Posts for June, 2013


Children's day, and no alcohol (Ulanbaatar, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Saturday 1st Jun, 2013 (day 59, miles 5113)

Today was celebrated as Children's day in Mongolia. Families were out celebrating and taking their children to playgounds and other attractions. At the Oasis for the first part of the day the manageress Sybil took on the role of chief cook and bottle washer so that the staff coud spend the morning with their families and children.

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Camping Russia

Posted Saturday 1st Jun, 2013

Our route in Russia mostly followed major roads, and we were there at a time of year (early spring) when the ground generally had not entirely dried out. Hence we did not do much "wild camping" (though see below for a delightful spot), but rather generally stayed close to the road often in signposted Parking places or signposted picnic spots. We were warned by Russians that parts of the route we traveled had experienced incidents of violence against tourists (even murder) and that we should where ever possible stay at Cafes (Кафе) used by truckies. We often ignored this warning. But, in the stretch of road between Ulaan Ude and Irkutsk we were twice warned by police that the place we had chosen for the night was not safe and that we should move to a nearby truckies Cafe.

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Lunch with Lisa and Sarah (Ulanbaatar, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Sunday 2nd Jun, 2013 (day 60, miles 5113)

We had lunch today with two Australian ladies. Sarah, (with whom we were put in contact with by mutual friends in Australia), oversees an English language training program for Mongolian nationals in preparartion for a period of post graduate study at an Australian University. Lisa is a teacher who was recruited by Sarah and had just arrived in Ulanbaatar to spend 4 months teaching in the program that Sarah oversees.

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At the Oasis (Ulanbaatar, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Monday 3rd Jun, 2013 (day 61, miles 5113)

We spent the day at the Oasis preparing paper work for our future visa needs, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. And in addition watched a couple of the European bikers pack their bikes into crates for shipping. It was interesting that the shipping process must be relatively common as the guesthouse had a stack of panels stored away from which the shipping crates were quickly assembled.

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Mike (from GXV) arrives, and we have an argument with a bus (Ulanbaatar, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Tuesday 4th Jun, 2013 (day 62, miles 5113)

This morning we learned by email that Mike from GXV had arrived in UB during the night and that once he had caught up on some sleep, and checked out the mechanical facility he had organized, he would come visit us. The purpose of Mike's visit was to add some stronger components to the camper mounts that we had replaced near Yakutsk.

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Mike Vanpelt visits UB

Posted Tuesday 4th Jun, 2013

If you have been reading our journal (or regular posts) you know that on Tuesday 4th June Mike Van Pelt, the owner of Global Expedition Vehicles, arrived in Ulanbaatar to do some upgrades to the camper mounting system on our vehicle.

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Nina's presentation and work on the truck (Ulanbaatar, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Wednesday 5th Jun, 2013 (day 63, miles 5113)

Late morning Nina gave her presentation to a group of about 20 young Mongolia adults. As mentioned in an earlier post they are improving their English in preparation for a demanding international language test (conducted by the ILTA) which if successful would qualify them for post graduate studies in Australia. We had an active and interesting couple of hours both in the classroom and at lunch discussing a wide range of topics with this group of thoughful and articulate young adults.

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Kazak visas (Ulanbaatar, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Thursday 6th Jun, 2013 (day 64, miles 5113)

This morning before catching a taxi out to see our truck we called at the Kazakstan Embassy to collect our passports and those all important Kazak Visas. We noticed immediately that while we had been given the 30 days we asked for the dates were not as we had hoped; we asked for the period 13th July to 13th August but perplexingly our new visas carried the dates 17th July to 17th August. Ah well I guess that is Asia.

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A new storage box (Ulanbaatar, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Friday 7th Jun, 2013 (day 65, miles 5113)

Out to the truck again this morning, this time carrying a couple of big bags of groceries. We were stocking up in preparartion for leaving UB. We have been told supplies will be limited once out of UB into the countryside.

