On Tuesday 1 July we cross into Kyrgyzstan and will be there for about 2 weeks. We are unsure of how often we will be able to access the internet as we will be camping in remote parts for most of the time.
You will be able to pinpoint where we are by going to the Delorme InReach GPS site, as described in the page about the "eye in the sky". ie https://share.delorme.com/IANNeuss#, but there may not be any new posts on this blog until we get to Bishkek or Almaty.
You may be able to see the map of our planned trip here
Between Aktal and Kochkor we will be camping at the lake shown, Song-Kul, for about 3 nights. The route on the map shows us missing the lake, but that's not the plan.
Monday 30 June 2014
The Qiemo museum had photos and listed local district mountain and desert animals to include wolf, snow leopard, camel, bear, ibex, lynx, mole, leopard, boar, eagle, owl and doves. We had seen what we thought must have been moles on the Tibetan Plateau. Any others seemed thin on the ground.
Although the continuum of adventure is fantastic I think the most pleasure I have had to date is seeing a near instant sequence of expression on the faces of young kids from; true disbelief, amazement, repeated disbelief and then shear delight when they see the old cars appear in their village. The adults have equal pleasure but are not quite as expressive until they see the wooden spoked wheels which they always tap, feel, then laugh and give a thumbs up.
No doubt there are petrol head vintage blog followers who are interested in the vehicles mechanical progress and would like some more detail. My conspicuous absence from blogging may reflect that I have been attending to things mechanical and not literal. So an attempt to satisfy those is made here. Both Dodge and Whippet continue to continue on and seem to be improving with every mile possibly because we have now slowed the pace by around 5 mph to around 35, this requires less fuel, less heat and not much more overall time.
An initial search in Xichang found a mechanical shop who were unwilling to do the work but sold us a special copper coat high temperauture head gasket spray, something I had not seen before and but they strongly recommended. So the head was removed again to find a small crack had also developed in the block from the water way, which I drilled to stop it propagating further. We annealed an old copper gasket on the primus stove in the hotel car park and torqued the head down again using copper coat gasket cement to 65ft/lbs. This did not fix it to my satisfaction so we by-passed the mechanical work shop and went to the machine shop directly.
These guys were well fitted out with mills, lathes, presses and most importantly, experience. They also had a mechanical and spray shop next door where I did the work with assistance from the local boys. I cannot say I enjoyed the work but I did enjoy working with the enthusiastic Chinese lads. The Whippet suffered the indignity of being towed through a busy town by the Toyota to this shop. On arrival the head mechanic recommended patching the block by cold welding a thickness of shim metal over the depression in the block in stages which we ground down slowly by hand with a grinding wheel. This I had never seen before but it seemed plausible. We rubbed in the valves on two and three, and had the radiator flushed and reassembled. I poured in my supply of new oil, only to find gas still in the coolant. Not too happy I may say. We then torqued the head down to 50 ft/lbs and stripped two threads in the block. We removed the head once again and used the 7/16 helicoils and new set of head bolts I had brought with me. Torqued the head down to 70ft/lds and, at last, no gas in the exhaust.
On a rigorous test drive with my delighted Chinese offsider in the passenger seat we found still too much heat but basically acceptable if not driven at full throttle even on this quite hot day. I retarded the ignition somewhat although the engine was not pinging this seemed to help too. We had only flushed the radiator as I would not let them strip the top tank off and rod it, and was still quite concerned about the stop leak (I had put in in Australia) stopping flow in the radiator.
After dropping down into the Taklimakan some 2000m we have reduced speed and the whippet is returning 7kms /lt which I think is consistent with what this car can do. Unfortunately I think I can hear a big end knocking at low revs and the engine is using a pint of oil a day on the long runs across the desert and some blow-by is evident in the breather.
