Yaks US Support Staff here….the Yaks appear to have successfully crossed into Mongolia! While they may be radio silent until reaching UB, here is a catch up of daily updates to report:
Mongol Rally Day 27 (8/9/13): After 7 hours of administration, what seems to be typical now for border crossings, we have arrived in our 16th country, Kazakhstan. We are staying in the Shymkent. Tomorrow we visit the city of Turkistan in the south, then make our progress towards our 17th country, Kyrgystan.
Mongol Rally Day 28 (8/10/13): Today we saw the Yasaui Mausoleum in Turkistan, described as Kazakhstan’s most beautiful building. The only reason we made this detour was because it was Sara’s burning desire to see the stunning place featured on the cover of the Lonely Planet’s Central Asia book. Imagine the hilarity that ensued when we discovered the photo is not of the Yasaui Mausoleum, but the Shrine of Hazrat Ali… in Afghanistan.
Afterwards we drove to Taraz, where we will spend the night. Tomorrow, we will cross into our 17th country, Kyrgystan.
Mongol Rally Day 31 (8/13/13): A couple days ago, we entered Kyrgyzstan with ease, prompting us to bypass our intended overnight stop at Bishkek, and continue to Cholpon-Ata, a resort town on the shores of Lake Issyk Kul. Cholpon-Ata is described as the Cancun of Central Asia, but we found this place to be an unworthy comparison. It was just a beach, and a poor one at that.
The following day, we went north to exit Kyrgyzstan. I noticed my passport was not stamped upon entry and that Sara’s was stamped twice. We knew this would cause some problems at the border and sure enough it did. After a 30 minute delay, they explained that a tourist with no incoming stamp is required to exit from the same point at which he entered – about 9 hours away! But since I was American (and probably because I was a Mongol Rallier), they would let me out of the country at this border. Crisis avoided.
Today we visited Lake Kaindy, Kazakhstan, where lies the Sunken Forest. In 1911, an earthquake caused a landslide, flooding the area. The 100 year old spruce trees still stand today, rising out of the turquoise water, and given the cold/freezing water, the submerged branches still have their needles.
Mongol Rally Day 33 (8/15/13): On our way from Almaty to Semey yesterday evening, we stopped in the small town of Kabanbay to tighten our squeaky roofrack. A man and his son walking by saw Sara (and her pearly whites) and soon thereafter invited us to eat dinner and stay at his home overnight. There we met his wife, his two children, his sister, and his mother, all in a one bedroom house. It was a great experience and demonstrated the hospitality of the Kazaks.
As a parting gift we left our Romanian red rubber donkey, Magarette, with his daughter.
Socko was pretty torn up about it.
Today, we completed the drive to Semey, known best for being a Soviet nuclear testing site from 1949-1991. The region’s exposure to radiation still effects the health of people in the area today.
Mongol Rally Day 34 (8/16/13): We are in Barnaul, Russia – our 18th country. This is the home stretch. There are no more detours. No more day trips. No more sightseeing. All eyes are on the finish line.
The next time you hear from me, in about 8 days, I, along with my amazing teammates, Sara Narezo, Kara Kahler and Socko, and our durable steed Yolanda, will be in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia, having successfully completed the 2013 Mongol Rally. Hopefully. Mongolian roads have a way of beating cars into submission.