Archive | October, 2011

8th and 9th October – Zumin Uud Mongolia

15 Oct

There was little to do for the weekend in Zumin Uud other than relax in the bit of desert just outside the town. It was pretty windy and so the town tended to get a lot of dust blowing around. We camped in the same spot as Friday night and just tidied the camper and sorted out as much as we could. Washing was a problem as we were running out of water after the trip from UB. We decided to make a few pancakes and pineapple fritters while we waited!




11th October – China

12 Oct

Unfortunately WordPress (which we use to update our website) is blocked in China and so unless we find a way around it, we will not be able to update the blog for the part of the trip. Next time we have good Internet we will send an email, with pictures, to someone to show the entry process into China. This can be posted from the UK. We will then try to find a more practical way of keeping the site up to date. Sorry!

7th October – Zamin Uud

7 Oct

Camped last night a few hundred meters away from the track (or series of tracks) that still form the main road from UB to China. It was quiet except for the occasional truck heading towards the border.




Again it was warmer again overnight with no frost and so we got up a bit earlier and were on the way by 8.30am. For some reason we normally fiddle around until at least 9.00 am or even 9.30 am. I think as it warms up we’ll spring out of bed earlier and earlier!

Arrived in Zamin Uud at about 11.00 am and went to the customs office in the main railway station. I explained that I needed a ‘manifest’ document that could be used to clear the car through Chinese customs, and a really friendly man, who spoke perfect english said that I could pick up the form at the customs office just inside the first gate at the border crossing. He even phoned ahead so that the customs officer who would issue the form was ready when I arrived. I was also given phone numbers by three people I spoke to, to call if we had any problems! The document cost 3000T (150 pence). Great, we had the missing piece of paperwork. Fingers crossed that our guide for China would have the rest!

Unable to go any earlier into China we will have a couple of days in or around Zamin Uud. Our first impressions have been positive, it is certainly a busy place and everyone we have met so far, or asked for directions, have been really friendly.



Tomorrow we will explore more but for now this is the view of the town from where we are camped.



We rounded the evening off with a few games of boules and then showered with the solar shower. We will use the next couple of days catching up with e mails and refining our plans for China. We need to sort out things that we don’t need to access anymore ….. now that Russia and Mongolia are behind us! Suddenly South East Asia seems like a more reasonable target.



6th October – Onwards towards the border.

7 Oct

Although we had only travelled about 270km south of UB it seemed warmer. The night was still cold, but for the first time since we got to the Russian border in the Altai we had not had frost on the roof of the camper (inside).

After a breakfast of porridge and bread with squares of chocolate on (for Sebastian and Elody) we both packed up. We left them to finish packing their bikes and headed of. It was sad to leave them behind …. we did not envy them the tough and dusty ride ahead!



The dirt road continued until about 50km before Saynshand and then an immaculate paved road started. Only problem was that it had piles of aggregate and sand heaped up every km or so to stop you driving on it. In some places we could go on and off to get at least some benefit from it, but most of the time it was faster to stay on the dirt road.



Every time we came to a bad dusty or sandy bit of road we said that it would be a hard bit for Sebastian and Elody and each time we got to a good bit, we were pleased that it would be easier for them. There was however a strong headwind which would have been tough!

We refueled at Saynshand and had lunch, then carried on as far as we could. There was at least 100km of the frustratingly, finished but closed road running beside our track. We went on and off it , sometimes driving right over the heaps of soil meant to stop you using the road. At one point there was a pedestrian crossing … in the middle of the Gobi with no sign of habitation in any direction!


Finally the road ended and we were back on onto sandy roads. Some were really deep but most were fine like the one below.



As the evening came on the wind picked up and the dust swirled. Again we thought that cycling through this would not be much fun.



Having covered 350 km today in 8 hrs driving we had had enough and stopped when the light failed. It left us only about 70km to do in the morning to Zamin Uud.

