Day 57 - 28th May - Shonji to Karakol (Kyrgyzstan)

We were up early to do some repairs to the car. We had received a new fuel pump. It was a Chinese knock off of the Facet pump that had failed in Southern China. The specifications were unattainable, as was the branding. But given the problems of the day before we decided to change it over for the one I was using, as supposedlyit had a lower pressure setting which we hoped would relieve the flooding issue.  

Not sure what this guy was carrying, but it looks a little heavy.

Not sure what this guy was carrying, but it looks a little heavy.

The changeover was quick. So we decided we would also change over the radiator fan which was missing one of it’s seven plastic blades, and relace it with the new one Simon had delivered. It should have been a simple operation of removing the 6 bolts that held the radiator in, undo the top and bottom hoses, but like most things MG, there were complications. The fan mount was not identical and the fan sat further forward, so we had to muck about and pack the radiator forward to give clearance between the fan and radiator.

We were off to the Kyrgyzstan border after half a day in KZ, but driving via the Charyn Cayon, described as the little KZ Grand Canyon. None of the cars appreciated the corrugated dirt roads and it appears that the motor in mine was bouncing about a lot as I soon noticed the water temperature climb to 100c. On checking, the new fan had completely disintegrated. Although it scarred the radiator, it had not punctured it. In 40 minutes, the team had the old fan reinstalled without loosing a drop of water.

The Canyon was spectacular. We had talked about a walk through it, but given the 300 odd kilometres we had drive for the day, time was against us.  We also had to recalibrate our time and distance expectations given the quality of the roads. Lunch was spent sitting on our little fold up chairs on a bluff overlooking a turbulent, flooded river racing through a brick red gorge. There was no one else around. It was a welcome break from the crowds, chaos and industrial landscape of China.

One thing you can be certain of is that the further you get from a capital city, the quality of the roads deteriorates, especially as you are headed for a very minor and infrequently used border crossing. The emerald green fields, livestock and the dramatic back drop of the Tien Shan provided a magnificent distraction from the pace and road quality.

We had been aiming at arriving at the border around 3pm. The guards were awoken from their afternoon siesta, and as usual 5 stood by taking photos of car and each other while one stamped the exit from Kazakhstan in Passports. The Kyrgyzstan side was much the same. First through Immigration. Australians are Visa free, so there was no paperwork, and off to Customs. Yes I also drove an MG and it was white. We were through both borders in a record 40 minutes.

Our new guide Akay was waiting for us. It was a bit obscure how long it was going to take to cover the 120k into Karkol. The map had made some obscure comment about the road quality, especially as this was supposed to be a National Highway. It was something along the lines about a joke.

But the countryside kept us constantly distracted. The nomads bring their horses, cattle and sheep up to the high country for the summer to graze on what looks like rich green lawn. Yurts dot the landscape. Old Dodge milk tankers race up and down the dirt road much faster than an MG. I am not sure whether they delivered milk or freshly churned butter back to the dairy.    

Three hours later a weary team arrived at the hotel. A quick shower and at 8.00pm we were off to find an ATM and get some dinner.