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Things that go bump in the night

August 4th, 2008 · 6 Comments

We know them first hand. But here’s how we got to that. The taxi does not like 50C temperatures (that would be 135 degrees) in the Karokum Desert -and neither do we, so we decided to drive across our second desert at night.  That would be a 646 kilometer journey which was supposed to take 8 hours. Little did we know what we had let ourselves in for.
Edward decided that Jimmy should cross the milestone of 5,000 miles behind the wheel, and thus Jimmy’s baptism of fire in the old girl began. Driving on rutted roads in the pitch black with no road or white lane markings from the right hand side and dealing with lunatic Turkmen truck drivers hurtling towards us with their high beams on in the middle of the narrow road. Ed took the suicide seat beside him, manning the spot lights and calling out distances between oncoming traffic and the side of the road. Remember Jimmy is driving a heavily laden London taxi. The roads limited us to 30 miles an hour not the 50 we had allowed. Great chasms openend up in the road without warning. One jolt was so hard it knocked the handbrake on and the front bumper half off. A quick pitstop in the middle of the night and we secured the bumper much to the amusement of our Turkmen guide Angela. Two hours later, near ancient Merv (about half way) our steed bottomed out as our wheels sunk into deep ruts in the tarmac. This sheared the rear bolt holding our sump guard to the chassis, protecting the gearbox.
We rattled on past sunrise with Ed and Jimmy doing the bulk of the driving as Max and Charles had been knocked out of service by a dodgy pizza at the Grand Turkmen. Noon on the 4th, 12 hours after we set off Uzbekistan hoved into view.
Good news. We got out of Turkmenistan after nine officials on the Turkmen side including four soldiers, one doctor and an Alsatian scrutinized everything from our physical wellbeing (a challenge for Max and Charles to pass) to our endless reams of paperwork. Our chassis number was never checked.
We are now spending the night in Bukhara the holy, one of the highlights of the silk road. A quick tour tonight revealed but a few of the 400+ extraordinaryily beautiful mosques nwo flourishing again after the breakup of the U.S.S.R. If the Internet improves we hope to send some pictures tomorrow. We plan on exploring Bukhara further over the next couple of days before moving on to Samarqand.
Hope you are enjoying this as much as we are. TDT.
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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 John // Aug 4, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    You guys are (1) amazing, (2) crazy, (3) stupid, or (4)all of the above for this trip through the desert at night. I lean toward amazing, but, when hearing of your letting Jimmy drive a lot during the night I lean towards (2) and (3).

    Keep up the good work and great commentary. Wish I could do this journey with you, but probably would have been booted for the tour guide!

  • 2 Lisa // Aug 5, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Speaking for myself, yes, I am enjoying this. Also wishing I was experiencing it first hand so hoping pictures will help the vicarious thrill aspect. But, I do have to agree with John, too.

  • 3 Mother Monckton // Aug 5, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    As mother of Edward I am most concerned about the comments made by John and Lisa regarding JW. We were hoping he, JW, would be the calming, stabalising influence, the one who brought great sense, practical advice and wisdom to this whole mad affair. Were we wrong??!!

  • 4 Vic // Aug 6, 2008 at 6:33 am

    I am shocked! How you guys allowed Walker to drive is beyond me. I pray for you.

  • 5 Peter B // Aug 6, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Can Walker see in the daylight?

  • 6 Ariana // Aug 6, 2008 at 12:25 pm

    Wow, it sounds like you are having such an amazing adventure! I know you are making my dad want to do this next year…

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