Archive | September, 2011

30th September – UB

30 Sep

After sorting out some washing, we took the local bus into the centre of town (no. 14 or 27) which is only 400T each. This works out as about 20p each way. It is another sunny day and its starting to warm up.

We arrived just in time to meet Dr G and walked over to Millies Cafe. A great place to buy western food if you need a change from mutton after your time in the countryside. It is popular with expats and so if you are looking for someone to chat with …. this is the place! We even met up with the owners of the Fairfield Guest house there!

After lunch we went back to Dr G’s office. She is a lovely lady!

We tried to go to the Natural History Museum but just got to the door and the security guard told us it was closing, even though the posted opening hours were until 4.30pm (and it was only 2.30pm). Not sure why … maybe end of season.

We spent some time wandering around town looking for a fishing shop but never quite got there … maybe we walked right past? By the time we gave up it was nearly 3.30pm and we thought that the toy museum (which had been recommended) would be closed by the time we got there. We  decided to head back to the guest house so that Marjool could have a haircut.

Tomorrow we head out of town to the national parks to the east. UB seems like a fun place to be, but when you are camping and have only old scruffy, crumpled clothes and hiking shoes, you can’t really make the most of it. The people in UB tend to be well dressed and smart … Camping by the river is more our style …. nobody cares if you smell of woodsmoke and have mud and dust on your clothes there!

29th September – UB

30 Sep

Woke up this morning and it was still very cold!

Just in case you thought it was only cold outside the camper …

That lump under the duvet is Marjool …. can’t understand why she is not leaping out of bed this morning? Not only is it cold, but she has a day hanging around in a garage specialising in 4×4 accessories (ARB Mongolia), while they check the diff lockers that had developed a leak and were not working. I can’t see what’s wrong with a day like that!

We arrived at the ARB Mongolia unit and it was impressively clean, tidy and well organised. The staff were really helpful both here and in Australia where we had the units originally fitted. Australia liaised with the facility in Mongolia and made sure that they had all the spares to fix the problem. Thanks ARB and Norman at Kea who also helped to communicate with the various parties to get the problem sorted out. This is ARB Mongolia….

Within an hour of arriving Troopy was up on the lift and the rear diff housing was being removed.

The work was carried out with lots of care and the faulty seals were replaced and the unit reassembled and checked. We finally left at about 6.30pm with working lockers. Good news if it snows again or we get stuck in another river!

Our contact at ARB Mongolia was Enkhbayar (he speaks excellent English) and in Australia Danny and Jessie. Thanks!

Some of the ARB  team here. Enkhbayar is the one on the left ….. so if you need your car fixed in Mongolia …. this is the place! It is also handy as it is just behind the main square.

After another scary drive through UB traffic we headed back to the guest house to warm up. It is a warm and cosy place … maybe we should have slept inside??

Tomorrow we are are off to lunch with Dr G, a friend of Steve and Jane’s from their time in UB.

28th September – UB

30 Sep

It was another cold night in the camper … still OK under all our blankets and duvets, but not nice getting out in the morning!

We could have stayed in a nice warm room, but after hearing stories of peoples car wheels getting stolen in UB, we thought that we would rather be in the car. Although I am sure it is perfectly safe here with the security guard and gates. We also had the choice of a ger but they did not look much warmer!

The Oasis is a great place with nice friendly staff. The owners are a German / Austrian couple and they have worked hard over many years to help some of the less well off residents of UB. They now have a bath house for locals, a woodworking shop, hairdressers, cafe and tourist gers and rooms. This provides employment as well as a service to both tourists and locals.

We caught the bus into the city centre. It was bitterly cold and walking around was not that pleasant, but we eventually found the ARB workshop and arranged to come back in the morning to see what could be done with the diff. The rest of the day was spent wandering around the various shops including the State Department Store.

We will need our hot water bottles tonight … the camper is still covered with ice and snow!

27th September – Ulaanbaatar

28 Sep

All through the night the wind was blowing hard and we could suddenly see why the dunes had built up in this spot. The canvas sides of our pop top were flapping away, but not enough to make us worry about damage.

In the morning we headed on to UB with the roads getting better all the time. You still have to be aware of sudden and large potholes in the road. If you watch out for skid marks it gives you a bit of a warning!

The traffic was heavy and it took us two hours to get from the west of the city to the east.



