Day 9,10 & 11 – Mongolia

I can only describe these three days as the horror days of Mongolia. Day 8, I described as bad but followed the next few days was really bad. Terrain that is really only suitable for the best Toyota Landcruiser and not for 50 year old cars.

Day 9 – 390 km without one single piece of tarmac.
Day 10 – 350 km same story
Day 11 – 350 km and even worse

We did not think that it could be so rough and tough.
Man and machine were trying to do an average of 350-400 km a day on terrain that we could only pass at a speed of 35 to 55 km an hour.
How on earth did we forget that we did almost the same track three years ago?

On top of that we end each night at a camp site where we pitched our tent, tried to take a shower in a tent and eat diner in a tent.
Sleeping at the campsite was not at its best. It is light until 10.30 and light again in the morning at 5 am. All the while some generators are running to keep some lights on in the camp. Next time ( there will not be a next time!) I will buy a black tent… and I will sleep with earplugs.

Day 10 was another interesting day for us.
The nigh before in camp rally director Kim Bannister shared with me a slight concern in the route the next day. We would have to cross a small river that because of adverse weather had grown into quite a serious steam. He said that an advance team would leave at seven in the morning to check out the situation and stay on hand to help or tow cars across.

So we were warned…
When we arrived at this spot around midday we were in the front of the pack and found a wild river with nowhere to see where could cross. There were a few pick up trucks from the organisers at the other shore but at that time very little guidance as to where and how we would cross. Indeed until the first car went through we had no idea how deep it actually was.

A Volvo Amazon dived in and stalled. The tow truck trundled at slow pace into the river and towed the poor car out. A pre-war Bentley came through as they have large wheels and are quite far offthe ground.
Anty and I assessed the situation and decided to take the plunge. Many other cars were arriving and the space to cross became very small.
We have crossed streams before in our rally 280 SE but this car has his air intake on top of the engine. Our Pagode has it on the right at the level of the grill, which is much lower.

So we dived in and the engine stalled immediately…

We were right in the middle of the wild river and had to sit and wait until the tow pickup truck very leisurely came into the river back wards to connect a tow rope and pull us out. All the while the strong river flow started to flood our car and Anty who was sitting up stream started to get quite wet. The water came up to he doorsills on his site of the car. When we got pulled on the opposite site I tried to switch on the ignition and start the engine. The electrics were okay but the engine would not turn. So I asked one of the rally marshals Jim if he could tow my car until it started. He had fortunately seen what happened and said to us to stop trying to start the engine because he thought the engine was flooded with water. If you start and engine full of water it will literally seize or break.

Jim ordered us to take out the spark plugs and then start the engine. We did and when we started the engine with the spark plugs out, six fountains of water sprayed out of the engine! Scary, I have never seen this before and don’t want to see it again. For the second time in a week I though our rally was done. But Jim patiently coached us in clearing the engine and fuel intake from water. The latter by sucking out the water with a small plastic tube from our medical kit.
Once we thought everything was clear we put everything together again and then came the moment of truth. I pushed the starter button and the engine turned over and started immediately. According to the experts this is a miracle…

Some of the others that got stuck in this river were not so lucky and blew their engines. After our mishap and that of a few others the organiser now started to tow cars across the river without their engines running as was promised in the first place.
That is what we should have done. In the end this whole episode costs us about 40 minutes but many more hours of our live. The next few hours to the camp were just as arduous but the engine kept running fine.

In the evening we presented our saving angel Jim with a bottle of whiskey that we had brought from Amsterdam and carried with us. Well deserved Jim because we are still in the rally because of you! We are trying to locate a picture of our cars stuck in the middle of the rivers.

The night of day ten was at a campsite at 2200 meters altitude and it was already fresh when we arrived but it became quite cold when we got to our camp beds. It was bitter cold that night.

Day 11 was the day that we were going to cross the border to Russia and it was expected to take quite long. We had to be ready to leave at 07.30.
First another ‘wash board’ road to the Mongolian border.
Mongolia -- out took about 2 hours. Then a 20 km drive trough no-man’s-land to the Russian border. The whole procedure with about 114 cars –some dragged over the border on trailers – took quite a few hours. Russian customs officers took their time in checking all the car papers and documentations one by one and our patience was tested.
Eventually after a few hours we were free and we entered the Altai mountain region of Siberia. There was one more campsite set up for us about 60 km from the border.
About 40 km from our destination we found our Dutch Pagode friends Tom and Femke in car no 100 stranded on the side of the road. The engine had stopped and would not turn over anymore. We decided to tow them the last 25 km to the campsite where they could get help from the service crews.

Unfortunately the Russian campsite was horrendous . There was no water when we arrived and they were still building some wooden sheds to act as toilets. After the gruelling days in Mongolia everyone was really quite upset about this situation. Diner was also very poor. The upside was that the local Russians had made quite a party of our arrival and they flooded the campsite to come and look at our cars.
The Russians are really quite car mad and very interested in our adventure.
We are now in Russia after so many days in Mongolia. It has been very rough and the route was particularly bad. There is much damage to the cars and we came out relatively okay but there are still two rally days to go before our rest day in Novosibirsk.

More later…