We are crossing the border this morning. A direct run of 124kms over straight roads. There’s going to be much more of these straight roads as we head westward and the graveltravel ceases to exist. Gives our speedy mates the edge.
Inside the hotel accommodation. It’s old and reminiscent of the Soviet days. Not a nice place, but a place to put the head down. The rooms had three beds each and the they were two feet wide and about 1foot off the ground. They creaked when you turned at night. Like sleeping on an old crate
Our departure was the usual 9.25am and
from the town square. Few people this morning but some interesting
conversations with some. A lot of people here speak some English and when
speaking to a teacher she said that the children are taught three languages
here. Kazakhstan, Russian and English. They are progressive.
Leaving the square and someone who wanted to be photographed
There were the usual bulletin amendments
to the route book but because of the border crossing and the 1 hour time change
it was a little more difficult.
The border cross was quick and friendly.
But there was no time in the schedule to waste any time. No stop for something to eat.
In the afternoon there are two STC’s. These have been held on wheat farm tracks. Dusty and full of winding and rutted dirt roads. The first was ok, though we couldn’t achieve the time due to the car in front interfering with our run because of a nav error he made cutting in front then leaving us, literally in his dust.
Back on the road again. Wheat fields for as far as the eye can see. Great countryside
The second STC had such a short time vs
distance that the average speed would be 116kph!!!
Impossible. But we did our best. Can’t
be silly and bust our gut and break the car.
Still, Denise performed well and she
just keeps going. She purrs.
Around mid afternoon the route guided us
to a “Return to Russia” event, an historical event where the Ural river divided
east from west and the turmoil around that time. It’s called the Magnitogorsk
celebration and the PtoP just happened to be there on the day. A real welcome
by the locals, each car being introduce over a loudspeaker system. A hot day
and all and sundry turned out. Lots of children beautifully dressed and
everyone trying to speak to you. The old and the new. They are just so
friendly. There were some old cars, bikes and some armaments. Russians dressed
in their old uniforms. Couldn’t take any photos due to phone being left in the
sun on the car dashboard charging up. Pity. Got a couple though before it
At the Russia celebration before the camera froze
People were all over Denise taking
photos fawning over her!
Then the long run to the evening
destination, the Bannoe Lake Resort.
More agriculture and driving through a typical poor village
A village of condos that was what seemed
like a sanitorium during the soviet era. Set in amongst silver birch trees
predominantly on the shores of a small lake. Apparently it snows here and it’s
a ski resort too. Gets to 30 degrees below in winter. Again, throngs of
visitors met us at the entry. A four piece heavy metal band played popular
modern songs and in general a gala feel.
At the Bennoe Lake resort
Dinner was served at a lake venue on the premises. Good food and Steve and I partook of a couple of Heineken beers. The first for quite a while.
Due to temperature, which is hot now, we were drained from the day’s activities. Bed and dead. Slept like there was no tomorrow.
We awoke this morning in our tents wet
with condensation and rainwater ingress. Although the sleep was good the
festivities went on till the early hours of the morning. Strange people trying
out karaoke, and failed miserably. It went on and those trying to get to their
tents would (inadvertently) kick our tents guy wires and waken the occupants.
Some people don’t know when to give up
and to think that we were to drive 588kms the next day, well.
Sleeping bags a little wet and the
morning was cold. A nice sunny morning but cold.
Breakfast with some green tea, to keep
the hands warm, and all is good.
Starting time was 9.25 am. A little late
for the distance to be covered.
The start cate from camp 7. Pictures of the countryside
The first stop, after going through a
deep water crossing was a ski circuit. An approx. 2 km concrete track through
some bush surrounds. We had to do between 1.55 minutes and 5.55 minutes. We did
it comfortably in 2.58 minutes. Denise liked this track.
Then onto the highway to do long
distance but interspersed with 3 Sporting Time Controls.
The first was good but the Russian car
sped past us and on wanting to pass the car in front miscalculated the distance
and did a 180 degree spin and head back in the direction of the car he had overtaken
then spun out onto the rut on the road to have lost a wheel and become
stationary. Absolutely unnecessary and most dangerous. The driver has
absolutely no fear. He just boots it and……. watch out.
So, onto the next two STC’s and again we
did well in attaining the distance in the correct time. These roads ran through
wheat fields. The dark earth was soft but the road was twisty so considering
that the average speed was 80kph Steve had to work hard to keep the car on the
The endless roads and wheat fields. Blue skies. They have plenty of water here and can grow anything. Pleasant but boring driving. Can’t show pics during the rally across the fields as too busy doing other things
On the third STC one of the cars came
off the road and into a valley on the side of the road. No one was hurt but the
shock to the occupants must have been traumatic.
Driving these roads for the STC is hard
on the drivers. Safety, speed and navigation.
Then a couple of hundred miles to drive
to the hotel and be there at 5.50pm.
