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Sad Face, DNF, Final Blog for this Trip.

Sadly our trip has come to an end! But more about that later.

In Osh we collected our tyres. Adrain from ROARR had arranged to get them to Osh for us to collect from Evgeniy his contact for the rally in the Stan’s. We strapped the tyres on and headed towards Sary Tash ready for our border crossing into Tajikistan and the Parmir Highway the next day.

All afternoon we tossed up between homestay or camping for the night.  Eventually camping won out, so we camped beside a river for the night with most wonderfull colourful mountain setting.

The next morning was another clear crisp morning with water bottles frozen and frost on the car.

After breakfast we headed off for Tajikistan with great excitement. This all came to an end about 25k’s up the road with a death-rattle from the engine bay and the cabin filling with smoke and the engine stopping as soon as the clutch was pressed. Opening the bonnet told us nothing special.

Pressing the starter the engine bursts back to life, a little rough but running fairly nicely. However the engine breather is puffing out massive amounts of smoke. This can only be caused by either a hole in the piston or major ring failure. Our only option was to call our contact from yesterday, Evgeniy.

Evgeniy was great in our hour of need as he had a flatbed truck on the way in and hour to collect Penny and he was on his way in his VW Touareg to collect us.

We broke down about 1/2 k from a village and in no time a young boy was soon with us. In not much more time 4 more kids arrived with 2 donkeys to join us and most stayed the 4 hours until we were collected. One boy even went back to his house and got the wiring diagram form his dad’s truck to try and help us fix Penny plus mimed that a welder was available in town.

Julie was knitting to pass the time which soon turned into knitting lessons for the whole group with them all showing great interest. This also lead to the kids wearing home beanies that Julie had been knitting while waiting for meals on the trip.

 Penny arrived back in Osh just on dark so we left thinking of our options until the next morning.

Saturday morning I was at the workshop as soon as it opened to get things sorted. We did a compression test which confirmed my suspicions as we had no compression at all in No4. Sticking a camera in the plug hole we could see a lot of bore damage.

Option 1: Fix the piston and bore here. Not viable as we would take a 7 to 10 days to complete and we would run out of time to exit Russia as we were already pushed for time getting out of Russia due to the delays in Bangkok.

Option 2: Pull the top and bottom off the engine, remove the failed piston and drive a 3 cylinder car the rest of the way.  Gave it some thought and would have been the preferred option if on a organised rally with a defiant final date and support should we have more trouble. With a lot of remote desert to cross yet and some big days driving to get out of Russia in time, this was not great option.

Option 3: Arrange to ship the car back to Brisbane from Bishkek through Almaty.

Option 3 was chosen with a lot of sad faces and heavy hearts as this was the first time we have had DNF for a trip in Penny. We have had a fantastic time so far and had already decided that we need to come back and spend a lot more time in the Stan’s that we had planned so the car is going back to home to be fixed properly then we will come back here as soon as we can fit it in.

When Penny eventually arrives back home we will try and sort out what went wrong and make sure that it never happens again so we can travel relaxed next time.

So Tuesday after all our car stuff is sorted, Evgeniy is driving Julie and I the 600 k’s to Bishkek to fly home via Dubai on Wednesday.

To anyone who isn’t on Julies list you can see her posts and photos at her journal page here

If you have not seen all of my posts there can be viewed at

Thank you all for following and I hope you enjoyed coming along for the trip with us both. We will keep you posted with our plans for the future.

Kashgar to Osh.

Our 4 days in Kashgar was spent wandering the Markets, doing a bit of service work, catching up on Blogs and resting ready for the next stage in the Stans.

The highlight of all the markets was the Sunday livestock market on the outskirts of Kashgar and is labeled the biggest livestock market in China.It is still trading in the same fashion as years ago and has great butchers and stalls cooking sheep in all forms.

One of the funniest sites was the couple that had purchased a sheep I guess for the pot, and then tied its feet up and put it on the back seat of a little car like a Ford Festiva.

We said goodbyes to our Tibetan guide Danzeng of the last 25 days, and our driver Mr Goo who had been with us since we entered China 31 days ago in Mohan. Both of which were absolutely fantastic in looking after us, always ensuring the formalities were completed and  we had nice meals and to put our heads down each night.

 A local Guide escorted us through all the formalities to the Irkeshtam border crossing into Kyrgyzstan. After all the border paperwork was completed we headed off on our own to Osh for the night stop in where we had arranged to collect 2 spare tyres the next morning to get us through the rest of the trip.

Finding our hotel became a bit of a challenge at 8.30 in the dark. This was solved when we ended in a dead end street and asking some locals who understood no english other then the name of the hotel. One man eventually climbed on the running board and held on to the roll bar and directed us the 2 k’s to our hotel. As we turned into the entrance he stepped off saying goodbye and vanished into the night to walk back to his house before we had a chance to offer any thanks.

When We thought Tibet Couldn’t Get Any Better.

OMG or OMB if in Tibet the last three days seem to make the earlier days pale into small memories. Maybe because they fresh in my mind. When people have asked me some of the greats places I have driven the answer was always The Colorado Plateau in the US, the Blue  Nile Gorge in Ethiopia and the Parmir river along the Afghan Border in Tajikistan. The top of my list will now be across Tibet on the 318 and the 219 with the western end of the 219 the icing on the cake.

