Rally Day 9: Kurgan - Omsk

Trip Start Jul 09, 2013
Trip End Aug 29, 2013

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Flag of Russia  , Omskaya oblast,
Wednesday, July 24, 2013

We started out the day with a bit of a scare. When we got out to the cars in the morning we noticed a little puddle of black oil under the back end of the 80 series. Steve climbed underneath and spent a few minutes checking out the leak and trying to figure out what it was coming from. The oil was so spread out around the undercarriage that he couldn't find where it was coming from but he figured out it was from the rear differential. Since it's tough to find that fluid and the town we were in didn't look big enough to have any substantial auto repair shops we decided to push on to Omsk with our fingers crossed.

The most direct route between Kurgan and Omsk cuts through a northern section of Kazakhstan which, because of our vehicles is an issue. Instead of risking it through four borders we decided to take a few smaller roads that headed a bit further into Russia to avoid it all. The picture below is from one section of the road that had potholes 5-6 feet across and some about a foot deep. We had about 500km to do today do we were a little nervous that this smaller road would be this way the entire day. Thankfully the road improved to one of the best we've had so far.

Arriving in Omsk we quickly found a Toyota dealership before they closed and had our second fantastic experience with them in Russia. They immediately took the 80 series into the shop and figured out the problem. They didn't have the right part so they sent a driver to another part of town to find it and bring it back, assuring us they could finish repairs tonight. When the part came back they danced their way around the car while installing it, draining all the differential fluid and filling it up. The air conditioning repair in Volgograd was just as good of an experience as today and they everything for free both times! 18 year old American Land Cruisers have eternal warranty in Russia apparently.

While the repairs were being done we went across the street to a gigantic mall with an Ikea and Costco-style grocery store inside. We've been to a few of these places so far but today's mall was not at all what we expected to find in the middle of Siberia. There was even an indoor ice skating rink and a future Olympian 6 year old tearing it up on the ice. Although we've found a few Russian dishes that are pretty good, the Sbarro pizza and German sausages tonight at the food court was very welcome.

I keep thinking I'll run out of things to write about but the great thing about the trip is the unexpected fun and interesting things that happen every day. For instance, our hotel tonight looked like another night of Soviet weirdness but when we went in we found a very nice and interesting, one-armed Kazakh manager, a Brazilian engineer and an Austrian man that talked to us for a few hours. We learned that the Kazakh man used to be a manufacturing engineer in the Russian auto industry and that one of the Austrians is a fellow Rotarian from the Phnom Penh, Cambodia club. We swapped stories about Russian border experiences with the Brazilian and finally headed off to bed. We meet interesting people everyday and all of them have been amazed with the rally and love to go check out the cars and hear more about what the charity does.

With our freshly repaired rear differential were headed off for Novasabirsk tomorrow! I'm warming up to Russia and I took Siberia to make it happen.
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