Mongolia # 3 – Heading west to Olgii – October 2014

January 11, 2019

In the morning we gently headed out. The rear suspension seemed to be doing fine without the help of the air bags. Turning back to Ulaanbaatar was not an option. We already knew how bad that road was. We could only hope it would get better. It didn’t!

This young shepherd just wanted to check us out. Well, maybe he was hoping for a treat.

This young shepherd just wanted to check us out. Well, maybe he was hoping for a treat.

We were not lost. We just didn’t know which of several two-tracks might go to the next village and stop, or maybe just to an abandoned ger (yurt) site. Fuel was not a problem yet, but it could be if we ended up wandering around the endless grasslands too long.

Driving and navigating for the next three days through the northern edge of the Altai Gobi and adjacent deserts was very intense. I was in charge of finding the best track with the least washboard and not over stressing our damaged suspension. This was not a good place to break. There is no good place to break when you are thousands of miles from home on a different continent in the middle of a third world country. While I focused on the next 100 yards in front of us, Monika scanned the horizon making sure we didn’t veer off the general direction.

What are you looking at dude, I live here!

What are you looking at dude, I live here!

Just follow the Telephone Poles!

At one point, she insisted we stop because the best track turned toward the right while all the others continued straight. As chance would have it, a Mongol man in a Russian Lada Niva 4X4 came from the other direction. Monika got out and stopped him. Speaking Russian, he drew lines in the sand indicating how many tracks we had to cross to get back to the main one and then gave us a tip, one that I recalled the American Camel Trophy team had used to navigate through a lengthy stage crossing in waist-deep grass during the 1997 Madagascar Rally. He said ,“Just follow the telephone poles”. That got us to the next village, but then they ended and Monika was again just guessing.

Crossing No-Man’s Land

The next section was the most desolate one. We drove for a whole day and never saw a soul on horseback, motorcycle or in a vehicle in either direction. Checking the map, it appeared that this was basically no man’s land between two provinces. In this endless desert, she began noticing that every 10 kilometers or so, there was an odd looking rock placed next to the track and realized they must be the main road markers.

When there were hills the track just wandered in and out of the valleys. It was an overland travelers dream road.

When there were hills the track just wandered in and out of the valleys. It was an overland travelers dream road.

As our Russian motorcycle friend had warned, one section of the track was completely under water, but we could see where others had entered and exited. A low area nearby was used for harvesting salt, always a valuable commodity in any country. We continued west until the dying light made driving unsafe. Even with our high-powered PIAA auxiliary lights, these roads held dangerous surprises in the dark. The potholes of the Stans had taken their toll on our suspension but it seemed fine as long as I watched the bumps. Looking for a place to camp, the track wove its way through a strange rock garden. It begged us to stop for the night.

As we approached small towns they were well marked but actually finding them on our paper map was difficult. Mini markets were well stocked with Chinese goods, often with American names. A bottle of good cabernet was not to be found, but Genghis Khan Vodka was available. There were more yurt camps near settlements. A couple of times when we stopped to have lunch or to inspect the suspension, young boys came galloping across from nowhere to check us out. Always very friendly, we wished we had not been in a hurry. Herds of goats and horses seemed compelled to cross the road just as we approached them. The occasional small group of camels were totally unimpressed by our approach.

Finally, arriving in Olgii at
the Annual Golden Eagle Festival

We arrived just in time for the beginning of the competition.

We arrived just in time for the beginning of the competition.

By afternoon on the fifth day we rolled into Olgii and headed straight for the festival outside of town just as the competition was warming up. For the moment, our mechanical problems could wait. We were about to witness one of the most exciting events in Mongolia, the Annual Golden Eagle Festival. If we had parked any closer to the main arena we would have had to own an eagle!

 

One Response to “Mongolia # 3 – Heading west to Olgii – October 2014”

  1. Hi Gary & Monica…really enjoying your Mongolia blog! I like the mix of truck, topography, people and decision making…all part of the Overlanding experience that we enjoy so much! I’m anticipating post#4 to see how you deal with the injured suspension.
    Jason

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