In Uzbekistan, it's easy to get money exchanged, even when the banks… (Leon Logothetis )
When you jump for joy, beware that no one moves the ground from beneath your feet.
Friday was supposed to be my day of calmness. I am in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and my hotel room was going to be my sanctuary; the small restaurant downstairs my only detour from bed. On Saturday, we’ll be back on the road to Ulan Bator, the destination for all of us who are participating in the Mongol Rally, 10,000 miles of automotive mayhem.
As the day began, everything was going according to plan. I ate four bowls of cereal, six croissants, three plates of fruit and a jug of orange juice. That’s what happens when you survive on almonds and bread and melons, which is what we’ve been doing the last few days.
After my feast, I planned to sleep all day. But it wasn’t to be. Steve Priovolos, my co-driver, told me there seemed to be a leak under the car. This meant our third trip to the mechanic was imminent. The leak was coming from the transmission fluid box under the car — and that wasn’t the only problem the mechanic found. In fact, his last advice to us was this: “Car is old. Get new one.” Unfortunately not an option.
Once we left the garage, it was time for a wild goose chase for gas. The city is having a gas shortage. We found a station with gas, but we didn’t have Uzbekistani money, and they didn’t take dollars, although we’d been assured they would. The banks were closed. What to do? Go rogue. We went to an illegal money trader in the bazaar and returned to the station flush with cash.
We finally arrived back at the hotel about 10 p.m. On Saturday, we’ll cross yet another border, known for corruption, irregularity and delays. That’s on a good day. More later.