Entering Kyrgyzstan went pretty easy. Most European nationalities don’t need a visa if they intend to stay less than two months. The border guards of Kyrgyzstan were super friendly. They stamped our passport, we paid for the car insurance and gave them a sticker to put on their locker. They checked the car very briefly and wished us good luck for the rest of the Mongol Rally.
After finishing the Mongol Rally, we decided to drive the car back to Belgium. This way, we had the time to explore more cities. One of these was Moscow. We’ve heard a lot of Moscow, about how big and magnificent the city is, so we were pretty stoked to see it with our own eyes. And we must say, it’s well worth a visit. Unfortunately, our visa’s were going to expire in a few days, so we just had the time to visit the city in a little more than 24 hours. Our day was well-filled. If you’re like us and don’t have a lot of time to visit the city, you can follow our one-day itinerary or get some ideas on what to do.
It’s freezing outside and already after dark. There is nothing to see in the far distance. We are literally in the middle of nowhere. If there’s one place where we never wanted to get stuck, then it would be this place. The car just died on a small road, away from the main road, at the height of 4000m. Now we’re facing a really cold night in the car. Luckily, we can laugh about our own stupid decisions. The Pamir Highway is really testing our car to the max.
It is not so easy to visit a country like Turkmenistan. You better not apply for a tourist visa unless you want to book an expensive guide for your whole visit. It’s much better (and easier) to get a transit visa. However, the problem is that this visa is issued for only 5 days. So you don’t have much time to explore the country, especially when you’re backpacking or cycling across Turkmenistan. The country is very different from anything else. The government is in control of everything and they make sure that you don’t do things they don’t want you to do. Random police checks can happen everywhere, and in Ashgabat, the military is on every street corner to watch every step you take. That’s why Turkmenistan is the seventh least visited country in the world, receiving only 7,000 visitors per year. And we were one of them!
As we are writing this, we’re already stuck for more than 12 hours on the Caspian Sea ferry to Turkmenbashi and it hasn’t even left the port yet. Getting from Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan or Kazakhstan isn’t as easy as taking a ferry from Dover to Calais. It takes a lot of patience and time (which you probably don’t have).
So we crossed the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul and are now officially in Asia. After our short visit to Istanbul, we split up with the other Belgian team ‘Silly Coincidence’ because they needed to take another route to go into Iran. Our first planned stop was Amasra, a small port town at the Black Sea. After 7 hours of driving, we finally arrived there at sunset. But unfortunately, it was too crowded and too difficult to find a good camping spot. It was already dark when we drove further to find a place to sleep. This became an extra 3 hours drive until Cide, where we found a small hotel at 11pm. We just went for it because at this time, and with all the mountain roads, it became too difficult to camp. We had some late night köfte in town and went back to the hotel for a good night rest. However, we didn’t know that the local minaret would wake us up at 4am.
So here we are, standing on the Goodwood race track to make a lap around the circuit together with 250 other cars. This is the official start of the Mongol Rally, the largest event of stupidity of 2016. We are all revving the engines, everyone is honking and after one year of preparations, we can’t wait to test our little cars. Let’s see if Niki, our Lada, can survive this trip. We’re even not sure if we will survive this trip!
Right now, as I’m writing this, I am at work. I can’t concentrate and am constantly looking out of the window. Because I feel trapped. Is this the real meaning of our existence? Getting up, having breakfast, going to work, going back home, making dinner, watching TV, a little bit of scrolling on Facebook in between all of that, and eventually going to sleep. Living in a rat race, day after day, 5 days in a week. And then 2 days of spending almost all your money you’ve earned that week.