The Chuggabugs Have Reached Mongolia
18 August, 2012; 20:46
Today was easily the best day of the Rally, though I realize I’ve said that before. We made it into Mongolia convoyed for a while, and now we’re camping on the steppes.
It was about one in the afternoon when we made it out of the border. By that point, the other teams we’d planned to drive with had all but left. Needing food, we decided to wait and eat at the little cafe and then catch them up later on the road. The fare was dumplings, I’m pretty sure the only thing they serve, and tea with goat’s milk. I’d eaten earlier while trying to coordinate with the other teams, but Michael and Chase were famished. Unfortunately, due to complication ordering, their food took more than an hour to get. By that point the other teams were long gone, and we decided to take the dumplings on the road to make up time.
We headed out of the village and came to the small town of Tsaanganuur. A man on a motorcycle flagged us down and told us the road was bad ahead and we should follow him. Having read the warnings about this very man, we politely thanked him and kept true to our path. A short while later another man waved us down and offered us a place to eat and sleep for the night, but, since we had ground to cover and had just eaten, we declined this offer as well.
Sure enough, the road got very bad at one point. Mostly it was okay, but the main road was under construction, and again, paths along the side provided us with our means of passage. Eventually, we came to a tall hill where, on some of the paths (muddy from the rain) we saw our friends from earlier, aparently looking for a path to the top. Since our car has the biggest wheels and highest ground clearance, we plowed on up only to be embarassed at our inability to take the steepest path. After a short walk around, we found a path that was mostly level and wound well around the hillside. While the other teams gingerly worked their way across the grass, we found a shorter path up and gave it the gas. I had to brag, but I think maybe the fact that I was driving and have spent so much time playing on fourwheelers in mud greatly contributed to our success.
This side road was still very muddy, and we climbed the hill at about 25mph so as not to get stuck. I think I gave Michael and Chase a bit of a scare at a couple points, but I was confident in my ability and we made it through the worst bit. Then we walked back down to offer advice and support to the other three teams. They made it up, and, not wanting to stop and lose traction, they sped past our parked car to the top of the pass. We, riding an emotional high from our complete success were only more greatly enthused when we reached what was the best view of the trip. From the top of the pass you could see a distance of probably 50 miles or more through the peaks of the Altais. The sun, filtering in through the clouds made for an excellent sight, and I think, for once, I might have done a decent job of catching it on camera.
After standing as long as we could atop the pass (it was snowing and we weren’t entirely ready for that kind of cold), we headed down and got back on the main road. In a short time it turned to pavement, and, against all odds, we set our top speed of the trip while in Mongolia at 95mph. Having been able to practically fly over the trails and rocky part of the road, we managed to leave the other teams behind as we reached Ogliy.
We stopped for gas, and another man offered us a bed in his guest house, dinner, breakfast, and a hot shower included in the price. Tempted to take him up on the offer, we decided, instead to just camp later on the road to Hovd. This decision was made mostly because it’s about time to change our oil, and the other teams were planning to stop in Ogliy tonight; we figured getting in another hour or so of driving would give us time in the morning to take care of maintaining our car while they catch up to us.
We are finally in Mongolia, and I cannot express the excitement it brings me. Seven months ago, when I first heard about Chase doing this, I never really believed he or I would ever be here like this, but here we are, well on our way to the finish line in Ulan Bator. Looking forward to another day like this, and then another and more, we might have trouble getting to sleep, but somehow, I think we’ll be just fine.