Mongol Rally: Fun With Camping And Driving in Kazakhstan

Mongol Rally: Fun With Camping And Driving in Kazakhstan

For some reason, Kazakhstan is the country we spent the most time in of the whole rally – about two weeks – yet there’s nothing that required us to be there for that long, except for the fact that we needed to cross a hell of a massive country from west to east.  Have you seen the size of Kazakhstan?!

Anyways… Naturally, when you’re crossing a country so bare and deserted, the most fun you have is actually on the road – especially if we are talking about Kazakhstan roads, which shouldn’t be cataloged as “driveable”.

These are just a few random moments that made Kazakhstan a fun, odd, and challenging part of the rally:

Rally day #23

Before entering Kazakhstan I was told that weed grows wild on the side of the road.  I didn’t want to believe it – or better yet, I thought it was an exaggeration – but it truly does!  This day was our first day of “ganja spotting”.  It was wild, fresh, and in bunches; for hundreds of kilometers.

I don’t smoke, but I can say that some of the other guys went a bit crazy, like kids at a candy store.  Every now and then, when they spotted the magical plant, they got off the car to do some “gardening” – even when “gardening” is against the law.

Later that day, we ended camping somewhere along the side of the road, and guess what? It was a ganja field! Let’s just say that it was a happy night for many. Some guys daydreamed of setting fire to the entire field to “enjoy the natural scent of the campsite”. They wished!

ganja in Kazakhstan
Some organic decoration for the car?

Rally day #24 

We saw on the map a road that was approximately 500km long, leading to the destination we planned to reach “in a timely manner.” Against the advice of a local who told us to instead take another road that totals 1000km to that same destination, we took the “short” road and brought road-hell upon ourselves.

Mongol Rally, Kazakhstan.
Asking directions to a truck driver to decide whether we should take the bad road or not. We decided not to in the end.

Not even 20km in, we realized why the locals advised us otherwise. The “road” was completely broken and full of giant potholes. It was possible to drive it, but it would have taken us about 3 days at our snail pace (to not break the car in pieces).

As soon as we realized that we would run out of petrol, food, water, and money along the way; we turned around with our heads down and took the much longer, yet faster, route. Well, it was a bit of an adventure trying to figure out the road and asking the locals whether we should move forward or go back!

Showing our Drama of Llama team flag on the road we dared not ride.bad road in Kazakhstan
Showing our Drama of Llama team flag on the road we dared not ride.  See the size of those potholes?!

Rally day #25

We spent the entire day trying to get to the Aral Sea to see the ships graveyard, yet we managed to get stuck on the way and accomplished nothing. Still, this was one of the best days in the rally. You can read a much more detailed version here.

Mongol Rally in Kazakhstan
Fun! Riding on the roof of the cars by the Aral Sea.

Rally day #26

On the way to Kyzylorda, we experience the fury of Kazakh roads. Turns out, Kazakhstan doesn’t know how to build a road sequentially. Instead, they build bits and pieces here and there all along the way, so you get on and off the road a gazillion times.

Every time you’re about to get back on the road, you raise your hopes for smoothly paved lanes, yet you end up cursing all Kazakhs because you are immediately thrown back into the rocky, bumpy, dusty, shaky, potholed, piece of strip they call a road.

This day we drove all the way until night in one of these undesirable roads until at one point we fell into a car-size pothole (not kidding). The car flew into the hole and jumped out of it on the opposite side like a wild bull. We stopped and immediately were engulfed in a thick cloud of dust.

After the dust cleared out, we noticed that luckily nothing too bad happened to the car, except for a slightly damaged suspension and some rubbing on the left rear tire. Nothing a mechanic could fix the next day. And so he did.

Rally day #31

The day we entered back to Kazakhstan from Kyrgyzstan, we had a major problem with The Great Danes rear suspension – it broke completely. With no suspension, their car bounced more than a rapper car at every small bump on the road.

