Early this morning, Jengish , Talant and I headed to the car Bazaar in Bishkek were we met up with Bucket, one of our drivers. Bazaar was a good description.. thousands of cars in the field , all for sale by owner.
We did lots and lots of haggling , but the car we liked the most, the owner was no where to be found. We got his number off the window, and kept trying to call him. The price of cars here has become outrageous Even the simple Lada I was thinking of was around $3500 . sure there were some that were in the 2000 range, but they were in terrible shape, not sure they would make it back to Tokmok.
Then I was about to give in and look at the only car we could afford.. the Mercedes wagon.. about $2500 could get me a 25 year old one in not bad shape... we called and the owner said he would be there in 10 minutes.. that was definitely a Kyrgyz 10 minutes, because an hour later we were still waiting around , occupying ourselves by looking at other cars .
Finally we decide to give up on him.. we decided we would walk back to Jengishes car , and along the way I would simply offer low ball take it or leave it prices for the cars we liked .. by the second car we were putting an offer on, we could see the owner of the first car we liked return.
The car was the pride of the Russian federation. The VOLGA got it's name after the Volga river because it was long , wide and smooth like the ride . we asked to take it for a test drive.. like any other car at the bazaar , they are so packed in that to test drive , you rev up the engine, bolt forward, and simultaneously, hit the breaks because you only have about 10 feet to complete this maneuver. If you can imagine, walking through a mine field of cars being "test driven". Well it passed the initial test drive, so we told them that we would only buy it if we could get it out on the highway and see how it did, as well we needed to meet up with Bucket and Talant to give it the once over.
Have you ever played the little plastic numbers slid puzzle.. you know the one that you push the pieces back and forth over and over until suddenly they are in the right order.. thats the way it was moving across a field of cars the size of about 6 foot ball fields. Boy we sure got to see the car manover.
Through all this we did notice that it needs the clutch adjusted, and the starter does not always grab the first time . so as they were working their way out the maze , Jengish was on the phone with a micanic friend booking to have the starter replaced and the clutch fixed.. estimate for both is in the $100 range.
Finaly we made it out of the bazaar and drove about 15 minutes to meet up with the guys. They gave it a very carefull once over, then the real haggling began.. 10 minutes later, they turned to shake my hand.
We are the proud owners of a 1999 Volga ... Moscows answer to the Sherman tank. A solid car, lots of space, you can sit 4 wide in the back with tones of leg room and the trunk is huge . I am told it will easily carry 6 people AND haul 500lbs of potatoes at the same time , and better yet, it was in budget. including the repairs that are scheduled.
I did take a bit of time to trade stories with the young owner. He finished dental school in the spring , and the car was given to him by his dad to sell to buy the dental equipment he needs to start his practice. We have agreed to meet in the next week or two to see about working something out that would see him travel around to our places to provide some basic dental care.
By 11:00 the adventure was over, and we were on the road back home.