Unfortunately all problems continued and didn’t even got less. We (yes, even Dani) learned a lot about our car. We accepted the fact that we couldn’t drive fast and that we had to stop a million times and we tried to plan around this. Some days we went faster than others, but most days it took forever to move forward. For now our only goal was to reach Almaty. There were a few sights we really wanted to visit on our way and we planned to be in Almaty within 10 days. Very soon we noticed that we couldn’t realize this plan either. Our new home on wheels was ruining everything again! We decided to at least go to the sights that were on route to Almaty. But first things first, we were still stuck in the mud at the Issyk-Kul lake and had to find a way to get out of here.
The next morning nothing came easy. We woke up around 06:00 and were totally aware of the fact that we were still stuck in the mud. If we only had a working 4×4 there definitely would not be any problem and we could go out of here relatively easy. We thought we knew how to switch on the 4×4 but couldn’t make it work. We tried a few more times to get out but soon we knew that this wasn’t going to work. After a short conversation which clearly sounded more like a bad discussion, we decided it would be best if Tom would leave Dani at the car and would go and find some help. Two hours later Tom came back with two guys and a Lada. How these guys with that car were going to help us was completely unclear to us, but at least there was help. They started moving with big shovels, called a friend in between and went searching for an hammer. They took of the caps of the axles and with help of some of our tools they managed to tied everything a bit better. And there was our moment of truth, with the most simple technique they switched on our 4×4 and now our car supposed to be able to drive out of the mud without any more help. They tried a few times, we used their shovels to move some more mud out of our way and finally the car got out. Unbelievable!! Was this the tric? Was it this easy? Why didn’t we know about this car feature?!
We gave the two men some money in return for their help, but before they left they were way too curious to see the inside of our UAZ Bukhanka. They made some pictures and asked Tom a lot of questions. After half an hour of chit chatting about our disastrous buy, the two men left. Now we had to help them, because they couldn’t get their car started. So we pulled them for a few meters and the problem was solved. It was about 10:00 and we were both really tired, but we knew there were way more problems ahead of us. We still had a problem with our voltmeter and went to Balykchy, the closest city, to find a garage. We found one and the guys were desperate to help us. Full of energy they started looking for the problem and working on the car. Unfortunately after half an hour we found out that they had solved something, but absolutely not the problem of our voltmeter. Still they continued working, but after three hours we were €30,- lighter and still had our voltmeter problem. During driving the battery didn’t got really hot so we decided to keep driving and for the moment not worry about that problem anymore. We had to stop a few times because of problems with the axle and some weird noise the car made. Luckily beside the window mechanism at the passenger seat that broke it stayed pretty quiet that afternoon.
And so we had started our latest hundred kilometers in Kyrgyzstan. We drove towards the border with Kazakhstan, but first we had to cross an amazing piece of uncontrolled nature. Here we’re going to camp, this is our threat for the day. We’re tired and not in the mood to drive any further and while driving on a small and beautiful road we see the perfect camping spot. We need this! And after unpacking it’s time for a glass of wine, some slow cooked diner and a moment that we don’t have to think about the problems this unbelievable shitty UAZ Bukhanka is giving us. On the other side we realised how comfortable camping with our new van is. We don’t have to worry anymore about wind or rain.
For the next day we had made an appointment with Femke and Jeffrey, the Dutch couple that bought our Suzuki and roof top tent. It’s a hard deal, because there’s a big chance that one of us doesn’t have any internet access today. At 19:00 we suppose to meet each other at the first Kolsai Lake. For us it’s “only” 200 kilometer and we calculate that if we leave at 12:00 we should be able to be on time, even with a few stops. We have a rainy morning and for the first time we have to rebuild our table-bed. Of course this is absolutely not a problem, we even got extremely excited because we don’t have to sit in front of our car, but we can have a decent breakfast sitting on a couch at a table. Tom is using the extra time we’re having this morning to install the radio, but after having our key stuck in the starter for more than 15 minutes we’re slowly getting back in negativity. Finally Tom fixes the radio, the horn stopped working, but we’re happy: we have music! We leave in the direction of the border with Kazakhstan and are to excited and a bit suspicious because of finally leaving Kyrgyzstan. Is today going to be THAT day? We only have to stop once to tie up some parts of the axle. And then, finally, we’re back in Kazakhstan!!
First stop is the village of Kegen to find an insurance company. The garage who’s arranging those kind of things as a side job has no internet connection. They advice us to fix it in Almaty and we decide to not worry and drive further without this insurance. It’s only 100 kilometer from here to the first Kolsai Lake and we have more than four hours time. How could this not work out?! It’s starting to rain and we stop to attach the window cleaner back to its original place. We’re slowly continuing our route, slow because of the bad road with its potholes and the rain isn’t helping either. Life in a Bukhanka is full of surprises and also today our Bukhanka know’s how to surprise us again. We have to stop and it seems like something is wrong with our fuel supply into the car, but we don’t have a clue about what it’s exactly.
