Day 4: Altanshiree to Ulaan Baatar

Breaking camp

We are up by 5:30 and met with a brigh clear day . LAst nights windstorm that blew out tent away has subsided and we are met with some local nomads / tribesmen that make themselves at home by wandering into our camp and picking over the cars and gear. They seem intensely curious about the cars and how they work. Some try and climb inside or get under the hood. 

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Breakfast- the morning after

Gary, Jenny and me  all congratulating John and Gary on making it in before midnight last night.

May 31th

Our first night at camp. The Gobi desert can sure blow and the sand storms we encountered has left us covered. Not only us but every orifice of the car has sand in it. Last night we got camp food, this was really good camp food. Not what we had been told or expected.

Everything was fresh well cooked and we recognized it. It was so nice to eat vegetables. The food prior to this has been sketchy.

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Went to bed last night at about 10:00 as usual you kind of collapse into bed. I think Tony was asleep before he hit the pillow. It was windy and about 1:30am we both woke up I noticed the moon, the wind was whipping probably 45 to 50 knots. We both looked up at the same time and noticed the beautiful dark starlight night. How was this possible unless. Oh God! The tent has blown off. Tony jumped and threw some clothes on and says I guess it's lost. Now thinking more logically we realize that we are lying on the base and yes a part of the tent is there but the top had blown away but fortunately was right by the tent still attached. Now to put it back when the wind is whipping at such speeds. Tony struggled for 1/2 hour then presto. Trying to sleep I thought would be impossible but not so for me. I fell promptly asleep. Tony wasn't so lucky. In the morning we heard similar stories of frantic drivers resurrecting their tent in the night. 

The day started with eggs yogurt cereal and bread. It was a great hardy breakfast.

Tents rolled away and off to the start at 8:00 am. Quite civilized really.

Tony and I checked the order of things and discovered we had no time penalties despite our fiasco yesterday with the horn and the second flat tire and road delays.

We are 18th overall and 10th in class. It makes you realize how hard it is and everyone is having trouble .

The race day began with our first big mistake. Tony having just congratulated me on my fine navigation. Not a great idea! JINX. Our GPS had been giving us trouble so I had been hand inputting our  waypoint coordinates. I checked the map and decided we could do it faster by skipping a section. Stupid idea. There are no roads, you try to find tracks and you drive not always successfully along them. We end up on the wrong side of a massive hill and have to backtrack wasting valuable time and driving backwards up the race route against the oncoming racers. They must have thought we were crazy. They were racing out of the Control area and we were driving towards it. It was like that for about 15minutes and we wound our way back to the start and began the section with a 5 minute delay. Funnily there was no penalty as  so many had done what we did. We arrived at the start a little frazzled only to be told the start time was not critical.

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We got our start signal and checked in our chip. We were off. This time we flew and the car handled well. The route, well what there was of it was predominately tundra, loose sand and loose gravel. We had hills and ruts and all out messy terrain. 

The worst routes were those that criss- crossed as the ruts created huge groves and we bounced and slid but generally loved the ride.

That portion lasted 85 kilometers. 

We had a good run and the fuel issues or potential Vapor lock seemed to disappear.

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The next leg was a transit leg and it seemed to last forever on ever increasingly bad roads.

We arrive at the next leg or race start and the organizers announce it is cancelled.

Take your time they say the roads are too bad and there are too many giant trucks. Here is where the roads are really being built and this will change clearly Mongolia forever. Welcome to the 21 first century

The closer we get to Ulan Bataar the signs of progress appear. Beside a village of Urts there are regular houses being built, some poorly. I guess this is progress.

The car struggles through rutted and horrible roads and so do we. We are tossed and bounced all around. Finally we see a hill. tony is exhausted I can see. He hadn't slept that well and my screw up on the GPS was not great to cool the air.

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I see an OVOOS a kind of stone structure with glass and junk that the Mongolians revere, you are to drive around them three times as a symbol of respect and pray. We see it at the top of a hill and I suggest we can loose some time here and have a lunch which the Nomads have prepared for us. It is a wonderful vantage point to see all around the valley. We head up and get out. Hide behind the car because of the wind and eat our lunch.  What fun. I hear a car and someone yells for us. I stand up and it is the medical team coming to check on us to make sure nothing is wrong. I am impressed, I thank them profusely for checking up on us assure them we are happily munching our lunch and they leave.  We offer our packaging to the OVOOS and head off after a 30 minute reprieve. It revitalizes Tony and we set off in a good mood heading for Ulan Bataar 350km away. Thankfully some on regular roads. Except for the fact that the hard driving has also eaten more of our gas than expected and 3/4 of the way into Ulan Bataar on a deserted tarmaced road  we run out of gas. Thankfully we have the reserve can with 5 gallons and pour it in. I drive us into the final time control and get gas . We take basically 20 gallons. We had been I think running on fumes into the final.  We are due at these spots as our gas is trucked in for us. We prepaid for it.

Ulan Bataar is a huge city with such a massive traffic jam on every street. What a difference from where we came from.  We are staying at the Chingis Khan grand hotel.....mmmm.

We have Wifi so I am writing this. Shower and shower again, just to remove the sand. I am sure the hotel is none to pleased by us all arriving looking like sand men. Their drains won't be happy either.  We need to clean the car.

Dressed and off to dinner then to figure out what to shop for for our next 6 days in the bush as we traverse the Gobi desert to the north up to a salt lake and then into the Altai mountains. Camping all the way.

It's is very cold here. Although our altitude is about 4500ft.

I might even go to look at the famous cashmere sweaters. I am such a sucker for them.

Carl if you are reading please read your email. We desperately need a part for the brakes and hope you can ship it to us. ...

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On the outskirts of Ulaan Baatar the long climb has us gain enough altitude that we start to see snow in the adjacent hillsides. Form the fry pan of the desert to the freezer of the high Mongolian plateau.  Car runs a lot better in the cooler air and we have stopped experiencing the vapor lock and sputtering engine problems we had in the heat of the desert. Especially bad yesterday. 

Lee-Ann 🏁

Be here now , be somewhere else later

© Anthony Strelzow 2013