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

Stage 7 - Sunday 27 April 2008 - Day 71
By Dick and Pip Smith
Apr 27, 2008, 14:28

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On our way again - a candlelit dinner for two

We are really excited as we are transcribing this in the Earthroamer at the small town of Zereg in the Northern Gobi Desert in Western Mongolia.

After a quick trip from Sydney via Seoul, we landed in Ulaan Baatar very late on Saturday 26 April.  On Sunday morning, we caught the direct flight to Khovd.  Eldos met us in Ulaan Baatar and came on the flight with us.  He is going to drive back with us.  He has finished his University degree exams and has a bit of time off - and he wanted some fantastic intelligent company!

It was exciting to see the Earthroamer!  Here is the photograph.  Dagas had put a tarpaulin on the front and even though the Earthroamer was pretty filthy on the outside, inside it seemed OK.  We are truly amazed with the repairs.  Ford in Ulaan Baatar have not only put in two new batteries under the bonnet (it appears that the old batteries froze solid) but have also fixed the oil leaks.  This must have been an incredibly difficult job in the middle of winter - jacking the whole Earthroamer up to get in underneath.
The Earthroamer sitting at the back of the Bryant Hotel in Khovd after six months

We pulled the tarp off the Earthroamer and loaded in our bags.  As the Earthroamer was so filthy, we had it washed by a group of locals, who climbed on the vehicle and washed it with buckets of water.  Khovd is in quite an incredible situation at the moment.  Normally its electrical power comes from Russia - thousands of kilometres to the north - via very long power lines.  Unfortunately, about three weeks ago, a major storm took out the power lines and it could be months before they are repaired.  So there is no water pressure and no lighting at all in the town - except that a few people have generators.
We lifted the bonnet and got the engine going - what a great sound.
Washing the vehicle.
Dick holding the damaged oil seal that caused our oil leaks from Almaty - you can see the ding on the inner edge (just near Dick's top button).

Whilst the Earthroamer was being washed, Dick fitted the GPS units and the Spider Tracks unit, which was placed on the dashboard and plugged into the cigarette lighter plug.  Dick also tried to get the heater going by fitting a new glow plug.  Unfortunately that doesn't seem to have succeeded, however it looks as if the Taldygorghan batteries might have held up.  When we got in the vehicle, the batteries were absolutely dead flat but it looks as if they are taking a bit of a charge.  We are hoping that they may do us at least until Vladivostok.

After quickly cleaning the Earthroamer, we refuelled and headed off down the road.  Were we going to get more than 120 kilometres this time?  That was the test.
We filled up the water tanks from the Khovd town well.
We filled up the diesel tanks from the Government owned fuel station.

First of all, we found it incredibly warm.  Rather than below zero, it was 74 degrees Farenheit (23 degrees Celsius) in Khovd as we left.  We departed at 3.00 pm and drove up over the pass where we had been towed in the freezing snow 6 months and 1 day before.  What a change in scenery!  Snow could only be seen on the very distant hills and the lake in front of us still had some icy bits but generally it was a lot warmer.
A typical wayside activity in Mongolia - repairing the bike and having a chat
No snow on the ground now.
The back spare tyre came loose so we tied it up with rope.
The rivers and lakes still had a covering of ice and snow in parts.
Camels resting beside the road.

Unfortunately, the road is worse than it has ever been.  Six months of huge trucks driving on it has resulted in the most extraordinary corrugations - and if there is one thing the Earthroamer is not good at, it is driving on corrugated roads.  Sometimes we had to slow down to less than 30 kilometres per hour because the vibration was so staggering we couldn't believe the vehicle could possibly hold together.
The rough tracks just near the place that we had broken down six months ago.
Dick has to use all his driving skills on the rough dirt roads in Mongolia.

After two and a half hours of driving we past the point of no return - yes, the point where we broke down last time.  Was that a joy!

We drove on for another half an hour and arrived at the small town of Zereg at 6.50 pm.  We parked outside the local hotel.  Well, you could call it a hotel - it did have a bed inside the room.
A sheperds Ger home.
A local man on his horse in Zereg came to have a look at our Earthroamer.
Another young man appeared on his motorbike and asked me to take this photograph.
One of the locals came to say hello when we pulled up outside the cafe in Zereg for dinner. We parked here overnight.
The children of Zereg came to have a look inside the Earthroamer.
We became the centre of attention in the little village of Zereg soon after we arrived.
The children loved having their photos taken, then having a look at the picture on the back of the digital camera.

I decided I would shout Pip to a candlelit dinner; In fact, Zereg is on the same grid as Khovd, and just as the power lines went out and dropped Khovd off the grid, the same was true for Zereg.  The sad thing about Zereg is that they only had their power connected in February and now they don't have any power again and it could be months before they get it.  At 8.00 pm we had dinner in a little wayside cafe.  It consisted of tea with salt and a dish of fried noodles, potato and lamb - very tasty!
Our candle lit dinner in Zereg, celebrating being on the road again.

It was a wonderful drive of 150 kilometres for the day, giving a total of 25,597kms.

Interestingly enough, the GPS shows a moving average of 39.9 kilometres.

Today  150kms    25,597kms since Anchorage, Alaska 

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