To Mongolia and back summer 2010 WARNING LOTS OF PHOTOS!

Rob Sep 13, 2010

  1. Rob

    Rob Well-Known Member

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    I’ll start with some trip statistics.
    Total distance covered: 13921 miles (22404km)
    Duration: 1 month 19 days (7 weeks 1 day or 50 days or 36 weekdays or 0.14 years thanks to WolframAlpha)
    Number of breakdowns: 2, UJ in Poland but not immobilised, hole in exhaust needed welding in Mongolia
    Number of small repairs: 4, Tightened belts twice, removed ABS fuse, ARB bushes replaced
    Number of punctures: 2
    Number of tows needed/given: 0/0
    Number of times winch was used: 1 near Zakopane
    Longest day drive (hours): approximately 22 hours in a 24 hour period driving to Moscow
    Longest day drive (distance): about 1000 miles driving from Zakopane to London
    Highest altitude: approximately 2700m somewhere in Mongolia
    Number of bribes: 3 that’s 300 Ukrainian, 20 USD and 200 RUB


    Vague route map link


    21st July
    We finally have the green light from Jay our mechanic which means we can finally leave for Mongolia. We have been waiting in London for the last week to get the air conditioning sorted and now its sorted we can’t wait to leave. We book the ferry for 10pm and leave almost immediately.


    The cruiser is looking very clean and well packed
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    22nd July
    We arrive in Calais very early in the morning and we push on. Halinka’s parents have been expecting us for a week and are getting very restless. I carry on driving until about 3am and pull over at a petrol station somewhere in Holland and sleep in the car for a few hours. The drive across Europe was rather uneventful as usual apart from the fact that Germany seems huge when you can’t take advantage of the derestricted sections of the autobahn. Because of this we were falling behind more and more when compared to similar trips in the eurobox and as a result we only crossed into Poland late in the afternoon. We arrive somewhere near Zakopane in the early hours of the morning on the 23rd.


    23rd July
    We had a few things to sort out in Zakopane like our tick-borne encephalitis vaccinations and green cards for the car. We managed to get the vaccinations quite easily by getting a prescription from a doctor but we had less luck with the green cards, all the insurance places said that they can’t insure any foreign cars and we need to buy it at the border. We then decided to go for a drive in the forest/hills around Zakopane. We drove up a few nice tracks shown by Halinka's nephews and then we got to a forest.
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    We drove past a stuck logging tractor and carried on deeper into the forest. At this point we decided that it would be a good idea to get out and survey the track further downhill and decided that it is impassable but if we can get out of the ruts then we can drive around the obstacle.
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    I drive down the track to the really bad bit and could not get out of the ruts so we tried reversing, then forward and nothing. We were stuck.
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    At this point a storm was closing in so we had to winch ourselves out of the ruts quick.
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    After winching in the storm for over an hour with a PS pump that was playing up (the hydraulic winch runs of it) we were finally free.


    Here are a few videos of the incident filmed by one of Halinka's nephews, we had no idea that he was filming at the time. Due to PS pump issues I needed to rev it quite a bit to get the winch working...




    To wide to follow the track...



    Perfect example of why you need a front locker, to drive over tree stumps obviously...



    24th July
    Today we tried to sort the tracking on the truck, took it to one place and they drove it over a mat and said that it is fine. So we took it to another place and they sorted the tracking but could not straighten the steering wheel, better that then nothing. I also extended the front breather with a couple of very intrigued and confused members of Halinka’s family.


    25th July
    Today we leave Poland for Moscow, but before we leave we visit some more family members. We took the sort cut straight across the hill or mountain (not entirely sure what it is) which was very muddy, and the newly fitted rear difflock came in very handy. I wish I had mud tyres...


    We are finally ready to leave at 4pm and head down to Carrefour for some food supplies. This took forever as the traffic was terrible into Krakow and the supermarket is huge with ridiculous queues at the tills. When we left it started to rain and it rained all night. We arrived at the Ukrainian border and we decided that it would be a good idea to get that green card that we have been told to get at the border...


    26th July
    We walk around the Polish Ukrainian border looking for this illusive green card but everyone sells them for polish registered cars only and we could buy one in the morning in one of the local towns apparently, but we already tried that in Zakopane with no luck. We finally came to a ‘Kantor’ that was useful. The guy said, ‘you know what green card you can show, you can show this kind of green card’ while holding up a 5 USD note. We decided to give that a go and the Polish side of the border was fine, but when we got to the Ukrainian side we were asked for our green card which we clearly did not have. After some discussion through a small window one official comes up behind me and puts his hand on my back and takes me aside. After a brief exchange of a few words I showed him 20 USD and he told me where to buy a green card on the Ukrainian side. Now why would there be a place selling Ukrainian green cards on the other side of the border for non Polish cars when it’s apparently illegal to enter without one...


