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99 bottles of beer on the wall (ik heb een potje met vet…)

Posted on 7 Sep 2013 | 7 comments

There’s no denying it, we’ve got to drive a lot of kilometers before we can join our families for a merry Christmas dinner in a few months. In fact, when we finally turned west in earnest at Ulaanbaatar to head to the Mongolian – Russian border, we were driving towards our end goal for the first time in our trip. So far we had mainly been driving north, and even a little further east. Six days after turning west we realised we still had to cover a distance of 99 degrees to get to our destination. That’s more than a quarter of our beautiful globe!

amazing scenery, the 'road' for miles and miles...

amazing scenery, the ‘road’ for miles and miles…

Although we try to minimise the days and hours spent behind the wheel, we do need to cover that distance somehow. From Ulaanbaatar to the border was about 3000 km (our route) or 17 degrees and only the first 800 km or so were on tarmac (asfalt).

filling up again

filling up again

we found the only fence in Mongolia, no idea what it is used for though

we found the only fence in Mongolia, no idea what it is used for though

a family moving house (ie the ger is being relocated)

a family moving house (ie the ger is being relocated)

loved these 'roads'!!

loved these ‘roads’!!

As we were following the A16, the northern route, we had to cross one major river just to the north of Achit Nuur (a large, mozzie and march fly infested lake). For several weeks now we had heard it was impassable, but as we were getting closer we started hearing of travelers that had heard of people crossing. Never a first-hand experience though, they had always heard of someone who had done it, but hadn’t crossed it themselves.

Uureg Nuur

Uureg Nuur

we catch up with Guy, Cheryl, Miles and Marina in the middle of nowhere and enjoy stories by the camp fire

we catch up with Guy & Cheryl and enjoy stories by the camp fire

our camp site next to Uureg Nuur

our camp site next to Uureg Nuur

sunset over Uureg Nuur

sunset over Uureg Nuur

view from our camp site

view from our camp site

one of our visitors, he is holding the reins of his horse in his left hand

one of our visitors, he is holding the reins of his horse in his left hand

a swim, wash and playing beach ball in Uureg Nuur

a swim, wash and playing beach ball in Uureg Nuur

We spent a day at a lovely, mozzie-free lake (Uureg Nuur) and to our surprise Guy & Cheryl and Miles & Marine turned up. We decided to all try to cross the river together. It would give us some security to know the big trucks could pull us out if needed. Reports were the water would be over the bonnet. It turned out not be that high at all and we crossed with ease, feeling a bit silly with the tarp across the front…

more sand dunes on the way to the river crossing

more sand dunes on the way to the river crossing

Jon trying to find a good place to cross the river, this area is infested with big march flies and 1000's of mozzies!

Jon trying to find a good place to cross the river, this area is infested with big march flies and 1000’s of mozzies!

start of the river crossing

start of the river crossing

Guy making sure we cross ok, the Bee next in line to cross

Guy making sure we cross ok, the Bee next in line to cross

easy :-)

easy 🙂

The A16 is a big sounding name for a small track, mostly sandy or rocky, occasionally muddy. It is slow going and when you’re able to do 40km an hour it feels like you are flying! Most of the time we drove between 20-30 km / hr. Jon doesn’t care much for the slow-going, bumpy tracks, I think he is more of a speed-devil than he realises, I loved them. We both hated the corrugated bits though. Some describe it as driving across a washboard, we just felt horrible as it feels like Lara is shaken to bits. Luckily we didn’t have many corrugations on the northern route, although the rocks sometimes were pretty rough too.

don't like one track, try the next one

don’t like one track, try the next one

The dust is pretty intense here as well. Especially evident when the wind is in our back and we hit the brakes for a huge pothole – the whole car would then be enveloped in a massive cloud of dust. And all of it is always trying to get into everything we have. Our clothes pods are (luckily) pretty dust free, although Jude has to plug one area to stop most of it coming in. But our home-made clothes-pods provide an excellent dust barrier. Our hair, our skin, the food boxes, the little mascots, everything is covered at the end of the day. Every night we still spend some time clearing the dust out of the car to make sure it doesn’t build up too much.

we tried to take a photo of the dust, this was the best we could do. It doesn't look too bad, but it gets everywhere!

we tried to take a photo of the dust, this was the best we could do. It doesn’t look too bad, but it gets everywhere!