On our route there are almost no cars and you can imagine how happy we are when there’s finally a car passing who’s also willing to help us. He cleans some caps and it looks like we can drive again. Unfortunately it appears soon enough that this didn’t solve our problem. We try to drive as far as possible, it’s already 19:00 and we still have 60 kilometers to go. We stop again, Tom is trying to see what the problem is and while doing that a car stops. One of the guys knows a lot about our car and in about 20 minutes the whole problem is solved. We were right about the fuel problem and now, for the next time, we know what to do. We decide to anyway drive to the place where we should meet with Femke and Jeffrey. We’re just a bit more than two hours late and after bouncing in the car for a very long time we finally reach the first Kolsai Lake. They’re still there, yes!!
We’re enjoying two very nice days together with Femke and Jeffrey and we leave all our problems by not driving our car. We’re enjoying some of the most incredible views over the mountain lake and of course some very fun company. Time flies and after two nights of camping together we both start following our own plans again. At least we’re trying, by the time Femke and Jeffrey want to leave it seems like their battery has died. They charged a lot of their electronic devices in the last two days and their battery is totally flat now. It feels strange to be the ones helping others for a change. Bad thing though is that we’re finding out, after trying to help them charging their battery, that we have a problem with the battery terminal connectors. For some reason they put at the garage a plus connector on the minus wire and vice versa. Result: a burned main fuse for the Suzuki. Not a very dramatic thing but after getting their car started they have to drive straight to Almaty to solve the problem. We drive further over a very, very bad dirt road to Kaindy lake. Happy as hell we arrive Kaindy lake, because even though it was a horrible road, our Murphy didn’t break down.
Kaindy lake is another beautiful feature of nature in the Almaty region of Kazakhstan. An indescribable wonderful lake that that has arisen through extreme landslides more than 100 years ago. We feel very fortunate to be here and not having to drive our car for another 24 hours. It really feels like we can enjoy time a lot when we don’t have to be concentrated on another bad noise in the car that might cause another problem. We chat with some locals using more our hands and feets than our mouths, but we’re having fun, we walk, stare at the extremely blue lake, make pictures and search for a place to camp. Life can be so beautiful and we absolutely realise that we have to soak all this positivity to better handle the negative situations with the Bukhanka. The next morning we walk again to the lake, it’s so peaceful, there’s nobody there and we enjoy the silence before we start driving again.
All the positivity that we just soaked in we can use almost immediately. Before we even reach the main road something unexpected happens. We end up, a little less than half a meter in the side of the road from the river. Because steering is still very hard Dani thought Tom had lost control over the steer. But no, this was absolutely not the case. We get out of the car and without even looking at it we sit down next to our car, next to the river on a place which is very beautiful if it’s not the place where your car breaks down. Our tires are both pointing in another direction and it looks like our front axle was not made to reach Almaty. Could we even get our car out of here? And how? Because at the end this was our car, our worry child and we would do anything to get him home. Instead of starting a fight or better said “a not fun discussion”, screaming at the car and swearing over all garages in Bishkek we started to look for solutions. Knowing that even in the smallest villages 1 out of 3 people drives the same car we slowly found back some trust. We just had to be very patience.
Tom was not even gone for two minutes to search for help when another car came by and stopped. These people didn’t had the time to help us, but they convinced us another car was coming and would be able to help us, they just didn’t know how long it would take. We definitely didn’t have to worry because like they said almost the whole village is driving the same car as we have. They left and we sad down, but Tom decided to give it a try himself. As you can imagine we were more then relieved when he found out it was not the front axle that broke but it was the steering axle that got loose. We were so convinced our front axle broke down that we didn’t even thought of the possibility that it could be something else. It appeared to be a problem that we could almost solve without help. Still it was very welcome that a group stopped and helped us. With some help of them and the help of some straps Tom was able to make the tires pointing in the same direction again and finally, some hours later, we were out.
Again slowly, we drove to the main road and made a few stops to check every now and then if the steering axle was still tied. While driving the main road we made a few more stops because we heard all weird noises we couldn’t place. Unfortunately we couldn’t found the problem and continued driving to the Charyn Canyon, our last stop on our way to Almaty. But even though we’re getting closer and closer to the canyon, we’re still not sure if we’re going to make it. The relief is big when we’re finally there. To visit the canyon in the winter is a unique experience, but camping next to the canyon is not worse. What a views and we can not even imagine how long we looked forward to come here in this time of the year.
The original plan was to hike in the morning and leave for Almaty after that, but we were both not convinced that our last part of our trip to Almaty would go smooth. It appeared to be a very good decision to not go hiking and leave for Almaty in the morning. After we drove about 30 kilometer Tom said that he thinks that we’re not going to make it even to Shelek, the nearest, biggest village. Also our battery got really beaten by the + and – story and now our generator is not charging the battery anymore. We have to stop at a fuel station just before Shelek and we already need to ask somebody to pull the car to get it started again. An ambulance gets us back on the road again and we drive to the address that the guy from the fuel station gave us. We spend the whole afternoon at the garage, they replace the generator and there are some more things that have to be fixed immediately.
But then, after this horrible afternoon, we finally arrive Almaty. It’s pouring rain and traffic is a big chaos, but we’re happy. The first part of “our long way home” is done! Tomorrow we’ll go to a good garage and maybe, maybe our future with our Bukhanka during the last part of our trip looks a bit better.