    We found the hut selling green cards and I walk in and wake the lady sleeping in a bed behind the counter (yes there is a bed behind the counter) with my rather loud footsteps, it’s now 3am. A 2 week green card cost me only 10 USD. At this point it was time for a nap. We wake up a few hours later and carry on driving. The road was shockingly bad I had no idea Ukraine was this bad. The place was full of old rusty Ladas and LPG powered Zil trucks which were first made in 1964. There are virtually no road signs but we manage to find our way on the deserted roads. As we travel east through Ukraine the roads improve significantly but there is a serious lack of traffic, maybe the average Ukrainian can’t afford a car, even a rusty old Lada...
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    As we travel further east I get pulled over for speeding on a dual carriageway where there is an apparent speed limit of 60km/h, but a lack of and speed limit signs. Anyway they caught me doing 95km/h so another bribe was in order, but I stupidly did not haggle and it cost me a whopping 300 whatever they have over there (about £25). You learn how to sort out bribes surprisingly quick.


    We got to the Russian border later that evening and bought a Russian green card with ease for about 5000 RUB for 2 months. At the entrance we were greeted by a woman official whom I could not understand and so she called over a male official who translated ‘Look, woman, present’. I was in no mood to pay bribes especially when all our papers were in order so I just looked back at them bemused. We were later asked for money again this time at the customs booth ‘no money no papers’ to which I gave the same look. I understood them talking between each other saying that I don’t understand and to let us pass. The Russian officials were actually very helpful and surprisingly uncorrupted. We even got a temporary vehicle import documents for the duration of our visa which I have heard can be difficult. Russia here we come.


    We cross into Russian and we see a sigh saying 500 odd km to Moscow, ouch we were meant to be at Natasha’s this evening. We fill up with diesel priced at 37p a litre which we had to pay for in advance. It feels good to fill up for 30 odd quid when back at home it costs £100. We drive for a few hours and then catch some sleep in the car for the second night in a row.


    27th July
    After a couple of hours of sleep we decide to push on as we need to meet Natasha before she goes to work. Not much to say about Russia yet as we drive all night in the dark, but as we arrive in Moscow we realise how big everything is. The ring road for instance has 6 or 7 lanes in one direction in some places and there are huge power stations every 10km or so.
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    We arrive at Natasha’s on time at 7am and go straight to sleep. Natasha came back later that day with Roman, a friend from Minsk and the first thing we asked was if he could do my Tick Borne Encephalitis injection which was due today. After we settled some confusion about us being drug addicts all was good and we headed out to the red square.
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    28th July
    Today we were meant to visit the Kremlin but as I was nursing a hangover and it was over 40 deg c we did the same as yesterday. Big fail I know, but at least we managed to register our visas (big PITA and wallet) at an agency as we did not fancy doing it ourselves. We did come across this awesome Uaz though.
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    29th July till ...
    We leave Moscow at midday and head east. Immediately we come across multiple forest fires and Halinka is scared of course. The first days drive is rather slow as there is plenty of traffic near Moscow and we started a bit late. This will be our first wild camp and naturally we are nervous. We decided we would not camp in a forest due to the fires but we had no choice really. So we stopped in a forest and found a clearing. I immediately checked if there is any grass touching the exhaust as the grass was so incredibly dry, no wonder there were so many fires. Anyway in the morning we were rightly moved on by some very concerned/angry locals.
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    This is where Russia gets really bad, lots of traffic to Kazakhstan and loads for Kamaz trucks with trailers heavily laden with watermelons. On one hill we saw several broken down on the side of the road, one with what looked like all 8 cylinder heads laid out beside it. I believe it was about here where I had my first encounter with the Russian police. I was overtaking near roadworks and a missed the sign which prohibits this. The car in front was clearly pulled over while we were asked to stop far more vaguely. Awesome I’m off the hook, 2kms down the road an old Lada pulls up beside us with the siren going and we were pulled over. I first apologised for not understanding that I was being pulled over and then he wanted to take my IDP (International Driving Permit) to the local court. I asked if I could pay now and was charged 100USD. I said I can give him 200RUB about 4 quid. He laughed and accepted the offer almost immediately. This night we found a better site for camping, I even used our solar shower which was rather good.


