Day 13 – Novokuznetsk to Novosibirsk. Day 14 – rest day

Another hard day of 556 kms and a lot of hard and rough tarmac and graveltravel.

Another early start at 8.35 and a long way to go. The public were out early to give a great send off. The enthusiasm was really great.

Leaving for the start line a fellow kiwi competitors car. And on the road

The day’s activities consisted of one STC which we did well and many TC’s and PC’s for the day nothing real to report as the going was straight forward and the car did well. It’s truly a hard passage, with many competitors electing to take it easy and just follow the trail at leisure.

At a TC and waiting to go. The other cars are Volga Russian cars driven here by the Russian support organisation

We are now 24 o/a and 8 in class.

Our accommodation is the Marriott hotel in Novosibirsk situated on Lenin Square.

All the cars are parked in a fenced off area.

In Lenin Square where we parked overnight in Novosibirsk

Saturday is a rest day from travelling. Steve got straight into checking the car and he knew that the rubbers in both the front and rear suspension needed replacing. The rear took less time but the front was problematic having to remove the various steering and bolts related to this it was complicated and when it came to the front left strut the bracket had fractured from the chassis. This needed welding. Something that need a workshop to attend to. A navigation through the city of Novosibirsk ensued.

Steve attending to maintenance and some damage caused by vibration where the fibreglass has fallen out of the bodywork

There was no rest. Steve on his back manoeuvring around on his bum, being the “surgeon” and me playing nurse jumping when needed.

At the welding shop. Very accommodating people who welded the bracket and reinforcing plate

The public were fantastic and although they could be considered a nuisance they were most pleasant friendly and helpful.

They came in their thousands to welcome and visit these rally cars

We had no time to have lunch or to do any sight seeing or even leaving the hotel to discover this city.

But that’s the thing about an endurance rally, everything, cars and people need to endure the pros and cons of every day events and keep going no matter what. So that’s what we did.

Just as a comment in respect of the way that Steve prepared Denise for this event. He has worked full time on this baby since her return from India on the Himalayan Challenge. The predetermination of the tortures to be met on this P to P is truly outstanding. He has pushed this little car to the limits that it can withstand, without over doing it, cruising easily at a steady 115kph on good roads and pushing through the roughest roads at speeds that any normal modern car would not at all entertain. All credit goes to him from all points of view, safety, reliability and continuity. And Denise has never complained.

Other better prepared cars have failed miserably, whilst Denise soldiers on.

Tomorrow is a big day of 630kms. Wow!

We cross the border into Kazakhstan. Could take a while for the border crossing. Will report.

Day 12 – Anya to Novokuznetsk

Tired from the previous day, slept like a log.

Ready in the morning to leave Anya and on the road

In his usual car check at the end of each day, and under the car again Steve discovered an oil seep on the rear brake brake line. Small to the extent it can be observed but no dripping. Looked like a problem and cross checking at all stages it seemed ok. The master cylinder oil level was at the correct level so…….?

He decided to carry on until our next rest day in Novosibirsk. Meanwhile regular checks during the day.

Really important to have brakes! Aye?

The road was mainly seal, but not good seal which can be worse than metal. Some 40 odd kms of gravel travel, real rough. One sporting Time control, 1 passage control and 7 time controls.

Country scenes en-route

Interesting country if you can lift your head to look. Every time you look up from driving an error occurs.  Concentration is what it takes and it’s tiring. Physical driving is also draining so at days end it’s bed time…..almost. A beer would be nice but I can vouch for the fact that we haven’t had a drop….as yet. It’s really getting warmer now and beers choices are increasing as we move south west.

Country scenes. It’s just like most places, ordinary people living in ordinary places doing ordinary things living their lives

Hot today on the road. Other than the nature surrounding us there was nothing that stands out except the millions of white butterflies. They’re a real nuisance as they splatter yellow on the windshield so that you can hardly see through the yellow and the block up the radiator grille causing the car to overheat.

The scourge of the butterfly!

They hail from the spring green tree canopy at the roadside. You can see 1 meter diameter groups of them sitting around and in water holes. They are not the NZ white type.

People are friendly and welcoming, and because they can’t speak English communicating is difficult. But they really try and talking with whatever, like hands is enough to get a message through.

Talking to people whilst waiting in a small town after having something to eat

It’s a great experience and much different from the last time we’re here. I think it has got better in most respects but the prospects for people in the small villages will have a hard life, the same as their parents if they stay. I can see why men and women would do anything to have a better life elsewhere. Not necessarily out of Russia but out of these small towns were prospects for a full life are somewhat less.

Arriving at Novokuznetsk . A great welcome. Thousands of people welcoming the car entourage. A neat feeling

Those are the thoughts of the day.

