Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Day 148 - Beer and shashliks on the beach gone wrong. (Kyrgyzstan)
We spent a few days in Bishkek on arrival in Kyrgyzstan, mainly for the purpose of getting our Iranian visas. We stayed at a very bizarre “guesthouse” called Nomad’s, where we met a lot of very cool and interesting people – Bishkek, and in fact Kyrgyzstan in general seems to be overlander central, and it turns out we were all staying at Nomad’s – which is why we stayed there. The place was a shambles though and the owners screwed up at every turn, to the point where it surpassed annoyance and frustration and became hilarious. My bed in the dorm was double booked and I was confronted with a large English man jumping on top of me in the middle of the night; the one single room was triple booked, and was left to the guests to sort out; the yurta was double booked; the owners blocked their sink inside the house with rice pudding, then switched off the water to our bathroom; and above all the mum, dad and grown up sister left the 13 year old to deal with everything. I could go on, but in the end we did check out a couple of other places and decided to stay at Nomad’s because of the people we met there - an English couple who are four months into a motorcycle trip around the whole world and three Bulgarian guys who had taken their Land Cruiser on a mountaineering adventure to Kyrgyzstan. The Bulgarians left the following day, but were replaced by a dynamic duo going by the names Carol and Shaun, who had met in Pakistan and have travelled extensively all over the world.
We left Bishkek two days ago now and drove East towards Isik Kol, a very huge and beautiful lake surrounded by sandy beaches, rocky dunes and snowy mountains. We met up with Josje and Remco (our flamingo searching in Kazakhstan friends), as if it’s just a normal thing to text message a friend and then meet them on the road going through a tiny village next to a lake in Kyrgyzstan. We decided to camp together last night, so drove away from the village to look for a nice spot. There really weren’t many tracks off the main road though, and we were starting to get a bit frustrated when we spotted one off to the left – down to the lake, perfect! We noticed there were other people camping on this section of beach, but we thought we’d just go a little bit down and mind our own business. It was already 9pm anyway. So we found a spot, considered whether we were too intrusive on the other people at this distance and decided to stay.
Two minutes later a Kyrgyz man in an orange t-shirt appeared at our car and asked us for help. Apparently his car was stuck in the sand and he wanted us in our “strong car” to tow him out. We realised the people we were concerned about being invasive to were not camping after all, but were stuck in the sand! It turns out they’d already been there for several hours, so lucky for them we rocked up.
We thought we’d try giving it a push first – six extra people would surely help – and if that didn’t work then we’d get out the tow rope. We followed him to his car, and discovered not one car, but two, and not really stuck in sand, but more buried. They had obviously been trying to get themselves out for quite some time, and had done the old spinning the tyres over and over trick. The first car was a hatchback and the sand was at least half way up the tyres. We assessed the situation and decided to dig the front out a little then gave it a push and without too much difficulty, off it went. Orange shirt guy kept saying to Ben that the women (me and Josje) shouldn’t bother because we aren’t strong enough to help, which seemed a bit rich considering our car wasn’t the one buried in sand. Cultural differences. Well I proved him right anyway when the car started moving and I tripped over and everyone trampled me through the sand. Fortunately the sand was nice and soft and the only result of me being trampled was that I was now covered in sand.
The second car though was really buried. Sand came all the way up to the bottom of the doors, and when he spun the tyres we could see they weren’t even on sand now, but were actually suspended by the underside of the vehicle. They had tried to jack the car up, in the sand, which obviously hadn’t worked, and now the jack was jammed underneath the car aswell.
A guy with a hat on seemed to be designated driver (not sure why – he had obviously been enjoying a few evening beverages), and he kept spinning the tyres, while his incredibly intoxicated friend tried to steal our torches, kept chanting “Kyrgyzstan, Kyrgyzstan,” and egged on hat guy to “drive, drive, 1, 2 ,3,”, burying the tyres more and more, spraying us all with sand, and not being overly considerate of Remco who was trying to free the jack from behind the front wheel . If orange shirt guy hadn’t been so reasonable and nice we would have told the other ones to stop being so rude and left them to it.
The front tyres were so deep that we decided it would be smart to push the car backwards instead. Orange shirt guy agreed, drunk guy tried to run off with our torch again, and we all lined up in front. Hat guy started revving the car and we realised he was trying to go forward! After a lot of yelling and pointing, orange shirt guy got hat guy to put the car in reverse and with a bit of a heave we got the car out. The problem was that hat guy didn’t stop the car, so he crashed into the tree 20 metres behind, and the main problem was that the car had been so buried that when we pushed the car backwards, the sand had ripped off the front bumper. We hoped this wasn’t orange shirt guy’s car, and sure enough the owner of this car had been sent home, along with most of their shashlik and beer on the beach party, because they were too drunk. If drunk guy and hat guy had been sober enough not to be sent home, I can’t even imagine the state the rest of the group had been in!
While we were all assembled around the car trying to remove the torn bumper and tie up all the dangling bits of engine so that we’d be able to move the car forwards again, hat guy and drunk guy continued at their chanting and revving. I would have loved to leave them stuck in the sand with their broken car, but we couldn’t desert orange shirt guy who was obviously getting quite desperate. Finally we managed to get all the dangling bits out the way and successfully push the car forwards again. Hat guy who was driving almost skidded into the back of our car on the way out and we heard something tear off the bottom of the car as he drove off, but off they went.
There’s going to be a very hung over guy waking up the next day, cursing himself for having left his car at the beach and getting himself ready to go and dig it out. Then he’ll look out his window and think “oh great, I’m glad I’ve got such great friends who brought my car home for me,” then he’ll spot the pretty extensive damage and swear never to leave his car stuck in the sand, in the hands of his drunk friends again.
The worst thing is that when we were stuck in mud in Laos (Blog Day 79 - Car incidents), we gave a bottle of whiskey to the group of locals who helped us out. We barely got a “thanks” for our efforts here.