    We carry on and cross the Urals and enter Siberia. The landscape barely changes just loads of birch everywhere, a lot of it damaged by heavy snow and waterlogged soil. It was like this for thousands of kms until we hit the Altai Mountains. The roads are very busy until Chelyabinsk and there are more and more Japanese imports both cars and trucks with the steering wheel on the wrong side as we head further east. There also trucks imported from the US. If you ever wondered why the roads in the UK are mainly full of relatively new trucks and trailers it’s because they all end up in places like this. To date I have seen 2 ASDA, a Safeway and a Waitrose trailer.


    A statue of Lenin in Ufa, he is still quite popular.
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    Looks like a Chinese Landcruiser copy
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    One of our many camp sites, look quite tried in this one...
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    The Siberian roads
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    Loads of dead birch and a very dirty windscreen...
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    Loads of mosquitoes at this camp site near Novosibirsk...
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    4th Aug
    We arrive in the Altai region and we decided that we would like a break from all the driving but only after we did an oil service for 2 quid! We head off the M52 and head east on what looks like a decent road on the map towards a lake. The road deteriorates very quickly and before we know it, it turns into a something much worse than a paved road, a completely broken up paved road.
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    The scenery was stunning as all we’d seen for ages is birch. We get to this Siberian holiday resort called Artybash hidden among some very poor villages and the views are quite something, yes horses and cattle on the road everywhere.
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    This was a recently refurbished painting of Lenin and the inscription we are told says something along the lines of 'let Lenin's ideals live on forever'.
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    The lake near Artybash
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    We went to get some dinner in Artybash and some Siberian tourists were very confused as to why we are here and why we drove here. We replied we are on our way to Mongolia and we just wanted a break. They thought we were insane. We head out of town and stop by the river and pitch up next to some Russians. Elena spoke great English as she is a film producer and works in Los Angeles. They invite us over to their fire and we end up drinking 3 or 4 bottles of vodka between the 5 of us and Halinka only had one shot (well it was more like half a plastic cup as we did not have shot glasses).
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    5th Aug
    Wake up with a terrible hang over but to an amazing view at least.
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    We drive towards the Mongolian border. The views along the M52 just get better and better and the villages get poorer and poorer. We even found some horses waiting for a bus.
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    A very busy petrol station...
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    View form this nights camp site.
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    6th Aug
    We need to get to the border quick as it is closed during the weekend and it was a Friday. We push on hard and the M52 just gets better and better.
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    I wish I had a car that handles properly. We see a few vehicles heading back all covered in dust and mud. It’s looking good. The further we go the less traffic we come across. After the mornings steep climb we get a few ups and downs and suddenly it turns to a high altitude desert.
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    We see a fuel station and we fill up as we want as much fuel as we can before we get to Mongolia. I wish I took a photo of this dump, by far the worst fuel station ever, right in the middle of the desert, bullet holes in the counter window and a ridiculously cold wind blowing dust in your face. It turns out the fuel was rubbish as well, we have no power low down especially noticeable in first gear.


    We push on to the border on amazingly straight roads were you could easily do a ton without breaking any sweat if you had an appropriate vehicle. We stuck to a calm 80mph speeding past Russian Uaz jeeps and Ladas. We were suddenly greeted by the border and in the first hut I meet a couple of Aussie bikers Paul and Dean who have been travelling for 5 months already. Here is a link to their site, there is a fair bit written about us on there as we ended up travelling together at a later date. As we make our way through the various windows we keep bumping into them. There is a surprisingly long drive between the borders and a really shoddy gate in the middle between Mongolia and Russia (which Charlie and Ewan claimed to be passport control rather inaccurately in The Long Way Round). When we get to Mongolia we meet 5 stranded Mongol Rally cars who have been stuck there for a few days. They were talking about how were had a most inappropriate vehicle and a Fiat Punto loaded up with 3 people and supplies on road tyres can do the same trip. They were also secretly jealous of our aircon.
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    Some kids at the border looking for sweets.
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    We head into Mongolia and after some quite poor tracks there is tarmac, WTF?!?! It doesn't last long thankfully. We keep bumping into the bikers and when we get to the first town we meet again this time we discuss the route and we came to the conclusion that when we get to a town that is on the map you take the compass out and get your bearing and drive 60kms in this case until you get to the next town.
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    We get to Olgii and get shown around a home stay where the owner kicked his family out so we could sleep in their beds. We decide to camp a few kms out of town in what we thought was a secluded spot.
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    Within five minutes 2 horses were heading our way carrying curios children. We gave them some sweets and they left very quickly. We went to bed slightly scared and the wind kept us up most of the night.


