On Day 11, we crossed the border into Russia, heading for the Altai Republic and Aya. We cleared immigration and went to Customs, where they were searching the cars. Java's boot was open and our vehicle spill kit was on top, which included a quart-size clear baggy with green crystals.
There was lots of commotion, and the drug-sniffing dogs were all over us and in the car. The agents wanted Java emptied. We unloaded, feeling a little Breaking Bad, and didn't even want to make eye contact with each other.
Melvin from the car shipping company spotted this and headed over. He asked if he could put some of the crystals on our oil that had leaked out. That gave us all a big chuckle, and we were allowed to reload the car and head toward the Russian border... leaving the spill kit with the border agents.
We kept Java going long enough to cross the Russian border with no other fanfare and made it to a welder. I hid from the cold and mosquitos in Marti's car and had a cup of tea.
The scenery was beautiful, and reminded me of Switzerland: snow-capped mountains, evergreens, and rivers. We were riding very low, so drove cautiously. At about 4 p.m., we pulled over to clean our windshield. Travis and Jamie from the Endurance Rally Assocation crew pulled up to say they were going to follow us back; we were last again, they were concerned that our car was damaged, and they wanted us to head directly to the hotel. Unfortunately, we had already missed a shortcut.
Jamie handed me a handkerchief with the Superman logo on it. I was upset because I thought we were out of the rally. But the crew was proud of us for soldiering on under our own power, aka Java. He just won't (and wouldn't!) quit!
They followed us for a while, and honked to pull over. They wanted us to load all of our belongings into their truck so we didn't do permanent damage.
It turned out we weren't the only ones on the route; we found another broken down car, and the crew stopped to help them and sent us on. We were in steep mountains and Java was struggling. He finally just stopped, even though we knew the issue wasn't fuel.
Out came the satellite phone for help, but there was no signal. Tony did what he could and we started up again. We went a little way, and the ERA truck following the other car passed us by.
A few seconds later, Java stopped again. We thought they were leaving us, and started honking. Tony got out and started running after them. They were trying to get the other car to a shortcut they discovered.
At this point, we were joined by the police, who wanted us gone. Travis and Jamie ignored these jesters, and I showed the female police officer our map and the hotel we were headed to. The guys got us up and running, giving up on our duel fuel systems and going back to the original Porsche one. They told us to go and they would take the flack. We headed to the shortcut, which was a closed, overgrown road. We kept on the current road and flagged the police, who were still following us. They offered to escort us to the main highway with lights on, everything. It turned out, we were lost in Siberia (my fear!).
We finally were on our way, and stopped for gas and snacks. By this time, we had hardly eaten in three days, and Tony hadn't showered in four. My pants were slipping off, so Jamie gave me his universal belt. We finally arrived at the hotel and all the mechanics descended on our car, determined to keep Java running and us in the rally.
We provided lots of beer, vodka and food for our superheroes: Travis, Jamie, Andy, Tony, Owen, Jack, Bob, Gary, Allen and Dan.
In Yekaterinburg, I did my only sightseeing. Richard, Charbel and I walked to the site where the Czar and family was executed. We were cold but happy to get out and walk.
There was a lot of car drama on our rest day. Java made it two blocks from the hotel at 3:30 a.m., and then Walid towed it the rest of the way. Our good friend Travis got it running again at 8:55 a.m., 11 minutes before our start time!
We took it easy in preparation for our suspension to be repaired in Kazan. Even though, we had a couple of more than 600 kilometer days.
Tony was pulled over by the Russian police for not having his headlights on. He pulled a Tony: very exaggerated "I'm sorry!" and hands to his face and everything. They let us go.
Our arrival to Perm was greeted by huge crowds!
We went off route on the way to Kazan, following Bryon and Stephen, who somehow had NORAD in their car... thanks, guys. But finally, we reached Kazan and the parts we needed. Happy dance!
Kazan and the rest day on Day 20 marked the halfway point of the rally. As they wrote in the daily report that day, "Tony Connor had a shipment of Porsche suspension parts ready and waiting for him when he arrived so he spent the day at a Porsche specialist with a book of instructions in one hand and a spanner in the other."