Three capitals and Cornwall in 22 hours

Thursday 1st August 2013

We travel home

Well, today was surreal. Up at 4.30am. Taxi at 5am. Little traffic through city. Took photos on way out, but not very successful. Tiny international airport. Opened breakfast from hotel. Only edible things were apple, yoghurt -but no spoon, and water. Usual security measures, but get through quickly. Bought coffee and ate muesli bar. First of three today as it happens.

We travel for 21 hours, 26 minutes and 42 seconds, pass through three capital cities -UB, Moscow and London. Collect rental car, wrong one, and drive to Cornwall. Smooth roads, we can listen to the radio and each other. Travelling cross country we saw Stonehenge. Amazing.

Arrive at Waterland. Ned jumps out from behind the hedge. Hello, hugs and laughter. Evening is spent sharing stories, experiences, food and booze. Tim and I are tired, but really want to start back on GMT. We just manage to stay up a bit later than Ned, but don’t hear the others coming in from the outside kitchen. Sleep like babes. Good to be home.

Car Transport Sorted

Wednesday 31st July 2013

Car transport sorted

Today we ship the cars, so we will end the blog. We want to end on a high note, as we have so many fantastic memories. We still cannot believe what we have achieved, or how far we have travelled. We have learnt so much about ourselves and each other. People we had never met before have welcomed us, shouted hello, helped us, stared at us. We have also done the same. Maybe not the staring so much. British reserve and all that.

At breakfast we learn that Atle and Hilde have finally tracked down their puppy. Great excitement. They travel to Germany the last weekend of August. Not sure we will still be there after the wedding. On way out of hotel, a manager asks if we would mind parking the Landys in their lock up garage. Out of view perhaps? We were told when we first arrived that we would not fit in. Never mind, we are actually leaving this minute. Well not straight away. A car from the Mongol rally came in last night, so we have a snoop and snap a few photos. Tim and Atle interested in the huge home made air filter.

Drama on the way to the shipping company. We run out of fuel!!! Atle tows us on the short solid tow bar. Scary. Atle says for 2017 he will have made a triangular towing device, much better. We get to a fuel station and put a little in. Huge flood just at approach, people are trying to pump it out. Hope it is the last dunking the cars will get in the near future. Insurance paid, paperwork sorted. Now just follow someone to containers.

It starts to rain. Grey clouds. We may need to dry the cars off once in container, don’t want any more rust on ours!!! Must remember to take everything we need, and not get locked in ourselves. Arrive on outskirts of city. Wait for instructions. Our support car drives off. What? Fun until the last. Wonder if he has gone off with all our money, and is just leaving us here?

Man trying to straighten a bumper with a hammer. Give up, sits down, makes a phone all. We wait. A woman arrives with instructions. It takes over two hours to secure the vehicles. Tim drives the Beast in, then men chock the wheels, nail the wood to the floor of the container, add chains and tie those off. Then the same for Hildefender. The two cars are further secured by Atle’s solid tow bar. If one goes down, the other one goes with it. Company seals secure the doors, until the Chinese Customs Officials check it.

We leave. A company driver takes us back to the hotel. One and a half hours, due to heavy traffic, even though he knows the back routes. Make sure our packing is finished, order a taxi for the morning and meet in reception. We are all dressed in out Grand Khan Irish Pub polo shirts, and walk for our final evening in UB.

It was rammed. We started outside, beer and garlic bread. Then move inside. Fish and chips, with homemade coleslaw. Delicious. Glad we had a swanky meal last night, as we are all so tired. Think I may be getting a cold. Hope it is only pollution.

Taxi back to hotel. Say goodbye very quickly – thanks for fantastic trip, safe journey, we will see you soon, and we know we will journey together again.

Organic Cafe and Mongolian Hygiene and Disinfectant Conference

Tuesday 30th July 2013

Going to try the Organic Cafe for breakfast. Walk downstairs past the sign for today’s conference – Mongolian Hygiene and Disinfectant Conference. Hope there won’t be any disaffected disinfectant delegates. Get a message from the transportation company, they need original paperwork to take to the Chinese authorities. An employee will come to the hotel, at 10.30am. A man arrives, and asks about our trip. Also, what do we think of Mongolia. It is lovely to be extolling the virtues of someone’s home country. Perhaps we missed out the state of the roads.