Day 11 – Kosher Uk, camp 6 to lake Aya

The little double huts we stayed in last nigh were just great. Enough room to stow the nights gear and sleep on a roughly crafted bunk bed. Very hard but comfy.

At the last camp with some local P2P Russian supporters and the inside of accommodation in a Yurt

A much needed great nights sleep. These units are cheaply built and would suit as single men’s/women’s accomodation. Ideal and low cost. Not flash in the build but certainly adequate.

Our current position in the competition is  24 overall and 8 in class. Considering the type of race car competition, it’s ok.

We lost out on a gold medal and are in the silver category.

We planned our days strategy travelling mostly on seal and there were 5 time controls and two master time control stations requiring specific out timed to meet.

Our Monit and gps equipment was inaccurate or the tulip route books were incorrect. Miles out literally.

Anyhow we began the day positively and tried to ensure that we would meet the correct time and definitely not lose any points today.

Ready to go at a Time control and the scene on the way out

The countryside was getting better as we drove deeper into Russian territory.

Scenery on the way

We met all of our deadlines today. Over 566kms, relatively easily.

Countryside and the next Time control

The other noticeable observation is the friendliness of the people. Quite different from the other countries visited so far.

Nothing else to report other than the vastness of this country and the beauty of the fertile plains with clear water rivers and trees in their spring attire.

Day 10 – Camp 5 to camp 6

Last night was the last night in Mongolia.

After settling down, shower etc and meals it was 8.00pm.

Stephen attended to replace the rubber in the front suspension arm and found the rattle in the front right wheel. The shock absorber had come loose.

Not an easy job to repair due to the confined space and the lakeside was infested with trout flies. Millions of these pesky insects.

Rain/snow threatened from over the lake at any moment, but never arrived.

Bed was at 9.00 but the mess tent was like a pub in the desert. People who had Mongolian money left over, and knowing it could not be exchanged anywhere else in the world, spent it on grog. Party, party!  Kept us awake for a while.

Then later we awoke at the sound of what sounded like frog calls in a pond. One croak here responded to by a croak on the other side of the camp.

The snoring sound of the party goers sleeping.

The usual up at 4.30am, shower and breakfast.

Looking at the route books and adding the amendments planning the day ahead.

Waiting for stats at 9.05.

Got away on time heading to the first TC, but  the GPS we had borrowed from the ERA gave up the ghost. Flat battery. Our 2 GPS failed to  light up, both at the same time. We missed the STC sign in to this control centre. Bad. More bad!

Couldn’t find it. Turned back only to add to our precious time schedule.

That was it.

So we carried on disappointed knowing we would accrue penalty points.

On and on to the Mongolia border to wait and cross. It will take a while.

Denise and the competition at the boarder – Mongolia

Well it was two and a half hours here, and then two and a half at the Russian border.

There is no hurry  by the customs and immigration.

The Russian border people were far more friendly. And the Russian side quite different due mainly to the trees that covered the hills. There are no trees in the Mongolian desert.

Once on our way the roads were superb here. Straight and smooth. Denise ate up the miles with ease. 115 km cruising.

We encountered an Aus car in distress in a remote spot enroute who had a broken rear spring. Needed assistance from the mechanics, sweeps. They Couldn’t contact the ERA control through the sat phone.

We relayed their position for the sweep team to assist.

A very tiring day. No achievement other than border hopping.

We are staying at a riverside cottage motel set up. Lovely surroundings. Shower, diner, bed.

Start time tomorrow 9.05am.

At the lakeside camp 5

A Russian actor at the camp site

On the road

Scene from the Russian side

Russian countryside. Beautiful!

Day 9 – camp 4 to camp 5

GMT +7 hours meant at this location that clocks go back 1 hour. It also meant that the day was one hour longer.

The night went fast as we were buggered and woke at the consistent time of 4.30am.

The start time was at 9.35 and due to the time we had available, reread the rally work books and planned the day.
As usual the track lay before us in the vast hinterland of Mongolia. What a land a beauty of lakes and mountains, wild animal, animals like horses and geep, yaks and so forth. The barren desert just kept rolling out in front of us showings it’s special nature.

The first leg was 175kms of tarmac straight roads, a little boring but time to view some sights.

Then onto gravel travel of road dirt, dust and river rock tracks, varying from rough sandy tracks to wet slippery mud tracks. We ascended to 2500 meters altitude into mountainous country. Beautiful but hash. The roads were considered unsafe so after some really rough rocky roads at a Time Control we were advised that the event was cancelled for the onward legs due to bad weather and the resulting wet conditions.

So, we worked our way slowly at first climbing over rocks and around muddy pools of black water. Very slippery and hard to read.
Then when climbing higher some cars got stick and spun on the road and others just ended up having to be towed to the top of the next ridge.

