Day 24 of Rally: Carrying Potassium Permanganate Through Uzbek Border

7715 kms traveled so far
52/200 kids sponsored. Help us send a rural child in India to school by making tax deductible donations at

Today we drove towards Dushanbe, Tajikistan. Desert and bare hills reflecting the 42C sun made the inside of the car feel like 52C. We did drive through a couple of lush green valleys filled with apple orchards and not-yet-ripe persimmons though.
Spent most of the drive looking for Benzin (Benzene = petrol = gasoline). Not sure why, but they don’t sell petrol in Uzbekistan – all cars run both CNG/Propan and Petrol! They’re mostly Chevys and Daewoos. After knocking several homes that have Pepsi bottles filled with light yellow liquid sitting on their doorstep (the universal sign for black market petrol), we finally found one householder who had “Benzin”, paid him a princely sum of $1/L, filled up Harriet with 20L of what we hoped was not water and continued driving. We used it up by the time we entered Tajikistan where we filled her up with A-95 high octane fuel which is hopefully filled with soaps and additives.

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There’s a good 1/2″ of dust inside the car, the product of the desert sand of Uzbekistan + construction everywhere.
At the Uzbekistan customs and border control we had a very interesting experience. The driver and passengers have to go through separate border control lines/stations in the CIS countries. Since the car is registered in my name, I drive the car through the customs and car registration portion while Anitha has to sit around in a separate queue, and do nothing, as she is not allowed to even pull out her phone to entertain herself. Even though there were signs and pictures prohibiting bribery, I strongly suspect the customs official checking the car was fishing for some offer as she thoroughly checked every nook and cranny of the car (even discovered an ashtray that I didn’t know existed in the car!), checked every preset radio station, zoomed in on multiple pictures in my camera, poured out water from my flask just to ensure it’s water, flipped through and even read many pages on every book we had, opened up sleeping bags, aired out every one of our personal belongings asking random idiotic questions. After about 30mins into me pulling everything except the seats out of the car and spreading it out on our tarp, she pointed to a small packet of potassium permanganate in Anitha’s bag and said it was illegal to bring it into the country. I guess she was expecting me to get exasperated and offer her something. I called her bluff with a bluff of my own, laughed out aloud and said “This?! Do you know what this is?” I asked derisively as I stole a furtive glance at the packet trying to figure out what on earth it was. Seeing just “potassium permanganate” and wondering how this charcoal type thing was related to the pink liquid we used to learn titrations in 8th grade, and what the hell was Anitha doing with a chemical in her bag, and if it really was illegal…. I blustered on: “This is potassium permanganate! KNO3!” (Damn it, Chandini! You know that’s potassium nitrate, not permanganate! But does she know?!!) “you just add it to water when you have an upset stomach!” I said very confidently. She didn’t give up. She said “but it’s illegal to bring this into Uzbekistan”. I switch to condescension and go “this?! Of course not! This is just potassium permanganate. It’s not illegal to bring potassium permanganate into ANY country. If you give me internet I will show you”. She goes: “in large quantities it’s illegal”. I laugh another derisive laugh and proclaim with great confidence “of course not! That’s not at all true. It’s the most harmless thing on earth and you can carry it anywhere. I showed it to the officer when I entered Uzbekistan and he knew exactly what it was. I am surprised you don’t know.” She walks off to examine other parts of the car and in a couple of mins says I can pack up and go. I later found out that Anitha had brought the potassium permanganate to wash fruits and veggies! Phew! 😅

Help some rural kids learn the real chemical formula for potassium permanganate (and not flounder around like yours truly) by sponsoring their education. I’m quite sure they will enjoy titrations better than breaking stones and arranging matchsticks in a box. It costs $20/month. But you can donate any amount you wish to at All donations are 100% tax deductible. Thank you for your consideration 🙏🏽