Gentle stroll to cafe. Order breakfast special, coffee and pancakes. Wait for quite a while, but know everything is being freshly prepared. We discuss the music festival in Norway next June. Atle and Hilde have invited us to it. They suddenly realise they have to confirm bookings before August 1st. We would love to go, so accept readily. I will definitely have to get my knee better by then, as there is a long trek from their apartment in Tyin. Last year the snow was very heavy, and they needed snow shoes. We have been recommended to buy walking boots which come higher up our calves. That’s Christmas sorted then. Breakfast is delicious. It reminds us of our stay in Brooklyn last year. We then all reminisce about wonderful holidays. This jogs Tim’s memory. He owes me a trip to Barcelona, with the Strouds, for my birthday last year.

Hilde and I go shopping, Tim and Atle stay at the hotel. We decide to walk, as Hilde had noticed a Silk Shop. It could have been prosecuted under the trades description act. Move on. I hold Hilde’s bag as she shops. Successfully. She treats me to lunch, panini and coffee. We walk back, just avoiding the downpour.

Men are still in foyer, sorting insurances and stuff. They had forgotten to eat lunch, and had nearly wasted away. Pizza ordered. Rob arrives, with the man from Black Shaman. Discuss vehicles, routes, the logistics of organising the longest horse race in the world. Also found out that we could not have travelled the Pamir Highway this time last year, due to local disputes in TJ. Scary.

Tim is trying to sort GPS tracking for whole trip, but encountering difficulties. We have a few days without photos on our blog. Hope we can finish them soon. Spend a little time looking back over trip. Amazing how much you forget when new experiences crowd in.

Time in our rooms. Sorting and packing. How much local currency have we got? How much will we need. Don’t know how long we are staying. Sorting through coins, came across one I did not recognise. A pound coin, with the Queen’s head on. Flippin’ heck. Been away too long.

We go out to dinner. In foyer are large posters welcoming the Mongol Rally arrivals. A couple more cars are expected in the next day or so. Very impressive. We are eating at a very swanky restaurant – The Ivy. Dodge large puddles as we get out of taxi, remnants of today’s downpour. Very few customers, all westerners.

Waiter was charming. We couldn’t have the bubbly we ordered, next shipment is September. It’s only July!! The food is truly delicious. Starter is gin and tonic, and enough Parma ham to satisfy even Esme. Tim and I have rack of lamb with creamed potatoes and roasted veg. They haven’t got Tim’s lemon sorbet, but melon. Not as good. I have espresso coffee and liqueur, poured over ice cream and amaretto biscuits. Exquisite. Coffee. Oh, and the obligatory bottle of red wine. Atle and Hilde pick up the tab. Tomorrow Tim and I are taking them back to the Irish Pub for fish and chips.

No new arrivals from rally when we get back to hotel. Hope we see some tomorrow.

Our Route from Hereford to Ulaanbaatar

Hope you all enjoy looking at this as it is the exact route we have followed.  There may be the odd gap where we lost GPS signal but it should work ok.

Sorting Cars

Monday 29th July 2013

Sorting cars

Long email from Catherine. Great to catch up. We will be in touch soon.

Arrive at garage, cars outside security fence so we can work on them straight away. The garage has had the outside and engine cleaned. We empty everything out. Want to work quickly, as rain forecast. The Swiss couple arrive and present us with Mongolian car stickers. Their converted Landy was mended on Friday, and they have been camping at the Oasis site over the weekend. They will not move on today, as they want to catch up with their blog, and the Internet is very slow.

Atle and Tim syphon off as much fuel as they can, and the Swiss man fills his tanks. I tackle the fridge and freezer. Why didn’t we empty them on Friday? Gross job. All food stuffs are thrown away. Other belongings are given to the Swiss, or to the garage staff. Tim tries to burn off the gas from the large bottle. We repack the car, and take a few things out that we will need with us. Such a strange sensation. Say geed bye to Swiss and garage staff. Thank them for all their help.

We drive away under our own steam. Find shipping company. Tim and Atle go in to register. Hilde and I sit in a covered area on a children’s playground, eating a lolly. There are several blocks of flats. People come and go in the hour we are there. Primary aged children allowed to play on their own. Some have footballs, others are riding bikes. Parents and grandparents with younger children and babies. Several Spidermen are spotted. Older teenagers meet up, buy lunch at the local shop and sit around in groups. A Buddhist Monk is dropped off by a friend and goes into the nearest flat. A dog drinks rainwater from a puddle. A little girl goes up to our car and plays with the winch, a young man preens his hair in the mirror, both unaware they are being watched. Everyone is polite, their clothes are trendy, sparkling white shirts. Although there is some litter, including broken beer bottles, in the gazebo we are sitting in, the teenagers all put their rubbish in the bins.

