Tuk to the Road

The trials and tukulations of Jo, Ants and Ting Tong the tuk tuk and our three-wheeled odyssey from Bangkok to Brighton...in aid of the mental health charity Mind. For more information please see www.tuktotheroad.com

Friday, August 18, 2006

Another tukking tantrum

Tanya's House, Bakchiserai, The Crimea, Ukraine

The more we do this journey, the more I believe in fate. It seems that every time we need help a new Fairy Godmother (or father) appears and solves our problems. Yesterday was yet another example.

After several divine days of chilling by the Black Sea it was back to reality on Tuesday afternoon when we limped into Sudak with Ting Tong in a quest to get to the root of her latest troubles. As we drove into Vecolny on Saturday afternoon she began to dive ditchwards every time we braked. On the Crimea’s mountainous roads this was not a pleasant experience and we presumed it must be a recurrence of the caliper problem we had had in Balkash. Since TT’s front wheel is the same as a bikes we headed for a biker café we’d got word of in Sudak, hoping they would be able to point us in the direction of the nearest mechanic.

With Jo clutching our last faulty caliper we went up to a heavily tattooed biker who was hanging around outside the café with his madly painted 1962 German machine. Boris, as his name turned out to be, was a tattoo artist, bike fanatic and total dude. He said there was one shop we might be able to find a new caliper in, called Signal. If not then our only hope was Simferopol, 200km’s away, or maybe even Odessa, 600km’s away. But first he said he knew some good mechanics who could have a look at TT, and hitherto dispatched his friend / flunkie Misha to take us there. The ‘good mechanics’ turned out to be a very irritating bunch of lads, who I am sure were half cut, who acted as if they had never seen anything more hilarious than a pink tuk tuk. Apart from having extended hysterics and asking lots of puerile questions they did absolutely bugger all and ½ an hour later we tukked off, still veering dangerously to the right, none the wiser. Since Signal was now closed we had no option but to wait for the next day and try another mechanic we had heard about in our village. After supper with Boris – where he presented me with a silver ring from his collection - we headed home to Vecolny, having gained nothing but a bonkers biker friend.

Having had another insomniac night - frequent occurrences on this trip –we were up early yesterday to head into the village in search of the other mechanic, Tolmek. But Tolmek was away till that night, and we couldn’t afford to hang around all day and risk him not being able to do anything. Finding a new caliper in Signal was our only hope.

A hot traipse around Sudak finally led us to Signal, a tiny shop piled high with every sort of auto part you can imagine. Apart from calipers. The nearest possibility was Simferopol. We looked at each other and groaned. As the reality of our problem was sinking in a voice piped up on my right. ‘What are you looking for?’ it said in heavily accented English. I turned to discover the owner of the voice was a smartly dressed, good looking 20 something man. He introduced himself as Redvan, a mechanic. An hour later he was at our house, stripped down to pair of fetching satin shorts inspecting our sick baby. Despite our misgivings he soon ascertained that the problem was not with the caliper but with our front suspension, the right hand side of which was badly damaged. Boris had said the same yesterday, but we had dismissed his prognosis, convinced it had to be the same problem as in Balkash, five weeks ago.

If Boris and Redvan were right then our problem was even worse, since TT’s suspension is Tuk Tuk specific and we might have to wait up to a week while Anuwat sent a new set from Thailand. Jo was even considering how long it would take her to fly to Bangkok and back to pick up a new set. We stood in the blazing heat, smoking cigarettes, looking at TT and wondering what the hell to do. Redvan said he knew two people in Sudak who might be able to help.

Person number one shook is head and said he was busy for the next week, even TT’s special powers couldn’t persuade him otherwise. Person number two was Serva, who lived down a dusty track amongst half built houses on the outskirts of Sudak. Yes he said, he thought he could do it, come back in three hours. So Jo, Redvan and I went off to Redvan’s uncle’s café and drank coffee and smoked hookahs, waiting anxiously for the outcome. If he failed then we were in serious trouble….

Redvan, only 26 and married for four years, told us all about his people, the Crimean Tartars, and about Stalin’s terrible expulsion of them in 1944 where within a space of a few days he exported every single one of them to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Siberia. Thousands died on the journey and although given an official apology by Krushchev in 1967 it was not until 1989 that they were officially allowed back to their homeland. Today about 12 % of the Crimean population is Tartar, but life is hard for them and many of them struggle against poverty and racial prejudice. All because of the whim of a single megalomaniac.

