I’ve got a horrible image in my head of us driving up the M1 sitting on nothing but a chassis tethered to a small donkey.

The reason I say so is because slowly over the past month or so things have just started to, er, break. Firstly we had a leaky back window which it now plugged with a substantial slather of gaffer tape (thanks VHA – great leaving present); secondly our Garmin GPS decides to restart itself every five minutes (or better still when we’re in a busy city at night approaching an intersection); we have two cracks in the windscreen, (the second one is over 20cm long) c/o flying rocks from passing Ladas; the compressor for the fridge carked it in China (read: no more bbqs or cold beer, disaster); the CD player is temperamental at best, and the volume is screwed; One leg of the roof rack is currently being reinforced using the shoelaces from Joe’s old hiking boots; The door handle on the drivers side could give way at any time and then of course, we had the small problem of Bob losing power and stopping on our way to the Aral Sea.

If i could've picked one place in the world not to break down (after downtown Kabul) this would've been it.

Joe leapt out of the car and tried to figure out what the problem was; we knew the fuel quality had been extremely dodgey since China – but Joe had changed the fuel filter only a month ago. And it looked like there was a bit of diesel leaking near the engine. We were both a bit scared. We didn’t know what the problem was, and it took quite a few turns to get Bob started again. Even worse, we’d just rated Aralsk as the worst place either of us had ever been and the thought of being stuck there nearly made us both cry. We rolled slowly back into town and found the only guy we knew who spoke English to ask whether there was a mechanic in town. He said no. He said everyone just fixes their own cars. Gulp. He suggested we drive to the next town, Aktobe, 605km away.

We were in a slight predicament. We didn’t know what the problem was, the car wouldn’t get over 1500rpm, we had about 7 days left on our visas and we needed to drive through the desert for 605km to have a chance of getting to a mechanic. If we broke down half way, there was nothing. We’d need to flag down a passing truck and get them to tow us.

In the face of having no other options, we called off our Aral Sea adventure and set off rolling northwards through the steppe at 60kmph until the sunset. Then we drove off the road and setup camp away from the main highway, on the empty Kazak steppe.

The next morning we used the air compressor to blow as much dust and crud out of the air filter as possible, thinking that might help Bob breath a little better, and took off again quite slowly for the final leg. Still no power. We rolled into Aktobe in the late afternoon to find all the cheap hotels were booked out. Our one glimmer of hope was a name we’d found in the Lonely Planet – Gennady – who, it was said, could provide help and advice to overlanders. On a wing and a prayer, we contacted him and made arrangements to meet him the next day.

Turns out, Gennady’s got the Midas Touch!