23 Aug 2011

Back in the USSR

Back in the USSR (Gorno Altaisk0, civilisation, the land of fruit and vegitables. If Russia is a parallel universe then Mongolia is another planet. Apparantly their national dish is 'meat' and that is just about all they eat.

No pictures this time as the internet is very slow and we need to get the cruiser to a garage.

Day 111 and our first night in a Hotel for a month! 90 days in the roof tent so far this trip and still very comfortable, but nothing beats a proper shower.

The front diff continued to drip oil and we have now had it welded 3 times in situ but still it drips. We have done 1200 miles since it first happened and amazingly lost very little oil, but we are likely to lose more at higher speeds on better roads and we cannot risk more rough roads for fear of making it worse. We managed to meet up with Yefgeni again yesterday (who has a land cruiser and helped us get the winch sorted) and he has arranged for us to take it to another garage in Biysk about 60 miles up the road.

We took a steady route out (if any route in Mongoila can be called 'steady') and bi-passed a mountain range that we originally wanted to cross. It still did not stop us very nearly coming to grief in our final river crossing. We knew that the next section was going to be tough as the computer map showed tracks everywhere and when we got there we found no track any stronger than the other. With only about 100 miles left in Mongolia we reached the exact spot on the map where the road was supposed to cross a river and we could see wheel tracks going into the river, but it was about 200 feet across so we could not be sure we could see tracks coming out the other side, but in we went. We reached a sand bank in the middle, but pausing was not possible as we started to sink, so on we went. The current was strongest here and suddenly the nose dipped down and the river came over the bonnet, surged up the windscreen, under the dash on the passenger side and in through my window which was half open. As the horror of getting stuck here dawned the cruiser rose up the bank on the other side and climbed out of the river and on we went.

There were absolutely no tracks on the other side and we did at least half a mile cross country before we found the faintest track and gradually zig zagged across the multitude of tracks in the direction of the next pass until we found the proper road. It had cleaarly been re-routed from the route on the map and in the opposite direction we would have probably found the correct place to cross the river.

Passing through the border back into Russia took 4.5 hours, but with no problems and back into the beautiful Altai mountains which are at least the equal to anything we saw in Mongolia.

Our first night in Russia we camped next to a river. I was sorting my bike out ready for a ride the next day, dropped the back wheel off the roof and it simply bounded off in the direction of the river and jumped right in and off it went, spinning into the current and well out of reach, with me running down the bank after it. Fortunately there was a bend a couple of hundred meters down river and it snagged on some small trees groing out of the river, but still too far to reach even with the longest branch and whilst I considered a rope with something heavy on the end to try and hook it back Chris waded and retreived it (on the basis that she could swim and I can't and that she could not stand to hear me bemoaning the loss of the wheel for the next few weeks). It was however deeper than it looked and Chris was up to her armpits before she reached the wheel, so hero Chris saved the day. The ride the following day was one that I had seen on the way through 7 weeks before, fortunately it was a superb day and the ride was every bit as good as I had hoped - thanks to Chris.

After the garge in Biysk we will take a detour to Lake Teletskoe for a few days and then head to Omsk and dependant on the sucees of the work on the diff will determine whether we continue our route into Kazakhstan or try and limp back through Russia, but time will tell.

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