We decided to push towards the nearest town, but we had to do it slow and carefully. The Danes were driving a Suzuki Ignis, which is notorious for having bad suspension and “bouncing off” the road. (really)

The plan of action? Lets put the lightest members of the convoy in the Danes car and drive slow – and the lightest one on the side with absolutely no suspension. Guess who won the spot? Yours truly!

We rode the bouncy, bouncy, bouncy car for about 30 km, doing our best to avoid any potholes and bumps. Still, in Kazakhstan, that’s almost impossible, so our ride challenged (and beat, in my opinion) all pimped rapper cars with the gangster bounce. (we could have made an awesome rapper video)

Once in town, we found a mechanic that botched the Danes suspension (for the gazillion time) in a few hours, and off we went to reach Almaty by the end of the day – still 250 km away.

At least we got to witness some beautiful canyons along the way at a slower than usual pace.

Rally day #33 

camping in Kazakhstan
One of our many camping spots in Kazakhstan.

We left Almaty in hopes of making a huge progress today to reach the border with Russia.  In the end, not a lot of progress was made, so we camped late at night somewhere close to Taldykorgan.

Since we set camp so late at night, we didn’t pay attention to where we camped, but we did make a proper campsite with a campfire and even a lot of partying till late at night.

In the morning we noticed we camped on a camel toe cemetery!

camel toes
The Camel toe cemetery… yes, there were only camel toes.

Rally day #34

Can you really have three flat tires in one day? Yes! When we convoyed with the Cads and Bounders from Almaty to Semey, we hit some relatively smooth and not so smooth roads for hundreds of kilometers. The convoy was composed by The Great Danes, The Expandabubbles, the Cads and Bounders, Shitting Thunder, and The Thunderyaks.

At one point in the convoy, we noticed the Cads and Bounders had stopped following us. What could have happened? We all turned around and after a while found them parked on the side of the road with a flat tire.

They had no spare tires since both of their spares were used previously, so The Thunderyaks loaned them one of their tires. No biggie…

That no biggie sort of turned into a big deal when in the span of a few hours they had not one, but two more flat tires! They borrowed one tire from The Great Danes and one from The Expandabubbles.

The funny thing is that by the end of the day, the Cads and Bounders were using tires from four different teams and all of them of different sizes. Way to go!

bad roads in Kazakhstan
You know what’s funny in this picture? The fact that the sign says there’s a 90kph speed limit on these road conditions!

Rally day #35

Pumping petrol into your car is no science; that is unless you’re using one of the old Kazakhstani pumps. Those pumps have no lever to activate the flow of petrol as you press the trigger. No… Those pumps have a single button you push to start the actual flow of petrol.

Without realizing this small big difference, James, our team member of The Thunderyaks, grabbed the nozzle from the pump and pushed the button before placing the nozzle in the tank. Unconsciously, he was pointing the nozzle towards the left side of the car, which had the passenger door open.

The button was pushed and all hell broke loose. Petrol flew inside the car like a fountain. It bathed the whole left side of the car and soaked James hands and feet.

Luckily I was sitting on the back seat with the window closed, but I could see how the petrol flowed down the window like a waterfall.

Oh… the smell of petrol we had to endure from that point on… For a few hours, though.  It was immediately decided that no one could smoke in the car anymore (in the time being, at least).

Oh, Kazakhstan, you are so full of nothing but we got countless, amazing memories with you!


Read the next post about our Mongol Rally experience!


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10 thoughts on “Mongol Rally: Fun With Camping And Driving in Kazakhstan”

  1. Between camping on camel toes, busted up roads, and three flat tires, sounds like a road trip through Kazakhstan is lovely. The only time I ever had three flat tires in a day was when my buddy and I drove across New Zealand. We discovered that our axel was bent, causing us to wear out the tires unevenly. It was my friend’s car and he thought that it would be less expensive to just replace tires than to fix an axel. I think his math was off.

    1. hahaha… I’m not sure lovely is the best word for a road trip through Kazakhstan, but interesting and unexpected… that for sure it is!!
      Yikes, we sort of had that problem too with the uneven rubbing of the tires… we too had to replace them, otherwise they would have just popped eventually.

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