Day 12, 13 and 14

Finally a hotel bed and shower!

Now we are in Russia and you would think that after 7 days of hell the rally organisers would give us a bit of slack. But no they managed to find another stretch of 200 km off the main road to Aya.
After the horrible campsite of last night some competitors choose to start the rally and drive straight to Aya the evening stop on day 12.
Tom and Femke van den Berg with their white Pagode had already left by taxi the night before. They took the long overnight ride direct to Novosibirsk in the hope that their broken engine could be mended for the next leg of the rally after the rest day in Novosibirsk.

We choose to do the whole rally day as the car was relatively okay and we felt we could manage another day of punishment.

The day started with a short run on the main road from the Mongolian border to the next town Aya. We had to do a short time trial en route and were then directed of the main road into the beautiful Altai mountain region. However anything off the main road here is a broken asphalt road or a rough gravel track. It had started to rain quite heavily when we entered the section and soon we were driving through a black mud bath . The whole section was about 200 ! km . During this stage we had four time controls in row with a limited time allowance to get to each control. If you are too late you get the lateness minutes as penalty if you are too early you wait before the time control until your exact time. Then you speed up again to the next time control. We only lost a minute over the four sections but it was hard going, as we needed a constant speed of about 60 km an hour through the mud and rocks terrain. When we finished this section the car was covered front to back in thick clay.

As he total distance to Aya was about 545 km we still had to cover a lot of ground once we rejoined the main road. There were lots of people when we arrived and the welcome was very friendly.

Aya is a small holiday resort on a vast river bank. There are many small holiday cottages and motels. We stayed at a resort hotel with comfortable rooms and relatively good showers.
We have been her three years ago as well.
I think both Anty and I each took three showers to clean the dust and grime of the last week.

Then instead of the rally dinner we found a small bar and restaurant in the hotel and each took a steak frites and a glass of wine. Our other Dutch rally friends Raymond Vos and his daughter Emma joined us. They are quite concerned about the state of their beautiful pre-was Lancia lambda and were really anxious to get to Novosibirsk the next day.

Then a very good sleep on a real mattress…

This area of Russia at this time of year is full of mosquitos. Despite using various mosquito sprays we get bitten all the time. The weather has been quite damp and humid which does not help.

Day 13 – Aya to Novosibirsk
Today a 600 km + run into Novosibirsk, the town where we will have our first rest day since Ulaan Baatar.
The time trials of the day have been cancelled but the start has been put back by an hour. It means we get fairly late into the Friday traffic in the outskirts of Novosibirsk and it takes us more then an hour to get from the start of the town to the centre where our hotel for the next two days is placed.

Our little Benz now feels really tired and rattles a creaks over the very bad town roads. The temperatures were very humid with some heavy downpours whilst we were in the traffic jams.
Novosibirsk is a very large and not so beautiful town. A lot of the old buildings from the communist era are still around and often very dilapidated. The centre of town is okay but quite frankly after what we have all been trough everything is okay.

Outside the Marriott hotel there is special car park for our cars and the reception by the locals is really very nice. The next day they are all milling around the rally cars asking questions taking pictures of them with our cars.
When we checked in the hotel I first send my dirty clothes to the hotel laundry. I hope it will come back in time and I hope they will be able to get the dust and dirt out of the clothes. Tonight a light dinner and then a really good bed and an even better shower. Anty and I each have our own room which is great for the rest day.

Day 14 Novosibirsk rest and repair day.
With the help of Mercedes NL we managed to reserve a space at the local Mercedes dealership to work on our car. We had over the past week made a list of things to do and were planning to do this as much as we could by ourselves.
We looked up the address on my I-Phone and then got really lost. We never found the garage and should have asked a taxi to drive ahead of us.
However whilst we were looking for the address we passed a small local car workshop and spotted an empty car ramp. We stopped and asked with sign language if we could use the ramp. The garage owner turned out to be a young and very expert mechanic and when the car was on the ramps he immediately set to work. We wanted to refit the sump guard under the front of the car and soon he had fixed it the way we had indicated. Then he showed us that our right front wheel bearing was dry. We indicated that we had a spare bearing in the car and as soon as he got hold of it the wheel came of and he fitted the new bearing. ( see picture) Then one of his co-workers spotted a missing nut on the left front suspension. This was again quite a vital discovery as if we had not found this now ,we might have broken the front suspension later. He fixed it and by now we had decided that he looked like the younger brother of Vladimir Putin. Quite stubborn and determined but very effective.

Coffee was made for us and with the help of Google translate we managed to start a dialogue about our adventure and the car.
Anty wanted to grease the points of the car and started with the little grease gun that we carry our selves. Vladimir produced a pneumatic grease gun and proceeded to fill all the points with grease. Job done.
A further inspection revealed a loose bolt by the gearbox casing. This was fixed too.

After about three ours the job was done and I asked Vlad for the bill. He took me to his tiny greasy office, punched a few numbers in his calculator and showed me the number 3000. Three thousand roubles is about forty euros. An average garage in Holland or Switzerland would charge you this to make an appoint ment…
I gave him six and he was very happy. A good Saturdays work for him and a perfect job for us. The Red Devil was ready for the next stage but just needed a wash. I asked Vladimir for a suggestion and he directed us to a small car wash up the road. For 300 roubles the car was washed inside and out and again we were each given a cup of coffee while we were waiting. Google translate was used to tell the ladies in charge of the rally with some hilarious results in the translation. But it works. Thanks Google, you bring the world together.

By the way you do need a Smartphone to use this Google gadget. In Russia they all have smart phones. After today Anty was so impressed that he has promised to buy a Smartphone when he comes back after the rally. Please take note.

At about 15.30 we were back at the hotel, parked the car and took a light lunch.

Out laundry was back in our rooms when we got there so everything was in place to start the next stage of our rally.

So much for a rest day…

Good night,