Usually the passenger is kept quite busy during our long drives. On the bumpy roads however it is a lot harder to do many of the usual things, so we have started singing and playing games like ‘I have never’ and ‘bingo’ 🙂 (amazing that after 13 years together we have still found out new things about each other with the ‘I have never’ game!) Jon has also been our Russian teacher, using the book and cd we bought months ago in Singapore. We have only got to chapter 4 so far, but the first 3 chapters were mainly to learn the Cyrillic alphabet…! So another of our games now is to try to read place names and all sorts of signs along the road and in towns. Great fun when we read something and we know what it means, even though we are reading at the speed of a 5-year old.

road signs in Mongolia...

road signs in Mongolia…

good to see our gps knows where we are and which road we're on...

good to see our gps knows where we are and which road we’re on…

Now we’ve reached the border with Russia and are driving into Russia we have seen quite a few other overlanders, as this seems part of a very popular route. Hardly anybody takes the northern route in Mongolia to UB though as you need a proper 4WD for it, not in the least for the river crossing, so we didn’t see many other overlanders there. The Mongol Rally has also reached Russia and Mongolia so we see quite a few of them too, including a big group that was stuck at the border into Mongolia. The organisers have failed to sort out their import papers (tax) so they can’t get into the country. Some of them were ready to just turn around and head back the way they came, not caring about donating their cars any longer. We hope they get through quickly.

the monkey cage where a lot of Mongol Rally drivers get stuck (at the Mongolian border)

the monkey cage where a lot of Mongol Rally drivers get stuck (at the Mongolian border)

We drive a lot of hours each day now we have so many kilometers to cover and as it is light till late here this means we are making long days (we want lots of sympathy for our long days please!). Our Taj Mahal (roof top tent) still feels like a palace each night (or maybe that’s because we are tired?) so we can definitely recommend one for all your driving adventures!

vultures waiting for the dogs to bugger off

vultures waiting for the dogs to bugger off

dogs, vultures, eagles, falcons and kites all wanting a bit of the dead sheep

dogs, vultures, eagles, falcons and kites all wanting a bit of the dead sheep

Russian tank left behind, now rusting away

Russian tank left behind, now rusting away

need meat for tonight? Just kill a goat and you've got yourself some meat for dinner

need meat for tonight? Just kill a goat and you’ve got yourself some meat for dinner

traffic in the villages can be bad...

traffic in the villages can be bad…

99_bottles_12

gers and an amazing background

camp site somewhere in the middle of nowhere

camp site somewhere in the middle of nowhere

7 Comments

  1. Hi, Your blog brings back so many great memories of Mongolia from 2007 and 2010.
    Small world as they say, meeting our other travel friends Robert & Clary.
    Enjoy Kym n Lyn

    • Hi Kym and Lyn, yes the world is definitely very small. Especially in the world of overland travel. And I think even more for people who travel for quite some years 🙂 (maybe one day we’ll be part of that gang too). Where are you guys hanging out now? When will you be back in Oz? It would definitely be great to catch you guys there too before you leave for your next adventure. We’ll be back probably early March 2014. Safe travels! Cheers, Jon & Jude

  2. Still jealous really envy the trip that you are doing

  3. Still jealous really envy TE trip that you are doing

  4. wow, such beautiful landscape; fantastic pictures!
    And you poor little buggers have to drive so much every day! Maybe you should consider extending your trip by 12 months so you can drive less and enjoy even more or if it gets too much would you like to change with me? 😉

    • I think I prefer the first idea to extend the trip with 12 months and stay longer in some of these amazing places! Back in Kazakhstan for 2 days now and then back south to Kyrgyzstan again… will email soon! Jx

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