July 22, 2013

Some time to reflect (finally)

From Volgograd to … Volgograd! (21/07/13):

Despite the long trip from London and treacherous roads of the previous few days the car was holding up quite nicely (or so I thought). This was about to change…

One and a half hours and about 97km from Volgograd the car suddenly gave up. No smoke, no strange noises, the engine was still working, but the damn thing refused to move. Sunday afternoon, in the middle of nowhere, a Spaniard incapable of speaking any Russian other than “da”, “nyet” or “spasiba”… this could be the script for Almodovar’s next movie!

So what do I do now?, for starters not to panic. You know when you embark into this challenge that this or worse is meant to happen, so this is a mere box ticking exercise.

1. – Attempting a MacGyver:
After opening the car bonnet and concluding that everything looked as it should (a different way of saying “I haven’t got a clue of what I’m supposed to see”), I decided to keep my chewing gum and paper clips for when really needed and call for professional help instead

2.- Trying the international emergency number (112):
<<Hello, you’ve called the emergency service, for fire related issues press 1, for police press 2, for gas services press 3, and for B-line related issues call ****>>
Ok let’s try 3… oh no the guy only speaks Russian!
Option 2… parusky, parusky (in an angry voice)
B-line number not working

3.- Aha, claiming on the Russian insurance bought at the border the day before!:
Good try, it’s Sunday afternoon :-)

4.- What about the fellows at RAC in England?, they surely must have a contact:
Ehhhhh, no they don’t and they couldn’t find it in Google either…

5.- Let’s call a local:
Nicolas, local entrepreneur and owner of Hotel Lukomorye where I spent the previous night, promptly offered to tow me back to Volgograd <<please wait in the car, I’ll be there in 1.5 hours>>. Good!, I had food, drinks, and a very good book to finish reading, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do it

The only issue is that despite my directions Nicolas drove 1.5 hours west rather than north and we only figured it out when I noticed he was not coming… To cut the long story short, a Russian couple stopped to help (first in over 2 hours) and after his own MacGyver attempt the guy called some friends and arranged a truck to pick me up and take me back to Volgograd.

News this morning were mixed… While the only part broken is the clutch and it should be inexpensive to fix, the official Fiat Service in Volgograd informed that they don’t have any spare clutches for a 1.2 litre Punto and that one would need to be shipped from Moscow delaying the car’s repair until Wednesday. As a consequence of this, and although I had already built in a safety buffer in my travel schedule, I’ve now decided to move part of the Kazakh route to Russia in order to regain some of the time lost.

Still Volgogrado

In the meantime I’ll be enjoying the company of my new friend Nicolas, visit Mamayev Kurgan tomorrow, and try some more local delicatessen.

PS. Donations to the GOSH and Cool Earth keep coming, thanks a lot for your continued support!

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