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

Stage 7 - Monday 5 May 2008 - Day 77
By Dick and Pip Smith
May 5, 2008, 16:18

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A speedy transit through the Mongolian/Russian border.

We had a good sleep-in at Ulaan Baatar before going down to the Ford dealer at about 10.00 am.  Baagii insisted on taking us for a test drive – and what a test drive!  It was to a high mountain overlooking UB, around about 1,500 feet higher than the town itself.  We almost needed 4WD to get there.  At the very top of the ridge we climbed out of the Earthroamer.  Walking along, we could look down through the beautiful pine trees to UB below.  Unfortunately there is a lot of smog around because of the huge power stations and the coal powered heating plant.
Baggii giving the Earthroamer a final test drive

Baagii was certainly right – the turbocharger was working beautifully. 


On this trip Dick noticed that the rear exhaust bracket had broken off, so it was well worth waiting the extra day.  Within about 20 minutes Baagii arranged for his experts to not only weld the exhaust bracket, but also to add strengthening to it.


We departed UB at 1.15 pm, planning to stay the night at the border and go through in the morning.  We drove north on the excellent road we had travelled on the day before.  We were driving past the ruins of failed collectives from the old communist days.
The traffic had built up in UB as we left at 1.15pm
We had to stop and pay a road tax of 80 cents as we left the city of Ulaan Baatar
A truck with a huge load of hay
We noticed a number of 'cut out' police beside the road as a warning to slow down
Beautiful rolling hills
Grazing sheep and goats
A sheperd on his horse minding his sheep
A tinge of green appears
A broken down log truck near Hongor


The road was magnificent and we managed to average 69.5 kilometres per hour to the border. We passed Mongolia’s second largest town, Darhan, which is based on coal mining and steel work.  Beside the road as we drove were ploughed fields.  Spring is arriving and there were even some green shoots coming through.
Apartments in Darhan
Horse and carts waiting at the markets in Darhan
Houses and gers in Darhan
A boy pushing his water containers near his home in Darhan
Going home


We turned right just as we reached the town of Suhbaatar, which is classed as the border town.  It is where the railway line heads north into Russia.  There are huge silos which seem to be almost falling down.  They are probably from the days of the collectives.


As we got within about 60 kilometres of the border, the scenery changed quite dramatically.  Most of Mongolia is completely treeless, but here we were in trees for the first time.


Salt lake
The road wound through sandy hills
As we got closer to the border, trees started to appear for the first time since the Russian Altai - six months ago


Twenty minutes later we reached the border at Altanbulag.  It was only 5.37 pm, so we thought we would give it a go to pass through the border today – the border closes at 7.00 pm.
Huge silos in Altanbulag
Mongolian border town of Altanbulag


It was incredible!  We did have Eldos with us, which helped tremendously.  At 6.15 pm we said goodbye to Eldos, so it only took around 40 minutes to do all the formalities. 


Leaving the Mongolian border - the exit gate is next to the small building and the Russian border is the large building on the hill


We were then on our own, but Pip had it all organised.  She had kept copies from previous border crossings and we were able to use those to encourage the Russians to get us through quickly.  Knowing that their border closed at 7.00 pm really motivated them.  We paid the Russian insurance (about $100) and got approval to import the vehicle for two months.  That is an ideal length of time, even if we break down a few more times!  We finally left the Russian border post at 7.09 pm.


 Instead of turning north, we somehow ended up on the wrong road and found ourselves following the border fence to the east.  Yes, we were heading towards Vladivostok, but on a shocking road that we couldn’t believe even Russia would have.  Fortunately, by looking at the GPS we realised we were going the wrong way and we backtracked.


As we headed north towards Ulan-Ude we were in magnificent pine forests.  We have a feeling we are going to be in treed areas right through to Vladivostok.  It will be interesting to see.


At 8.30 pm, still in good daylight with the sun out, we stopped at a small town.  We think it might be called Kalshina, but if you have a look on the Spider Tracks you might be able to locate it.


Sunset in Russia


We knocked on a few doors and many of the houses seemed to be unoccupied.  The kindly Russians came out and read our sheet, which says in Russian, “Can we park our vehicle in a secure location for the night?”  We finally agreed that we would park right outside one of the houses, and here we are – cosy, with the heater working.  We are in the Earthroamer with the engine working, and the new batteries ran the frypan to cook macaroni and cheese.


We stopped outside a house in Kalinishna


Today  421 kms.    27,892 kms since Anchorage, Alaska.  We have over 3,800 kilometres to go.



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