    7th Aug
    We wake up to one of the most beautiful views I have ever seen with the sound of locust filling the air and we headed out over the jaw dropping steppes feeling like we were on a different planet. When we get to the main track we see a distinct shape of a small car with a box on its roof, must be Mongol Rally I thought. On closer inspection it was and so I naturally had to overtake the overloaded Punto. A few kms down to road we pulled over to admire the views of a lake. The Punto pulled over and after a short chat they wanted to use my compressor. My role as the unofficial Mongol Rally support vehicle had begun.
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    We also bump into the Aussies once or twice and had lunch with them washed down with salty tea in a tiny village. So many photos from today...
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    We get to Khovd and as usual we meet the bikers and we end up staying in the same hotel as them as we had a craving for a shower. The hotel was terrible but at least I had a couple of beers with the Paul and Dean and talked about how we went about overtaking the fuel trucks which were going as some serious pace. I remember one pacing along the narrow winding tracks creating a massive cloud of dust and with thick diesel smoke coming out of the stacks. Dean and Paul said that on the flat bits they were doing over 100km/h and had difficulty overtaking them and this was on unsurfaced tracks. It was like mad max apparently, need to ask them for the video. When we get to Khovd we check into a hotel with Dean and Paul which had a really terrible shower, far worse than my solar shower which is a basically a plastic bag with a tube.


    8th Aug
    We have a lot of miles to do today, over 400km to Altai. We soon bump into the Mongol Rally lot and the Punto is starting to have engine issues according to the dash lights. You can see the Mongol Rally dust clouds in the distance.
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    Just a bit further down the road we meet the red Agila which had its 3rd puncture of the day. They were not a happy bunch of people and asked us for a better jack. It turns out they were using a winter tyres in a rocky desert which is never a good idea. They later joked about us being sent by their mothers as an unofficial Mongol Rally support vehicle. They were very sad to hear that we will be heading north after Altai as the roads were too easy for us.


    We are now travelling through a desert, well it’s not quite a desert but it’s very close, by far the most arid environment that we have been in. Not much to say other than its very lonely in the dessert.
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    The Frontera Ambulance, part of the Mongol Rally, letting the engine have a rest.
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    A video showing what it's like to drive out there so many tracks to choose from and then...



    When we arrive in Altai we meet up with Dean and Paul but decide to camp out of town. We actually found a very secluded spot near town. There is a lot of gers in Altai
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    9th Aug
    In the morning I went to change some money in a bank and there was a lower exchange rate for smaller denomination USD bills, I tried to argue my case but she didn’t want any of it. Well I had no choice as we have far too many dollars which needed to be disposed of. When driving out of town we bump into the Frontera ambulance at garage with a sign saying Mongol Rally Auto Service. Simon said that they had to tow the Punto in and there was no sign of the red Agila, probably run out of spare tyres but we weren’t worried, there was a fair amount of traffic on that road so they should be safe.


    As we head north 3 bikers overtake us 2 Aussies on their KTMs and another KTM. We catch up with them just after Barton from America (the third biker) had taken a big fall. Turns out that Barton had done a fair bit of damage to the panniers, but nothing that brute force and an orange ratchet strap could not fix. They start to joke that we are their support vehicle at this point. The road was actually a nice change from the rocky desert road to Altay, very green and hilly.
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    There were even rather nice bridges
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    When we got to Uliastai we could not find the bikers so we had some lunch which was nasty as usual more fat then meat and as we were heading out we meet the bikers. Apparently they had a puncture and a couple more falls and they were pissed off that a 4 wheel drive beat them by 2 hours. We stay with them and while checking the bikes Paul finds 2 cracks one in his subframe and one in the fame itself. I offer to take his panniers to lighten the load. This means that from now we will be travelling together. Paul was very glad that I offered and thanked me greatly.
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    After I packed Pauls panniers into the Landcruiser we head out of town to yet another amazing camp site.
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    10th Aug
    We get back on the road and we get to a pass where all 5 of us stop and are approached by some curious locals. We even met a Mongolian who spoke Polish, who explained to us what the pile of rocks on every pass signifies. It is usually covered in blue ribbon symbolising the sky and all sorts of stuff gets chucked on there some of the more memorable were empty vodka bottles, crutches and money. These objects including rocks are brought up from the valleys either side and piled up to make a large visible landmark.
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    This guy spoke no English whatsoever but decided to come and join us just for some company. It must get really lonely out here for the herders.
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    Suddenly the road turned from mountainous track to desert highway once again, so we decided to take some action shots of the bikers as they overtake us. We start with Barton,
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    then Paul
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    and Dean
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    We soon arrive at Tosontsengel where we all decided to have a tweak with our vehicles. Dean bottomed out and broke a needle bearing on the end of his shock absorber, Paul was playing too and Barton had pannier and steering bearing issues. As my rear tyres looked quite badly cut up from all the sharp rocks I decided to rotate them front to back. But there was a problem, I did not have a trolley jack to do one side at a time. Barton convinced me to use a dangerous combination of HiLift and bottle jack to do each side. The first side went without any issues but when we got to lowering the second side the HiLift jammed. We tried a few things like the obligatory hitting it and a saner take up some weight with the bottle jack under the rear axle approach. After Dean crawled under the truck to jack the rear axle a bit the HiLift suddenly gave way and the truck fell to the ground! At this point Dean decided it was time to sample some Mongolian Vodka.


