Nine days without the internet but Skye adventure pair Anne MacAskill and Kay Simpson are still going strong.
Now 1700 kms from the Russian border and the eventual finish line of the 10,000 mile long Mongol Rally their journey so far has taken them and their 20 year old van across England, France, Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and into Kazakhstan.
The last time they were in contact was the night before trying to cross into Iran with fears that they might have to pay as much as $3,000 dollars to gain entry.
The pair are hoping to raise cash for charity on the way so if you want to help out follow they link here
If you want to know what’s been going on in the meantime then read on from Anne’s diary to date, their adventures, the places they have been to and their ups and downs.
Anne said: “Well, after a night of worrying about the Iran crossing, when we got to the border in the morning, our guide, Pouriya, was waiting for us after we got past the Turkish exit. We had been told we were going to have a female guide, and here was this young man with his camping gear all set to camp, but when we heard how cheap hotels were, we went for the latter option.The officials were charming and the carnet only cost us $300 dollars - so all that worry for nothing!.Didn't even get to a hotel the first night as he decided to take us to his grandmother's house in Hashtroud. She was a charming woman and her daughter-in-law ordered pizzas for us all but in the morning we had a traditional breakfast with her own hens' eggs. own butter, homemade jams etc etc
“Our next two days in Iran involved a lot of driving and a horrendous amount of sleeping policemen. Pouriya was keen to show us a lot, but it was pointed out to him that we were on a rally and our aim was to win it! Kay emerged after three days sitting in the back of the van like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and didn't see much at all, but Pouriya, who drove a bit of the way as well, made sure he took us through Teheran and via where his mother worked to meet her!! When I was driving, we even got through some of the tolls without paying - they, like the policemen, were fascinated with Ghengis - Kay's yak's skull stuck up on the front of the van. Lots of mountainous countryside, including driving over one high bit in the mist, dark and rain when we drove 785kms in the day to get to a hotel near Sari at about 10pm. The last day involved staying in a hotel abandoned after the sanctions took hold, up at the border crossing at Bajguran. We found the Iranians we met charming and really wanting us to like their country. We found we didn't have to cover up completely when we were inside, but it was pretty warm driving with the long goon on and the scarf over my head! Kay's rigout was a bit more modern than mine
“It took us 3 hours to get through all the formalities into Turkmenistan but we got through and were overwhelmed by Ashgabat. The town is mostly all white marble palaces and grandiose - all to honour the late president Niyazov, so the Turkmeni really went from the frying pan into the fire as the poor folk can't have fared much better after independence. The roads were very interesting - no signs that there would roadworks etc ahead and never quite sure which side of dual carriageways we should be driving on. On Friday, my birthday, Kay was going to treat me to a good hotel in Turkmenabad and I had hoped to catch up with the internet but we picked the wrong hotel - a government owned one, with rooms probably bugged and no internet. Had shaslik to eat but the breakfast (no choice) was splendid - fried eggs, sausage, a smoked sausage, cheese, tomato and gherkin. Kay was a bit worried that the warm milk she got for her tea was from a cow with mastitis, but decided that it was just dried stuff not stirred enough. The day before we visited a bazaar where Kay bough material and a fancy teapot - she needs tea to survive!
“Uzbekistan was relatively easy to get into and had a completely different feel to it - it seemed way more relaxed than Turkmenistan. What we saw was mainly very fertile with an amazing irrigation system. I forgot to mention, I think, that Kay had to give away her unfinished bottle of gin before we got into Iran and was, apart from tea, feeling kind of dry, so a highlight was finding an alcohol market to stock up the cellar with a bit of wine. As soon as we got over the border into Uzbekistan signposts said Ashgabat, Mary and Toshkent on them, so we thought it would be easy to get to Toshkent and the border over to Kazakhstan. We unfortunately followed sign posts to within 2 kms of the border, and Kay doing some amazing driving through crowds on Sunday going to a markets, just to meet a dead end, so a kindly taxi driver said if we paid him $10 he would take us to the border - alas a border just for locals. So after another deal with $40 dollars offered, the man led us through narrow roads onto the main road we had driven up about 3 hours earlier, but we eventually got to a border crossing and after hours, over we got into Kazakhstan.
“We have been very impressed with Kazakhastan so far - apart from what seemed a very chaotic entry into the country. The roads are amazing and a lot more work being carried out on them. Massive machines across the road spreading concrete. Our first night camping was beside a lot of horses and there seem to be so many in the country and all the livestock so far has looked a bit fatter than we have seen en-route. The countryside is flat then undulating, but with the mountains of Kyrgistan to be seen to our right, has been spectacular. Kay has been fixing a wee problem with the exhaust, and after all the battering the wee Green Machine has had on the roads in the last week, it is a wonder it is just a wee problem. There are Parking places along the road and they have ramps where folk can put their vehicles on to inspect, so we camped at one last night and Kay was hoping to get the van on it, but the slabs looked a wee too wide apart for us, so she jacked it up and set to work, when a kindly lorry driver offered to help - I was mightly relieved, because I couldn't see how I would manage to squeeze under to hold the bracket for her. A quieter day's driving and pleased to reach the very, very busy outskirts of Almaty where we have found a wonderful hotel - Almaty Business Hotel - for the night. It even has a bath and my suntan has just washed down the plughole. Tomorrow onwards and upwards with about 1700 kms to the Russian border where we are hoping to persuade the authorities to let us in earlier than our visas - the roads have been better than we expected - so far - so hope to get over earlier.”