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Diary Last Updated: Jun 16th, 2015 - 16:51:13

Stage 6 - Day 69
By Dick and Pip Smith
Oct 25, 2007, 11:44

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Unfortunately, during the night our diesel heater stopped working again.  Obviously our belief that the heater had stopped working because of the diesel fumes must have been wrong.  It was freezing cold when Dick got up at about 7.00 am.  We had purchased a 220 volt Russian fan heater, so Dick plugged this in to the power lead which was connected to the power point in Eldos’ mother’s garage.  This gave us some warmth for cooking breakfast. 

At 5,600ft it was only 23°F as we drove out of the town of Olgii at 8.10 am

It was a beautiful fine day and the temperature outside was 23º Fahrenheit.  We were at 5,600 feet and knew that we would be climbing to well over 8,000 feet today during our journey.
Rough gravel road
We drove the Earthroamer sometimes on no tracks


Initially we headed south to the beautiful Tolbo Nuur (Lake Tolbo or Frog Lake).
Lake Tolbo
This lake is at 7,000 feet with a mountain backdrop, and has beautiful fresh water.  Eldos told us that a major battle was fought here between the Bolsheviks and the White Russians, with a local Mongolian General siding with the Bolsheviks – of course the Bolsheviks won.
A heavily laiden truck passed us on the rough road


We then climbed across a mountain range to get to the next river valley.  Soon we were once again driving in snow, and when a 15 knot wind started blowing snow across the tracks it was very difficult to find the way.
The road became covered in snow as we climbed to over 7,000ft
In blowing snow at 8,600ft we passed trucks labouring under heavy loads
The driver gave us a wave as he drove past us in the blizzard
A herd of yaks in the wind and snow


At one stage we found a young couple with their broken down motor bike.  They had their tools out to make repairs.  We stopped to see if we could help but they both gave us lovely smiles and waved us on.  Here we were, apprehensive about our situation in such terrible weather conditions, and they had nothing but warm clothing and a little motor bike!  Well, that shows the different levels of experience.
We thought we were brave until we came across this Mongolian couple who had broken down in the blizzard


We crossed the pass at 8,681 feet and started to descend on the other side.  A number of the creeks were covered in snow and ice, and we had to ford one of them in a completely broken brash ice situation.  We put the Earthroamer into low range and got across OK, but it was quite risky.
Dagas checked the depth of the hole through the ice before Dick drove the Earthroamer across the stream
Sheperds sheltering out of the icy wind


We had been told by the Russians that there were no roads in Mongolia.  However at one stage we found 16 roads all running parallel to each other – well, they were almost parallel.  If we drove on the main road it was so bumpy with corrugations that we couldn’t maintain 20 kph.  Many people wouldn’t have even called it a road.  We would generally use road eight or nine, or sometimes road eleven, which stretched out 1 km left or right of the road that appeared to be the main track.  These side tracks had been made by vehicles wanting to avoid the corrugations and were quite often much smoother.  Unfortunately, every now and then one of the tracks would head off in a different direction, so we had to be very careful.
Which road should we take - no not the obvious one on the right - it would be too corrugated to travel on!


At 12.30 pm we stopped at a beaut little roadside café.  What a place!  The Mongolian family inside cooked some delicious lamb dumplings for us, which we enjoyed with lovely sweet Mongolian tea. 
We stopped at this little Mongolian cafe for lunch of lamb dumplings
We met this family inside the cafe having a bowl of tea


There were also some truck drivers at the table.  They had driven day and night for 2½ days from Ulaan Baatar.  They were driving a truck with a great big trailer on the back.  It appears that they drove continuously, taking turns with the driving.  The driver who was resting would try to sleep as he sat – quite extraordinary.
A well laiden truck parked outside the cafe


At lunch time Pip noticed that the large cabinet mounted above our stove had started to drop off the wall.  It was great that Pip noticed this.  The cabinet seems to have been mounted using only three or four wood screws.  It contains the DVD player and all of our cooking utensils. 


From the café we borrowed a 2.5 metre stick, which was used to build the roof of a “ger” – a traditional Mongolian house.  We managed to jam this stick between the base of the refrigerator and the cabinet to hold it in position.  We took all of the plates and utensils out of the cabinet and put them into a separate bag.  We then drove even slower towards the town of Khovd.
The ger stick holding up the cupboards
Mongolian horseman
Below the snowline closer to Khovd we saw the traditional Mongolian landscape including this lone camel
This friendly Mongolian "drover' came over to see the Earthroamer and say hello to us
A family of three people all sitting on one motorbike


We passed traditional Mongolian herders with their sheep and goats.  Occasionally we would see camels – which appeared to be feral but we understand that they were owned.  At one stage a shepherd on his horse came over and stood for photographs.  Everyone we meet is incredibly friendly.


This area of Mongolia is magnificent.  Believe it or not, it reminds us a bit of Ellesmere Island (in Northern Canada) in summer.  There are magnificent copper and brown coloured hills with snow peaks in the distance.  We continued descending towards the town of Khovd.
A ger and motorbike beside the track


When we arrived in the town we found that we were at 4,900 feet (about 1,000 feet lower than last night’s stop) and the temperature was a colossal 42º Fahrenheit – almost balmy!  We crossed the magnificent Buyant Gol River and drove in to Khovd city, which has a population of 31,000.  We wondered where people found employment.
A local man leaning over his fence in Khovd
We met these friendly men in Khovd with their Ger packed onto the side of their motorbike


The city was once a Manchurian military outpost and is now basically the centre for manufacturing and trade in western Mongolia.  North of the city are some Manchu ruins from the Qing Dynasty – about 1762.  The buildings were built at the time of the Manchus and obviously housed the warlords.


We had arrived in the city but we needed to do further repairs to the Earthroamer.  How could we re-mount the cabinet?  We couldn’t drive all the way to Ulaan Baatar and Vladivostok with a stick holding it up!  Dagas, who was driving the Jeep (sometimes ahead of us, sometimes behind) quickly found a mechanics shop that had an electric drill and some large self-tapping screws.  Dick worked with the mechanic and replaced the three screws with six stronger and better ones – drilled right into the side frame of the Earthroamer.  We hope that the cabinet is there to stay now.
People came to look at our Earthroamer while the mechanic screwed the cupboard back onto the wall in Khovd


It is almost impossible to describe the roads here. Our total distance for the day was 227 km, and that was about as far as we could go.  At many times we were down to 20 kph.  The roads vary from quite good bitumen or graded gravel, to something that is almost impossible to follow.  Speeds can go from a maximum of about 70 kph (when we are lucky) down to 15 kph when we are crossing creeks and can’t even find the road.


We are now parked beside a small hotel in the town of Khovd.  The heater is working again and we are very happy to have fixed our vehicle.


Today  227kms    25,322kms since Anchorage, Alaska 

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