That was all very well but descending on the other side whilst a storm was raging ahead of us the dirt tracks were like a black ice sludgy surface. Ahead we came across two cars that had spun out and we too got into a half spin that took us by surprise. We pulled out with a little help from another competitor and offered our assistance to them.
But had to move on. That’s what the “sweeps” are there for and the road that we were on produced more spinners that could be dangerous to bystanders.

The mountains and the hail and snow were fantastic. Photos will show.

So, it was downhill over the never-ending river stone roads, then barren sandy desert where roads just can’t be determined. The GPS is the tool that gets us there in the end. And so it was that we arrived at our camp destination without difficulty.

Denise and her mechanic, driver, Steve managed to bring us through this most eventful day of rallying. The pity is that Denise was built for this sort of stuff and to have the event cancelled due to other cars not being able to handle these conditions is a travesty for us. It’s the only are that we can earn points, and it’s cancelled.

At rest in the camp Steve inspects and attends to the various injuries sustained during the ride.

It was a great ride today for the car and the driver and passenger. Really great.

Day 8 – camp 3 to camp 4

Sleep comes easy after a hard days slog on these unforgiving tracks called roads over here. 

Mornings are clear and windless. Cold too.

As soon as the sun comes up it gets warm almost immediately.

Bookwork is an essential to determine the days program from the changes made to the route from the 48-hour reconnaissance teams who run the track to ensure that it’s in order or otherwise. We rise at 5.00 am and get this out of the way before breakfast.

The track today is all gravel travel off main road stuff, 341kms of it. We anticipate that it will be the same as the day before.

Our start time is 9.35 and leave the camp on time heading to camp 4.

As it turns out the track started easy with the organisation cancelling 4 of the 9 STC’s.

The road was still rough with so many gullies ruts and river crossings. But the road was more forgiving.

The scenery was magnificent. With mountains and lakes laying so still at their feet.

There was no way that we could get to the TC’s within the allocated time periods. The average speeds are in the 70kms on these roads. We elected to stay cool and just do the best that we and the car could take.

Other drivers were more ambitious raced past, only to pay the price later on. Many failed along the track, not out but injured somewhat, and requiring repair at the camp.

We did well and though we didn’t break records I. The short sport section, we got on within 10 minutes of the finish time (late no penalties).

The car was fuelled up the day previous and planning ahead we filled the spare tank in the boot. A good thing too as we would have run short had we not

So, the day was good, and Denise didn’t seem to have suffered any damage. We refuelled at the camp and parked Denise outside our tent. 

Stephen, being cautious, checked under the back of the car as usual noting that the rubbers in the spring hangers had worn again, and noticed too that a U bolt holding the right rear spring to the axel had sheared off!  This could have had devastating consequences had this not been seen and made good. It meant a couple of hours work to make good under the car. Hard, hot and tedious work but not difficult in the execution, and we carried spares.

Then a shower and dinner. Dinner not so good in camp anymore. The quality has really gone downhill.

It was a good hard day and by playing it the way we did will pay dividends. It’s the story of the hare and the tortoise, we’re the tortoise if you didn’t get it.

Got our riding instructions this evening so set to get going tomorrow.

Day 7 – camp 2 to camp 3

Awoke early after a good sleep in a gorgeous landscape, sun rising, grass looking like it was mown yesterday.

Morning ablutions and then breakfast.

Time to get to work planning our attack on the days program. The 380kms didn’t look that bad for the day, but it had included 263s of gravel travel, on a public road.

There were 5 STC’s in row. That means going from one sports section right into another. Sounds ok but the condition of the roads turned out to be atrocious. Hard dirt washouts, large river rocks the size of no 12 frozen chickens, gullies that sneak up on you and dry river beds. The roads are long and rough, to the extent that the time required to travel the distance gave us the option of just booting it to make the time and wreaking the car or slowing sensibly to enjoy the ride somehow. We began with the first but settled for the second because it was just too hard.

Most all but the hardened rallyers in the right vehicles pushed the boundaries. There are a few who have the wherewithal to write their cars off and have the fearlessness to do so. Good on them.

Our navigation was much better after we had devised a system that was better than the previous day. A couple of mistakes that were not all that bad, just ensured that we could not meet our set times.

It was a very hard day. When we settled on Steve decided to replace the rubbers on the leaf spring hangers. These were buggered after the last ordeal.

Other than that, Denise just took the punishment. She’s a real Trojan.

So, then it was shower and dinner time in the tent. It’s 9.00pm.

We were given the day eight amendments. The ERA decided that the 9 STC’s in a row was a bit much so has decided to cancel four of them.

It’s a 340km day but full of action. We start at 9.35, 1 hour earlier than today. Hope the roads are somewhat better but doubt it.

Few photos due to time and business in the cabin.