    11th Aug
    Well we all had a hangover and I had a flat tyre so I opted for the tyre weld which did a surprisingly good job actually. Barton decided to give us some GPS maps of Mongolia so we would not get lost, good idea we thought, no more navigating by compass and trip meter. So we set off to Tsetserleg and we all stop in the next town as they needed to take off some layers as it was getting warm. We set off leaving Barton behind as he was trying to sort something out but we soon realised we took the wrong road and ended up on a side road on the wrong side of the river. At this point we think we hear Barton on the right road on the other side of the river. We get back on the right road and later follow the GPS again onto a side road which lead to a river crossing as the bridge was impassable. I drove through but Paul and Dean did not see me and so asked how deep it gets without turning off their bikes. I signalled the average depth and then showed them and explained that it gets very deep just at the end.
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    They could not hear me so Dean went for it and hit the really deep bit and fell over just as he was out of the water...

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    Paul checked out the bridge if it was passable and then decided to go through the river and got through without any issues somehow.
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    We meet some Polish bikers again (we met them the previous day) who attempted the crossing late last night and got water in one of their engines and so were forced to camp there. They also followed their GPS... They told us that Barton did not come this way. We could still see the main road which was only about 500m away and we were looking out for Barton. As he thought he was behind us he it would be hard to catch up with him and we weren’t going to do the risky (for the bikes) river crossing again so we decided to push on and meet in Tsetserleg. We all set off including the Polish bikers and after about 20km we get to another river crossing. This time we see a local do it on his bike and they decided to follow his route. I drove trough it a couple of times for them to see how deep it is again. Dean went first and all was going well till he hit a big rock and took a tumble.
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    He managed to lift his heavy bike up on his own and tried to start it and the alarm went off and nothing, water in the engine. At this point all 5 bikers had put their stuff in my truck and decided to walk their bikes through apart from Paul who rode it through in his underwear.
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    We spent the next couple of hours trying to sort the bike out and without the Landcruiser around it would have taken longer as the bikes battery went flat after less than 30s of cranking and they were cranking for over an hour.
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    After the bike was fixed we carry on and the road deteriorates...
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    We arrive at Jargalant where we find the Polish bikers asking us in a surprised way, are you really going that way? We have a talk including asking the police who happened to be hanging around and decide to give the road through the national park a go after we fill up.
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    We turn back quickly when we found out that the road is very slow going and that there are many river crossings. So we come back to town and find a couple of rooms at a hotel where the owner sold vodka on the black market. This meant that the place was crawling with drunks and you would regularly bump into a queue of them when walking into the hotel.
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    12th Aug
    It rained all night and we try and take a different route south to the one we tried to take yesterday and we could not find it. At this point we decide to go back across both river crossings and get back on the main road, all 40 odd kms. The first crossing was OK but the second was considerably worse. We ended up walking the bikes over what is left of the bridge.
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    The road was wet and very muddy and all the pot holes where full of water.
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    There is also this comic video of Paul overtaking us...



    The exhaust finally gave way today and we were breathing fumes for about 100km, this now became an urgent mater. I did not have time to get it sorted in the UK before we left and I intended to get it welded before it gave way but failed...


    On the way we found a massive gorge and our first sealed road for a while so we had to take a photo.
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    We get to Tsetserleg and it turns out Barton waited for us, even though we did not know each other for long we were glad to see him again and so a bottle of Mongolian vodka was in order.


    13th Aug
    It was raining when we got up so we decided to stay there. Got my zorst welded and got ripped off. Barton decided to convince me to go to Magadan with them, that was so tempting...
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    We met some French girls Anne and Karine who were heading to Ulaanbaatar tomorrow so we offered a lift.


