Day 3 Sun 12th Sept – Erenhot to Sainshand (Mongolia) – 248 km
Update 2 10.48am 14/09/10: The following has been submitted as a mixture of GPS voicemail, text messages and an email from Julie… Up bright and early to get through the Mongolian border which took about 3 hours and became quite heated at some points due to language issues and frustration at the predictable volume of officialdom. Once through the border there was nothing but desert and a multitude of dirt tracks as far as the eye could see. It was a hard day of driving with the temperature up as high as 50 degrees which is quite full on in a car with no roof. Hot sweaty and so so dusty. Julie said that the navigation was working well using a combination of the Garmin and Tulip ball and arrow symbols.
Benson ran really well but on one stop they discovered that the exhaust had snapped by the silencer so at 6.00pm they were in the back yard of a local Mongolian guy in the nearby village. While Benson was being welded Julie was invited inside and was presented with a succession of dishes shared with Grandpa who was dressed for dinner in his pyjama bottoms. Somewhat of a dileema as whilst being hugely appreciative of the hospitality there is a sensible need to avoid eating anything that might make you ill as being caught short in the desert with no bushes to hide behind would not be ideal! Julie says it was an evening she will never forget and after dinner got to sit with one of their sons going through his English homework.
By the time Benson was ready it was 9:00 pm and pitch black. They had to navigate 20 km into the desert with GPS and headlights that are feeble. This was a bit of a reality check as to how hard it will be should they breakdown during the next stint in the desert. They arrived at a very well organised camp with hot showers, good food and the customary warm white wine!
Update 11.50am 13/09/10: I just got a call from Tim who has now arrived in Ulaan Baatar. He’ll call with more details later as yesterday was pretty full on and there is much to tell including a broken exhaust, dinner en route, and driving 17km in the pitch dark to find the camp site using only GPS to navigate. The roads are really tough but the camp at the end was wonderful. Tim only spoke for a minute as in his own words ‘there’s a cold beer with my name on it downstairs’ and it sounds like he’s earnt it – just hope there’s a nice glass of wine for Julie. Will post all the details for this stage tomorrow.
Whilst a much shorter hop today will take our intrepid travelers into the desert and they’ll be following way points due to a lack of significant landmarks. Julie seems pretty confident but did wonder if having found things reasonably easy thus far might be tempting fate as they head off into the wilderness.
Tim sent a message mid-morning whilst waiting in a queue to cross the Mongolian border in bright sunshine. On the advice of another Buick-savvy participant they lost 40kgs of weight before leaving Beijing which he things was essential (although he doesn’t think they’ll be seeing their stuff again).
Tonight is the first night of camping and they will all be stopping at a camp site located north of Saynshand town.