You knew the moment was bound to happen. As you drive along the highway, you see the police car in the distance. You tell each other not to look, keep your eyes straight ahead and maybe he won’t notice.
But then as you draw nearer, the yellow baton is raised in the air and your heart sinks. You are being pulled over by the police for the first time in the Mongol Rally.
We have driven nearly 5000 miles at this point and avoided all stops and check points. We have been feeling pretty proud of ourselves for not having to pay a bribe or fork over cash to any corrupt officials. Except for our $50 payment to Natasha in Moldova for crossing the two km stretch of tarmac to the Ukrainian border, we have been getting off pretty easy during the Mongol Rally.
I wasn’t speeding. We have been very aware of keeping track of our speed. In towns we go 60 km and on highways we go 90 km. No more, no less and that seems to work very well. So why was I being pulled over?
This was the second police stop of the entire rally for team Social Media Syndicate and I wasn’t thrilled that I was in the drivers seat yet again. Why does it always happen to me? The first time we were stopped, I was asked to turn on my headlights and had a nice conversation (in broken English) with the cop about going to Mongolia and that yes, I was from Canada. He sent me on my merry way as I breathed a sigh of relief.
This second stop was far less easy. This Cop had something in mind.
As I pulled over, Dave got out my paperwork and handed me my International drivers licence with a copy of our ownership for the British car. The officer looked carefully at the papers and babbled incoherently in the Kazakhstan language about other things. I looked at him dumbfounded.
It was as much of an act as really not knowing what he was talking about.
A Little History…
When we crossed the border into Kazakhstan, we had a very easy time. It was a Sunday and the guards let us through with very little hassle. The only thing they were interested in was our walkie talkies that we were using to communicate with our convoy partners, the Fighting Trousers. We were thrilled to get through the border in a very short time and forgot all the formalities that needed to be done.
By the time we got to the next town two days later, we realized that we didn’t have any insurance and had no way to buy anymore. I guess we would just have to wing it.
Back to my Police Stop…
I knew we didn’t have insurance and I knew that this could be a very big problem. A day earlier we were in Aktobe and met up with the local motorcycle club leader and he told us that we should be ok without insurance. As long as we had our registration paperwork we could get through Kazakhstan without any problem. Thank God we met him because he took us to the police station to get all our registration paperwork sorted out.
So when this cop asked us for anything, I kept just handing him random papers.
First it was my international drivers license, then my V5 ownership, afterwards, I gave him my green card for Russia. He barked “Ruskie, Ruskie! (pronounced Rooskie, Rooskie) Kazakhstani, Kazakhstani! I pretended I had know idea what he was talking about.
I then gave him my registration paper.
He shook his head.
I smiled and said sorry and he mimicked me saying sorry.
He was very frustrated.
He then mimed out a car crash indicating he needed my insurance papers. I pretended not to see him and said, I am sorry, I don’t understand. He didn’t like me saying I’m sorry. But I smiled and he didn’t know what to do.
I then gave him my insurance papers from Ukraine. He barked… Ukraine, Ukraine! Kazakhstani, Kazakhstani. I pretended to be confused.
It was then that he tried to explain some more and I handed him my passport instead. He looked at it, said my name and city. Corbeil, Debra – Toronto… I said Yes.
We sat in silence for a few minutes.
Sherry then said, want to show him the map?
I said sure!
So we showed him the map and showed him that we were going to Mongolia. We showed him where we entered the country, and I pointed at my registration miming that they said “Passport, papers, registration… thumbs up!”
He clearly was loosing patience.
He looked at the map and asked where we were going in Kazakhstan. I showed him the capital city of Astana and then showed where we would be crossing into Russia.
He stood in silence thinking. And then we heard for the second time him sigh “Ayayaya.”
He then asked me to step out of the car and come to the back of the car where we had our route displayed on a sticker. He asked me about Mongolia and then he said something in Kazakhstani. I played dumb.
He then wrote $50 very slowly on the dusty window.
I looked at him, shrugged my shoulders and asked “why?”
He looked at me in disbelief.
He then handed me back my paperwork and passport in disgust and told me to go.
I cheerfully said “Spasiba” (thank you in Kazakhstani)
He mimicked my spasiba as he walked away in frustration.
“Stupid tourists, they don’t even know how to pay a bribe.”