Day -1: Junktown
Let the party begin
Up and Off
The other teams we'd met the night before were up and off early to find Junktown. We were much slower to leave, as before we could go anywhere we needed to do a proper assessment of Buzzy's grinding metal noise. While I packed up the campsite, Matt went to work on Buzzy.
The problem transpired to be a bust bearing (grinding noise) that had caused a belt to fray and snap (burning rubber smell). It looked like the belt in question was the one running from the main timing belt to the alternator that charged the car battery. It was a Sunday and we knew there was pretty much no chance of finding a parts shop or garage that would be open at all, never mind before 10am.
With no other option available, Matt managed to craft a temporary replacement out of some monster cable ties and gaffer tape. Bodge accomplished and holding strong, we set off in search of Junktown.
There was already a queue to enter Junktown when we arrived. The long line of cars was a fantastic showcase of colour, ingenuity, madness and mechanical disaster. One team was already being towed and several others cars had developed interesting 'features'. The air was filled with an eclectic and impressive range of different air horns and normal car horns tooting.
It was reassuring to know that other cars were already having problems too, but we did feel a little bit naughty when we saw how Buzzy towered over some of the other cars. He looked so tiny compared with most normal cars, but surrounded by the crowd of highly unsuitable cars he looked like an absolute beast - probably a world first for a Japanese micro van.
Junktown was absolutely nuts. Styled after a post-apocalyptic Mad Max world, it was a completely health and safety free zone, it's insane tribe based areas uninhibited by ridiculous worries about how lethal to drunk people they might be. It's difficult to describe to anyone who hasn't experienced it for themselves, but the best I can come up with is an Into The Badlands Secret Cinema event on acid.
We were shown where to park and resisted strongly when we realised that they were trying to cram cars in so tightly next to one another that we wouldn't have been able to get our doors open. We ended up next to Team Crazy Cat Racers, another micro van which to our approval sported a selection of Simon's Cat pictures all over its bodywork.
It was tough to begin with to work out who was who - Junktown tribes people and ralliers blended into the sea of bizarre outfits.
We grabbed the camera and headed out to register and find food and beer. Registration involved a t-shirt, a postcard and shame stickers, to be used at your discretion on other cars. Suitable candidates for shame stickers included anything with 4WD, anything too new, too expensive or too boring.
Next stop was food and beer, which we barely managed to purchase before the heavens opened and it began chucking it down. Junktown became an absolute mud bath within minutes as the food tent sagged under the pooling rain. The festivities agenda postponed until the rain cleared up a bit, and the food tent became the place to be for the crowds of soggy ralliers.
When the rain finally abated, we emerged from the tent for a couple of introductory talks on Turkmenistan and how not to get arrested/detained/deported there, on social media and to remember to film all the nasty bits, as well as general travel safety advice. The talking out of the way, the festivities could begin in earnest. There was a contortionist, a Mongolian throat singer, a strong man, a surprisingly good rap battle, the auctioning off of an Adventurists employee and a tug of war.
We set off to explore the rest of Junktown and had a brilliant night stomping through the mud and drinking beer with ralliers and 'residents' alike. The mix of people from all sorts of backgrounds, professions and walks of life made for an excellent evening of chat and banter. We called it a night relatively early, conscious of the Czech police zero-tolerance policy on blood alcohol levels and knowing that they would probably be hoping to hit their years quota of fines the next morning on the roads leaving Junktown. We were also mindful of the fact that we needed to find a mechanic before we could really start the rally properly.
The sounds of the ongoing festivities did nothing the stop us slipping straight into deep sleep.