Thursday, August 28, 2008

Muffled in Novosibirsk

Sunday I was finally feeling in tip top shape again and took a tour of Lenin Square.  Anchored by a rather beautiful domed Opera and Ballet house which doubled as the local meeting place and was great for people watching.opera-balletSadly neither is in session right now as tickets top out at about $9 and I wouldn't have passed up the opportunity to see the ballet in Russia.  At the front of the square is a giant statue to Lenin who as always seems to have happy worker statues nearby. lenin-workersAfter this I headed out to dinner with a buddy I'd met at the hotel from Seoul who is in Russia trying to setup a scrap metal deal since there is plenty of scrap metal laying around Russia these days and with current steal prices the demand for scrap has been increasing continually. Being that we were in the heart of Siberia we decided some authentic Mexican food was totally the way to go and we hit the creatively named "Cafe Mexico" and had a surprisingly good dinner of Fajitas and Bean soup.

Monday morning I decided to go get my car fixed.  A couple days earlier I'd gone over the engine and tightened screws, filled fluids, etc. But I'd left the important work for the professionals and now that I was feeling 100% it was time to get it done. Kazakhstan was a bit brutal on my car and while there  I destroyed my skid plate, lost my muffler, stereo, and passenger window.  So I find myself in Novosibirsk with a fully functional car that has taken a heck of a beating.  Now feeling 100% I headed out to find an ABTO CEPBNC (Auto Service) center and ended up on the right side (just barely) of the tracks at a rather suspect looking auto shop.  However like all things in Russia initial appearances frequently are deceiving and upon entering the shop I found a rather high tech operation.  We jacked up my car and measured the muffler space which led to a small debate.mufflernomoreThey then immediately sent someone to go grab a muffler from a parts store that would fit my tiny vehicle.  It seemed for a moment they considered cutting down one of the smaller mufflers they had but decided they should instead get a properly sized one and it seems that the majority of their business is SUVs, Toyota Vans, and the typical BMW/Mercedes that everyone seems to drive.  This didn't leave much space parts belonging to small Italian cars.  While they did this another tech re-attached my front skid plate which solves my largest concern for Mongolia.  I can survive without a muffler but I'm pretty sure I'll need my skid plate to make it to UB if the roads are as bad as KStan.  While they were working on my car I wandered down the street and found an Irish Pub (There's a bunch in this city) and after a bout of severe sticker shock (Meals ~$40) I had some coffee and wandered back to the shop where they put me to work fixing a couple of navigation systems in cars that they had imported from the US.  It seems that Russia must have extremely low auto import fees since a significant percentage of the vehicles in Russia are Japanese & American used cars that have been shipped over.  Sadly however a mere knowledge of English was not sufficient to the task and I told them they'd really need to get Honda or Acura to pony up a Russian DVD to get the system to work as designed.  Around this time they offered to get a window made for me for around $40 but said it wouldn't be ready till tomorrow.  I headed out back to the hotel and called it an early night.  One day stretched to two but in the end I've now got a new muffler, window, and oil change as well as the re-attached sump guard all for around $130 and after a quick trip to the local Fred Myer here I've got a gas grill for use in Mongolia and we'll be off shortly.  Smaller is Better is about a week ahead of us in Altay so if we are lucky we'll catch them by or if we are really fast on the way to UB.

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