On the 7th September...we crossed the finish line! 57 days. Now a couple of days chilling and having a few beers before we drive home through Russia, into Latvia and the rest of Europe.
The whole convoy, with the Ulaanbaastards Nissan Micra on the back of a tow-truck, undriveable. (Note the white Toyota is a local's who decided to park in front of the stage).
Mongolia, 5th and 6th September. Chilled in Ulaanbaatar on the 5th, waiting for Sheila to be fixed, and had a KFC. The mechanics spent all day driving around in the rain looking for our parts. The traffic in the city is horrendous. The rest of the convoy left as some of them needed to meet the car shipping deadline before their flights. We've decided to drive back through Russia - we have the time and we get our £1200 shipping deposit back. So it's the cheapest option.
On the 6th we picked up Sheila and headed to the statue of Genghis Khan, about 100km out of town. We then headed to the Russian border for the finish line in Ulan-Ude. We reached the border at about 8.30pm, however the border guards were crap so we were at the border for about 3.5 hours and didn't enter Russia until gone midnight. We ended up staying in a hotel in a border town called Khyagt.
Mongolia, 4th September. Looked around the museum in Karakorum and visited a buddhist monastery, went to a service and listened to the monks chanting. Drove to Ulaanbaatar and noticed that Sheila's shock absorbers had finally completely broken - it was like driving a space hopper. Took her to a garage owned by a company called Yakmobil, who make and sell their own expedition vehicles. One of the owners showed Tim around a coal-to-diesel pilot plant they had also built in a warehouse next door, which they were in the process of trying to patent. The mechanics took off the broken shock absorbers and showed us that both our rear wheel bearings had gone too. Our rear axle was also slightly bent. We also asked them to reattach the exhaust. Steve tried to take it off the roof of the car whilst it was suspended in the air, but the exhaust fell off the roof and landed on one of the mechanic's head. He wasn't very happy. The mechanic that could speak English then gave us coffee and barbequed marmot - which they occasionaly catch out on the steppe, skin and stuff with hot rocks and bbq so that it cooks from the inside and out. It tasted a bit like lamb. After explaining that the traffic in Ulaanbataar is horrendous he offered to give us a lift to our hostel (Sheila would take a day). However our hostel was miles from where he lived, so he got the mechanic who Steve dropped the exhaust on to give us a lift. Met the rest of our convoy at the hostel then went to a karaoke bar.
Mongolia, 3rd September. Drove north west towards the capital Ulaanbaatar. We then left the convoy to go and see the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire, Karakorum, which everyone else weren't too keen on seeing. The kiwis had issues with their suspension coils and wanted to get them sorted. So we headed offroad once again through green valleys until we reached Karakorum. Hit a pothole and had our 4th flat tyre of the trip. A man in a hut had a bigger hammer than ours and helped us bang the rim back into shape. Met another rally team who hit and killed cow and had to pay a farmer $100. Looked at a monument to the Mongol Empire and slept at a ger camp.
Mongolia, 2nd September. Continued heading east towards the town of Bayan Khongor. Our journey was halted by a large river. We considered attempting to cross until a tractor came through that had water in its passenger compartment. So we decided against that and followed the river north. Some locals in a landrover also showed us where we were on our map - miles away from where we thought we were because Google maps was completely wrong. Rejoined the 'Death Road' for the last 'good' section and stayed at a hotel in Bayankhongor. Had our first showers in 6 days.
Having some noodles shortly after rejoining the 'Death Road', which was nowhere near as bad as expected.
Mongolia, 1st September. Made our way to a town called Biger in the morning, doing lots of offroading through valleys and dried up river beds in the foothills of the Altai mountains separating us from the Gobi desert. The Swedes had some inner tubes fitted in Biger - we almost did the same to our flat but the tyre was completey shredded. We then headed further east through the steppe. Then Floppy Rainbow (the kiwis) had two flats within about 10 minutes of each other - both spare rims were used. We spent about an hour trying to get the tyre off the rim, then repairing the puncture, but were unsuccessful. Luckily some lorry drivers came past who managed to change the tyre with some crowbars. Our exhaust then fell off for the third time, this time in a new place by the muffler (the Tajik man's weld still holds). We strapped it to the roof and camped out by some rocks on the steppe.
Asking a local for directions after driving through endless dirt tracks to Biger.
The kiwis attempting to change their second tyre.
Mongolia, 31st August. Woke up and had a drag race in the desert (we came 4th out of 5 - not great but it's the taking part that counts). We drove down to a town called Altai and ordered some dumplings that took 2 hours to arrive. We then headed south, away from the infamous 'Death Road' that leads directly to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, and claims the most rally cars every year. Camped in some hills about 40km out of town - on the way we got our 3rd flat tyre of the trip. Played some drinking games and did lots of 'shoeys' (i.e. drinking beer out of a shoe).
Mongolia, 30th August. Drove through the Altai mountains from Ulgii to just outside of the town of Khovd, where the Swedes had their engine engine block botched back together. Tim held an eagle.
Oil started gushing out of the Swedes' engine block between Ulgii and Khovd.
At a mechanics in Khovd.
A new addition to Sheila, Gary the Goat-head.
After 7 weeks we finally crossed over into Mongolia on the 29th August. We spent the day in Ulgii, a town full of eagles. We climbed up a hill overlooking the town and discovered the eagle population was so large for one reason - there was an open landfill site just out of town. They're the Mongolian version of seagulls down the tip. Drank some fermented mares milk and slept in a yurt.
Driving through the Altai mountains from Barnaul, Russia, to the Mongolian border, 28th September.