Friday, 11 July 2014

Tash Rabat stories: This could only happen in Kyrgyzstan, by Rex Hewett

Tuesday 1 July, Dateline Kyrgyzstan.

The Whippet seemed to enjoy the cold clean Kyrgyzstan air and Bill and I headed off like bats out of hell after the border. Forgetting that we had agreed to drive to Tash Rabat, and missing the half metre high sign, we finished up lost, and in the well-intentioned hands of a couple of locals in a well worn late '80's Audi (the car of choice here). Handshakes were exchanged plus the occasional shot of Stollie. Remember that this was in our first few hours in Kyrgyzstan and we had yet to purchase Kyrgyz SIM cards, so no phone contact.

Eventually we set off back to the last checkpoint with less than 4 litres to spare in the tank. Soldiers appeared from everywhere and in broken English explained that the Toyota and Dodge had set off down a side road to squat in a Yurt near the original Silk Road gateway (the caravanserai).

Two young soldiers, Bukyt & Syrgar (pronounced, and always fondly remembered, as Bucket and Sugar), kindly agreed to drive us to Tash Rabat, leaving the Whippet in the secure hands of the remaining 20+ checkpoint guards. In fading light we set off on a 50km trip into the unknown. Sitting in the rear seat we noticed the fuel gauge on empty as Bukyt pressed pedal to metal in his Nissan Bluebird. Just before the turn-off to Tash Rabat, Bukyt spotted the guage and phoned a friend who duly appeared in an old Lada 10 km further on and frantic petrol siphoning began.

With an additional 10 litres on board we resumed the search, arriving at the Tash Rabat valley in darkness at around 11 pm. A fruitless search through the first Yurt camp left us even more fearful that we may have to share quarters with our second best soldier friends. Finally Syrgar was inspired and directed Bukyt to drive to a small caravan. Awakening a soldier friend Syrgar kept repeating 'white Toyota Landcruiser'. Finally the friend connected 'yes I saw white Toyota Landcruiser at my friends Yurt camp today'.

So off we go again, this time testing the waterproofing on the Nissan as it careered through streams and paddocks into yet another Yurt camp. Success at last -- the white Landcruiser and 1920 Dodge sitting amongst the Yurts.

Hugs and congratulations with our new mates (our old ones didn't even wake to welcome us), and the wonderful Yurt owner offered a light meal and tea in solace. Much to their delight Bukyt & Syrgar secured 10 litres of fuel, barely enough to make it back to the border gate, and Bill and I secured a warm Yurt bed for the night and reunion with the team next morning. Next day, as we collected the Whippet from the checkpoint, the story had spread and cameras recorded the legend.

Rex Hewett


  1. Well done to the whippet and dodge making it all the way to Almaty. From bondi and Perth they have shown up more favored forms of transport. Safe journey home. Nigel McCombe

  2. Nissan bluebird4x4 to the rescue! I used to drive one of those. Great adventure gentlemen. I've so enjoyed your posts. But where are some insights from Mr Gordon?


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