5th October – UB to Choyr and beyond

7 Oct

We were of two minds as we left UB, on one hand we did not need to be down to the Chinese border until Monday to meet the guide, but on the other hand we were short of one document and would need to get it at the border town on Friday to avoid delays on Monday. It would mean hanging around near Zamin Uud for a couple of days, which the Lonely Planet described as ‘a dusty border town where not much happens’. We opted for the safe option and decided to try to arrive at around midday on Friday.

The first 202 km to Choir are newly paved and was probably the best road we had seen in Mongolia so far.



It was actually quite relaxing as rather than concentrating hard, watching for the next pothole, we could both look around and enjoy the scenery. The road at this point follows the Trans Mongolian Railway and every 50 or 60 km there were little sideroads leading to rural stations and control rooms. There were generally a couple of houses, a playpark for the children and a little control room. It made a nice spot to stop for lunch.




We were invited into the control room by the Station Master.




The controller was very serious and professional.



In the afternoon we carried on towards Choyr where we were expecting the tarmac to end. After a few km the bitumen finished and the road ran along the side of the road that was being constructed. It was being built up but was not yet complete or paved. We saw signs saying that the paved section would be completed to Saynshand by 30th October. This is a pretty tall order!

Around 65km south of Choyr we met a couple of French cyclists called Sebastian and Elody who were cycling from UB to South East Asia. They were a really nice couple and, after sharing a cup of tea with them, decided to camp with them for the night.


They had actually cycled, over the last six months, from France to Turkey (near Istanbul) then taken the ferry to Russia where they had caught the train to Lake Baikal. They had then cycled to UB before starting this leg. Wow, you have to admire their spirit. We cooked enough pasta and sauce for four and ate in the camper. Not a lot of room but it was fine.

It was a nice evening and we made a campfire in a safe spot, in a sort of gulley out of wood that had been fly tipped from the little town called Dalanjargalan, which was just a few km further on. Normally there is no wood for a fire in the Gobi!



It had been a nice day and we enjoyed the company!

4th October – Last day in UB

4 Oct

Spent part of the morning in Dr G’s office as she again tried to help with the customs document problem. Still no luck.

Later we met Dr K for lunch in a Mongolian restaurant called Modern Nomads.


Numerous calls were made to try to involve Dr G in the lunch, but the fact that we had distracted her with customs issues during the morning must have put her behind schedule. In any case we had a really nice meal with nice company. Thank you Dr K!


After lunch we managed to get a spare camera battery and memory card, and a watch battery. We are finally getting better at finding the right shops in Mongolia.

UB is having a real boom now and there is a big new copper and gold mine opening 650km south of UB. The skyline is changing and the number of cars (big flash 4×4’s mainly) are increasing at a fantastic rate. Even from the main square, those who knew it before will see the difference.



Lots of tower blocks are going up in the centre of the city.



Tomorrow morning we are heading south towards the Chinese border. We will go through part of  the Gobi on our way. It will take us a few days as it is 640km and we are not sure what the road conditions are like. We think that the first 200km is paved roads. We are due on the border on 10th October to meet the guide. If we need to visit a shipping agent we need to be there during working hours on Friday.

3rd October – UB

4 Oct

Some time ago we had news that the family that were due to travel with us through China could not make it as their Land Rover developed engine problems in Russia. Despite their best efforts they had to abort the trip and carry on to New Zealand without their car. Having also been through the effort of arranging carnet, visas, injections and logistics we could understand how devastated they must have been to make that decision. The good news is that they will rejoin their vehicle next summer and attempt to continue the trip. We were also really disappointed as we had met with them down in Devon before the trip and were really looking forward to spending time with them. Good luck with your new lives in New Zealand Adrienne, Llew, Bella and Ollie, and your trip next year!

We received information from our tour company in China that the group before us had problems getting into China as there was a custom document missing. It was described as a ‘Carrying Inventory’ form. We decided to try to resolve this in UB as it costs the other group US$300 plus one day to resolve.

