The Wild West

IMG_6542

After only a little over two weeks since our departure from Shanghai we crossed the 5000 kilometre milestone yesterday. It happened on a steppe in the far west of Mongolia in the province Bayan-Olgii.

Before this trip I anticipated the whole road trip back to Amsterdam to be around 15.000 kilometre long. But I guess our trip will be a bit longer now….. We’re very okay with that, since until now we have been treated with some of the most spectacular landscapes and experiences we’ve ever had. Especially during our drive towards west Mongolia.

IMG_7397

After we stayed overnight in Uliastai and went to the garage again, were they couldn’t help us with our rattling car because they didn’t have the spare parts, we drove further west. We read about a beautiful lake, called Khyargas Nuur were in the middle of nowhere a ger camp should be.

IMG_6579

This camp was really hard to find and we almost gave up, but just before that crucial point we found it. What a spot it was! Just beside the lake, eight white gers were lined up. We slept in number 1 and took a hot shower again. The rocky shore line was filled with wild life. Just after we arrived at about 8 pm, they told us we could have dinner, but only fish. No meat.

IMG_7399

About half an hour later, while we were enjoying the sunset in the salty lake, we saw two guys with fishing poles and one big fish on a motor coming back to the camp. It turned out they just catched our dinner. We could taste the freshness and tenderness of the fish’ flesh. It was so delicious.

The next day we chilled a bit near the camp, cleaned and reorganized our car and climbed on the rocks to see some wild life. Lots of big fish circling in the water beneath, while two eagles were chased away in the sky above by two small birds who tried to protect their nest. Also lots of cormorants feeding their young in their nests on the rocks.

IMG_6590

Late afternoon two other cars arrived filled with nine Mongolian bankers, one of whom is also a member of the Mongolian Olympic Committee, all dressed in soccer shirts. One of them showed me a picture of his baby son, wearing the all orange-tenue. It was great to talk to them, and drink a glass of Vodka at night together. Also present was a guy who climbed Mount Everest twice and apparently is very famous in Mongolia. We had some great fun with them.

IMG_6671

The next morning we set off again, but not before our car was blessed with milk thrown on the car and tires by a beautifully dressed Mongolian girl. It helped, since we survived what was by far the most agonizing day yet. Our goal was to drive to Olgii, around 350 kilometres away. The day started extremely well, because we found a brand new stretch of tarmac, where we could speed up.

IMG_6676

Troubles started though around 100 kilometres north of Olgii, where we had to cross a couple of rivers. Not by bridge, but by car. We already crossed some rivers, but this time we didn’t dare. We found the river to be too deep. And since we were in absolutely the middle of nowhere, we decided not to risk ruining our engine, especially since we were already very worried about our car’s condition. It’s hard to describe the hits and shocks and terrain our car has to plough through. We had to use our low gear a couple of times to get us through some really sandy areas and rivers. So we decided to drive back around the nearby lake to avoid the river crossings.

That was easier said than done, since we almost got lost. Imagine a moon like landscape of rocks with no roads and only some faint tracks. With the help of our GPS mapping device we eventually found our way back. The last hour and half we had to drive in the pitch dark though and arrived around midnight in Olgii.

IMG_6584

Here we found a great ger camp in the city with friendly English speaking staff. We were exhausted, but feeling great we managed to reach the far west of Mongolia. Olgii is the provincial capital and has a distinct Kazakh atmosphere. Of course, the next morning we immediately      drove to the garage where we were told to come back at two o’clock to get our car fixed.

But again something came in between. This time it was the sad news that a family member of the garage’s manager had died this morning. The garage is now closed for at least two days, so we have to wait in Olgii a few more days. Or we might decide to drive to Novosibirsk in the weekend. The worst roads of our trip are behind us we think, so our car should be able to make it. It’s just a matter of timing, since we definitely want to see the next match of Oranje and need to find a god spot to watch the game.

Stay tuned to find out where we head next!

IMG_6686