September 1st, 2017
Now the real adventure should begin, the ride on the antique Soviet UAZ combat minibus. We had planned for a long time, the road trip – better: the shopping tour – to Russia. My friend Uli recently owned a UAZ, which he got his hands on in Slovakia. The car brand Uljanowski Avtomobilny Zavod is incomprehensibly unknown to western car enthusiasts, but the box has potential. Beyond the iron curtain you can see the small “lunch boxes (Buchanka)” driving around with their practical four-wheel drive.
The engine and structure of the car are incredibly simple and, most importantly, easily interchangeable. Just right for Uli’s big plans, as well as for me. We found out in a travel forum that we both share the same big dream. So I started with preparations and I tried to help Uli with the expansion of the UAZ as well and often as possible – as is possible with a distance from Düsseldorf to Fürstenfeldbruck.
Now we were ready for the first maiden voyage. There are still many parts to be procured, which did not seem easy in our western hemisphere. So we probably had to cross the border into the deep, dangerous post-Soviet zone to stock up on parts.
So we tensed the plan to put the good UAZ to its first test: a trip to Saint Petersburg!
I drove to Uli in Fürstenfeldbruck with all my luggage to start from there. However, we still had to load up our things and stock up on spare parts and tools as well as provisions as a precaution in the cold, pouring rain. We also needed new oil as we had lost a lot on our first trip through a leaky oil filter.
It was already in the afternoon when we left and stopped by Uli’s parents for dinner. After that we drove in the dark for a while before we set up camp in a forest – we slept in the car because it was still pouring rain outside.
It happened the next day. We started the day a bit undercooled, but strengthened by tea and biscuits, and set out to find the source of an annoying stapling noise that annoyed us the day before.
After a few tests, it was clear to Uli that this noise was not due to loose fuel lines, but came from the engine. He only gave the machine a short life and we decided to go back. The trip to Russia could no longer take place like this.
We only made ten kilometers before the engine burst. The lack of oil the day before must have damaged parts of a cylinder. So in the end we only managed about a hundred kilometers with the UAZ. The ADAC brought us back and we suddenly had … time!
We had a few weeks of vacation and it was up to us where we wanted to go. My suggestion was to take a flight and start our road trip somewhere on site with a rented car. The question was where to go. The whole world was open to us. Whether Australia or South America, we could start immediately.
I had already planned to travel to the Caucasus before. Uli has been there before, but he thought the idea was good because he liked the region very much. And he said he still had friends in the Russian Caucasus whom we could visit.
We also had Russian visas in our pockets. We decided to take a flight to Saint Petersburg – which we originally wanted to see – to fly from there via Moscow to Vladikavkaz, the city in the North Caucasus, to somehow get to Tbilisi, to travel through Georgia and from there in a rented off-road vehicle Travel Armenia. So much for the plan developed in one day that we now wanted to implement …