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The Big Genghis (Chinggis Khaan) and a day in the country (Ulanbaatar, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Saturday 8th Jun, 2013 (day 66, miles 5113)

A sightseeing day. We set off at 9:00 this morning in a Lexus SUV with Turuu driving to spend a day sightseeing outside of UB. We picked a route east from the city towards what we had been told was a giant silver statue of Genghis Khan (also spelled Chinggis Khaan) on a horse made out of stainless steel. In the flesh this statue is enormous and it sits on top of a building that houses a couple of museums, a cafe, and in the foyer a 9 meter high traditional Mongolian boot and a 4 meter long Mongolian horse whip. The place was quite popular with a good number of visitors, mostly Mongolians, though with a healthy sample of tourists. In the foyer one could hire traditional Mongolian clothes (from the Chinggis period) and dress as one of the Mongol Horde. This was very popular with locals who seem to enjoy reliving their conquest of much of the world.

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A day at "home" and a visit to the UB market (Ulanbaatar, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Sunday 9th Jun, 2013 (day 67, miles 5113)

We spent much of the day at Chuka's Guest House catching up on washing, emails, stocking up on groceries, getting money and other chores. But late in the day we dcided to pay a visit to the famous UB market (also called variously Narraan Tuul Market or the Black Market).

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Farewell (Lun, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Monday 10th Jun, 2013 (day 68, miles 5213)

Today we said farewell (and thanks) to Ulanbaatar, Chuka's Guest House (Chinzo, Turuu and Chuka), and especially thanks to the guys Tony, Todd and Barnsey at TWB (The Mongolian Drilling Company). We will (and already are) reflecting on our time in UB as enjoyable and interesting and are pleased that we spent enough time in the city to feel we got to know it a little.

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Camping Mongolia

Posted Monday 10th Jun, 2013

Outside of towns and cities camping is very easy in Mongolia, just find some where you fancy and park. The only thing to be aware of is that in the country side Mongolians are curious, they like beer and food, see no reason why they should not simply take your beer and food without asking, and can turn into guests that apparently have no desire to leave and let you have your camp to yourself. Be prepared to move on as a last resort.

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Westward ho! (Somewhere, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Tuesday 11th Jun, 2013 (day 69, miles 5423)

We traveled west all day on mainly good roads continuing our gentle introduction to Mongolian country roads. However there was just enough broken pavement and big pot holes to keep us on our toes. Early afternoon we turned from the A0301 (the main road to the city of Arvaikheer) onto the A601 towards the old Mongol capital of Kharkhorin and the road story changed. The A601 used to be paved, we could see the old paved road but now much of that was now closed, and in its place was a dusty track that had been carved from the grass land.

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Kharkhorin (ХААРХОРИН) ((Near) Tsenkher Hot Springs, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Wednesday 12th Jun, 2013 (day 70, miles 5423)

The Monastry of Erdene Zuu Khiid is one of the highlighs of a tour of Mongolia. Situated in the old city of Kharkhorin (once for a short period the capital of the Mongol Empire) the Monastry was started in the late 1500's and eventually housed up to 1000 monks and 60-100 individual temple buildings. The monastry was closed and largely destroyed in 1937 as a result of a Stalin purge, the monks were either killed or imprisoned. We tooks a tour of the main remaining temples with a delightful young lady who tried to bring us up to speed on the 500 gods of the Budhist religion; but unfortunately we only grasped a little. Still the monastry is impressive.

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Driving on unpaved road (Tsetseleg, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Thursday 13th Jun, 2013 (day 71, miles 5481)

Before getting underway this morning we were passed by a number of mini-vans returning from the hot springs with their load of tourists. We waved a good morning greeting. Once underway we traveled at our now customery 10-15 mph over the steppes trying to find the flatest track as the truck (and Nina) do not seem to like steep side-hills.

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Chuluut Gorge (Tariat, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Friday 14th Jun, 2013 (day 72, miles 5593)

After a pleasant night near the river (despite the group of Mongolian campers nearby who sang until after midnight) we headed back into town to the FAIRfield Guesthouse, for some coffee, pastries, and wifi. Then it was off west. At the western border of the town there was a toll gate and the paved road gave way to gravel and a short steep climb over some rocky hills. We were not surpised by the appearance of gravel road as we had been told by many people that the road "may be sealed as far as Tsetseleg". What we were surprised by was that within 10 km good sealed road appeared again and continued for almost 100km until the bridge over the Chuluut River.

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We have posted a Photo Gallery For Russia

Posted Friday 14th Jun, 2013

Today we posted a set of photos for our time in Russia. To see them click the Photo on the main menu or click this link.

