As expected, the 2 day drive from UB to the bottom of National Park at the bottom of the Gobi was pretty boring - until half way through the second day as we left a small village. Sand clouds blew through the village and we were heading for a huge black cloud that went right down to the desert, complete with major lightning flashes through the clouds. Fortunatley the road skirted to the right of the cloud but eventually we were caught in torrential rain. This only lasted a few minutes but it was clear a lot of rain had fallen further on, as the desert was now water logged with much of the 'road' washed away and puddles like small lakes to drive through - but the cruiser just bashed on regardless.
After visitng the Yolyn Am Ice canyon (no ice this time of year unfurtunately) we carried on towards the Kongorin Els sand dunes and caught up with a French couple, Matthieu and Moon in a 22 year old 4x4 fire vehicle converted into a motor home. Like us they were keen to head north across the Gobi at the far end of the park, where travelling alone was not advised, so we hooked up for the next few days to do so.
As Matthieu had a CB I was in the middle of mounting my aerial so we could communicate and noticed that my roof rack had moved forward almost 10cm, so we then came up with a plan to move it back. I drove into a dip to bring it level with Matthieu winch and we pulled it back into place - except we went too far the other way and had to repeat the process from the other side to get it right, but it worked a treat. Unfortunately tho the CB didn't!
The sand dunes were fantastic but getting to the top was a trauma, but walking along the knife edge top of a 300m sand dune was amazing.
The trip back through the Gobi was fairly straightforward, with the aid of the maps Matthieu had on his computer (of which I now have a copy) which have a lot more tracks than on my paper map and which you can pinpoint your exact position so that you can see if you are on the right road.
As we said our fairwell (for the third time) at a petrol station in Bayankongor I noticed a single drip of oil under the cruiser, which, for a while I thought was fatal as it was coming from a crack in the front differential and for good measure the bracket was also cracked. But the Mongolians will weld anything so off we went to find one. We started at the tyre place that made a good job of his flat. They sent us to a workshop round the corner and one of the mechanics took us to somewhere that could do the welding, amazingly he than set to work with the boss man and two hours later it was all finished. In a Toyota garge in the UK it would proably have cost £2,000 plus to replace the whole assembly, in Mongolia it cost 30,000 Togrogs (£15.00) to stick it back together.
Since then we have done 100 of the most grueling miles in Mongolia (in fact ever!) with at least 10 deep river crossings and just about every surfice you can imagine. Eventually the river was to deep to cross and a track had been created over the mountains into the next valley, requiring low box throughout.
We are now heading back to the Altai Mountains in Russia, via a couple of lakes and a national Park.
Yolyn Am Ice Canyon
Winching the roof rack back into place.
A flat tyre on Matthieu's truck.
At a local water station
Struggling home with the water
On top of the sand dunes
Mathieu and Moon on the Dunes
Heading through a pass in the desert.
Welding the front diff
Back in the mountains heading north