Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Day 121 - The inconvenience of having one’s car broken into. (Kazakhstan)
It was nice to have the weekend to relax in Almaty; tour guide, conmen and NAVO free, before getting down to business on Monday morning with registering at the Migration Police and applying for visas for Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. We woke ourselves up bright and early, ready for a day of paperwork and fees, only to be faced with our first experience of theft on this trip (unless you count everything we paid NAVO for, which we do). Denner had gone down to the car a few minutes early to pump up our slowly leaking tyre, and when we followed him we found much to our dismay, that he was in the boot emptying out the shards of glass that used to be our back side window. We’re very grateful it wasn’t the back back window as this is the only really stupid feature of the car, being electric and quite temperamental, and we imagine it would have been exceptionally challenging to replace. After the initial shock that hits when you realise you’ve been robbed, we did a quick stock take and realised that the only things missing were the three items that were closest to the smashed window. One of the stolen items just happened to be the portable tyre pump that we needed to pump up our very badly timed flat, and the reason that Denner had gone down in the first place, and the other two were Tunkles’ bag and his brand new hiking boots that were loose in the boot. Not hopeful, but wishful anyway, we did laps around the nearby alleyways and lo and behold, Tunkles’ bag was in a dumpster just around the corner. His jacket, favourite t-shirt, Communist flags and other souvenirs from China were nowhere to be seen.
Our priority was no longer visas; unfortunately we’d have to put that off for a day while we got Trevor a new window. A passing man stopped and commented in English, on the fact that our car had been broken into – yes, yes it had, thankyou for the observation. And then he offered to help us find the replacement part, sure that given it’s a Toyota (one of the many factors that were at play during the car choice project) it shouldn’t be too difficult to find, but adamant that we wouldn’t be able to find it ourselves seeing we don’t speak the local lingo. He made a few phone calls on our behalf and found our part. He very kindly insisted that he would come with us to help with translation and negotiation, but he wasn’t free until the early afternoon. That worked fine for us anyway, considering we really needed to pump up our flat tyre, and although we could put off visas for a day, registering with the Migration Police has to be done within five days of arrival and this was already day five. So we drove around the busy streets of Almaty on our embarrassingly flat tyre, imagining all the other drivers laughing at us, as we would if we saw us driving around. “Ha ha, look at those stupid foreigners with their smashed window and flat tyre. Ha ha.”
Unfortunately air pumps aren’t at every petrol station in Kazakhstan like they are in Australia, but after a bit of driving around the outskirts of town and doing a lot of miming of pumping up a tyre, we eventually managed to find some air and regain some of our driving dignity.
Registering with the Migration Police was a piece of cake. Denner and I hung out with poor old injured Trevor while Ben and Tunkles photocopied our Kazakh visas and entry stamps and handed our passports over the counter.
When the time came, Tunkles and Denner went with B (he has a Russian name that starts with B) to find the window, while Ben and I did some printing and photocopying of visa related documents. When they eventually found the scrappers, down several unpaved alleyways and unmarked dirt tracks, it looked from the outside like a very high fence around a field, but turned out to be the house of some guy that lives in an industrial district and has a garage full of stuff. Fortunately he did have the promised window, for the unfortunate cost of $80.
They were back in time for us to collect our passports from the Migration Police at 5pm, now with yet another stamped form filled in and attached to our visa, and Denner spent the evening dismantling the back of the car and fitting our very tinted new window, which came decorated with free Russian graffiti.