Well back to leaving Zanda. The morning started fresh at about -2 with us driving out of the earth forest for about 30 k’s with the sun rising to highlight the cliffs, then to climb over two 5300m ranges on new road to make our way back on to the 219 past frozen creeks and lots of grazing Antelope in -12 as we summited the passes.

Back on the 219 it was quite surreal as we drove along the valleys at 4000 metres in brilliant sunshine while we watched the clouds form and the snow fall on the ranges either side of us all afternoon. Luckily our only afternoon pass was just below the snow line so only about 40 flakes on the screen as we topped the pass.

We stoped off and on that day with dirty spark plugs dos we thought, only to solve the problem fully when we decide to clean the rotor button and Distributor cap.

It was on to Rutog at 4200 metres for the night in an average hotel that was very aged and dilapidated, at least the power stayed on all night and the electric blankets worked. it was funny when we checked in we were all give extra donna’s since there was only the four of us for the night, it wasn’t worth starting the central heating.

We left Rutog at -12 in the morning to drive past a lake that is shared across the border with India and 580 k’s to do to a dump of a hotel in a little town half way to Kashgar. The only positive about the hotel was it had a bed, toilet without a seat and working electric blankets  but no shower or hot water. LOL. We slept well so all is fine.

300 k’s of the drive that day was above 4900 metres  and past the most vivid blue lake I have ever seen under the clearest and brightest blue sky you could ever wish for. All in all just a great days driving even though it was still -6 at 3pm in the afternoon and only just got + as we entered Sogot for the night stop at 3700 metres

We have been well in to the rain shadow of the Himalayas for the last 2 days with the only moisture being received in this area from winter snow storms that come in from the north west.

An early cold start on Friday with 600 K’s to Kashgar was rewarded with a few more big passes to take us off the Tibetean plateau and down to the plains with the last pass being the the best pass for the trip although only 3500 metres high, For his last pass the road was literally clinging to the sides of the mountain all the way up. many places it was losing it grip and starting to head downhill onto the road below. The only reassurance for driving was that the trucks were a lot heavier than us and it dry. .After the pass we slowly exited the mountain on to the plans for the 230 k’s of motorway through farming and a huge desert greening exercise to get us in to Kashgar at 10.00pm.

Till next time it off to bed soon ready to exit China in the morning, Kashgar will be the next post when I get a chance and some Internet.

Travelling Past Long Gone Civilisations.

We left our overnight stop after our day at Everest to join the 219 and head into western Tibet on route to Kashgar.

We were catching good views of Everest early in the day till we had our last sighting in the rear view mirror.

That days drive was through high valleys most of the way with gentle passes to take us into the next valley,

All through these valleys were remnants of very old mud and stone housing from times long long past. We asked our guide about the age and all he could tell us was centuries ago with no number on the Centuries.

The last 90k into Saga was on a brand new pavement road only just completed. We are still trying to work out how you could get such a rough finish on the new road as we could only do about 60 kph for the first 20k’s until a better operator must has taken over the machine so all was good till the last 5k into town that was an unserviced detour so that was a 15kph trip.

Saga to Darchen in the shadows of Mt Kailash was our longest drive for the trip to date but was quite easy on all of us as we drove the 219 all the way through high valleys at 4000 metres with gentle passes up to 5140 metres. We detoured in to Lake Manasarovar as it and Mt Kailash are both holy sites to the Bon, Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism religions. We only caught a glimpse of Mt Kailash in between the cloud that was engulfing it that afternoon.

All through the drive we passed Nomads with herds of sheep and yaks grazing all these high pastures. with some valley sections being extremely lush with many herds of livestock and the next being so barren  there was almost nothing to graze on.

That night we elected to stay on one of the cheaper hotels instead of the flash place across the road. We even paid extra for a room with central heating, what a joke that turned out to be, because at midnight their generator was turned off so the central heating as well as the electric blanket stopped working to leave us both a little cold and looking for more bedding at 1am.

After leaving Darchen that morning we turned off the 219 to go to Zanda and the Earth Forest with a climb to 5170 and across the top of some very high country where we saw our first Tibetan Antelope and Deer for the trip.

We had no idea what an Earth Forest was until we started to descend and caught sight of what we were entering. An Earth Forest in China is an area of eroded  clay and sand deposit formed in an ancient lake over the last 2 to 20 million years. None of the formations are actually rock just compressed sand and river stone in varying layers. a lot of the formation reminded us both of giant dribble castles we used to make at the beach with the Kids.

The Rest day in Zanda started with a trip to the remains of Guge Kingdom  built into the walls of part of the canyon and was inhabited from the 10th to the 17th century with murals on walls in Temples still intact.  I would like to say I climbed to the top but alas I only made it about a third of the way up before turning back.

That afternoon we spent giving Penny some love and attention, which involved sorting the lights properly this time after a slack attempt a few days ago in Lhasa. Julie found the source of a rattle we have had underneath that turned out to be a cracked splash guard for the Alternator. While working on the car we had an audience of locals watching who were staying at the same hotel. I climbed out from under the car as Julie was showing them what was wrong. They took the part and in no time it was back welded up with out us even asking so that annoying rattle is gone.

Every where we traveled in Tibet Yak poo and firewood was being stockpiled on tops of fences and houses ready for fires fuel in winter.

Our time in Zanda at 3740 metres was a reprieve from sleeping at above 4300 meters for previous 5 nights.

“So until next time thank for watching.”