Being brought up in England, in particular London, the concept that you just pull off a road and drive in any direction you want, across anything you want (farmer’s fields exempted of course), towards anything you want, is quite alien. To be able to do this without hesitation or fear of repercussion is liberating. And a lot of fun. This was exactly what happened one sunny day in Kazakhstan, rolling along a fairly user friendly bit of patchwork bitumen in an Easterly direction. Our convoy of four still intact, we spotted an interesting area of rocks, mounds and depressions in the distance, and thought it seemed like a good spot for a campsite. A short amount of driving across the scree between, we had arrived in what was a disused quarry, that we could only presume had been used to procure rocks and dust, as there wasn’t much else there.
Our discreet campsite complete, we sat about entertaining ourselves for the evening. Food was prepared, beer was drank. Once the beer had been drunk, the conversation turned to ‘what could we do with the empty beer bottles’. The obvious answer to this was ‘tear up one of Dave’s old shirts when he wasn’t looking, soak them with petrol, stuff them into the afore mentioned bottles, set them on fire, and thrown them in a downwind, down-tent direction’. Good plan. The efforts to recycle the beer bottles was wholly successful, with many fully fledged Molotov cocktails being produced and expended, and with the usually reckless Dave standing by with a fire extinguisher he prepared earlier at the ready, no injuries were recorded. Unfortunately, as one of the prime culprits in the cocktail preparation and deployment, I didn’t get any photos of this. I was far to busy having fun.
Once we’d got the fire antics out of our system, it seemed like a good opportunity for JP to put on his suit (the packing of which also shows serious foresight and planning beyond our own), and Sam set up the mobile driving range (see, we didn’t forget all the important stuff).
The following morning saw us pack up our campsite, and start blasting through the rocky scrub back to the main road. We paused at a small lay-by to admire a large pair of raised concrete skids, that allowed a vehicle to drive up and the driver work on the underside with good access and ease. It was at this moment someone observed that Miss Matiz was leaking. Most unlike her; normally reliable and drip free, the ever expanding pool of a yet undetermined fluid was of concern. A small taste and smell confirmed it. Cigarettes, gas lamps, arc welding equipment, and pizza ovens were immediately extinguished. Light switches were not operated. Miss Matiz it seemed, had split her fuel tank, and was slowly decanting it’s contents onto the ground below. Handy someone had had put a large vehicle maintenance ramp next to us.
Up on the ramp we went to survey the damage. It seemed that a rock had managed to span the awesome distance that the ground clearance of a Daewoo Matiz SE provides as standard, make it past the fictional under-chassis protection, and perforate the tank. Not a disaster, as despite not packing the any camping chairs or appropriate clothing, I had brought half stick of epoxy putty, having used the other half to repair my motorbike exhaust a month earlier. Some siphoning, draining, and a lot of waiting ensued until the flow of petrol had subsided, and the damaged area could sanded down and roughened up, the split given a good splashing of araldite, and then plaster with epoxy putty. Tank as good as new, albeit a new shape, we set fire to the dirty petrol we’d drained (couldn’t just waste it could we..), and headed onwards.
Oh, and Alex tried to drive his car up the ramp for a laugh, but managed to drive it straight into the gap in the middle. I’d have taken a picture, but we were all too busy laughing and lifting it out. Who’d have ever guessed a night camping in a quarry could be so entertaining and eventful?