Day 11: Uureg lake to Russian Border

Day 11 border of Siberia

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The Bentleys all lined up below

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This is car #23 he stripped right down here, redressed it was quite the view. He then started the race.

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Wind sun hail snow and rain was the order of the day. Hurricane force winds and roads that almost killed. So much damage to the car. The sand, the rocks, the dried river beds,looking at them is beautiful driving over them endlessly is so hard on the car, but on us too. We were all happy this morning thinking, 275km was so short, by lunch time I looked at GPS and saw we might not make the end of the day before 6:30. At times we made less than 12km per hour. The roads were so bad, no tracks and what tracks existed were so rough you were better off them. 

We did one time trial where the track was slightly clearer, they had to cancel the other two for the day as the conditions were so bad. The wind blows so strong here most of the time. Trucks towing out the minerals ruin the tracks. They are corrugated. You can see this country won't be the same in 5 years. China has arrived and they build roads and mine everything. They buy it all up. Our time trial goes quickly we catch two cars but have one major bump from a cross track that send us flying.

This picture makes me think of the Johnny Cash song  'I spied a young Horseman'

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After the trial the road worsens. Tony expresses concern we seem so low, he is concerned a spring has gone. I suggest that removing so much weight from the back of the car, the jerry can and the water has probably changed the balance a little. About 10 km on after the time trial we hit river bed and large rocks. We take one dead center under the car, we here the bang Tony says we have thrown a Bering. The car starts thunk thunk thunk. We pull over listening to each thunk. This may be the end. Not a soul around, we both jump out. Tony looks under we stand thinking about our next option. I check the GPS and get a reading. I suggest we get the satellite phone out. On the horizon behind us I see a car. Tony decides to go under and look for oil and what he can see. 

The car on the horizon Car 38 the journalist from BBC stops. Claudia gets out and asks how she can help. Interesting how we have all become a family. We stop for each other and expect the thumbs up, if all is OK. No OK you stop and ask. She takes our GPS heading and heads off to the next stop to see if she sees anyone. We can only hope we are on the right heading and able to be seen by the sweeper car. The riverbed is in a wide open plain with lots of visibility. Tony comes out from under the car. He reports the rock has hit the oil pan, bent the bottom of the oil pan  made a grapefruit size dent in the skid plate which has in turn, 

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Pushed the bottom of the oil pan into the connecting rods. 

It sounds like a machine gun when we restart.

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 However, Tony thinks that the continuing hits from the connecting rods will push the pan back out again. We wait and slowly the noise dissipates. It runs smoothly. Now to observe the oil pressure, temperature etc.

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So he drives and I watch the pressure and the GPS. The pressure is good. We start off so slow, we can't risk having that happen again. We slowly make our way. Holding 12 to 15 km maximum as we are jostled and pushed all over the car.

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Finally 90 km later we get gas on some Tarmac and watch the car for signs of spring or shock damage. We can't feel any. We get gas at Bayan-Olgii and are greeted by Ivan from Kamloops he is there with a Macedonian women Nikolina to observe the upcoming elections in Mongolia on May 26th. She was a wealth of information and seemed to be enjoying herself. He takes some photos one i posted on Facebook. He is happy to chat and we discuss our experiences in Mongolia. We are in the region that is really Kasikstan. 90 percent of the population is Kazakh. Their are Mosques and the region has a large muslin population, they are here in this province to make sure their are no election issues. Thankfully he says the population are honest law abiding citizens and very peaceful. Nice to hear.

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We arrive finally at our  foreboding 275 km destination after another 4 hours of grueling roads. we are now in a no tree zone we are first hailed on, then snowed on then a type of freezing rain hits our feeble windsheild wipers on our long climb up the mountain. I thought this was desert. Exhausted after a day of bumps, rocks that almost completely destroyed the car. It seems so frail. The wind is howling so hard you can barely walk. We decide to park in a ring around with other cars. Anything to shelter us from the biting wind. It helps a little. Not looking forward to a night of this especially at these freezing temperatures. It kind of gives you a little perspective on life and the harsh reality that people live here in these conditions day to day. we get a hot super prepared for us and food shipped in, and we think its tough.

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We raced well today, surprisingly moving up to 5 th  spot again,we found out at dinner. The day almost killed us and the car. The stories from others in the dinner tent are all so much fun and the outfits and furs people brought are all good for a laugh, and we all huddle in about 10 to a picnic bench. We huddle in an attempt to keep warm. Thank goodness there is soup and steak and tonight even french fries. we wait to see the rest of the group trickle in. Still no Jenny and Loren, we thought they were to cross tomorrow with us at this pass.  We sang and for some reason HEY JUDE, seemed to be theme song, while we waited in our lines at the buffet.

Perhaps the line ' You were made to go out and get her''. Not sure.. some people just started humming it.

i am writing this, in our tent fully clothed with hats trying to get warm. It is to go to minus 10 tonight and the worst is by far the relentless gusting wind. The dinner tent blew down tonight with people in it, a little frightening for those inside. Everyone scattered and they now have pick-up trucks trying to hold it in place with cables. 

I actually braved a shower, which was absolutely cRazy in these temperature. Tony refused as did everyone else. Only a few brave souls took to it, me being an idiot and of course I froze. The water boiled your skin off but the air froze you a really nice combination. I am clean though or at least half clean.

Some faces reappeared today. They have been out from damage the other Bentley derby 1939 reared its head. They had hit a rock, like us two days earlier but they weren't so lucky so they had had to play catch up since being in a repair shop. The Brits in the pick-up truck and a few rode in with new 4wd cars as their cars are finished.

The French man in the rolls who had his car prepared by the Priory has given up. He can't resolve his heating problem. He went home.

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Still no sign of Jenny and Loren, hope they are OK. Tomorrow we cross the border into NO MANS LAND. The area between Mongolia and Russia that has no governance and is under dispute. Hopefully no war too.

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When I look at these photos I cant help but think how tame they look. the roads dont look bad. It is hard to take photos when its rough and the depth of the gravel and holes just dont show.

Lee-Ann 🏁


© Anthony Strelzow 2013