Thursday, 17 July 2008


Too cool to miss
After we finally dragged ourselves from UB we started on the long road south to the Gobi desert. Now I know that some of you will have looked at maps and noticed that the Gobi is not necessarily very prevalent at fifty degrees north, but don’t worry we’d also noticed this. The fiftieth guides our route, and provides the locations for our case studies but there’s certainly a fair bit of freedom in our route otherwise - and the Gobi’s just too cool to miss!

So anyway, we eventually found the ‘road’ - we’ve had problems navigating out of towns ever since we hit Kazakhstan; regardless how small the town might be they always manage to conceal the exits, so we usually just drive by GPS and fumble around in no-mans land for a bit til we find a track.
This time no-mans land was occupied by lots of rubbish dumps which stunk to high heaven, but that’s by the by, we found the track and it was a pretty good one.

We decided to make a call on some locals
As the sun began to get tired we decided to make a call on some locals, so pulled over to a likely looking ger and said ‘hello, do you mind if we camp here?’ then flushed with the success of our opening gambit we said ‘can we buy a sheep?’. Yes, that’s right, we bought a sheep. But not just any sheep, oh no, we got to choose our sheep from their increasingly worried flock. This involved encircling said beasts alongside the majority of the family (who seemed as equally amused by the situation as us!) until one of them (or on one occasion Spike) made a frantic grabbing foray. This highly sophisticated method led us to our brief association with Paul the sheep.
Sadly Paul wasn’t much of a conversationalist, so after money had been transferred one of our newfound human friends slit his chest open and pulled out his heart.

A bonnet full of lamb
The meat extraction took place with impressive efficiency and soon we had a bonnet completely covered with joints of lamb (after politely declining the head, entrails and skin). Team Latitude is fond of its food, but even we realised this might be a tricky prospect when we were heading for a few days in desert heat, so in the morning we stewed as much as we could and left a few more titbits with our hosts.

We printed some photos
We arrived in the Gobi accompanied by rain (shurely shome mishtake?) and saw lots of river beds - if someone could check the desert status of the Gobi that would be great! The scenery was stunning though, with stony plains surrounded by jutting peaks and rolling red mounds.

A Memorable Birthday: lamb, with beer

That night we grilled up some ribs of (yes you’ve guessed it) lamb over the fire which we’d surrounded by volcanic rocks with a tendency to explode slightly! But we survived to drive another day, which also happened to be Spike’s birthday, and I think it may have been a memorable one.

After a day of fantastically fun driving with a few dunes and an incident leaving the wing mirror in a tree (ask Pete) we set up camp in a vast plain, coincidentally in the same place as I got a puncture… We had gin and tonics while the sun set and followed it with a curry (well, curried lamb stew!) and some chocolate hobnobs - perfect!

- David

I think we’re alone now
Playing on the iPod: ‘I think we’re alone now’ by Tiffany

Birthday Addendum

Quite a few people probably have a curry and a couple of beers with some mates on their birthday. But I doubt many do it in the least populated part of the least populated country on the planet. I also doubt I’ll have a more memorable birthday any time soon. Driving through the sand dunes and enjoying complete freedom are two of the best birthday presents. Many thanks to all my family and friends who sent me messages yesterday. It was hugely appreciated.

- Spike

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