After an hour Tim and Atle join us. They have been told to come back after lunch. We wander down towards the main road, and find a lovely restaurant, Essence. Tim and I have a bowl of spicy chowder soup. Atle and Hilde have chicken pasta. We share some garlic bread.

Once back, Atle has difficulty locating his engine number. We have to drive the cars into the container ourselves, then we won’t see them for about two months. First need import permission to China, then they travel by train and finally shipped home. As they arrive in Felixstowe, Tim has put his name and contact details for both cars. We may be able to fly tomorrow, or more likely Wednesday.

Back to the hotel, under our own steam, so sort out flights. Sky turns black. We can see pelting rain further up Peace Avenue. Finding our way around without sat nav, know the area better now and looking out for known landmarks. Can’t us CB, as makeshift aerial was dumped at garage. They didn’t even charge for cleaning the cars.

Scary thunder and lightning. Someone is carrying a new settee on the top of their car. It is wrapped in plastic, but hope they get it home dry. Mum carrying baby, wrapped in an orange plastic bag. As any car is a taxi, she soon gets a lift from another parent with young child. Many children travelling without seat belts. Know to turn left when we reach the Nations Wrestling Arena. Man carrying dog on his shoulders, so it’s paws don’t get wet.

All emotionally drained. I have a snooze, whilst Tim down loads more photos. We eat in hotel restaurant. Averagely poor. The octopus starter never arrives. Jeanette emails Hilde, offering a free stay at her ger. So kind, but not sure either Landy would make it there and back. Astrid phoned. They were sitting in Moscow, over looking the Kremlin. They had driven very long days, the roads very bumpy and the travelling very boring. Their advice – don’t do it!!! Well, as it happens, we won’t. Rob, the Mongol Rally bloke, said to travel North of the usual route in Russia. We will do this on our return trip in 2017. Meet more people. He said the Siberians were the nicest people he had ever met.

Tim and Atle go out to the cars. Our sat nav battery is flat, so it will be put to charge overnight. The night watchman asks them to move the cars, so they will be caught on the CCTV. After several beers and three bottles of red wine, they are in no fit state to drive, even the required 20m. The cars stay put.

Shopping but no furtling

Sunday 28th July 2013

Girlie Shopping, but no furtling.

Happy Anniversary Claire and Will

Today Hilde and I have been mostly girlie shopping. Just round the corner. It didn’t look open, but was. Two female shop assistants, not as insistent as last time I was there, one security guard, and an armed soldier who followed us round every step of the way. Daunting. No way would we do these Mongolian people out of one single Tengen. Then we went across the road, to an organic cafe and shop. Drank coffee, nattered then bought lunch in shop. Kettles sea salt and black pepper crisps. I then show Hilde the Souvenir section of the Sky Shop. She is enthralled.

At hotel we met in foyer. Spoke to Rob, the guy organising the Mongolian Rally. The first team in hadn’t driven the Southern route, as we first thought. It was three Italians, who had started in 2011. Got so far, one was thrown in jail. Left the car to be collected in 2012 and decided to drive this year, from CZ Republic, straight through Russia. All took turns at driving. Completed it in ten days.

He gave us contact details of a colleague who had set up the company Black Shaman. That was the name we were trying to remember. If LR’s shipping agent can’t help us, he can. We talked about his work, all over the world – Russia, Peru, India. Told him the route we had travelled. Apparently, the are we camped the first night in Mongolia, is notorious. For banditry. Whenever he has to cross no man’s land on business for the Mongol Rally, because he is not leaving the country, he has to have a military escort. Thank you Russian friend with the big dog.

We visit Tumen Ekh, the Mongolian National Song and Dance Ensemble. Fantastic experience. Small venue. A large group of Korean University students. One of them comes across and offers us some packs of biscuits. The show is a true spectacle of colour, dance, music and wonderful costumes. I suddenly realise I have been living with a Mongolian Throat Singer all my married life!!! How do they make those noises? The contortionist was a very “springy” girl, as the programme called her. Not natural at all. Remember what Eenee told us about the curled up toes on Mongolian shoes. It is to show respect to the ground, and not dig it up.