    14th Aug
    We drive to Ulaanbaatar with the 2 French girls (well technically one was form the Netherlands but anyway...) The Landcruiser is now very overloaded, 50kg of Paul’s stuff, 2 Frenchies and their backpacks 40l of diesel 25l of water and all the usual stuff and the truck was all over the place on the tarmac road to Ulaanbaatar.
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    Barton's bike has issues as usual, and so I watch as they fix another puncture.
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    As we drive along we spot farmed fields, a first for Mongolia. And then out of nowhere there is this sprawling city, full of things you would expect to find in a city, trust me this is unusual for Mongolia. We stay at this awesome but pricey overlanders hotel called Oasis where you can park your vehicle on the premises which is guarded 24/7 and even work on it if you need to.


    15th Aug
    In the mooring we found the most amazing vehicles in the car park.
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    Among them was a Deutz truck
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    and an immaculate 40 series with only 60K km on the clock, it was like new. The guy who owns it said that you won’t find a better example anywhere, well maybe in a museum but them don't run. I would have to agree.
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    Not much happened today, Paul, Dean and Barton took their bikes to bits and discovered that they had far more than a couple of welds each. They all needed new subframes, which got me thinking if Mongolian roads did this to KTMs what has it done to the 80? I had a quick look and both rear and front ARB bushes are gone, yes gone.
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    We meet quite a few people at oasis. Gerald and his wife travelling in a 100 series Landcruiser with camper body on the back http://www.exploringtheworld.nl, Andrew and his family http://www.overlandwithkids.com and few others including these guys on quads from Holland who are trying to break a world record for most miles travelled on a quad (Chris they were using your quad). There was also this French girl travelling alone to Japan on a battered 125cc 150,000km old Honda http://www.backtojapan.fr


    16th Aug
    All ill say is that we had food poisoning...


    17th Aug
    And today...


    18th Aug
    Found the ARB dealership in UB today which is right behind the parliament or whatever it is and got the anti roll bar bushes sorted for about £40 including installation for OME polyurethane. Did not get them all done just the ones that were missing or badly cracked. As you can see Ulaanbaatar is surprisingly nice.
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    19th Aug
    As the bikes are still not sorted and won’t be until later that day, Halinka and I decided to go and see this massive statue of Genghis Khan.
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    It was quite impressive rather odd for such a poor country to have such a monument and when we wanted to go in we were quoted 10000 local each. I asked what the 5000 price dispayed below the 10000 Mongolian currency was for, apparently it’s for Mongolian nationals. For 2 of us its £10 to get in with foreigner tax but wasn’t having any of it, its discrimination I said. No? OK so walked away.


    Later that day we decided to go and see some throat singers, as we parked up some kids came up to us and asked us several times if we want our car washed. Obviously I didn’t. Anyway a few hours later we came back to a clean Landcruiser... As I did not ask them to clean it I was not willing to pay up but I did give them some bananas.


    20th Aug
    We finally leave Ulaanbaatar and after a brisk drive north we arrive at the border. The bikes are nowhere to be seen and so we wait as we don’t want to cross the border only to find that we have left them behind. They arrived a couple of hours later and they go straight past us to the front of the queue. We decided to join them too but the guard was not having any of it. The coach behind us and the bikes were let through and so we followed, but we were halted. I parked in such a way that I blocked traffic in both directions and the coach driver behind us was getting very impatient and was on the horn. The guard finally let us in but we soon found out that there was another gate that we needed to cross to get to the border officials. This time we made it clear that we were together even though we were at the back of the queue and they were at the front. After a couple of hours they let all of us through together and the bureaucracy commenced. Over the next 2 hours we had our passports held for bribes, not been given the correct papers and told to go back to the gate, battled hordes of locals pushing in front of you as though they have no concept of queuing, and deal with officials who just could not give a damn. There was also this fat guy in plain clothes who we assume was a fixer, and whenever he turned up behind the counter and talked to the border guards we had issues. Thankfully this was only on the Mongolian side. Dean even made friends with one of the border guards...
    [​IMG]


    Many hours later we were in Russia and we book ourselves into a hotel in the nearest town as it was getting dark. Trouble was the only restaurant in town was closed so we had to make our own food in our rooms. We ended up having quite a decent meal of pasta mainly thanks to Halinka. Thanks Halinka.


