Ah the bravado I’ve had on this trip is at last starting to die down. Russia and Mongolia, goodness me.
The last few days have been wild. After we left Aktau we spent a lot of time doing some boring old driving. It’s endless. Just the road (if you can even call it a road), dirt and driving. Oh we do get some excitements, every now and again the smooth road turns into pothole hell and who ever is driving has to swerve around it.
I can drive Eddy! Only took me this long but yay! And of course I get the joy of driving him on shit roads. Or at least I thought they were shit roads…and then we got to Russia. But I’ll get to that in a moment.
Kazakhstan was actually pretty ok, we found a lovely hostel in Astana called “Americana” and it was right by the US Embassy. They were lovely people and they welcomed us in despite the late hour, we were their only guests that night so we got to be special. And we got to sleep in beds. Real beds. The last few nights prior we just camped out or slept in the car and let me tell you, it was not the most comfortable thing. Despite the late hour we were welcomed in, given tea and after talking a bit we all went to bed and I slept so very well.
That would be the last time we would have such luxury. It was also the last time we would have internet and power. We entered mother Russia in the wee hours of the morning, the Kazakhstan border guys were nice, joking around as we got our passports stamped. Russia on the other hand, stone faced and all business. I mean it was 12am so I let it go. We slept on the side of the road, or rather I just slept in the front car seat. This would be my bed for the next few days.
Russian roads were not all the great but they certainly weren’t the worst, they were however, bad enough that during one particularly bouncy hill, Eddy’s exhaust pipe snapped in half and if any of you know what a car sounds like without a muffler, you’ll understand what I mean when I say Eddy was roaring. We couldn’t pull it off, nor could we repair it. For some reason we took the whole “be as horribly unprepared as possible” part of the rally rules very seriously, we have no tools except for some tape and a pocket knife. Obviously the tape failed, somehow we put it together long enough to get us to a small town where we took eddy to a repair shop and got him fixed up.
Russia was cold and wet and it was only a preview of how cold Mongolia would be. None the less we spent some cold nights in the car (Kristina and I), Maartje and Scott on the other hand had not only the cold but the wet as we learned out tents really aren’t water proof.
Eventually we made it to the border, only to find out that we literally arrived just as it closed (8pm) and it wouldn’t be opening until the morning (8am) which meant we had time to waste, so after a dinner of spicy pot noodles Kristina and I curled up in the car while Maartje and Scott cuddled up in their tent. I hardly slept, it was cold and wet and overall miserable. But there was a highlight!
Other ralliers had showed up in the middle of the night. We remembered one of them, a team of two Swedish and one american (formally of the Baked Potatoes team). After some chatting we decided to convoy and off we went.
Mongolia sucked. Seriously, if you’re driving into it and you see people rushing to leave and they stop to tell you that it’s so bad they had to turn around or that they were up to their eyeballs in water trying to get across the rivers, you’d think yeah I better heed their warnings.
Not us. We just laughed, agreed to take the southern route and with a wave we were off. The first thing we did? Slaughter a goat. No, no we didn’t run it over. As we were driving the exhaust pipe fell down again, it was still attached on every part but the middle so we couldn’t just rip it out. With the help of our Swedish friends, we manged to get it to stay on a bit. But then a local came by and one thing lead to another and that is how we found ourselves in his house having some tea.
Kristina and I ate loads of cookies, the tea had loooooots of milk in it, which unfortunately we couldn’t have, but from what the others said, it was pretty damn good. Jokingly one of the Swedish guys mentioned how he keeps seeing the goats and he just wanted to go out there, catch one to eat. Our host said he could do that, and so that is how we found ourselves driving around to get a goat to slaughter and eat. At one point Eddy broke again, so while they murdered the goat, Eddy was getting fixed up.
I couldn’t watch. I made eye contact with the goat just before they dragged him off, I occasionally peeked out the window ( at one point I saw it’s leg kicking and it’s body shaking as they drained it’s blood) but was so put off by it all I just sat there thinking about how much I wished Mongolia had more veggies.
Meat obtained (and stupid amounts of money paid) we got on the road in search of a place where we could not only camp, but have a fire to cook the meat. But before we could get too far we realized that one of the wheels was totally ruined so we needed another spare. While we dealt with the tire the other team got the fire wood. That is how we found this huge flat area right next to a lake. It was pointed out to us by a local and sure enough when we got there it was beautiful. Sun setting we piled up the wood, the men cut up the meat and I got to cooking. It was freezing that night. But the warm fire, good food (yes I tried a bite of goat and felt horribly guilty), drinks and wonderful company made everything tolerable. Not a bad introduction to Mongolia.