The next morning we set off, keen to meet up with the Roos and be on our way. As we drove, we were relieved we had stopped driving when we did. The road was windy and kind of treacherous and it would have taken us twice as long to travel it in the dark. We saw the town of Altai approach, checked our watch and realized we were completely late to meet the other teams. We went to get gas and cash when we ran into the team Two Vagabonds and Yak. We agreed to meet at the “Mongol Rally Auto Service” on the way out of town and convoy together, along with another vehicle driven by Dave, who was driving solo.
A truly classy place - Mongol Rally Auto Service
The Mongol Rally Auto Service was a totally happening place! We saw a ton of teams there and were milling waiting for people to fix random parts of their car. We were chatting with people about how all the electrical stuff was starting to fail on our car (radio, horn, lights) when someone pointed out that all of those things are connected to the fuse box. This wasn’t some totally hopeless problem – it was, in fact, quite a simple fix! Well, except we didn’t even know where our fuse box was or how to change a fuse. BUT we were lucky enough to chat with a super friendly Rallier named Matt who is also a mechanic! He fixed our car in a jiffy and Sebastien and I were elated. Not that we don’t love talking to each other for 10 hours a day, but we were in a really good part of our audiobook that we were looking forward to finishing.
Dorky, I know.
This was the nice guy that fixed our fuses. Sadly, his car needed a much more complicated fix!
Once everyone had their car stuff sorted, we headed off. There were five or six teams that set off around the same time, and soon after we left Altai we came across the others stopped on the side of the road. One of the cars had driven over a sharp rock that had pierced their sump guard and their fuel line. Their car was leaking all over the place. One of the guys in the affected convoy was Peter, a Norwegian who had hooked up with the team when his car was totalled in Kyrgyzstan. Peter had a bit of an issue because he had to be in Ulaanbaatar by Saturday because he had to be back in Norway for work on Monday. At this point it was Wednesday, and they had no idea how long it would take to fix the car, or if the car could be salvaged. Since Dave was traveling alone in a compact SUV with plenty of space, Peter decided to hop in with him. He was pretty choked because at that point he was really close with the other dudes, but his options were limited.
Glad that we hadn’t hit any of those issues, we continued on with a few stops here and there – to admire a stupa and have lunch.
Two Vagabonds and a Yak ended up having some tire problems, but other than that, the day was pretty smooth.
Off-roading....because there are no roads
We had also found ourselves in good company again – since the teams had maps and GPS! Despite both of these things, we ended up off-course on our way to the next town – Bayankhonger. It was a blessing in disguise though, as we came across a really pretty lake that was our campsite for the night. Sebastien and I had supplied part of the lunch (leftover chilli – warm this time!) so we were treated and didn’t have to cook anything for dinner! We made a small appetizer – fried goat cheese (donated by our Mongolian friend the day before), but that was it. While everyone else was working hard, Sebastien and I got our feet wet in the lake (much too cold and murky for full submersion). It was refreshing to wash off some of the caked in dust, but there really was not much that could be done.
Scenic Mongolian lake
Dave, Renata and Sandy set to work on the stew which ended up pretty much being a work of art. Sebastien and I agreed it was one of the top five soups or stews we had ever tasted. And not just because we were starving. Dave is a bit of a foodie and had concocted just the right combination of spices to accentuate all of the ingredients. It was amazing.
Dave works on his masterpiece of a stew
We set our chairs in a semicircle to face the sunset and were treated to both a sunset and a moonset as we dined. Seriously, the moon sets in the horizon. It’s wild. There was much discussion amongst everyone on why that happens. It was refreshing to have a discussion that relied on our knowledge (or lack thereof), speculation and a sense of wonder, rather than having instant access to the answer via Google. I think that Sebastien had a good explanation, but at this point I can’t remember what it was!
Sunset on the lake
Admiring the view and enjoying dinner