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The best laid plans (Chulutt Gorge, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Saturday 15th Jun, 2013 (day 73, miles 5630)

Our plan was to complete the drive to White Lake and spend a coupe of nights there resting in the sun and enjoying the Lake. So this morning we set off west. Quickly we were forced back onto that roadbed as the valley narrowed towards the start of the lake and so we jostled along for about an hour before we came to the end of the roadbed; after this point the highway was nothing more than a bunch of tracks in thre grass and a few broken down bridges. It quickly became evident that we were not going to drive miles on this "road" to the western end of the lake simply to drive back again in a few days. So we turned off the road and headed directly towards the lake shore making our own road.

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Camping Turkey

Posted Saturday 15th Jun, 2013

Visas for kazakhstan

Posted Saturday 15th Jun, 2013

Our second visa while enroute. Our biggest difficulties with this visa were finding the Embassy of Kazakhstan in Ulaanbaatar, and having our watches set to the correct Ulaanbaatar time. Because of this latter mistake we spent 4 hours wandering around town waiting for the Embassy to open again so we could submit our applications.

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Mongolian Visas

Posted Saturday 15th Jun, 2013

Mongolia represented the first of a long list of countries that we had/have to get visas for while enroute. Fortunately, as it turned out this one was pretty simple. It also turned out that we could probably have obtained Mongolian visas before departing had we been a little more organized.

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The Steppes (Khanui River, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Sunday 16th Jun, 2013 (day 74, miles 5711)

We explored the Larch forest a little this morning noting that there were some really big Ovoo (places that the Mongolians adorn with blue ribbons. From the LonelyPlanet Guide "sharmanist collection of stones, wood or other offerings to the gods usually found in high places"). The cool morning, light overnight rain, sandy soil and beautiful old Larch trees made for a very pleasant environment.

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What an amazing day (Selenge River, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Monday 17th Jun, 2013 (day 75, miles 5787)

Sitting around camp, still buzzed from the days adventures (and maybe a little from beer and vodka), Nina and I agreed, today was one of those special travel days, a day that we will remember forever, and one of those days that will keep us thinking up new adventures.

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The "main" road (Atsimag Nuur, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Tuesday 18th Jun, 2013 (day 76, miles 5840)

This morning we had a visit from a local family, father, mother and daughter in traditional clothing and one of the young workmen from yesterdays ferry ride. The little girl was curious but a bit unsure of us and clung to mother. The mother was very curious about the photographs we took of the group and particularly photos of her daughter. Before the visit was over a couple of additional young men in tradtional gear arrived on their small Japanese motor cycles and had a quick look over the truck.

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A little bit of civilization (Moron, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Wednesday 19th Jun, 2013 (day 77, miles 5858)

Moron, with a population of about 36,000, is the only major town in this part of Mongolia and it was our destination for the day. So after an hour or so bumping along the highway we entered the town along a 13 km stretch of ok paved road to find that we were in the midst of frantic activity.

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No cheese!! (Khovsgol Nuur, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Thursday 20th Jun, 2013 (day 78, miles 5928)

Before leaving Moron this morning we spent a deal of time checking out the local super markets topping up our larder for the coming 10 day trip west during which we don't expect to find much in the way of supplies. Believe it or not we could not find any form of cheese. We concluded that Mongolians must get their dairy products in other forms.

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Birthday and oil seal (Moron, MOngolia)

Journal entry for Saturday 22nd Jun, 2013 (day 80, miles 5995)

Yesterday we returned from Khvosgol Nuur to Moron with the plan of topping up with fuel and then proceeding west towards Ulaangom. But at the gas station I noticed that the right hand front wheel hub was leaking oil so we checked back into Bata's Guesthouse and I spent some time under the truck investigating the oil leak. Conlusion, an oil seal had started leaking; the seal where the axle shaft enters the outboard hub assembly. Later in the evening I called Rob Pickering (our ever helpful U500 expert) in Colorado and discussed the issue with him. His advice was "… you can probably drive it provided to check the oil level and top it up frequently". So that became the next days (todays) task, assemble the pieces needed to remove the fill plug and add oil to the hub. It also happened that today was Nina's birthday. She got a wonderful present - all day walking around this dusty town trying to find tools, oil and a means of putting the oil into the hub - very romantic.