We have now run out of the Penrite 40-70W oil and have changed over to a synthetic 20-50W, oil pressure is still good at 30psi, but the knock still( just) audible, and we will see what the usage is like (just put in a Wynnns product) climbing out of China tomorrow. The water pump requires a tighten every day or so but all else is fine, gear oil still fresh (now nearly 6000mls travelled) diff oil black but full, rear uni will not hold oil but quiet and cool running, front uni greased, thrust bearing talks occasionally, the timing chain is just audible. So lets hope the next 500mls are as uneventful mechanically as the last.
I think everyone enjoys driving the little car which responds well when required to keep up with the better pulling power of the Big Dodge and handles well on the tight steep roads.
Climbs in a day over 3000m : 2
Distance travelled to 1 July : 11,000km (Ed. note: this is the Toyota's total; due to crew slackness there is no logbook evidence to credit Horace and Stanley with more than an estimated 9000km)
Breakages : 2 rear wheel bearings
Repairs : footbrake linings renewed
Longest day : 580km
Longest tunnel: 10.4 km
Longest descent : 45 km at 3.4 degrees including a circular tunnel then on bridges and road viaduct two lanes each way.
Biggest crowd puller : Hotan swarm and wooden wheels
Highest speed : 80 km/hr (downhill)
Punctures : 0
Dings: 1 - backed in to a wall , pushed a taxi
Narrow escapes : 100's in traffic at intersections when its a relative free-for-all from all directions.
Rewards : new points
Petroleum usage : about 7km/Lt
Coldest day : Snow on the Tibetan plateau and in Hexian corridor pass and south of Dunhuang
Best rain : Tropical downpour in Lao for 50km.
Drinks : China 93 octane fuel, clean and readily available.
Most Scenic spot : Lake Lugu
Best Lunch spot : smoked pork n noodles
We were delayed by police because of high winds and a sandstorm in a mountain pass ahead. Trucks with wide and wider, or long and longer loads were also halted.
After an hour and a half we were all allowed to depart. Ever tried to beat 50 semis up a hill? We decided to go last. A further steady climb to 3600m, then the wind came up, or we arrived at the scene of the sandstorm, so we put the curtains up on the offside of each of the cars and continued to crawl up the hill. Then a long descent through gorges to 1200m, followed by a straight flat drive of 150km.
Ian, Michael, John
All this time people were walking past ignoring what was happening while another goat that was tethered to a nearly pole was bleating very loudly; understandable, having witnessed his own fate. It sure is a different world here.
Note his audience of 3 out of a possible 200 or more. Perhaps it says something about the tuning of the Uke, or is it something else?
Excuse the photo quality. I only had my phone with me that late in the evening.
If you would like to brush up on your steps look HERE
Friday 27 June 2014
Thursday 26 June 2014
Wednesday 25 June 2014
Huatugou looks like a desert garrison town, but more recently an oil town. Many of the men on the street wore the red or black work gear of the Sinopec oil company, and many were quite threatening, wanting to shake hands, take photos, offer us a drink or even have their photos taken with us. Just as well the police were around.
Tuesday 24 June 2014
I'm sure she pulled the strings to suit the audience as one was about a couple caught in bed by someone who was very stern and wielding a sword. I think she was great and paid for Bill to see if he was as thrilled.
Monday 23 June 2014
But it’s summer, with a grey, overcast sky and a cool breeze after a big storm last night. One town had a flooded street. The highway is elevated about a metre above the surrounding plains, but the avenue poplars were standing in water alongside. Eventually all traffic stopped. People had left their cars and were wandering in the desert (prospecting for jade?), and some cars were a couple of hundred metres away from the road. Hundreds of cars, trucks and buses were held up in each direction as heavy machines pushed half a metre of mud off the road. Time to try out the off-roader -- a bit of Paris-Dakkar. The Toyota’s 4WD got us through the greasy former waterways, but several adventurous drivers were sunk. The classic cars, further back, claim to have negotiated the desert. These claims are unconfirmed by photographic evidence, though will no doubt be trumpeted in the corporate media. Chinese truck drivers are very skilful, but impatient. If you want a break in traffic to get back on the road, follow one of them.