4/4 2007 Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Lat N 43° 47,27', Long E 111° 45,29'
Today: 53.6 °F ( 12 °C)
04 Apr 2007
69791 km

The road on the Chinese side before the border to Mongolia looked like this, and the road after crossing the border looked like this.

When we asked for the road to Ulaan-Baator, the man pointed at the desert and said that we should follow the power line. My god, it is 600 kilometers to Ulaan-Baator!

We already knew that the roads in Mongolia were in a poor or rather non existing condition, and there are no road signs, just a lot of dirt tracks cross the plains. A GPS is an important piece of equipment here.

They grade the roads in four categories; ”paved raod”, ” improved unpaved road ” and ”dirt road”. There is less than 1 500 kilometers paved road in Mongolia, a land three times the size of Sweden.

The road we are traveling is a so called ”improved road”. We have been discussing all day what is improved about it, and still haven’t figured it out.

Gobi desert is the least populated region in the world, only 0,5 persons per square kilometer. We can tell that, as we hardly seen a soul all day, just a few nomad camps and some shaggy camels , horses and goats trying to find food in the dry, wind and cold desert.

All over we see skeletons from camels, horses and cows that has succumb to the harsh desert climate.

All of a sudden we discovered a bunch of very thirsty camels standing waiting by a well. We stopped to give them some water . A camel can last a week without water, but a thirsty camel can drink 200 liters in a day.

In the afternoon we got a taste of the rapid change of weather that can occur in the desert. In one hour it went from blue sky to strong winds and lashing sand. The visibility got worse and worse and we felt we got too far away from the power line we where supposed to follow.

We decided to try to get close enough that we could see them. All of a sudden we where stuck in the sand. Shit! The wind was picking up even more, the where sand everywhere and there we where – stuck in the middle of nowhere. We had only met three cars all day. Now we started to get really worried. But at least we had food to last us 5-6 days, if needed.

We crawled on all four showing and spitting sand. Tried to build up a solid ground with all kind of stuff available, as rocks, wedges, car mat, rag-mat and of course we also put on the snow chains. After 3,5 hour we finally managed to get the car up on solid ground again. Puh!

Relived we hit the ”road” again, this time completely clear about not leaving the main track. And if the visibility gets too poor we just have to stop.

Less than an hour later we where stuck again, this time in a several decimeter deep sand dune that crossed the main track. It was only to take out the shovel again and start digging. After a while we saw a dust cloud in the horizon, a car was approaching us! Great! They pulled us through the sand on our chassis. When we were across and we tried to thank them they said, it will get much worse than this. Follow us.

They knew what they where talking about. Next place was even worse, about 100 meter long, 50 centimeter deep and no chance to go around it. They told Bert to drive strait in to it and when he was stuck, they pulled him across the rest. As a thanks we gave them a bottle of whiskey .

5/4 2007 Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Lat N 44° 19,16', Long E 110° 59,29'
Today: 53.6 °F ( 12 °C)
05 Apr 2007
70293 km

After just a few kilometers we discovered a herd of horses at the well, waiting for someone to give them water. We also needed to get water, and gave them some too.

When the horses had enough, they left one after another. But when the whole herd finally left, another herd of horses came to get water. It was a heavy job to hoist up water to feed all 50 horses. Berts hands got full of blisters after hoisting up 800 liter of water from the 6 meter deep well.

Then ten camels discovered that they could get water and came rushing towards the well. Oh, no there is no end to it! But luckily some nomads showed up on a motorbike to take care of them.

One of the men brought a saddle and a long stick with a snare at the end. He made a quick rush towards the herd of semi wild horses and caught one. He put the saddle on and went away over the plain like a cowboy.

Today we were more careful driving in the desert. As soon as it looked a bit funny Catharina went out to check it out and to tell Bert exactly what route to take . We had quite enough of digging and spitting sand yesterday. But sometimes we just have to take a chance, since there is no way to get around the difficulties.