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Great Camping Spot (Delgermoron River, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Sunday 23rd Jun, 2013 (day 81, miles 6037)

After all the chores were done we finally headed out of Moron to start our journey west. Initially the road headed south before a bridge carried us over the Delgermoron River and then for the next 60 km we followed those now familiar wheel ruts in the grass steppes (and also the followed the Delgermoron River). This section of "road" was, however, a little different. There were a few sections of graded road where the terrain narrowed beside the river or over a small saddle, and also this section of road had km posts; very civilized.

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The Northern Route - Day 2 (KM 153, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Monday 24th Jun, 2013 (day 82, miles 6092)

If you are taking any notice of the mileage number you will notice that we only traveled about 50 miles today. There are two reasons for this. The first is the condition of the road - or should I say track, which keeps our average speed down to below 20 km/h. The second reason is visa timing. We cannot enter Kazakhstan until July 17th, and we don't want to spend a lot of time in the Altai region of Russia (again visa considerations) so we plan on exiting Mongolia around July 10th. Hence are deliberately traveling slowly.

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The Northern Route - Day 3 (KM 245, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Tuesday 25th Jun, 2013 (day 83, miles 6143)

It was raining steadily this morning as we got underway and continued that way for most of the day. The route this morning headed towards a town called Tsetseleg (same name as a previous town, but not the same town). At one point we seemed to be off course but a spur road took us back to the main track. A highlight of the morning was the appearance of 3 SUVs heading the other way. Also, at our mornng tea stop we where visited by a couple of local guys on a small motorcycle, we invited them in to the camper to share our morning tea.

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Northern Route - Day 4 (KM 317, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Wednesday 26th Jun, 2013 (day 84, miles 6188)

Bright sun and warmer weather. Our route today took us back to the valley of the Tesiin River and for much of the day we traveled through that valley only occassionally leaving it to bypass narrow stretches of the valley. The Tesiin is a large river and seems to support a good size population of herders as we passed many Ger camps and herds of animals through out the day.

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Northern Route - Day 5 (KM 428, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Thursday 27th Jun, 2013 (day 85, miles 6258)

After an easy 15 km run into the town of Bayantes the road split into two routes, a northerly and a southerly. As it turned out the more direct northerly route (the one we chose) followed the power lines and was a bit of a pain for us as we had to keep checking that we could pass under the lines without hitting them. Also this route passed over a series of small mountain passes that became narrow with steep side hills that certainly had a high "pucker" factor. The power lines and steep passes combined at one point to completely block our passage; a power pole had fallen over dragging the wires way to low for us to pass and as (bad) luck would have it this happened in a narrow valley. We examined the situation for quite some time before decicing that we had to by pass the entire area by driving the truck up onto a nearby hillside and around the obstacle.

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Northern Route - Day 6 (KM 549, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Friday 28th Jun, 2013 (day 86, miles 6334)

There is not a lot to say about today. It was overcast and raining when we woke and it continued that way all day. The grey sky hid any of the distant mountains left us feeling like we were driving on an endless plain. As the day wore on the rain soaked into the ground and the vehicle tracks became muddy. It was then that we learned that even a 26,000 lb Unimog can get sideways once the ground is slippery enough. Thus we spent the afternoon "slip-sliding in the mud"

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Northern Route - Day 7 (Uvs Nuur, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Saturday 29th Jun, 2013 (day 87, miles 6382)

The sun was out today when we woke and as we set out on the 8th day of our journey along Mongolia's Northern Route. Today we were headed for a a salt lake named Uvs Nuur, the biggest lake in Mongolia with an area of approximately 3000 square km. To get to the lake we traveled across a huge dry valley that seemed to go on for ever. THe valley was dotted with th occassional ger and for the first time we saw some camels. As we traveled west we got the first glimpse of some snow capped peaks to the west - we guessed this is our first view of the Altai Mountains (a mountain range that sits at the borders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan and Mongolia).

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Ulaangom (South of Ulaangom, Mongolia)

Journal entry for Sunday 30th Jun, 2013 (day 88, miles 6444)

It took us a few hours this morning to wind our way across the steppes back to the "main road" and then into the town of Ulaangom. To our surprise the last 13 km into the town was good paved road and it was a pleasure (even though a short lived one) to drive on a real road for a while. Mind you on this road we came across a gang of workers painting cener lines by hand with brushes and a stencil.

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