As I set up my tent the words of the Kazakh man at the gas station (see Day 13 post) were ringing in my ears: “And bandits at night.” Yes. Kazakhstani bandits. With guns.
This was and is part of the charm of the Mongol Rally, the 10,000-mile road trip from Britain to Ulan Bator, Mongolia, on which my co-driver, Steve Priovolos, and I departed two weeks ago. We had already made it farther than last year, when we were T-boned on Day 8 on a Romanian road and our car destroyed.
Now we were facing another kind of destruction. We had no choice but to stay in the desert; the road was impassable at night. It was practically impassable during the day. We decided to drive off into the desert as far away from the road as we could as a safety measure against the bandits.
When the sun finally dipped below the horizon, we settled in for the night, hoping the bandits wouldn’t find our little home. But we were also philosophical: If they were going to get us, then they would get us.
Morning broke. We survived the night unscathed. This was a good thing. Unfortunately what was not such a good thing was the road, which just kept getting worse. We drove nine more hours and eventually found our way through all the potholes.
Then something magical happened.
As we entered the city of Aktau in western Kazakhstan, we stumbled onto a Marriott hotel. This opportunity was just too good to pass up. Although a little pricey it was most definitely worth it. And we’re assuming there won’t be any bandits staying here. Pure bliss.