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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Wrong Way Around

We set off on a beautiful clear morning on our way to the next town, Khovd. We drove for about an hour through some breathtaking scenery -  mountains, yaks and the odd cluster of gers. 

Sebastien and I were cruising along absorbed in the surroundings when we noticed we had lost the Roos and Team Phoenix. We doubled back to see what was up, sure that it was another car glitch.

Paul tells us we are going the wrong way!

That was not the case. Apparently we had taken the wrong road and were headed towards China. The boys pointed to some mountains in the distance and indicated that if we kept on our present course and crossed those mountains we would have ended up in China.  There are stories about past Rally teams that have ended up in China without realizing it (probably by on the exact same route we did) since the border is often unmarked. The Chinese authorities were not amused by that. We were happy we stopped when we did!

China is over yonder!

In our defence, there are no road signs and there are a million tracks in each direction. Our strategy to take the well-travelled ones didn’t work...this time. Lucky for us, the two other teams had GPS, we didn’t even have a map!
These people confirmed that we were, indeed, headed towards China

We went back to the cluster of gers that we had seen just to double-check if we were, in fact, en route to Khovd and when we pointed in the direction we had been going they said “China”. They then explained that we basically had to go back the way that we came and go around a different mountain.

Eventually we ended up exactly back where we had started that morning, and asked the lady who owned the town market which way to go. Rookie mistake, we had to go between the second and third mountain instead of proceeding straight past the third mountain.

Once we followed those complicated directions we soon ended up on something that looked kind of like a road and were confident we were going the right way. We saw a rally car and a huge eagle on the side of the street and stopped to check out what was up.

Hellooooo eagle!

Eagle hunting is still quite common in Mongolia (as evidenced by the dead marmot on the back of the motorcycle of the guy holding the eagle) and eagles are everywhere. One entrepreneurial Mongolian fellow saw some foreigners and decided to wait and see if we wanted to take pictures with the eagle. We decided to be massive tourists since we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hold a giant eagle and took many glamour shots. The eagle was heavy! I was going to take a picture staring the eagle down but at the last minute had an irrational fear that the eagle would poke my eyes out. We felt like we had a really special and unique experience but  later that day all the teams we met told us they had held the same eagle! But it was still awesome.

Yes the eagle is heavy and I realize that I was wearing sunglasses so it couldn't have actually poked my eyes out

We continued on our merry way through even prettier scenery, which was crisscrossed by streams. This meant that we had to ford more rivers/streams and once again our Perodua proved to be very awesome.

We thought we were hardcore until we saw these people who are WALKING across Mongolia

Very beautiful scenery full of yaks

They are sassy

At one point we lost the Roos and stopped to wait for them. Within the twenty minutes we were waiting for them like five other teams rocked up, some which we hadn’t seen for days! It was like a mini-reunion and we took the opportunity to have a little picnic before proceeding on our way.

Waiting for the Roos and hanging out!

Picnic party

The roads were rough (well, they were rough for the wimpy Hyundai Accents) and soon the Roos had to stop to change another tire. This one wasn’t even salvageable, it was completely shredded. The second-hand tires they had bought for “very good price” in Turkey were just not cutting it!
This one can not be fixed!

Boys changing tires

I met this nice man while the boys were changing their tire

Our convoy

Helpful directions! Thanks other rally teams!

We arrived to Khovd in the early afternoon, and on the outskirts saw our friend the Road Warrior on the side of the road. The Road Warrior (Bogdan) is a Romanian dude that was traveling on his motorcycle with another team called the Fire Fairies. Sebastien and I first saw him in Georgia, before we even knew he was along with a rally team and were so impressed with how badass he was that we christened him the Road Warrior. He wears motorcycle armor and is an all-around cool-looking dude.  

Anyway, he was on the side of the road because apparently his clutch wire broke. I don’t even know what that means. Luckily, Ben (of the Roos) knows stuff about motorbikes and told him to put it in second and they would push him so he could start. It worked like a charm, and he went roaring off into the distance. Until he hit a stop sign and then the boys had to do it all over again.  We didn’t see him again, and assumed all was well. (We saw him at the finish line, so he did make it!)
Giving the road warrior a push

Once in Khovd, the Roos decided to get new tires so we found a hotel for the night with internet and hot water. Well, it was supposed to have those things, but it didn’t. In fact, the hotel was pretty gross and we realized camping was much better.
I think the craziest thing about Khovd was that they don’t have pigeons everywhere, they have EAGLES. I guess it keeps the pest population down.
Those are eagles in the sky

Once the Roos got their tires sorted (which were too big so they had to hack at the guard and use a sledgehammer at some points, very resourceful lads), we went to a Lonely Planet recommended restaurant. Bad idea. This place didn’t have much menu selection. Basically, we kept asking for things off of the menu we wanted and the only thing they had was pasta and mutton. Delish!

After all of the day’s adventure we were tuckered out and headed to bed for the night!

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