bagpipes! Lloyd and I were both tired so settled down in the tent for what we hoped would be a good nights sleep. Somebody decided to work on their car and was constantly revving the engine. At midnight somebody shouted( cannot repeat the words) that he should turn off the engine which thankfully he did and we could at last get some sleep. Today we had three more time trials and we did well for us at least again. Now we are in Ulan Bataar for a rest day, heaven!