The day after our car crash we woke up to some odd news. First thing in the morning we met with Zaur, who passed by the hotel to see how we were doing and to help us move forward, depending on our decision.
The odd news: we were going to be featured in the local newspaper of Prokhladny! Like I mentioned in the previous post, we were sort of a freak show in this small town. Foreigners don’t tend to visit it, much less crash in it, and even less while doing an international rally.
So, for about an hour we were interviewed about our experience in the rally, Russia, and our travels in general.
After that, we put in motion the plan we discussed as a team the night before. We would take a bus to Astrakhan, about 12 hours away, to meet with other ralliers and see if we could hitchhike the rest of the rally with them.
Before leaving, we gave Zaur a few small presents we had with us; and without expecting it, he rewarded us with a bottle of good quality vodka.
Astrakhan is the border town between Russia and Kazakhstan. We knew many rally teams would be passing through it in the next couple days since it is part of one of the popular routes in the rally. This was our best chance to continue.
We felt a bit weird doing this since we all felt like a pest, bothering other teams and hindering their adventure.
Our spirit was high still, so we joked along the way on how we went from being The Drama of Llama to No Llama, More Drama. Cheeky, eh?
After the long, uneventful bus ride (well, we played a few card games for vodka shots!), we arrived in Astrakhan and after a few hours of waiting we met with three teams: The Thunderyaks, The Cads and Bounders, and Team Turnagain (also known as the Alaskan Pandas).
Upon meeting, all team members were more than welcoming to us and told us they would be more than willing to help as much as they could. We could ride with them, at least until some point in Kazakhstan.
Stephen, Alex, and I knew that our best chances of continuing the rally would be by splitting the team and ride on different cars, different routes.
We didn’t want to split, but we promised that no matter what would happen, we would all meet at the finish line in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
Before getting into the details of who goes where and how, we decided to have a chilled night with our new friends by partying in the apartment we rented all together (a total of 6 teams).
A local Russian guy named Igor, who shined by his hospitality and sense of humor, served as our host by cooking a traditional Russian meal.
I tell you, Russians have been more than hospitable to us (both Igor and everyone related to the crash).
That night was a great way to meet all the ralliers who would be our rescuers.
The following morning we sorted out the temporary plan. All three of us -Alex, Stephen, and I- would ride with The Thunderyaks until Atyrau – the first town in Kazakhstan. In order to fit in their car, Sophie and Raju (of The Thunderyaks) would ride with other teams in the convoy.
As I also mentioned in the previous post, we were a bit scared of our border crossing out of Russia since we were leaving without our car (which is not permitted by law). Luckily, we blended well with the other teams and nothing was asked from us (not even the official paperwork we had) nor we had any problems.
While on our way to Kazakhstan, we got to know the other two Thunderyaks team members; Pav and James.
The following morning was the “big decision” day. How can we continue? The Thunderyaks can’t take all three of us. They are 4 members and they can fit a maximum of 5 in their Renault Kangoo (and that’s pushing the comfort level).
The Cads and Bounders are 3 members but they can only fit one more (and again, pushing the limit). Team Turnagain, The Elephants, and Shitting Thunder had no space but could help by carrying some baggage.
After a long discussion, it was decided that Sophie would split temporarily from The Thunderyaks to take a different route with The Elephants. Alex and I would go with The Thunderyaks for as far as we could, and Stephen would go with the Cads and Bounders on a similar route, but with a different schedule.
The llamas were split for the first time.
For a few days, Alex and I rode together until we met From Denmark to Mongolia Team on the way to the Aral Sea. By the way, we decided to change their name to The Great Danes (and they are happy with it).
It was at that point that all three llamas split: I would “unofficially become” a Thunderyak, Alex a Great Dane, and Stephen a Cad and Bounder.
Even though we are riding in separate cars, we are all taking similar routes and convoying together for as much as we could, so it felt like the team was still together.
The only member that had been away the longest was Stephen, which stayed behind with The Cads and Bounders as the other teams crossed to Kyrgyzstan. But still, we managed to meet again and up to this day, we are all convoying and hoping to finish together in Ulaanbaatar, even if in different cars.
The llamas still live, and the adventure will continue. Now even better than before!
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