Think we know a short cut to the main road. We don’t. End up on waste ground, avoiding holes, clamber over large pipes and have to turn back at a locked gate. All adds to the fun. We find an Irish pub, advertising Guinness and Murphy’s, neither of which was available. We drink Mongolian beer. Then a trip to another Gobi Cashmere outlet. Several more purchases, including a jumper for Atle.

On to the Veranda, a restaurant recommended by someone at the hotel. Overlooking the Buddhist Temple. Excellent red wine and food. Some very spicy. Tim got hiccoughs. Back at hotel we spend a little time sorting out packing. What will we take home with us, and what will be left in the Landy. Strange feeling. Last drink in the bar and agree an early start tomorrow.

Try to Face Time Claire and Will, but they are at Greame’s party. Happy Birthday.

Flat Morning Fizzy Night

27th July 2013

Flat Morning, Fizzy Night

Happy 21st Birthday Amy. We know from Face Book that you are all in California, but it is probably not yet Saturday there, if I think about it. Happy Birthday anyway.

Loads of emails and photos on Path from family, wishing us well and offering to collect us. Thanks guys. The clothes we wore yesterday and I washed last night are already dry. There was no sand or dust left in the bath. First time ever.

The Brian Rix farce for this morning. Hilde trying to explain the dog pooh on their carpets and shoes, to a bemused cleaner without a word of English!!!!

We are all so flat and tired this morning. It is the weekend, so we will probably not find out any more info about the containers. We know when the flights are, but as yet don’t know where we will fly to. If we have to wait to sort the cars out for too much longer, we will fly straight home.

We can’t seem to make any plans for how to spend the day. Meet in the foyer as rooms are being cleaned, and hopefully disinfected in Hilde’s case. Tim finally catches up with photos, and I catch up with blog. Result.

Should be checking out, but extended stay until at least Tuesday. Going a bit stir crazy so taxi to main square, maybe do museum, see dinosaur bones, and I am still on a flip flop hunt. Want to show off my freshly painted toe nails to some disinterested shoe shop girl. Atle just wants beer. Was sad to notice over lander had disappeared from front of hotel. Several men from Malaysia travelling the world on motorbikes. Some of them had spoken to Tim and Atle. They had their own photographer and mechanic. One biker had driven overland to the London Olympics last year. Respect.

The dinosaur was amazing. Read about it in the press. Mongolian president took out an injunction against American seller, stating it had been illegally imported from Mongolia. All the paperwork was displayed. Someone was finally charged, there was documentation and evidence to prove it has been stolen from the Gobi, photos to show it being packed up for its return. It had only been on display since after we left home last month. Good for you Mongolia. The remains were over 70% original. Also on display, dinosaur eggs from the Southern Gobi, a town we had driven through.

Walked around the newly named Chinggis Khaan, Square. Saw the famous statue of him and Marco Polo, the National Opera House and Natural History Museum. Save that for another day. Couldn’t find Dave’s Irish pub. Went to the poshest shopping mall in Mongolia, didn’t find £5 flip flops. Had the best bought coffee since Turkey. Went to the Blue Sky hotel, obviously new and not Soviet built. Rode to the 23rd floor, fantastic views over city centre, tenement blocks and hillside ger camps. Delicious cold beer, skewered beef and roast veg. Still not eating the salads. Long lazy discussion about current world world events. Deaths in Cairo, political changes in Iran and Turkey, corporate, private and public issues. I top trumped Hilde on the search for best toilet – loo with a view.

We step outside and I use my newly acquired skill. Hailing a taxi. You stand nonchalantly, with your arm limply out, looking the other way. Got taxi in less than a minute. 3,000T this trip. Getting better.

Beginning to pick up Face Book postings of Selbys in California. Will sends us details from the Caravan Club. They are recruiting Assistant Wardens for 2014. Think we would get thrown out for insubordination. Hope we would.

On way out to dinner, we speak to a man who is helping organise the Mongol Rally. All the cars are coming to this hotel, and he will be here for the next month. The first two cars arrive, and we ask which route they have travelled. Iran, Stans, Russia, Gobi Southern Route. The way we came. Wow!!!! Feel as if we have taken part ourselves.

Go to BD’s Mongolian Restaurant. Atle treats us to a bottle of real champagne, red wine and dinner. We choose raw ingredients and watch them being cooked. Sitting on the covered terrace we watch the lashing rain.

We had all lost sight of what we had achieved. We sip chilled fizzy, and reminisce. The highs, the lows, the roads, the people, the distances, the food, the weather, the smells, the colours, the music. The achievement. We did it. We are in Mongolia. We are in Ulaanbaatar. Cheers.