In the desert one has to help one and other. We found two men in jeep with a flat and no solution. Our repairing kit was only for tubeless tires. But we remembered that we actually had some contact adhesive we could provide them with. Then they probably will make it to the nearest village 50 kilometers away.

In the evening we arrived in Saynshand , a small desert town of 18 000 inhabitants. First we had a delicious goulash, and then we took a sauna to clean the sand out of our hair and pores and rinse our bone-dry throats with a beer. Just lovely!

6/4 2007 Saynshand, Mongolia
Lat N 44° 54,18', Long E 110° 08,11'
Today: 53.6 °F ( 12 °C)
06 Apr 2007
70407 km

The nights are cold, below zero every night in and out of our car . To keep warm we dress in fleece clothes, socks, caps and a muffler and use both quilt and a warm fleece rug. It ok as long as we stay in the warmth of our bed. The hard part is to get up in the morning.

When we filled up petrol today we realized that our car had taken twice as much petrol as normal, during our desert drive on the first and second gear. The petrol is cheap though, 70 Euro cent, for 93 octane.

All day we have been driving along the Tran Siberian Railway, which continues all the way to Beijing. Several extremely long cargo trains, with 50 wagons have passed us during the day.

The longer northwards we get in the Gobi the easier the driving gets. Sure, the road is still rough, bumpy and we watch out for the sand. But we think we have made the kritical parts already. Now we only have 200 kilometers left to the paved road. And after that only 220 kilometers left to Ulaan-Baator.

We feel not as vulnerable as before. Now we can see small villages, only 50 – 100 kilometers apart. We also see a lot more vehicles in the wilds, today maybe as many as 10. But all of them are trucks os jeeps, no private cars.

7/4 2007 Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Lat N 46° 33,97', Long E 108° 17,88'
Today: 50 °F ( 10 °C)
07 Apr 2007
70669 km

Today it is cold, clear, windy and sunny, again. Mongolia is the land of the sunshine, with the most hours of sunshine per year.

Gobi desert covers a third of Mongolia. The Mongolians make a difference between 33 different kinds of desert. We can only see the difference between sand, gravel and rocks. But as we are getting closer to Ulaan-Baator, the desert is transitioning in to grass-covered step.

Today we finally made it to the the paved road. Great for us, but even more great for our SAAB, that has been suffering hard in the desert.

We checked out one of the deserted Russian air bases we saw along the road. The Russians left in 1994, after that some Mongolians have moved in.

We also found some poor bastards with a broken down engine, that we towed to the nearest town village 30 kilometers away.

8/4 2007 Gobi Desert, Mongolia
Lat N 46° 10,44', Long E 108° 50,15'
Today: 50 °F ( 10 °C)
08 Apr 2007
70886 km

All cars in Ulaan-Baator are dented except for the brand new city jeeps. It isn’t too hard to understand why. They all drive like they where alone in the desert, also in the middle of town. We have decided to leave the car parked, not to risk getting it full of dents.

We thought Ulaan-Baator would be an exotic and charming place. But it is so not. It is a modern town full of restaurants, Irish pubs, boutiques and trendy people. The Mongolia we are looking for is definitely not in Ulaan-Baator.

The crime rate is high in Ulaan-Baator, not so much violent crimes, as pickpocketing and bag slasning. Despite all warnings , the statistics have it that five percent of all tourists get robbed in some way.

We are parked at UB Guest House. The Guest House owner tells us the risk of theft and brake in is great, even though there is a night watchman and they lock the gates at night. But he thought we would be ok since we are sleeping in our car.

All over town we see men and women carrying a normal desk telephone around their neck or in the hand. Looks rather funny, we think. They must have a wireless connection in one of the buildings nearby.

Today we also tried to clean out the Gobi desert sand from our car, and there was sand absolutely everywhere.

9/4 2007 Ulaan-Baator, Mongolia
Lat N 47° 55,17', Long E 106° 54,65'
Today: 50 °F ( 10 °C)
09 Apr 2007
71021 km

Russki? Some Russian language skills would have been great, since everything here is in Mongolian or Russian. And we are going to travel Russian speaking countries the rest of our journey.