We were again staying at the Oasis guest house and travelled from there to the railway station as there is a big customs office there. They checked our temporary import document for the car and said that as fas as Mongolian customs were concerned we needed nothing else. They could not understand why the Chinese customs would require a document produced in Mongolia to allow vehicles to cross the border. We will try again at the border town.

While walking around UB we took a few pictures to remind us of the general scene.




Every so often you see something that catches your eye. How about this for the name of a beauty parlour / hairdresser?!


Leaving late from the town the bus was really crowded and the drivers are so enthusiastic with the brakes and accelerator that the passengers ‘wash’ up and down the bus swinging on the handles. Every so often the electric pick ups on the tram buses comes off and the vehicle comes to a sudden stop. The ride is never a dull experience as you also get a good view of all the minor car collisions as the bus weaves around around the traffic, and the amazingly brave pedestrians darting in and out of any little gaps! They don’t rely on the green man as the cars keep coming!


Safely back at the Oasis we plan our last day in UB. The last few items to get and a lunch with Dr Khaliunaa.


2nd October – Ghorki-Terelj

4 Oct

We are planning to have a quiet day by the river washing, fishing and drinking tea while contemplating the river. Although the nights are down to -4 or -5C, the days are quite warm and the skies are clear blue.

The river looked perfect for fishing, but despite trying every way he could think of, Graham still had no luck. The view up the river was also great.

Graham mumbled his normal list of excuses which included no insects, too cold, overfished, no worms …….. and suggested that maybe a pasta based lunch might be a good idea! Instead we had the closest we could get to a fried breakfast by frying salami sausage, eggs, bread and haloumi.

As we were hanging out the washing one of the local cows came to help us out.

As it got dark we started the normal night time preparations. We have been having battery problems with the electronics items as they are getting too cold at night. When we can, we heat up some big rocks in the fire and then put them in the camper wrapped in towels and covers so that they give off heat slowly through the night. We then put all the electronics equipment on top of this with our clothes and fleeces on top.

Tomorrow we have a few more things to sort out in UB and so will leave here in the morning.

1st October – Gorkhi-Terelj

4 Oct

Met early this morning with Dr G (and her good friend Ariuka!) and Dr Khaliuna to go to the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and to see the famous Chinggis Khaan statue near Erdene. Unfortunately Dr K only had time to say hi and then had to go back for her son’s 16th birthday party.

It took us about 45 mins to drive from the Oasis Guest  House to the statue. It was much bigger than we expected and much more impressive. The statue and base was completed in 2009 but the rest of the complex including 200 ger camps are still under construction. It is a massive project and one that the Mongolians are rightly proud of. The horse and figure are made of a steel frame which is clad in stainless steel.




To get to the statue you drive through an entrance gateway.



As you get closer you see how large it is. The base, which is also a museum, visitor centre and conference facility is 10m high while the statue itself is another 40m.




You go up inside the statue in a lift and then walk out through steps in the chest of the horse to get a view out over the complex and a full view of Chinggis Khaan’s face.




Inside the visitor centre is a huge leather boot that is made in the same scale as the statue.


After leaving the statue complex we backtracked slightly towards UB and then turned into the  road to the Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. First stop was a natural stone feature called Turtle Rock …. can’t imagine why!


Just by the rock formation was a sad little building in a great location …. just crying out to be refurbished! A new one had been built, but in typical Mongolian fashion the old one was left in position for later!



Dr G and Ariuka had been dancing until 4 am and so were getting tired now. While we were looking around turtle rock they were snoozing in the car …. time to go home and leave us in the park for the weekend!

The scenery in the park is lovely, and different to most of the areas that we had seen so far.



Again it is great to see a spot and think .. yes I’ll go there … who needs a road!


We then decided to look for a spot to fish and camp by the river. There was much more in the way of ‘evidence’ of previous campers than the countryside that we have been in away from the city. Still very pretty though.



If we like it here we plan to stay two nights.