Last few days

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

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Flag of Mongolia  , Ulaanbaatar,
Friday, August 2, 2013

The morning after finding the mechanic Steve and Craig went back the shop and spent the day working out the repairs the the 80 series fuel line and exhaust system. The rest of the group explored Ulgii a little and found a new hotel/group of gers (it's been requested that the correct term be used here instead if yurt but I'm not sure how to spell the correct name).

Before leaving town the next morning we picked up a hitchhiker! We met an Israeli man and a girl from Colorado in a restaurant and the girl, Macy, asked us if she could get a ride back to Ulaanbaatar. She had just hitchhiked to Ulgii and was trying to figure out a way to get back. And so, with the 80 fixed we headed out on the southern route on our last leg of the rally. The southern route immediately proved to be much more manageable and we were made good time across the giant steppe. As we were climbing up one of the small passes between valleys we saw an eagle on the side of the road and stopped to check it out. A man came out of a nearby gir and had us put on a traditional outfit and hold the eagle. The bird varieties in Mongolia are pretty limited with eagles, tons of hawks, crows and little birds that jump off the ground and fly in front of the car as soon as you get near them. It's cool seeing so many big birds of prey everywhere you look.

The group was all pretty ready to get to Ulaanbaatar so we powered through the first day only stopping for gas and a gas can that fell off the roof rack and sprung a leak. If you've driven on well travelled dirt roads before you know what washboard bumps can be like. Mongolian roads take that to the next level and it showed on the cars. Over the course of the three days it took to get to Ulaanbaatar we bounced three lights out of their mounts just because of the intense bumps and occasional huge pothole. That night we pulled off the “road” a few hundred meters and set up camp. As soon as we started pulling our camping gear out the winds picked up and we were battling 40-50 mph gusts while trying to put the tents up. We parked the two cars in a V to block some of the wind and sand blowing at us and tied the tents to the cars in addition to staking them down to keep them from blowing away. Sandstorm camping is definitely an interesting experience.

The next day we woke up to light rain which surprisingly continued for the next three days. It was another day full of huge plains of grass and rock with the occasional small pass into the next valley. Someone found a stat that said Mongolia is the least densely populated country in the world and we can attest to that. We drove for hours and hours between people sightings and when we did see people it'd be a road crew or a gas station surrounded by five or six girs out in the middle of nowhere. The size of Russia was pretty well matched by the emptiness of Mongolia.

The last driving day was the most interesting since our first day in Mongolia when we were stopped by too deep rivers. The roads were paved and fast for the last five hundred km or so except for one ten mike stretch. There was some road work going on so traffic was diverted to the grassy hills next to the road. The problem was that the constant rain over the last few days had turned the grass to deep mud. The Land Cruisers and their mud tires proved more than capable on the bad roads as we passed trucks and cars waiting for the mud to dry. There was even a muddied Mongol Rally car heading back in the opposite direction which made us all very thankful that we had the big trucks instead of little hatchbacks. We found that the best way to get through the mud was to floor the gas peddle to keep the cars from sinking down into the mud. We pulled out two sedans that had sunk to their frames in mud pits that might have even gotten us stuck.

Craig, Anthon and Matt came out on the other side of the mud all smiles after romping through the huge pits but the 80 series crew were a little worse for wear. The mud splashed so high that we had windshield wipers running full bore but the 80 series had a few big splashes that sprayed mud-water up to the sunroof, which wasn't as waterproof as we thought. They'd also sprung a leak from their power steering fluid and Steve had been manhandling the wheel to get through the mud. An exciting last day of the rally!

Getting into Ulaanbaatar we dropped Anthon and our hitchhiker off at a hostel for the next legs of their travels and the rest of us got the cars prepped for shipping and found a hotel. The next morning we dropped off the cars with the shipper and Craig left for a series of four or five flight that would take him back to Utah and Kurt, Steve and Matt caught a sleeper train to the Chinese border en route to a few weeks of backpacking before heading home.
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