    21st Aug
    After a slow start to the day, thanks to a new time zone and the fact that I insisted to change my Mongolian currency at a bank and not on the black market at the border only to find no bank would accept Mongolian cash, we drive north towards Lake Baikal. We decide to camp on the shores but we ended up camping in an OK location full of people and rubbish as the locals did not bother to clean up after themselves. The camp fire got quite weak towards the end of the night so it needed some diesel every now and then to get it going.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    22nd Aug
    We head into Irkutsk and Halinka and I went to look for a place to stay while the others waited around for some tyres. As I was driving around I was pulled over by the police twice, both times I did not pay anything but the second time I had to wait for about 45min before they let me go. It’s a tricky city to drive in as the signs say what you can do not what you can’t and as a result there are far too many of them add a one way system and weird buses only roads...


    This was our last night with the bikers as we were heading back to the lake for one last night there and then head back home. They were heading to Yakutsk next on a 3 day journey on a boat up the river Lena and then to Magadan.
    [​IMG]


    23rd Aug
    We say our goodbyes and we head to Olkhon Island, as Barton heard good things about it we decided to give it a go. Trouble was it was 300km away, much further than we expected. We even got some unpaved roads for a surprise, we really thought we saw the last of them in Mongolia... We get to the ferry and its really looking awesome. You can smell this sea smell, kind of like fish but salty which is odd as this is a freshwater lake. The ferry was free, which was quite a nice surprise, but we had to pay £1 for entry to the island...
    [​IMG]


    We drive across the island which from memory was about 45km long and the further north we got the worse the road gets. It went from rock arid desert to sand dunes to muddy forest to open plains. We camp out right at the tip of the island on top of a cliff.
    [​IMG]


    24th Aug
    We drive round the rest of the island and explore the coast line, the pictures will say far more than I can put in words. Stunning.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    The roads were quite bad on the island...



    We start to head back home today, but we did not get far, only a bit past Irkutsk.


    25th Aug till...
    We start our long drive back home. We take a slightly more northerly route then last time so we avoid the traffic. As before we camp all the way back home. I lose track of where we are on which day but it was mainly uneventful.


    Typical Siberian village
    [​IMG]


    So many trains...
    [​IMG]


    So much birch
    [​IMG]


    They really put a lot of effort into those windows
    [​IMG]


    31st Aug
    We arrive in Poland after driving through Latvia and Lithuania and one of my front UJs had deteriorated quite badly so I had to remove the front prop. Not a big job so we were soon off again. We arrive in Olsztyn and we spend the next few days in Poland visiting family scattered across Poland.


    Halinka feeding a bird
    [​IMG]


    9th September
    We leave for the UK and just before we get to Calais a truck pulls out in front of me and forced me onto the central reservation with the brakes locked (ABS was disabled as I had the centre diff engaged due to a missing prop). I managed to narrowly avoid a collision and when we arrive at the port 5 minutes later the Landcruiser was at an odd angle, turns out we had a flat tyre. We had no time to change it as the ferry was already boarding and so we drove onto the ferry with the flat tyre. We managed to get permission to get it changed on the ferry but it was the fastest tyre change ever, as I did not fancy being near a loaded 3 ton Landcruiser on a tiny bottle jack at sea.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    That’s it, we are back in the UK, and I wish we could have gone to Magadan on the old road of bones...


    {admin edit CP: by request}
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 1, 2017
  2. Ecoman

    Ecoman Well-Known Member I am in scotland

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    :thumbup: :thumbup: :thumbup:
    Excellent write up. Nice to see a cruiser do what it was designed for. I will be reading this again and again. :clap:
     
  3. 24Seven

    24Seven Well-Known Member

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    Thanks very much for taking the time to write such a fantastic trip report :clap:

    I really like the look of Mongolia :thumbup:
     
  4. Chas

    Chas Well-Known Member I am in england

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    Well, what can I say, that is one of THE best write-ups I've read :thumbup: , and some amazing pictures too, I'm very envious James.
    Chas
     
  5. AndyCook

    AndyCook Well-Known Member I am in scotland

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    A very good trip and an excellent read and photos - many thanks - inspirational
     
  6. Gary Stockton

    Gary Stockton Super Moderator Supporter I am in zimbabwe

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    Congrats - great report - glad you got home safe and sound - and made some buddies along the way - which is mostly what it's all about :thumbup:
     
  7. Rob

    Rob Well-Known Member

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    Chas its Rob! the guy that bought your exhaust... ;)
     
  8. kamalsrana

    kamalsrana Member I am in kenya

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    Mate,

    I have just spent 4 hours maybe a bit more going through your adventure, well done.

