Saturday, 29 June 2013

Day 126: Erenhot China to Zamyn Uud Mongolia - Sat 29 Jun, 2013

Day 126: Erenhot China to Zamyn Uud Mongolia - Sat 29 Jun, 2013
The Wanderoos are back to internet and their blog - hooray!! Many thanks to son Justin in Canada for holding the fort and posting the odd email and iPhone photo to keep virtual communication alive with family and friends (your mummy loves you xx). With 50+ days in China to catch up on though, we will launch straight into the crossing into Mongolia, and post the backdated China excerpts when there is time and good internet.
We have done 17,000kms since picking up our vehicle Ozzie in Kuala Lumpur on 24th February.  And now country number 8 is coming up! But – we’ve been told by our China guide Andy that because we bought forward our border crossing into Mongolia by one day, and only informed customs yesterday morning, it will be delayed while they finish processing our paperwork (highly likely we’ll be held up over their 3hr lunch break as well...) So we hung around in Erenhot doing the washing, eating and swapping photos of the convoy breakup party the night before, and taking some posed photos at the windfarm and with the dinosaurs. Met an athletic Mongolian Christian minister with reasonable English who helped explain road conditions we are about to go into (we may not be able to do the number of daily kilometres envisaged).

Can you see Ozzie at base of this gi-normous wind turbine??

All five vehicles lined up at 1.15pm ready to form an assault on immigration and customs to ensure they were happy to move us on, but we were turned back to wait until summonsed. FINALLY at 4.00pm Andy got call to say computers were now working, paperwork OK for us to go to Customs for vehicle checks. We enthusiastically jumped a line of broken-down 4WDs (including a couple being towed up to the gate before the ropes were removed!) before going through the vehicle and people paper queues (as elsewhere, border crossing info will be found on separate blog pages eventually). We farewelled Andy, our supporter of the last 50+ days. The Brisbane based sub-group (who will travel through Mongolia together much of the time) have invited him to stay with and be "guided" by us should he ever visit Australia.

We were in shock minutes later, going out into an absolute late afternoon melee of smashed, dented, overloaded, broken-down or towed Land Rovers, jeeps and trucks shovelling and tying on parcels and people including wiring items under the chassis (apparently this is a vehicle-only border crossing) at a rate of knots into every crevice (except the top, which we heard attracts import duty!) The drivers were absolutely crazy, playing chicken right up until they were just touching another vehicle – one hit Phil’s side and Mads leaned out and grabbed a protruding chair leg - they didn’t acknowledge or stop.   
Two hours and frayed nerves later with China behind us, we thought the final task of the day was achieved when we tracked down a cell network operator in Zamyn Uud and convinced him to stay open to service five late customers seeking Mongolian sim cards and data plans. Just as we made our way back to the trucks, gloating over our renewed access to Google, blogs and Facebook, a carload of Mongolian Customs staff turned up with yet more paperwork (couldn’t miss the Bee in the carpark we guessed). One by one the drivers had to sit in the official vehicle, get their data hand copied and stamped, then march off to a nearby business for photocopies, before handshakes all round and we really were free to enter Mongolia. 

Everyone made for the nearest Western restaurant (undeterred by warm beer and wine) before heading out in the dark to the nearest clear patch in the desert to finally call it a day. 
Happy to be in Mongolia!!

Friday, 28 June 2013

Day 125: Jining to Erenhot - Fri 28 Jun, 2013

Day 125: Jining to Erenhot - Fri 28 Jun, 2013
Now there's a new morning sound, military jets flying high at speed. Rearranged our excess shopping to fit in Andy, but he chose to spend his last day driving in the more roomy dual cab with with Phil and Mads, so BoyRob leading convoy from second position! Horses etched in white stones across hills "ghost riders in the sky"... Sighted first gers – excitement stirs!

How very pleasant, scattered rural towns, enclosed mud brick communities, herds of sheep and goats, green fields and hills stretching into distance. Then light rain, puddles, gradually clearing to blue skies, and flatter, drier country. Saw herd of camels (some molting!) grazing under large power pylons - fitting recognition that we are morphing into wilder more untamed landscapes and leaving industrial China behind.


Stopped at almost-finished service centre for morning tea, and made a hit with staff, who wanted photos with us. Andy guided us to pertinent places in town, fuel, supermarket, water, ATM, money exchange etc. He lodged paperwork for us to cross the border a day early, and was told to go in person to Erenhot for processing. The countryside opened and flattened out, strong winds blowing, pushing tumbleweeds across highway. Pulled off road for lunch in a dusty deserted looking town, and made Andy his last Aussie sandwich, telling him how similar the area was to Barkley Tablelands, and of our customary summer bushfires.


Winds across plains strong enough to blow away ger


Goodbye tolls!!

Went through our last Chinese tollbooth, gasping at the sight of enormous kissing dinosaurs forming entrance to Erenhot. Of course we had to record this moment for posterity by lining our vehicles up beneath....

Say "Cheese" for the paparazzi!!



On into town, first servo OK to take our money for fuel, but unhappy as rest of us lined up for water after first one filled, so we skeddaddled... Bought out market’s supply of drinking water, bread, margarine and chocolate, could be long time before we see another supermarket. Found a more obliging 2nd fuel station who were pleasant about our taking water, esp after Miles showed attendant through his vehicle and gave her a koala keyring. By dusk Wanderoos were only ones with any Chinese yuan left. Miles completed his calculations and said our itinerary distance estimated 7700kms, actual 7300kms; toll costs Y3000, fuel consumption was $1290 @ 4.65kpl. Met back at dinosaur field and camped under most friendly one - what a surreal atmosphere as sun set. 

We decorated joint tables with shrubbery and party items that had been hidden away for just such an occasion. Jude put up fairy lights, most campers wore something Chinese (Jon's rolled up air-con shirt was so typical of Chinese men!!) 

Miles and Marina
Phil and Mads with Andy


Jon and Jude
Guy and Cheryl

We started festivities with mug shots of our soon-to-be-expired Chinese license plates.



The shared meal consisted of sundowners (Ozzie), meat/rice dishes (Bee, Roadie, Bewdy) vegetable dish (Lara), BYO alcohol. Even outside the town limits though, we couldn't escape the (in-your-face!) stalker-talkers.

"Take the Micky Awards” was a fun event as people accepted their gifts with good grace, although Andy was mystified with the window shade "to keep curious Chinese from asking him too many questions". BoyRob was tickled at his fireworks, setting them off dramatically once it became full dark.

We finished with a quiz night, then quietened in a field of dinosaurs under a clear starry sky. All agreed it was a fitting finale to the China leg of GlobalTrek 2013. 

The night before leaving China, an ancient land. After 52 days, ready for the crossing into Mongolia in the morning, our eighth country

                                                                              ... and so it begins....