We arrived in the Oasis Guest House later in the afternoon. They were happy for us to park in their carpark to sleep but with the use of showers, cafe and nice warm common area with wifi access.

It is getting cold now with a biting wind. Weather is definitely on the change. In that way we may as well be in the city as out in the wilds.

We made contact with ARB in an attempt to solve a problem with our diff lockers. Kea and ARB in Sydney have been very helpful getting us in touch with ARB Mongolia. We will be dropping in to see them while in UB.

Evening spent in the warm ….

26th September – Mongol Els

28 Sep

Quite a ‘warm’ night and didn’t even have to wipe the condensation off our roof . Looks like it might even rain today. Headed south with the intention of going to some hot springs. Lovely scenery, wooded rolling hills and lots of horses around.



We didn’t see any cars around and the track in places was very rocky. After a while we realised that we were heading the wrong way along an old logging track that got steeper and rougher. We couldn’t get to the right track as it meant going through very boggy land with a stream running through it.  We either had to go a long way back and start again or give it a miss. We decided to head back to Tsetserleg, pick up some groceries and have a coffee in the Fairfield guest house before heading off to Olgii Nuur.

A bit later we were on our way east, the road is supposed to be paved all the way to Ulaanbaatar from here, although there a few diversions onto dirt where there are roadworks.

Not our day for navigation today as, after an hour or two, we suddenly realised that somehow we must have taken a wrong turn. Odd as we can’t really remember passing a juction. Before we knew it, we had arrived at Kharkhorin. The last couple km took a bit longer as we had to follow a herd of goats across the bridge into the town.


Wouldn’t be so bad but it means that we gone way past the lake where we were going to stop for a couple of days. Graham was grumpy as he was looking forward to fishing there. While he was getting over it I headed off into Erdene Zuu Khiid which is the first Buddhist Monastery in Mongolia, situated in a walled compound with 108 stupas spread around its perimeter.


By now the weather had started to change with spits of rain and a cold wind blowing. We decided that we may as well continue on towards UB and get a few things done.

The closer we get to UB the more signs we see for tourists ger camps and minibuses with tourists in. We also passed a french cyclist who was on his way to UB. It had taken him 5 months to get here and was planning to continue to Australia! His eyes were red raw from the dust and his skin was dry and weathered. It was also cold and even without the wind chill it was only 3 degrees. We felt positively lazy in comparison! We wished him luck, wound up the window and guiltily turned the heater up!

Further along the road we came to an area called Mongol Els where there are a series of sand dunes. They appear where you would not expect to see anything like that and, although small, they are interesting to stroll through and make an unusual camp spot. Even better as they are on our way!


As often happens dog or two come up and sit with us through the evening. I think it is just that they want company, but they often stay to guard us overnight.


We heated water for drinks and the hot water bottle on a small camp fire. We still have about 15 litres of our Russian methylated spirites … at this rate it will last right through China as well!


Tomorrow into the big city!


25th September – Just outside Tsetserleg

26 Sep

We headed out of town in the direction of the hot springs filling up with fuel on the way. We only got a few km out of the town and crossed a river (by bridge) which looked nice for camping and fishing. We headed along the right bank into the trees and stopped for the afternoon. We decided to give the car a clean (although I was in the photo it was a joint effort … just in case you thought Marjool was lazy!).



After lunch Marjool cleaned out the inside of the camper (more work!) while I sneaked off to fish. I expected it to be better later in the afternoon but it was worth a try. There are actually lots of fish in the river here and before long we had a few for dinner.



The local lads were fishing off the bridge and invited me to join them. These are actually the first people we have seen fishing since we arrived in Mongolia. They were using little fish caught from the shallows as bait but I did not see them catch. As I caught fish they ran back to the camper with them and even helped de-scale them and wrap them in foil with garlic and oil to cook. They also ran off to get firewood. We actually shared the fish.



In the evening I carried on fishing …. it got better and better as dusk approached and we caught another six fish.



The evening was much warmer and we sat by the camp fire.





The big rocks were again wrapped in our  ‘crawling under the car sheet’ and put in the camper as a radiator. In fact cloud came in through the evening and it was a warm night.

Tomorrow we will start moving towards UB. There are some lakes and rivers to stop at on the way.



