Imagine driving along a dirt road in a washing machine at 130kms? This was our lunch. Not only was it smashed but also soaked in a sweet, sticky substance that had leaked out of the plastic container. The gherkin was one of the few undamaged gourmet options.
We stuffed up. Leaving China and entering Mongolia was like a different planet. In China there were surveillance cameras, fences, rubbish piles and hundreds of blackened coal trucks crowding the roads and as soon we stopped there would be a crowd of people surrounding the car, touching you and wanting photos. We saw two young girls climb into a Morgen for a photo opportunity and one couple came back to their car to find a policeman sitting at the wheel.
In Mongolia we weren’t famous anymore. The people stood implacably at the side of the road, unsmiling. They just look at us. There are no fences in Mongolia. Herds of animals run free; camels, cows, goats, horses (there are more horses than people), sheep and yesterday we had a pack of 50 deer sprinting next to the car at 60 kms. They looked amazing.
We had prepaid for fuel in Mongolia and had been told that it would be at the camp sites. At the last time check some official ladies with clip boards had been trying to wave us into a petrol station,
“They want you to go in Gunther”
” I’m not going in there,” he said,” they just want to rip us off. We’ll get petrol at the tanker tonight”
So we arrived at the camp in the middle of the steppe with the needle on red. Just to get our moneys’ worth! No tanker tonight. Only in the next camp. The clip board ladies had been giving out free fuel. Oh dear. You can imagine Gunther kicking up a fuss. There were others in a similar situation so they finally managed to organise the next village the give us 25 litres each. Just enough to get us through to the next petrol station in Mandalgovi.
But Tilly is very thirsty. Especially when she has to work so hard in two time trials where we hammered it over the dirt roads (see lunch box). She has been driving really well. We left the camp at 8.36 (our start time) and the time trials were approx 30 kms each time. Gunther was a ball of nervous energy and he drove like the clappers. The tracks were rough and we were using the waypoints in the GPS. It was easy to go off track and a couple of times we had to head out across unchartered territory to keep that bloody arrow in the middle of the dial. Finally we’d completed the trials but the needle was on red again!
“We’ll be right” I said bravely until the arrow went haywire and we were off route! We had 30 or 40 kms to go to get to the petrol station. My hands began to get sweaty as we headed across country to find the right track. Lost in the middle of the desert with no petrol was not my idea of fun.
Now we are in Ulaanbaator for a rest day and then 6 days in the desert. With petrol tankers.