The roads ran straight for such
distances through wheat fields. Thousands upon thousands of hectares of the
finest arable lands, as flat as a pancake and for as far as the eye can see.
There’s so much more that can be brought in too.
The country is rich in minerals, oil and
agriculture. It grows many hectares of pine trees too. There’s no limit to what
they can do, and they’re doing it.
The response to our arrival in the
city’s town square this evening was amazing. They are so enthusiastic and a lot
of people speak some English. That’s so different from the other towns and
cities we’ve been to.
Arrival at the town square in Kostanay. We couldn’t drive though the throngs. We notice lots of young children in all of the places visited. They are well dressed and look like they’re well loved
Our hotel tonight is akin to the Soviet
era hotels that one reads about a lot. It’s not good. The big mama sits in an
office on each floor to keep order. It’ll do. We’ll be asleep in very short
Food was good though. Sleep will come
We go back across the border in the
morning back to Russia.
Leaving this city without being able to have a look around is a shame. The buildings we could see on the way in and out were stunning architecture. The city blocks were the size seen in the US but sprinkled in between were original structures of days past.
A picture from the hotel window before dark. Steve working on the car in the hotel car park and the dirt from Denise’s bottom. Another shot of the city at night from hotel window
The track out was straight forward on
long stretches of city roads and stoplights then onto highways that stretched
for hundreds of miles before us. Concrete roads that would be considered the
best became boring as we progressed to the one exiting event that when we
arrived we found had been cancelled.
Photos going out of the city
Back to more concrete road to our next
event that was a passage control and a couple of time controls.
The car had lost the overdrive that
Steve had repaired the night before. Obviously some electrical issue. As he had
replaced it with a new one. He hasn’t worked it out yet as to the cause but our
speed was dramatically reduced and the motor revs increased accordingly.
The last evening Steve had spent the
best part of two hours cleaning, adjusting, replacing and tweaking the various
parts that required attention. Some 5-6kgs of dirt was removed from underneath.
A good job but failure of the o/drive continued to perplex.
With all the tight schedules every day
and lack of sleep can be dangerous on the road. Care is essential.
A national park we drove through
A hotel coming out of the park. Scenes of the countryside. It’s so fertile and the govt is making the most of it. There’s a lot to develop yet
A successful arrival at the camp
entrance only to find throngs of people. We had expected a serene location in
the countryside somewhere.
Not to be.
We were directed to our tent which was
the size of a pea pod. Rain was threatening and Steve didn’t want to pitch his,
but it was the only resolve to get some sleep for the night.
It then became obvious that this site
was to become a gala event with the locals Turing out in their customary
costumes, dancing and singing.
At the campsite 7 in Balkashino and the welcome gala that the locals put on. The garb is something to behold
The facilities here looked “not so good”
but these too turned out to be first class. Showers with hot water and proper
toilets with flushing and blue water.
So, as it turned out it was a rather
joyful afternoon, the food cooked by the locals was surprisingly good and
breakfast the next day was also ok.
Some more activities at the camp
We bed down relatively early, 8.30 but
the partying carried on to all hours.
The worst feature was people walking past
the tents, inadvertently tripping over the tent ropes in the dark, with the
obvious outcome of waking the occupant.
It rained during the night and the tents
were wet inside. And the cold of the early morning was getting through the
But there were really no issues to complain about.
Morning had broken at about 4.30 am and
it was a clear day, so far.
The hotel we stayed in was very good and
food was excellent.
The city was quiet at that time and the
police still had a presence directing early risers to their cars parked a
couple of hundred meters from the hotel.
Breakfast commenced at 5.30 and many
competitors were preparing their cars (vintage) to start going out at 7.00.
Buses were ferrying drivers and
navigators from the hotel continuously.
The bulletin (short for amendments) was
five pages long. A lot had changed since the recce teams had put the route book
together so naturally, in a country such as Kazakhstan that is developing rapidly
took a bit to understand and incorporate the changes onto the book. You’ve just
got to get it right or the chances are you will err en-route.
All done and away at 8.25 looking for
the way out of the city.
A modern new bridge outside the city of Irtysh, and cars ready to depart the Time Control in correct order
There were to be 4 STC’s and 7 TC’s.
This is a heavy schedule considering that we have to cover 556kms today. But if
getting to the starting points correctly and on time the event can be good fun.
The first STC was great fun on an open
paddock with farm like tracks. The distance was 8.24 kms in a time of 8
minutes, average speed of 67kph.
It was a soft rough course and surface
with mud holes and water holes. About two thirds of the way, the Russian
competitors, who started one minute behind us, passed in a wash of mud going
like a bat out of hell. As he passed his car swerved and fishtailed as if it
was going to roll. Our windscreen was covered in mud and we couldn’t see the
track ahead. Squirting water from our water bottles cleared up the vision
enough to get to the end. Crazy stuff.