24th September – Tsetserleg

25 Sep

Before we set off on the trip our friend and neighbour Mary Cook had introduced us via e-mail to a couple that lived and worked in Mongolia. We exchanged a few e-mails with Mark and Gill but would not be able to visit them as they would be returning to the UK before we arrived back. It was only when we got to Fairfield that we realised, on talking to the new Australian owners, that it was this guest house that they ran!



The staff all talked very fondly of them and obviously missed them. One of them said that is though part of the family was missing! We arranged to get the staff together so that we get a team photo for Mark and Gill. We hope that you like it!



The staff are all really friendly and helpful and seem a happy bunch.



The guest house is a popular stopping off point for overland trips in this area and several Mongol rally teams seem to pass through.



The menu incluse several things with chips, full English breakfast, pancakes, home made bread and lots of cakes. How can you pass it by?!



As Troopy was parked in a nice secure yard behind the guest house we felt relaxed as we went around the town. We stopped at a photo printing lab and got the pictures printed  that we had taken inside some of the country gers on the way. We then got envelopes and Marjool got the guest house staff to check that we had the addresses right before taking them to the post office to post.



Afterwards we went for a walk in the hills around the temple. We were hoping to visit the museum but it was closed for the weekend at this time of year. Still it was nice to stretch the legs and in the thin air you notice the exercise.





Tomorrow we will move on along the road towards UB which is still over 400km away. We would expect to get there before the weekend.


23rd September – Onwards to Tsetserleg

24 Sep

As we were washing up after the evening meal a couple of local herders came and visited to see if we had a cigarette or a tipple of vodka. We only had a little bit of wine and a few cream wafer biscuits. Not what they wanted but they were very friendly and grateful as they left. Before they went they made wolf noises and pointed behind into the pines by our camp spot. Great thanks, while I was dreaming of water crossings all night, Marjool dreamt of wolves!!

It was certainly a chilly night and although our spot had the last sun of the evening, it was a long time before the sun started the roof defrosting process … we had to move! It was our coldest night so far and had a layer of ice on our blankets as well as the inside of the roof. The weather has been fantastic with clear blue skies every day. A good thing as if there was rain while you were in the valleys, you’d have to wait for the rivers to drop again before you crossed.

It is really worth coming here though as the scenery is amazing … its as though you are camping and driving through the pages of a calendar!


Fairly early in the day we came to a bridge. The crossing was not deep or wide but decided to go over it as it was there. Some of the timbers were loose and so has to be adjusted and wedged with rocks, as if they had separated the wheels would have dropped through.


At the next coffee stop I had the chance to fish for half an hour, while Marjool took some pictures of the yaks. We think our local farmers at home (Helen and Tony) should get some … the milk is supposed to be great for cream.

Just around the corner was another nice view …. we’ll never get anywhere at this rate!


An hour or so later we got to a place where there were bridge supports either side of the river but nothing else. It must have been washed away at some point. We hesitated on the bank as it looked pretty deep. Graham went to ask in a nearby ger, and before the man would even look at the map, we were in for warm milk, bread and cream skimmed of the top of the yaks milk.  They were really nice people again, and they then told us that we did need to cross the river and that the man would lead us by horse. Great!




We took the peoples address so that we could post them some photos from Tsetserleg and went on our way and left some soap and a small bottle of vodka by way of thanks. The man poured some vodka into the lid and threw it up into the opening in the roof of the ger and then poured some into a beaker which was passed around. Before he passed it around he dipped the little finger into the vodka and flicked a few drops of vodka into the air as an offering to the sky gods. I only took a small sip, although the chances of getting the breathalyzer here were fairly small.  They had told us that it was around 70km from here to the town and that Bulgan was about half way.

The rest of the way was much drier, and although there was another couple of small water crossings, nothing to worry about. The scenery changed to grassy rolling hills for the rest of the way with an odd rocky outcrop.


In the afternoon we arrived at Tsetserleg and decided to try to park behind a guest house that was mentioned in the lonely planet called Fairfield. It was supposed to be run by English people and the food was recommended for people who fancied a change from local food. We wanted chips!



In the end we decided to stay in one of the rooms instead. There is tempting food, nice coffee and the staff are lovely. There is even an indirect link between Fairfield and our village at home!

