Monday, 19 August 2013

Mike and Jess vs The Gobi Desert

After a restless nights sleep sharing a crappy single bed with Mike and suffering with the beginnings of a cold, I was feeling pretty worse for wear when I woke in Khovd. Mike had also got me up nice and early so we could give ourselves as much time to battle with the Mongolian roads. We planned to head into the Gobi desert, which if its roads were anything like those we had already been through the previous day, we were going need as much time as possible.

Not only were the roads going to be tough going but it’s 450km from Khvod to Altay, so we knew we had better fill up on petrol before we hit the road. However, again we found ourselves having the problem of finding a servo offering anything better than 80 octane. Not wanting to risk giving our beloved Clio anything but the best, we headed out the city hoping this isn’t going to be a repeat of our Uzbekistan days. 

Fortunately that was not to be. Just as we left the city we pulled into a small servo with a very smiley Mongolian man pumping everyone’s petrol. He was probably so smiley because he had the 92 octane petrol and therefore in high demand. I just don’t understand it, there are so many decent cars out here, they can’t all be running on 80 octane. Perhaps they replace the engines with a lawnmowers but keep the fancy chassis so they can look cool at the next Yert party.

Anyway, we were finally on our way but after about 40 mins and with the Gobi desert looming we decided to pulled over and prepare ourselves for the dust with a throat clearing a cup of sweet tea and some stale bread for our breakfast (living the dream).

Mike also thought it was a good time to get out Skippy, our inflatable Kangaroo, who had so far been hidden away in the boot ever since the start line. With not many people in sight this was the perfect opportunity for us to get a little extra company. Unfortunately he is a little big so we had to strap him to the roof of the car, but at least he will get the best view of the Gobi desert.

While gaffer taping Skip to the roof a Mongol Rally team of Americans whom we had previously met at the Bodiam party pulled up to say Hi. As we were heading the same way we decide to convoy our way to Altay.

The dirt roads were slightly better than those we had encountered the previous day and we were even lucky enough to get to drive on some beautiful tarmac for a little over an hour. However, it wasn’t long before we were back to dusty dirt tracks.

Around mid-afternoon I was took over the driving, as I had been feeling rotten all day Mike had thankfully done most of the driving. It was just my luck because as soon as I got behind the wheel we plummeted into a deep pot hole. Now it wasn’t all my fault, I had been feeling pretty worse for wear, but I think I can blame a combination of bad road, pot holes and our shitty Kazakh break pads. As we bounced back out of the pothole and changed gears we realised we had once again whacked the sump guard into our gear box. We still had so much further go to, and now you pretty much have to arm wrestle the gear stick into where you want it to go.

Feeling rather sheepish Mike took over, and we continued on the bad roads. The roads today aren’t the gravel pits, mountain passes or river crossings of yesterday, but instead they are just fill of horizontal ridges that act like constant speed bumps. One after another. A constant shaking of the car that we are certain is going to loosen every nut and bolt until we finally slam shut a car door and the whole thing will fall apart. Then, during a quick pitstop to remount something that had fallen off the American’s roof rack (damn shaky roads) that Mike realised that we had a puncture. It’s almost impossible to know how long we had been driving on the flat for as the roads are just so bad.

After a quick tyre change and we realised that we were all pretty worn out. It had been a long day of rough driving so decided to pitch tents. The spot 50 meters off the dirt road was as good as any so thats where we stopped.  Still it could have been worse, we had fantastic 360 degree views of mountains and desert rolled out in front of us. 

However, the Gobi desert wasn’t done with us yet. Just as we started to set up our tent the storm that had been tailing us the majority of the day finally hit us. Now it was a battle between me and Gobi desert winds to see who had the stronger hold of the tent. With the rain crashing in, Mike crawled around my feet pegging everything down before I started parasailing across the Gobi.

Once the tent was up, we then had to build a little shelter between the tent and the car in order to keep out the elements. It was a little like having a BBQ in England, but it wasn’t long until our pasta was cooked. So we said goodnight to the Americans, grabbed our plates and dived into the tent to see out the storm.

Mike and I sat there giggling to each other as the wind whistled over out tent, but by the time we had wolfed down our food the rain had started to ease off and the black clouds were moving away, even with a little lightening in toe. 

As the blue sunset sky slowly re-appeared I think we can safely say we have survived everything the Gobi desert could throw at us today. 

Jess and Mike 1, Gobi desert 0.

Let’s hope we all get a good nights sleep and we can keep up this winning streak tomorrow.

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