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|
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....