Back on the Road after Covid (Where are We – Uzbekistan 3)

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After more than a year in the Netherlands due to covid, we are back on the road. Here’s a short update on what we’ve been doing and what we are going to do.

How did we get back on the road?

A lot of overlanders have been having headaches from bureaucratic rigmaroles. Many left for their homecountry when covid spread across the world, leaving the vehicle behind. But the stay of a temporarily imported vehicle is always limited.

For us this was no different. Our Land Cruiser stood in Kazachstan. Fortunately the country is part of a bigger customs union with Russian and Kyrgyzstan (among others), which allows the vehicle to stay a full year. That’s quite a luxury in Temporary Import Document bureaucracies.

Due to covid, this customs union extended the expire date several times throughout 2020. This meant no worries until March 21 , 2021.

Meanwhile we wrote our first book, in Dutch – Van het pad af. Find it here. Working on the English version as we speak.

As the date drew closer, we hoped there would be another extension. April is a tad early to travel (cold, late winter season), Kazachstan required a visa until May 1, and my (Karin-Marijke’s) dearest aunt was in the last phase of her life and so I wasn’t going anywhere but, with my family, took care of her full time until she passed away.

Coen contacted embassies, travel agencies, visa offices, including in Kazachstan but to no avail. No extension had been granted and we didn’t want to risk it. Overstaying can cost you a fine but also the confiscation of the vehicle. We take our risks during our travel but this is never one of them. Our Land Cruiser has never overstayed during our 18 years on the road.

It was a bit of stress. When Coen applied for his visa, we learned there were public holidays and four days of closure of all public services. Then there was the mandatory pcr test – a 150 whooping euros for a commercial enterprise for doing something our government does too (for free) but without supplying the ‘certificate’, a simple print out.
Covid is ruining lives; it’s also making a number of people very, very rich.

Anyway, that’s the madness of the world we live in today.

Coen flew out in time and recovered the Land Cruiser. A separate blog post or article will follow on how he found the car after a year in an open-air parking lot in Almaty (our followers on Facebook and Instagram saw his postings on this already) and tried to start it after it has been sitting idle for 15 months with the batteries left to fend for themselves during two harsh winters.

Then there was the long awaited appointment at the ARB office in Almaty. Coen had to time everything to the minute between the four-day national holiday, the weekend, the upcoming expiration of the car papers and the drive to the border to squeeze in a critical Old Man Emu suspension installment. Courtesy of ARB Europe, who have been so generous to sponsor the complete setup for our Land Cruiser.

Uzbekistan

Coen crossed into Uzbekistan and worked on the Land Cruiser for five weeks before I followed him. His list of never ending small chores included a broken hinge of the front windshield, a crushed body support and various other works.

This meant he was going to see his friend Deniz and colleagues at Asia Auto Centre again. He also installed the aviation sun visors sent to us by Rosen Sunvisor Systems and the Universal Joints sent to us by Euro4x4Parts.

We Time

More than a year full-time in the company of others and subsequently six weeks apart – we were ready for some ‘we’ time! Where to do this better than in the mountains, far away from busy city life in Tashkent…

Brilliant as we are in our planning, we left at the start of a four-day public holiday (end of Ramadan) and thus Tashkent left the hot city and headed for the mountains! 🙂

It did lead to some great meetings with wonderful people so no complaints. The Uzbek people are the kindest and politest (all ask permission to take a photo from our Land Cruiser).

And we had time for a lot of good reading about adventurous spirits – Miriam Lancewood, Alice Morrison and thanks to a great article on Expedition Portal (thanks, Ashley Giordano for the tip) I found the book A Cruel Way to Afghanistan by two courageous women.

Recommended Adventure Books

(click on the images to learn more)

Products from Amazon

What’s Next?

To be honest, we really don’t know. Coen can renew his Uzbek visa one more time as far as we know and after three months the Land Cruiser has to leave the country. However:

  • Kazachstan now has extended his mandatory visa procedure until the end of the year. We can’t apply for it here in Tashkent.
  • Tajikistan – Uzbek land borders are closed.
  • Kyrgyzstan – Uzbek land borders are closed except for some 30+ nationalities, unfortunately Dutch can’t cross.

Meanwhile temperatures are rising here. Still very doable but we don’t want to be hanging around in Uzbekistan during summer with temps going up to the 40s-50s (celsius).

So a couple of options:

  • Find a solution for the car papers and fly out to do some hiking?
  • Find a solution in the bureaucratic system so we will be able to cross into Kyrgyzstan with our vehicle (our #1 choice)?

And a note from Coen about the gearbox:

And then there is the failing gearbox issue that needs to be addressed. The lever gets stuck in third gear. It seems the synchronizer ring is worn. Not quite sure how to tackle that one. As we are sure that parts are non-existing in this part of the world, and in order to asses which specific parts we need, we do need to immobilize the Land Cruiser for the duration of the work and the parts getting to us. Any hints and tips are welcome.

For now we’re enjoying Tashkent. Good pilav (‘plov’) and Korean and Turkish food, nice place to stay at the Art Hostel, and meeting great people – locals and foreigners alike.

Stay tuned and do let us know how you are faring these days… The comment section is right below. 🙂

Best,

Karin-Marijke & Coen

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