Full of coffee and Tartar tales we returned after three hours to find Serva putting the finishing touches to Tingers. A test drive would reveal if he had managed to mend her or not. And guess what, he had. Jo and I were so happy, we couldn’t believe it. He had managed to do a job that had taken ten men seven hours in Jinhong, China, the first time our front suspension went. Moreover he had never seen or attended to a three-wheeler before. We thanked him, thanked him, thanked him, thanked him some more, took photos of him and his wife and gleefully drove off into the sunset. Problem solved. Our evening was thus spent celebrating over a few beers with Redvan and his friend Rostom. Please please let it be the last problem Ting Tong has before we get home in two and a half weeks. If Redvan had not been in Signal at the same time as us goodness knows what might have happened. Thank you guardian angels for coming to our rescue again.

This morning we packed up, said goodbye to Nastya and Vova and the Tartar family we had been staying with; Ismail, Aisha, Gulya, Esme and Eleonora, plus their four dogs Naida, Akbar, Dinai and Puppy. I felt as sad about leaving them as I have about leaving anyone else on this trip and would love to come back here one day.

Its bedtime now so I’ll write about today, the cave city we visited and the lovely house under a mountain we are staying in now, next time. The Crimea is fantastic, we love it. You’ve all got to come here….. xx Ants

Over to Jo....

16th August, Smile Café

We have all had a slightly nerve jangling (to put it mildly) couple of days with TT.

Yesterday we went to Sudak to visit one of the last fortresses of the Silk Road. It is amazing that we first encountered the Silk Road i.e. Great Wall of China about 10,000km ago and now we were visiting part of its European route- what an unbelievable overland trip it must have been.

Nastia had told us that there was a biker bar in Sudak and so we visited them to have a chat about TT and asked where we might get a new brake caliper. They told us that we may be able to get one in Sudak or otherwise we may have to go over 100km to get one in Simferopol (capital of the Crimea). They also told us that they thought one of TT’s front shocks had gone. This was not good news as we didn’t have another front shock and they are tuk tuk specific parts only available in Thailand. One of the dudes from the biker bar came with us in TT to visit a local mechanic who they thought may be able to help. The mechanics were all quite young and they found TT hilarious. She ended up being hoisted a metre into the air to have her brakes bled. They thought she may have some air trapped, but unfortunately this didn’t solve the problem. They were unable to offer us anymore assistance with her braking issues and so we returned to the biker bar feeling slightly deflated. However, the day wasn’t a total disaster as we enjoyed visiting the fort and met a crazy Ukranian biker/tattooist/nutter called Boris, who had us in hysterics. He had a slightly freaky tattoo of Chucky from Child’s Play though. That has reminded me, Ants and I are thinking on getting Ting Tong tattooed somewhere on our bodies when we return.

The following morning we went into our village to attempt to track down a mechanic who had come strongly recommended. Unfortunately he was out for the day and the other mechanic in the village was also not around. So, our next move was to get a lift into Sudak. Basically, it is the same deal in the Ukraine as in Russia and Kazakh i.e. you hold out your arm and some random stranger picks you up and delivers you to your destination for a fraction of the cost of a real taxi.

Once in Sudak we located the shop recommended to us by Boris the previous day. We weren’t lucky with the caliper, but we did meet a guy called Redvan who became our saviour of the day. I won’t tell you the story again as Ants already has. Until TT was properly fixed I was trying to work out how long it would take me to fly to BKK and back! Now we are very happy and relieved and have had a really good day. Bed now as we have about 550km to drive tomorrow to Odessa.


Blogger miss sophie said...

i have been reading your blog for a while and it's great what you are doing but there are no pics to illustrate it. you are on a fantastic trip so it would be great to visually see what mr. tuk's been up to from country to country. what's the problem?

6:32 AM  
Blogger tuktotheroad said...

the problem is blogger.com which is temperamental re posting pics. Most of the time when you try and upload one it says it has then actually hasn't....very very annoying. We are trying our best x

11:36 AM  
Blogger colin said...

Hi Ants & Jo !

I think you're making these names up as you go along !

Let me see if I can make some sense of this. Things got NASTIA when Ting Tong developed a problem. So you sent out a SIGNAL. Now, if TT has further problems, you can continue the journey in a REDVAN ! Am I close ???

Lotsa love, Colin in Hungary.

5:12 AM  

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