We decide we will definitely return, once cars are ready to crate. Not a disappointment any more. We can see family before they go on holiday or cycling. Atle and Hilde can collect their puppy. Home.

New Plans

Friday 26th July 2013

New plans

Brian Rix farce continues. Just about to jump in shower. No towels. Put boiling hot towelling robe back on. Phone House Keeping. Lady understands me today. Thank you. Keep boiling hot towelling dressing gown on. Knock on door. No towels – one of yesterdays lady steps in unbidden, looks in bathroom, then main room. Oh, no towels. She goes. Still melting in stifling nightwear. Then towels arrive. Hurray.

Over breakfast we are all trying to be optimistic. Tim and Atle are to be at the garage for 11am, and hopefully bringing the cars back sometime today. Tim gets a text from garage, places come ASAP. Nobody says anything, but we all fear the worst. Hilde cancels Emi the guide, and we both catch up on the blogs. Need some down time. Not sure what is happening. Wait nervously. Then the phone call comes from Tim. Engine broken. Metal shards in oil filter. We could drive a little way, but the crank shaft would probably smash into the engine, wrecking it completely.

I ask Tim how he feels, and he says ok. He never was a good liar. Hard to support each other over the phone, but we try our best. The parts sent for Hilde’s car are wrong, and their issues cannot be fixed. So, decisions made for us. We will have to crate both cars, and stay in UB until they are sorted.

Hilde and I had arranged to meet at mid day. She has not heard any of the news. We are both gutted, have a little cry and give each other big hugs. We decide to get a taxi straight to the garage. Neither of us really in the mood to be ripped off by the cheeky young taxi driver. Both of us sit with folded arms in the back, and say NO to his ridiculous request of 13,000T. Feel pleased with ourselves when we beat him down to 10,000T. Tim and Atle paid 5,000T!!!!

Throughout the rest of the day we all discuss our feelings. We know that we have achieved our goal. We have driven our cars from home to Mongolia, and arrived in UB. That was our original destination. We have made it, and we must not lose sight of that. We always planned to ship the vehicles home, but maybe not from here. We had also discussed the possibility of driving back through Russia, now it is not so daunting. But we also admit that this is so disappointing. To be crating up two broken cars is shattering, and we have every right to be upset, cross, angry and any other emotion we care to feel.

All head to where an overland exhibition is being held. Look at the camping equipment, tents and vehicles. Some conversions, a Hummer which looked as if it had been coated with sand, and Uni Mogs. It is baking hot. Hilde says we need some “funeral beer”, spots a suitable place for lunch, and drown our sorrows with draught beer and pizza. That helps.

Taxi back to hotel. Hilde has more interviews, Atle still banned from their suite sits and works in the foyer, trying to finalise quotes for containers and possible flights. Tim emails family, who will have picked up from Hilde’s blog that we are now both carless. Just to let them know the situation and we are ok. We then walk to the Chinese Embassy. Someone has moved the benches to the other side of the pavement, so we can sit in the shade. We are 10th in the queue this time, but it shouldn’t take as long. Door opens at 4pm, and it is a relief to be in the air conditioned room. Queue moves quickly, too quickly for us to cool down properly. Security guard walks around redundantly, straightens a poster and looks important. We get to the window, hand over papers and receive our passports complete with Chinese visas. Very exciting. We may need them after all. Took just over 10 minutes.
On way back we visit another Gobi Cashmere shop. Try stuff on. Nearly melt. No air conditioning and no lighting in area I am interested in. Fussy assistants really bugging me. Keep smiling. Tim knows the signs, and goes and sits himself out of harms way. Finally decide on styles, but there is a frantic hunt for small sizes. Credit card doesn’t work. Well it did yesterday so we try again. Success. I then go to Sky Shopping mall to try and get some cool flip flops. No success. But I do treat myself to some bright orange nail varnish. See if you like it when I get home Esme.

All have a bit of down time, shower and meet for dinner. Again walk to restaurant, on Peace Avenue this time. Take life in our hands crossing main road. Not as brave as young men full of bravado. Walk around National Wrestling venue. Find Wagner Asia Indian Restaurant. Beautiful wooden floors, posts and staircases. The tables were studded with nails, the chairs really heavy. We were sitting in a booth near an open window, brightly coloured drapes enclosed us on three sides.