We got in in 9 minutes so we lose points for the one minute.
Then onto the next STC, which when we
got there, had been cancelled. We were expected to cover the course at our
leisure to maintain our mileage totals. But doing this showed just why this
stage was withdrawn from competition. We nearly rolled whilst just having a
leisurely look. It was just too dangerous, so good on the ERA for deciding to
Then on to two STC’s in a row. One after
the other. On a field with tracks going every which way. The total for the
course was twelve kms in twelve minutes.
There were just so many tracks that you would have to be excused for not having selected the correct one. It was so complicated that there were many, including us that were just too perplexed to find the correct route.
It was good fun but frustrating.
After this last event we had some 200kms to get to the MTC at the Marriott hotel in Nur-Sultan.
Nice cloud structure
Straight newly completed concrete
motorways that stretch so far into the distance. You get the feel that Kazakhstan
is developing into a very well structured country. Vast fertile land and mining
is allowing the country to prosper as they harness their potential.
New motorway construction and Denise covered in mud, again
Whilst travelling the motorway Denise
decided to lose the electric overdrive gear.
This means travelling at a slower pace
while using more fuel.
At the hotel Steve donned his overalls
and began evaluating the reason for the fault. He’s still at as I write this
The city that we entered is truly startling! New buildings of glass, stone and concrete abound. Designs that are amazing and modern. We couldn’t really assay these while driving but will have a look in the morning before we leave. This city surpasses some of the more well-known capital cities of the world. It’s really an eye opener.
Tomorrow we leave base at 9.25am. The trek is for 416kms. We camp out for the last time in this rally at Balkashino.
It’s Sunday morning 16th June and our
“day of rest” has come and gone. There’s no rest for the wicked, as the saying
Our start times have been reset and we
begin the rally at 8.25am.
There is an amendment sheet to the route
book for updating the program for the day.
There are a few changes that need to be
taken into account from when the course was set last year.
The exit from the city comes easily as traffic volume is low and we make good progress confident that we are on the correct course.
An interesting modern bridge just out of Novosibirsk and the general scenery going west to Kazakhstan
We did query an instruction that seemed
ambiguous and felt confident we understood.
However,,,,, the instruction was
ambiguous and the “navigator” took a turn wrongly.
He should have been following the
waypoints on the GPS, which didn’t show up when we were some 50kms off
We were running comfortably on time but
this put the kibosh on getting anywhere today. The drive was already 630kms
plus another 100kms backtracking!
Once back on the correct track, and rain
was added to the mix, there was an STC to partake of on a graveltravel road.
Well, when we got to this STC, the road,
some 16kms in duration, was 200mm deep in mud. It was slush and the car was
covered in mud, splattering over the windscreen so that all vision was lost.
The wipers could not remove this slush mud so we slowed whilst one of us could
squirt water onto the screen to clear it. It was dangerous yet like kids, it
was enjoyable to drive through. Mud everywhere and it went on and on. We
skidded, fishtailed and slid like you wouldn’t believe. The road was quite wide
so there was room aplenty if there were no other cars on the road. We just
couldn’t see. We also couldn’t stop as being stuck was not an option so kept
going sometimes not knowing the direction of our heading. No time to take
pictures. We used all of our precious water supply just to try and keep the
windshield see throughable.
At the end a group of amused onlookers that had seen the other cars coming through covered in mud, had a chain gang going with buckets of water and a watering can to slosh clean our windscreen. Great consideration of some enthusiastic people just wanting to help.
Eventually back on some sort of tarmac
we stopped at a service station and Steve cunningly saw an opportunity to wash
the car under the station canopy that was leaking copious quantise of rainwater
from its roof. It worked a treat. Parked transversely across the entry to two
pumps slowly moving back and forward. Other customers saw the funny side and
accepted another lane.
We were late at all the control
positions this day because of the error made earlier in the day.
Part of the afternoon activity was
crossing from Russia to Kazakhstan. We dreaded the delays in this process, but
as it turned out the process was smooth and friendly.
On the Kazakhstan side of the border the
sun came out. Very welcome.
It had been cold where it had rained so
it was a welcome relief to get some sunshine.
The last part of the trek was to find our hotel which wasn’t too difficult as it turned out. The roads toward the city were long and straight and the surface was quite different from the roads in the Russian side.
The inside of Denise for those who haven’t seen inside the cabin in which we spend so much time everyday and the throngs of people at the arrival in the Irtysh hotel
At the official parking lot in the city
there was a huge crowd to meet all the cars. These people just love cars where
we’ve been so far and everywhere we go there are waves and “toots”. Even the
police want to shake your hand when you arrive.
It was a good, looong day with the only blemish being the ambiguous course direction resulting in a poor performance day I’m afraid.
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
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.
The public were fantastic and although
they could be considered a nuisance they were most pleasant friendly and
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.