22nd September – Bayankhongor to Tsetserleg

23 Sep

We packed up the camper after another cold night and headed straight to the track that led eventually to Tsetserleg. We had no idea of what to expect of the road, but could see that it wound its way through the range of mountains that separates north from south. We were only a few km out of town and we came across the first river crossing. Another petrol 4×4 had got drowned on the way through and when it was pulled out by a truck the doors were opened and water gushed out! Troopy was fine.

It was only about 25km to a small village/town called Erdenetsogt where we saw our first Buddhist monastery. We leaned over the fence and asked a monk if it was OK to take a picture. He was in what looked like a little watch tower. He waved us in and went and opened the gate.

The detail on the woodwork was really beautiful.

Outside the Monastery there were shrines surrounded by the now familiar prayer flags.


We then carried on out of the village, asking a couple of times on the way to ensure that we were on the right track. Typically the tracks stayed close to the side of the valley.



As the river meandered along the valley the road had to switch sides many times. On this first day we must have been across rivers about 20 times. It was really hard to judge how deep they were and where exactly to drive. If there had been other cars going our way we would have felt much more comfortable. But around mid morning onwards, we did not see another vehicle in either direction.



Just as we were starting to feel more confident we tried a crossing in a place that looked narrow but had steep banks at either side. We got almost all the way across but the boulders in the stream were large and we stopped at an angle of about 30 degrees on the far bank with the back of the car in the water up to the bottom of the rear doors. We just couldn’t climb the slope over the boulders. I jumped out to try to clear them but still no luck. I tried going backwards and just ended up right in the middle of the river, wheels spinning and water half way up the doors. Again I jumped out again and rolled away all the big rocks. A bit of rocking backwards and forwards and all of a sudden we leapt back, only stopping with the back end out of the river and the front in over the wheels. By shifting more rocks we we able to get back up onto the rocks between the two parts of the river. We were so close to getting the car flooded and to be honest a bit scared, that we didn’t take ant photos until the drama was all over. It all happened down in a dip on a deserted road … we were lucky to get the car out on our own!



It turned out that we had followed the wrong track (for about 1 km) and had tried to cross at a bad place (learned from a Mongolian with steep, deep and big rocks in sign language!). There was obviously no physical danger to us but it still made us nervous as we are totally reliant on the car for the trip.  After that we decided that we could not get complacent with the crossings and would check each one out more carefully.

After all the excitement we stopped for lunch, just a few hundred meters onto the right track and, as often happens locals came up to sit near us to see what was going on. We ended up sharing our Duo Penotti!





After lunch we carried on, carefully assessing the rivers before crossing, eventually making it up to the high pass over the mountains.




As we stopped to take pictures, Marjool heard a hissing from one of the rear tyres. We dropped down the other side and looked for a flat place to either change the tyre or spray in a tyre seal, depending on how it looked.

Using a couple of rocks to spread the load we jacked the car up, let the tyre down and then used a tyre seal spray, as it seemed to be a fairly small hole. We had picked up a screw in Russia which we had taken out as soon as we noticed it, but think that the flexing caused by driving over rocks had opened it a bit and started the leak. In any case it did the trick for now and left us with the spare.


There are still lots of goats around but in this area most of the livestock are yaks or yak crosses (produce more milk).




Further down the track we started to look for a place to stop. This is the first place we tried, but it was too windy for cooking so we carried on around the corner.



The families in this valley were all using these wheels  for the carts that they use daily, and to move the gers when they change camp. They were beautifully made.



We ended up finding a nice spot by fir trees to camp, with a view over the valley. It really was the middle of no where!



We are now at around 2500m and so expect a cold night.



21 September – Bayankhongor

22 Sep

Had a photo holiday today and just fiddled with car, sat by the river and went to the market to buy a few odds and ends. The market seems to be where most of the locals buy everything. The stalls are all shipping containers, each selling different items. I needed a watch battery for Marjool and a pin to hold the strap …. I asked the way at a small clothing stall, the man opened a drawer and pulled out the exact battery … 25p! He asked a little girl to run to another stall to find the pin … and she came back with a tobacco tin full of pins. I chose my pin and the price was written down on a sheet of paper .. 5p. It is not normally this easy!


Today is Tom (our sons) graduation day. Well done Tom and sorry we are not there to see you today. Good Ben was there to help you celebrate!




Tomorrow we are heading into the mountains on the way to Tsetseleg. It is supposed to be a beautiful route between two peaks of about 3400m.