Saturday, 12 July 2008

Of Flies and Men

Having left Moron we decided to spend a few days driving along the line, slowly making our way towards UlaanBaatar. Northern Mongolia is stunningly beautiful, but not what we had expected at all. It is like driving through Switzerland, with the addition of an unbelievable number of flies. Whilst driving through this sort of scenary is nice, the flies made stopping pretty unpleasant and the forest made the driving pretty much impossible. So at the end of the first day we decided that we would make our way back to the road and drive straight to the capital for the Nadaam festival. We could have continued along the line, but all the sawing and moving of logs sounded like to much hard work and would have taken too long. We did give three random kids a lift from their ger down to the river, after finding a good fording point we drove across the river and left the kids there. We were slightly worried how they were going to make it back home 10km away, but they seemed fairly unfussed about the whole thing.

That night we stopped at the top of one of the hills to camp and had the most amazing view over the valley below.

As night came the flies went to bed and suddenly the magic of Mongolia was back, we enjoyed a curry and chapatis over an open fire with the mist filled valleys glowing silver in the moon light. This nearly made us change our minds about going straight to UB but in the morning the flies where back and we jumped in the car to start the two day drive to civilization.

The driving that day was pretty easy and uneventful and we got back to the road and made some good miles. A quick lunch stop at a cafe involved 12 deep fried pasty things, it would have been nice to have something else but that was all the cafe served. After the danger (unidentified meat) pastys we appreciated Dave’s cooking even more and had a nice dinner with a view of more stunning valleys.

The next day things got a bit more interesting. We were back in the barren empty Mongolia everyone imagines and enjoyed some more breathtaking scenery.

Driving along quite happily we suddenly came across a police check point, very unusual in Mongolia and we then picked up two more police stops. We later found out we had driven through a gold mine and a highly restricted area, but fortunately the police just found us funny and pointed the way to UB. It started to rain in the afternoon and it would appear dirt tracks turn in to ice rinks when it rains and i had a 4 hour driving stint doing some of the most difficult but fun driving so far. There was a lot of sideways action and every few seconds a water splash would completely blind me for a while.

These where interesting and it was always a bit of a gamble to see if you emerged still facing the way you where moving. That night somehow we found a gap in the clouds and managed to set up camp in the dry and got a good nights sleep, just around the corner from an eagle’s nest (of the non-Nazi type), complete with a very ugly eagle chick.

The last 100km to UB should have been easy as the track took on some semblance of a road, but as with most of the roads we have found it was better to drive on the track off to the side, so Dave had a whole morning of controlled sliding. At one point we where fully sideways and all producing brown adrenalin, but the rest of the time it was actually general pretty controlled. Then something happened to make us all very happy. We came across a Land Cruiser stuck in the mud. People have always asked us if we would prefer a Land Cruise as they are more comfortable etc, but they are rubbish off road and it was a lot of fun towing this one out. It was made even better when we snapped the Toyota issue tow cable and had to use our own.

We spent the morning stopping to help people out of the mud and even tried to help a ten tonne truck that drove into exactly the same pot hole we had just pulled the Land Cruiser out of. I have to say i would never drive through this country in anything but a Land Rover everything else seemed to get stuck and we (except for the sideways incident) had no problems at all.

So we arrived in UB at about lunchtime and then drove round the city for 3 hours trying to blag our way in to all the nice hotels. This did not go so well and we ended up in a really cool guest house to chill out and take in the sights of Mongolia’s only city.

- Pete

Playing on the iPod: Anything by Wet Wet Wet

Police Stop Count: 22

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