All start with gin and tonic, and find the best red wine of the holiday. Order favourites, veg pakoras, Rogan Josh, raita, basket of naan, egg plant, rice and a couple of other dishes. Again, the waitress doesn’t write our order down. But unlike last night, everything we ordered is delivered to the table. Poor Tim, he is so emotionally exhausted that he can hardly eat or drink a thing. I know, totally unheard of. But as Atle says, it was all the more for the rest of us. Absolutely delicious meal.

On way out we look at photos of all the famous people who had dined there. Hardly recognised any. But, was that really the Dali Lama? Maybe not. All the pubs we had said we would be visiting on the way home go uninvestigated. Hilde says she is so full, she wants carrying. Atle does not oblige. Once again, natter in foyer, then head to our rooms.

Have a long chat with Rachel. She has had her hair cut again, and it is stunning. Paul arrives to help take stuff across to Waterland in the camper. We may not be meeting in Paris after all, if we return early and they leave later than planned. We may go straight to Plymouth from Heathrow, then to Cornwall, catch up with everybody and collect Disco.

Tim falls straight to sleep, but my mind is buzzing. What happens now?

End of the Road?

Thursday 25th July 2013

End of the road?

Have to wake early, Tim and Atle have to be at garage. Hilde is preparing for interviews. I have a bath full of laundry, and will send big stuff like bedding and towels to be washed properly by hotel Laundry service.

In a hurry. We try to make a cup of tea. New kettle blows fuse. Phone room service for boiled water. Woman does not really understand English. Phone rings, somebody else from room service asks what we want. I repeat, hot water. Then Reception phones. First Room service lady had called them, didn’t really know what I wanted. Good grief. Then hot water arrives. Put boiling hot towelling dressing gowns on to answer the door. Thank you. She asks about kettle. We explain again, show her the fuse board. It doesn’t matter now we have hot water. We are in a hurry for breakfast. Thank you. Take boiling hot towelling dressing gowns off. Ahhhh. Cup of tea.

Knock on door. Boiling hot dressing gowns back on. Yes. Lady from house keeping. What is the problem. Show her kettle and fuse. Doesn’t matter now, in a hurry. Thank you. Boiling hot dressing gowns off. Knock on door. For goodness sake. Boiling hot dressing gowns on. Maintenance Man with screwdriver in pocket. Show problem. He unplugs fridge, plugs kettle into that socket. It does not blow fuse. But water was already boiled, so we are sceptical. Never mind. Please go. We are melting, stressed and late. Thank you. It is like a Brian Rix farce.

At garage, are the Swiss couple we met at Mongolian border, and then spent the first night with. They were in the Southern Gobi, but their converted Defender was really bad. They had limped to UB, sometimes at 5kph over the wash board roads. They were really shocked that their blog had been hijacked by Al Qaeda. The host company had taken several days to rectify the problem. Such a gentle couple, they were mortified. Tim and Atle give them some parts which hopefully we will not need.

The news for The Beast and Hildefender is looking hopeful. Our engine noise does not seem serious and the new tyres have arrived. The new parts for Hilde’s car have not arrived yet, but are on their way.

Hilde meets her translator, Emi. The three of us then go sight seeing, on the way to a Gobi Cashmere outlet. Emi seems quite ashamed of the state of some of the roads, but we say the Mongolians are trying really hard to improve the country’s infrastructure. We arrive at the outlet. The choice is overwhelming, the colours are vibrant, it is sweltering hot and Hilde and I feel a little rushed. I had noticed another shop, Gobi Organics. This is more like it. More expensive, but natural wool colours from goats, camels and yaks. Wool that had come from animals we had seen in the Gobi, then transported out in such huge bundles on the roads. Hilde and I see a cardigan on display. We both say, “That is gorgeous!” at the same time. We try one on, in different colours. We buy, and agree to wear them when we are next in Tyin together. Tim gets a beautiful jumper. Hope he likes it. Emi didn’t know, but as our Mongolian guide, she is entitled to a percentage of our bills, in cash. She is thrilled.

On the way back, we try to find somewhere for lunch. We get dropped off not far from the hotel. There is a sign for a Mongolian restaurant. Several very drunk men are hanging about, and try to help us to find the door. Thank you. We walk into, a bank. Oh. Wrong door then friend. Try next one. Closed for refurbishment. Emi explains that there is such a small window of good weather, a lot of work can only take place during the summer, at the height of the very small tourist trade.

