THE LONG WAY HOME PART 1 – WHERE TO START

On the 8th of July we arrived at our semi place of residence in Holland, the village of Wijchen. One year, a bit more, it’s actually 13 months since we have left. They went by way to fast but left us with great memories and experiences. Excited that we still have our pictures and stories because so now and then it’s to much to remember. We’re very conscious of the fact that we failed telling you about our last adventures. So now, a bit more than four weeks after we came back to Holland, we start writing again. In our last three posts we’ll take you on our last adventures and tell you about the positive and negative sides of buying our UAZ Bukhanka. Let’s start where we ended, in Bishkek Kyrgyzstan.

We made it to our hometown

After waiting for more than four weeks we literally had no idea on how to stay positive. Waiting and irritation had us really cost all our nerves. It looked like everything that possibly could go wrong went wrong. There was absolutely no other way to look at it. We talked about the reason we bought this car and asked ourselves many times, why did we want this again? Communication with locals was hard, but also many strange things had happened over the past few weeks. Like one morning we found our contact with a blue eye, sleeping drunk in his car in front of their office. Another person who was the manager of getting our Bukhanka fixed at the second garage had just disappeared from earth for about three days. At these moments the people who could really help us and do something rather turned their back at us and pretended like they didn’t know a thing. You can imagine how happy we were when we finally had found a garage where they actually worked on the car every day.

Third mechanic shop where we took our Bukhanka

Every time we came to check our car and see if people would do their work we were surprised on what they already had done. After a few days this garage gained our trust and we decided to go away from Bishkek and do something fun. We rented an old Russian Lada 2107 and a small tent, enough to feel the freedom again. We had missed being outside to breathe the fresh air and feel the cold in the mountains. This car and this small tent could help us escape for a bit, escape from the city and the slow workers. Still we were in contact with the garage every day if only to check if the progress was like we discussed before and if there were no other problems.

Our Lada for one week

It was cold, but beautiful weather at the end of May in Kyrgyzstan and so we camped on different spots around Issyk-Kul, a beautiful, big lake. It’s not that far from Bishkek and also it’s not high up in the mountains, so camping was doable. We hiked and explored new and amazing parts of nature in the mountains and the extreme orange canyons. It was such a blast to be outside again. We made new friends, bought food at some local markets next to the main streets, drank lots of vodka and slept close to each other in the tent to escape some of the cold. It was a lovely week which ended way to fast in our opinion. Tuesday night we drove back because the car “should’ve” been ready on Wednesday.


At least we had a great trip with the Lada

Of course the car wasn’t ready, but we managed to be not to disappointed, because we knew the end was near. By this time we had prepared things extremely well. All the construction goods to convert the Bukhanka into a campervan were already at the hostel. When the car was ready we could immediately start. Friday the long waited phone call finally came, our car was ready. It was the 25th of May and we had waited for more than six weeks for them to finish. Totally excited we went to the garage. During a test round from Tom and the owner of the garage something went wrong with electricity and things started to burn. The electrician came and spend about an hour fixing this problem. Two hours later we were finally sitting in and driving our new car. It was weird, fun, disappointing and worrying at the same moment. This car had spent so many time, more than six weeks, at different garages and things were not right yet. Brakes were working, but absolutely not how they supposed to work and even looking at Tom while hysterically steering made me tired. Also electricity was a big mess.

First drive in the Bukhanka

But we were finally driving our new vehicle and decided to spend the next days working on the inside of the van. We would finally do some stuff in which we didn’t had to rely on other people. We could work fast and we did. We worked three days from 07:00 till 22:00 with only one break to eat something. The result was amazing. We could finally storage all our stuff inside this van and also sleep and sit in it. It was beautiful! Unfortunately we had to switch again to things for which we had to rely on other people. The car needed to be polished and we wanted to paint the roof white. Also we needed to buy a roofrack and get the wheel alignment done. We went to see a guy who did some painting and polishing in the back of his yard. The only problem here was that he first told us he needed three days to get everything done. This was no option for us, luckily he understood our point and promised us to be ready within two days.

We put a lot of effort in the interrior of the car to finish it in three days

The painting and polishing went way faster than we expected and the next day our car was ready. Of course there was a downside and we needed to go immediately back to the garage. The car was leaking oil on multiple points. At the garage they needed 24 hours to fix this problem and the time had made up, we lost again. Happy the guys at the garage kept their word and Tuesday afternoon we could again pick up our car. Thursday night we packed almost everything and while Dani went for some last shopping on Friday morning, Tom went to buy a roof rack and get the alignment done. Of course this would not be our adventure if there would not be a problem. At the garage where the alignment was done they told Tom there’s a big problem with the front axle and this is what cost the hard steering. He also told Tom that there’s a big chance we could make it to Almaty, only Tom hasn’t told him we would not drive straight to Almaty. We decided to leave it for now. We wanted to leave Bishkek and Kyrgyzstan and all their 10.000 self made car mechanics. We just wanted to go away!

White roof for our Bukhanka

So Friday at four o’clock the moment was finally there. We were in the car and about to leave Bishkek. We had said goodbye at the Apple hostel, a very nice and warming hostel from an even nicer family. We were so happy to have found this place to stay for such a long time. From the hostel we drove to the garage which helped us buying the Bukhanka, a company with which we spend lots of happy moments but even more sad moments. Go there, give them what they needed and go further was unfortunately not for us these days. We found out that our voltmeter was not working right. It looked like our battery was overheating or things could even go worse when we would continue driving like this. Again they couldn’t help us with this so we had to find another garage. It was Friday, it was late and of course when we arrived at another garage they were closed.

Farewell at Apple hostel

By now we had two options, driving away from Bishkek and hoping to find another garage the next day or spend another day and night in the city and see if we could find a good garage the next day. We decided to stay around Bishkek and to camp somewhere just outside of the city. While driving the voltmeter started to work normal, at least that’s what it looked like. We looked at each other, shall we take the risk? Yesss!!! We wanted to leave this city so badly. Sometimes these are the best decisions in life and sometimes the worst. This was absolutely one of the worst. On the other side looking back, it doesn’t seem to be so bad. Still we’ll continuing sharing our problems we had that night, even if it is only to remember us 50 years later about this messy situation. After driving for a bit more than half an hour our voltmeter started to cause problems again. We decided the best thing to do would be to detach the battery while driving, in this way it could not overheat. To detach the battery we had to be driving and to be able to stop without having the car “falling out” we used the handbrake so we could still gas a bit.

This situation was far from ideal and the car had his moments of “falling out”, but we were moving and at least the battery would not be able to overheat. It was getting later and of course darker. The police already stopped us for not having our lights on when it was not dark yet, but fortunately we could talk ourselves out of this disaster. Now we had to use our lights because it got darker and darker and that went surprisingly well with a detached battery. The only problem occurred when the car “went out” then we had to attach as fast as possible the battery again and we could continue. It was such a tiring and stressful process, but we wanted to reach Issyk-kul, a big lake with lot of camping possibilities at it’s shore. Also if we would reach Issyk-kul we would be very near to a relatively bigger city the next day.

Around 22:30 we finally reached a place where we could camp. We just had to drive our car into the right place and than we could cook some food and prepare ourselves for our first night in our Russian monster. That’s exactly not how things went. While driving the car into a good spot we got stuck in some mud and unfortunately we were not out after two hours of digging and screaming. What a mess, again! And obviously we had another moment of considering what we got ourselves into. How the hell would we reach Holland with this thing? We left the problems for what they were and had some food and much needed vodka. If and how we got out we’ll tell you in the next post. Stay tuned!

Fitting the last things on our roof before we left Bishkek