    It looks pretty gruelling, Just want to know, I saw BFGoodrich tyres on your Veh, did you have them on when you were stuck or were you on different tyres then?

    Your Veh has taken a beating of a lifetime, those roads were terrible. But, I hope that the cruiser is OK and you guys too.
     
  9. Chas

    Chas Well-Known Member I am in england

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    Sorry Rob, yes I remember the exhaust, I don't know why I put James, I must have had a senior moment :doh:
    Chas
     
  10. Chris

    Chris Super Moderator Supporter I am in europe

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    Rob, great report from a great trip. My quad you say? I think I saw those two Guys on local telly before the set out. Going to Oz if I recall.

    I wish I had:

    The time
    The money

    and

    The BALLS :animals-chickencatch:

    I'm just not good at confrontation really. Angry border officials, I'd be skint and locked up in a heartbeat. Only way I'd go is in convoy with a set of seasoned veterans I think. But what a way to see the country. Anyone fancy a trip as far as, say, East Anglia?

    Chris
     
  11. Rob

    Rob Well-Known Member

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    I can assure you it took me a lot longer to write it...

    I had 6 BFG All Terrains when I left, 4 heavily used (about 6-8mm with loads of ageing cracks in them) and 2 almost new (11mm, they are 13mm new). None of these were bought new by myself and to be honest I was expecting far more flat tyres. The flat tyre I had near Calais was down to 3 or 4mm and really badly cut up. Will write about that in a different thread.

    The cruiser is fine will be used as a daily drive for a while once I get the zorst and handbrake sorted (the only major MOT jobs).
     
  12. sae70

    sae70 Well-Known Member I am in uk

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    Cracking :thumbup: :mrgreen: I bet your knackered :)
     
  13. Rob

    Rob Well-Known Member

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    Had a look on google and cant seem to find them, definately your quad but newer, these had power steering. I think they were heading back to the Netherlands. The Guinness book of records is involved...
    The only thing you really need is time. The trip cost far less than you think especially if you compare it with a conventional holiday in £/week or day, and you don't need a pricey 80 to do it in, a cheaper 90 with uprated suspension will do just fine. Will write a post on overlanding on a budget me thinks.
     
  14. Crispin

    Crispin Administrator Staff Member Supporter Guru I am in great_britain

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    Cracking report. Looks like you had a blast. Lovely pics as well.


    Why Mongolia though?
     
  15. TonyP

    TonyP Super Moderator Supporter I am in uk

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    What a epic journey. Really makes you want to go out there and have a go...

    Thanks for a great write up
     
  16. Crispin

    Crispin Administrator Staff Member Supporter Guru I am in great_britain

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    The report though does set the bar pretty high for the rest of the trip reports. Looking at Bat21 and Graham. cough cough.
     
  17. Rob

    Rob Well-Known Member

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    Good question

    You cant go to Mongolia like you can say Morocco or Iceland if you have a full time job.

    Cape town is too expensive (visas, shipping it back) and it would take too long for the time we had.

    Same goes for South America so I did not even consider it.

    Australia is difficult as you would realistically need to sort a vehicle there which can potentially cost quite a bit.

    Any route where you need to drive across China was out of the question as it is very difficult to get the car into China.

    We had our eye on Scandinavia on the way back but you can do that with a full time job.

    We really wanted to go through the stans on the old silk route, through Mongolia and then deep into Russia but again we were constrained by time and money so that's why we ended up effectively driving to Mongolia and back again.

    Fuel is very cheap in Russia, £100 could get you 1900km if you camp make your own food.

    Also have you seen the photos?

    One last thing I always fancied driving to Mongolia for some reason...
     
  18. Ecoman

    Ecoman Well-Known Member I am in scotland

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    I think that is as good a reason as you need. :D

    I too have always wanted to drive to Mongolia and deepest Russia. Basically somewhere the west hasn't changed things too much. It has taken me nearly 10 years but finally I have the missus on my wavelength. :thumbup:
     
  19. Gav Peter

    Gav Peter Well-Known Member Supporter I am in england

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    Mornin' Rob

    Great write-up buddy & a belated welcome back to Blighty!!! What a fabulous trip you guys had & what excellent scenery to do it in - nicely done :clap:

    Glad you survived that scare at the end near the ferry with just a damaged tyre - that would have been a blow to go all that way to be wiped out on the last 100 miles...

    Happy repairing ;)

    Cheers
    Gav
     
  20. Rob

    Rob Well-Known Member

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    I hope the trip report helped :thumbup:
     
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