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.

 

 

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