Rally Day 12: The Altai Mountains - Olgii

Trip Start Jul 09, 2013
Trip End Aug 29, 2013

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Flag of Mongolia  , Bayan-Ulgii,
Saturday, July 27, 2013

A great day from start to finish. As soon as we left the hotel this morning we saw a Russian Olympic training faculty with cross country skiers practicing with rollerblade skis and we understood why there were kids in athletic uniforms working out and chopping wood behind our hotel. The drive was incredibly scenic with big mountains turning into bigger mountains which led to white-capped peaks and glaciers. Alongside the road was a huge glacier fed green/blue river making for a very picturesque valley. We broke out the drone a few more times and took a lot of pictures. Speaking of glaciers we've all been surprised at how cold it's gotten in the last few days. I guess 8000 ft. in elevation up from about 400 in a few days ago will do that.

As we came out of the mountains and into the rolling hills we passed a few towns and then arrived at the Russian border. We'd heard that this border was supposed to take 18 hours so we were prepared for the worst but after about 45 minutes we were on our way through the 30 km no-mans-land between Russia and Mongolia. Arriving at the Mongolian border we had our tires washed to help contain some cow disease. The Mongolian border guards loved the cars and all of them came out to take pictures with them. We gave them some CharityVision glasses which they all loved and wore throughout the visa process. When we finished up with the Mongolians 45 minutes later they told us that we would be driving two guards home because the border was closing and they didn't have rides. Only in Mongolia I guess. So with the guards in tow we headed off for the city of Ulgii 100 km away. The roads here are… interesting. Instead of the paved Russian roads we were used to the Mongolian roads immediately deteriorated to a dirt track. After a few miles that dirt road split into two parallel tracks, which then split again until we were driving east on one of the six or seven dirt tracks. Every time we asked which road I take the guard would tell us it didn't matter and go back to teaching us Mongolian. At one point the road took us straight up a mountain without any switchbacks or anything and the 80 series only made it up going five miles per hour with the throttle open all the way. When we got to Ulgii we went through another car cleaning process and then rode into town. The guard who spoke a little English showed us to a hotel and then Steve and Matt took him back to his house. He invites us in and introduced us to his family and gave us some fried bread and yoghurt to eat. Comparing the border guards at Ukraine/Russia border to the guys who we worked with today is amazing. The first group kept us waiting for 8 hours and told us everything we'd done so far was wrong didn't try to be very helpful and the people today showed us to a hotel, taught us some Mongolian and fed us in their home. We're all big fans of Mongolia so far.

Tomorrow morning we will decide whether we will take the northern or southern route through Mongolia after we figure out the gas situation. Either way I think this country will be very memorable.
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