We walk up Tokyo Street, towards the hotel. Several pubs, including an Irish one. Wonder how well the Guinness travels here. End up eating at hotel restaurant, light lunch. Tim and Atle arrive back from garage. Hopeful news about car repairs, but neither finished today. Not good news about driving to China. Apparently we should have applied for some paperwork which takes three months to process. So, we cannot take cars into country. Well, that is very disappointing, but one decision has now been made for us.

We then start looking into shipping the cars back, to Europe or England. One Danish company is sorting quotes, and the LR garage itself is looking at the possibility of us using its haulage company.

What will we do then? Tim and I did not have chance to collect our Chinese visas yesterday, so we will have to go tomorrow, as we need our passports back. We discuss possibilities. We will have to wait in UB until cars are fixed. Then we could spend more time driving through Mongolia, further North and East. To freight them home now we would have to empty them, get them cleaned and crated. But we are not ready to fly home, it is still July, it is too early. Maybe fly to Hong Kong for a few days. But that would mean we didn’t need our Chinese visas. Maybe fly into HK, then boat or train to one of the factories we were supposed to be visiting for the celebrations, then back to HK for a couple of days. Exciting prospects.

Try to FaceTime Rachel, but only afternoon this week she has been at uni. Have long chat to Matt. Really good to see him looking so well, sorting out flat, possible Shelter Box assignment and cycling trip. Great also to retell our adventures so far. Will try to get Rachel tomorrow, before they go to Cornland for the weekend.

We walk for dinner, uphill to a Japanese restaurant. A lot of sushi on the menu, but none available. Too late to go anywhere else as most restaurants close at 10pm. Order far too much. Fantastic noodle soup with a fried egg and large prawn on top. Hilde and Atle have a gin and tonic, no ice. As the waiter did not write down our order, several items did not appear on the table, but did appear on the bill. Quite comical trying to sort it out, as the staff were desperate to close up and go home.

Gentle walk downhill. Fresh air. Many young people going to disco and karaoke bars. We talk in foyer for a while, then head to our rooms. What will tomorrow bring?

Morning Monoliths

Wednesday 24th July 2013

Morning Monoliths

So who put those stones there, in a line? We have seen no other rock formations like it in the whole of our travels. Hilde says it reminds her of Stonehenge. I walk around the rocky outcrop, and wade through wild thyme and flowering chives up to my waist. I had hoped the sun would have changed the colours of the rocks more, but the sky is a bit overcast. Still, I take dozens of photos, and some of out encampment.

Tim is trying to secure the exhaust to the Landy. Our rear tyres are nearly bald. Good job we are having them replaced tomorrow. Sit in the sun, getting hotter now, writing lesson plans for tomorrow. Eeeeekkkkkk!!!! Going to take loads of stuff – maps, travel books, Country Living magazine, song book, balloons. Counting, parts of the body (age appropriate and legal), finding places on maps, directionality, Feely Bag, I went to UB and I bought, I Spy…… Too many ideas for one lesson, but OFSTED won’t be there, so who cares?

Poor Tim is suffering. He got hot yesterday, so has prickly heat. (It may be eczema, but can’t spell that.) Smother him in lotion. Hope that helps. Even he is complaining about the state of his hair, asking if I have any conditioner. No, but there may be some at the hotel. Hilde is thrilled that her contact has organised the next few days. Seems we won’t be able to get to the traditional music show tonight, there won’t be time. So she arranges to meet her in the lobby, and we will all go out for a meal.

It starts to rain a little as we leave. Atle is not happy, there is something wrong with his car. He leads. Tim can use low range engine braking down the hill. Only 2.5km to the main road. We stop at junction and Atle plugs in diagnostic kit. Our early start is slipping away. Never mind. Hildefender is down on power, may be to do with turbo. Air filter checked.

We set off, but Hildefender is just limping. We stop again, and attach the new solid tow bar. Manage a few Km, before they ask us to stop. They are too close to our vehicle, and can’t see anything. We swop to a longer strop. A car stops in the middle of the road, and asks us if we are alright. It is the Mongolian who looked at our maps yesterday. He wishes us a safe journey. Manage a juddering start, a little wobble and then we make good progress.

We are a “push-me-pull-you.” We are pulling them and they are the brakes. Overtaking is interesting. Several scary moments with animals and blue lorries obstructing our joint path. A car overtaking on the other side of the road, heading straight towards us and we can’t brake, is a challenge. We are fine.

