We were ready to leave Almaty - having been helped a lot by Den and his bike workshop (www.2wheels.kz) as well as Fedor giving a hand with the front tyre - thanks guys.
Two battered looking cars pulled up at the hostel, Mongol Rally competitors, the onlookers who were watching in fascination as I serviced Thelma looked up and asked me about the cars, they were frankly astounded to hear that the cars were taking part in a race -
"But it's a Fiat Uno" they spluttered (or at least the equivalent in Russian), I pointed out that yes, it's not just about winning but having fun, a bit of an alien concept and they still couldn't believe it was true.
The cars were an Italian and a Basque team, and they were very helpful with our tyre- in fact so helpful that they managed to destroy two foot pumps in their attempt to help out. Sorry to Team GB about your pump- Halford's finest I believe.
The winds were gusting strongly as we crossed the steppes, with lots of tumbleweed blowing across the road, looking more like a cowboy western every day. Our first night out of Almaty, Annie was keen not to camp, mainly because of the strong winds and we managed to negotiate the use of a yurt. Not quite the romantic, out in the wilds surrounded by horses image that people might have of them as this one was right next to a cafe car park on the main road heading north- but it was bliss, lots of room for the two of us, though there was no guarantee that it doesn't act as a truckers' dorm and so we prepared for unwanted late night guests by piling our luggage against the non-locking door.
The next morning we found that we had a couple of problems, firstly with a battery that wouldn't start the bike, a plainclothes policeman was our main helper as we attempted to use our hairdryer type cables to get a jump start from a car, which helped a bit but we ended up with push-starting Thelma.
At the same time the rubber gaiter on the shaft had split again and so we headed to Taldqorghan, the nearest big town where we were lucky enough to meet Sergei Epinger and his son Marc. They are German and so could communicate with us - an amusing scenario for those who know how useless my German language skills are. But, I got my message across and after a couple of phone calls, Sergei's friend - Andre (another German speaker) arrived, he rides a motorbike and expertly replaced the gaiter on Thelma.
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