We looked up the Kazakhstan embassy today. From what we heard and read, it was a similar as process as getting a Russian visa, with a visa invitation and all. But there was no problem at all. We just filed our application, paid 65 $US and can collect it on Friday. Wow! Nice when things are smooth for a change.

After that we took a walk around town and visited Gandanteg Chinlen Khiid, the largest monastery in Mongolia. It is also a very active monastery , with 500 monks and a Buddhist university on the premises.

We also found an ATM taking international VISA cards. Great! Normally we use MasterCard, since we don’t need to pay withdrawal charge abroad on that one. But we haven’t managed to find a MasterCard ATM this far in Mongolia. The VISA card is just for occasions like this.

10/4 2007 Ulaan-Baator, Mongolia
Lat N 47° 55,17', Long E 106° 54,65'
Today: 50 °F ( 10 °C)
10 Apr 2007
71021 km

Today we dined like Royals; just like Chinggis Khaan, with vodka and everything already for lunch. We made a daytrip to Chinggis Khaani Khurec, a tourist ger camp right outside town. Chinggis Khaan is still a big hero in Mongolia. Everything is Chinggis Khaan; restaurants, vodka, beer, hotels etcetera are using the name of the bloodthirsty conquer.

At the tourist camp they have reused the properties from the shooting of the Chinggis Khaan movie, and it feels like a combination of a museum, Disneyland and a film set. But still we get an idea of what it was like back then. There are several ger charts that used to be drawn by 20 ox through the desert, helmets, weapons, furniture and a lot of other things. When Chinggis Khaan died Mongolia his kingdom reached all the way from Beijing to the Caspian Sea.

We also got the opportunity to check out how a traditional ger is built. It all starts with a wooden skeleton to shape the ger, easily dismounted when the nomads want to shift site. The inside is covered in beautiful fabrics and decorations. Then they cover it with a thick layer of gray woolen blankets, as a final layer they put a kind of thick canvas to protect the ger from getting wet. We guess it gets cozy and warm inside in the winter.

11/4 2007 Ulaan-Baator, Mongolia
Lat N 47° 55,17', Long E 106° 54,65'
Today: 50 °F ( 10 °C)
11 Apr 2007
71117 km

We have had a real down day today. Mongolia feels like a disappointment to us. Ok, the days in the Gobi desert was great, Ulaan-Baator is just a modern, boring town. And where is the famous hospitality we heard so much about? We have seen nothing of that this far.

But for the record, this is the first time during our two year trip that we are feeling a bit tired of traveling; on top of that both of us have had a cold this past week.

Our plan was to go to Karakorum today, to stay in a ger camp and go horseback riding. But 800 kilometers of shitty paved road, was not that exciting and we decided to turn back.

Instead we stocked up with Pringles, M&M and beer and shut us up in our SAAB spending the rest of the day watching DVD movies – feeling a sorry four ourselves.

12/4 2007 Ulaan-Baator, Mongolia
Lat N 47° 55,17', Long E 106° 54,65'
Today: 46.4 °F ( 8 °C)
12 Apr 2007
71117 km

Now we have bought the domain , to make it easier to find our site. We now have 40 000 hits since we started our trip in may 2005. Every week about 500 unique visitors keep an eye on us. This means that are far more people than our closest family interested in what we are doing. That’s great!

Today we got our visa to Kazakhstan. Now we can go to the Russian border. We have also exchanged some Russian money, to be able to pay for the compulsory car insurance we will be forced to buy at the Russian border; only payable in ruble.

On our way to the border the police stopped us for running strait in to a roundabout. It was such a terrible layout of a roundabout we couldn’t even see it was a roundabout until they told us. The fine was 7 Euro, and it was clear the police stood there because they knew they could catch a lot of fine.

Later in the evening it started to snow, quite heavily to be in the spring, but the snow didn’t stay. We have been lucky not to have run in to sand- or snowstorms in Mongolia.