We get to a major road junction, Atle slows us down, no oncoming traffic, so we go for it. We then stop for a toll booth, pay for both cars. Ok so far. We pull them up steep hills, they brake us on the way down. We realise we are slowing down going up hill. Then a horrible noise from the engine. Tim keeps hitting the temperature gauge, but once again it is not working. We ask Atle to brake. Engine overheated. Spewing water, not oil thank goodness. Let it cool, put more water in.

Just as we are getting back into the cars, I get stung. Tim is great. He finds the Aspi Venom and it sucks the fluid out. I can already feel it hurting like hell. We get back in the cars, I keep very still and my right arm down. Piriton and Epi Pen at the ready.

We don’t get very far at all, and we get no further under our own steam the whole of the day. Both cars broken. We phone the LR garage in UB. It takes a while, but they eventually organise two tow trucks. I sit on the back step, in the shade and have a cold drink. Don’t think this will develop into a full blown anaphylactic shock. Arm isn’t swelling and I feel ok.

We set out a picnic table and chairs in the lay-by. Hilde organises lunch, stuff which will not keep if the fridge has to be off for a few days whilst the cars are in the garage. We discuss our options. We don’t want our journey to end here, like this.

After a while, Atle has sorted the problem with his car. The second tow truck is an hour behind the first. Atle and Hilde decide to drive back towards UB. If the Landy is fine, they will cancel the second tow truck. They drive off.

Tim and I sit at the side of the road. I must admit, we felt a bit abandoned. But after 10 minutes or so, Hilde tells us they have just seen our recovery truck. It arrives, pulls into the lay by opposite. The driver gets out of the cab, makes a phone call. We wave at him. He gets back into the cab, and drives off!!!!!!! Now we really feel abandoned. Never seen Tim run so fast, yelling and waving his arms. The driver stops, reverses and comes to our aid.

We are sceptical that the truck is strong enough to transport our heavy Landy. Tim sits in whilst it is winched on to the flat bed. Driver, with very little English, indicates to leave it in gear with handbrake on. Chocks under the front wheel, no tying down, no nothing. This is our home and our only means of transportation. Please don’t let it bounce off the back.

We get in. It is 9pm. We get to bed at 2am. Driver is very careful. We have over 100km to travel, on rough roads, in the dark. Tim and I try to nod off, but it is bumpy, I have no head rest and, as agreed, we keep in touch with Atle and Hilde every 30 mins. They are making good progress, so the second truck is cancelled. Good.

During the journey we learn a little about our rescuer. He lives in UB, has two boys and is impressed with our Landy. He asks if it is automatic, no, if it is diesel, yes, and if it has a turbo, yes. He has the roundest, shiniest, happiest face. He keeps looking back at the Landy, gets out to check things and cleans the windscreen. Every time I ask him if he is ok, he laughs and says ok.

We can see the light pollution from UB. A small motorbike is ahead, carrying three adults. Suddenly it wobbles, crashes to the ground, and all three fall off. If we were following behind, we would have stopped, but the driver keeps going.

Eventually, we reach the main ring road. We see the Southern Route where we first entered the city. Even at this late hour there is a lot of traffic. Have to go on a short detour, which is extremely bumpy and dusty. The driver has the name of the garage, but we end up at the back of a place which sells large machinery. We tell him this is not the right place, then show him paperwork with the correct address. When we arrive at the complex, the gates are locked and the security guards will not open them. We show them paperwork for the service due to or row (well today actually, as it is now 00:30. ). The driver gives them a bung, and the gates are opened. We off load and lock up. I ask the driver if he will take us to the hotel, and without hesitating he says yes.

We know Atle and Hilde have reserved our rooms. We had planned to tell them when we were at the garage, and they would order a meal from room service. But we are too tired and emotional to eat. It has been a long day. We have gone through every emotion, from the exquisite tranquility of waking up this morning, to the feeling sick with fright during the towing, to the feeling of abandonment of being left, to the worry of what happens now, to the bone aching tiredness at the end of the day.

The driver pulls up outside Chinggis Khaan. It feels like our sanctuary. We pay him royally. Thank you, thank you, thank you we all say to each other. We give him a hug. Drive safely.

1.30am. The lifts are all broken. We walk up five flights of stairs with the meagre possessions we have salvaged from the car. All my work prepared for the school visit is still there. I will come back another time, and meet these amazing students and teachers.

We shower, have a drink and crash out, exhausted. 2am.