Thursday, 11 July 2013

Day 127: Zamyn Uud to western outskirts of Saynshand - Sun 30 Jun, 2013

Day 127: Zamyn Uud to western outskirts of Saynshand - Sun 30 Jun, 2013
Happy Birthday sister Sue (and thankyou for sending on all the communications to the extended family on our behalf). BoyRob was up at 5am to empty black water, GirlRob to shift the sand and dust from the camper blown in from strong winds through night. Farewelled two of the China convoy going separate ways – guess we’ll meet up somewhere along track. 

Ozzie took off following MnM’s Roadie and GnC’s Bee towards Bayant Ukhaa, loosely following telegraph lines; multiple dirt roads all going in same general direction heading towards Mandakh. Little traffic, mostly trucks, all dodging debris from loads, esp cement blocks, bits off vehicles and rubber threads from tyres (no full tyres or rims though like you'd see in Australia). Low dunes, ruts, waves and corrugations - no evidence of grading. Scattered gers, horses with shaggy manes grazing, foals - not worried about us. Saw a well, and stopped to look at quality of water which was quite good.
Light covering of green grass amid yellow tussocks. Longer grass in old soak, herd of camels unwilling to shift. Dust blowing away quickly in strong breeze - we laughed to see large light cylinders fallen off truck and blowing away from driver who was chasing after them. Rocky outcrops appearing, some low rocky hills, grey gravel-like, providing quarry materials for highway under construction. Low flying muddy-coloured swift birds in twos and threes zooming over plains. Hard to take photos as the ride was so bumpy, gear thrown around, hats falling off hooks. Most gers have large trucks beside them - family? Refreshment stop for drivers? Driving on new road mostly, veering off for culverts being put in. Some gers more permanent, brick sheds, fences, livestock corrals –even a letterbox!! Stopped beside large ovoo - place of prayer. Dark rocky outcrop, gullies, and then road cut through first sand dunes. Our EarthCruiser mate Rick would love Mongolia! 

Had only travelled 100km in four hours, av 25kph. Got ahead of others and pulled up for comfort stop at intersection with sealed highway (a first!) and within minute we were hemmed in by seven utes. GirlRob was apprehensive about being surrounded and kept the door locked until the grins and phone cameras appeared. These guys had bought Irish vehicles and were bringing them into country (to sell?) (illegally?) A woman gave BoyRob what he thought was a sweet but was block of animal fat and for politeness sake, he had to finish eating it without showing his reaction!

On the sealed road we saw our first mirage – the sand covering the way ahead never did eventuate. Drove in to first small ger town and stopped for lunch in wide open spaces. Only one person came to say hello, how very different from China!! Marina gave the young girl a look inside her "mobile ger". On to Saynshand for fuel; attendant hopped in with Miles to direct to house where you get water, only to find it locked and fellow had gone home for siesta. Turned at only traffic light in centre of town, found mini mart and bought apricot coloured ice cream "made in Mongolia" (tasted like made on sheep, goat, yak??). Almost everyone we have met so far as some English - what a refreshing change. Cyrillic based alphabet, hard to determine what's inside shops when all look like houses with small doors and long hallways. Off on rough tracks over open plains – the locals, Garmin, Pocket Earth, paper map and compass all say it is the way to Dalanzadgad (sure hope so, 500+ kms to go and no other traffic going that way). At least we are following power lines going somewhere, some of the time.... Small gecko-like lizards sand-coloured with red spot on shoulder and with curled up tails run like scorpions.

Around 4pm saw lone tree and went to admire, found spectacular ovoo revering the spot, but scary with horned animal skulls/ skins and snake-skin curtain. On for another half hour looking for campsite providing some shelter from wind; parked in lee of low sloping hill, and sat out with MnM admiring vast landscape, fringed by long low line of sand dunes. 


Hey, we're same, but you're just a bit taller eh?


Half hour later a man and his wife drove up on a motorcycle to check us out, turned out to be Mongol from ger and herd we were overlooking. He was very curious about mechanics and gadgets, so had a wonderful hour showing the vehicle and boys toys, playing charades to understand each other. In his traditional clothes our First Mongol was larger than life and kept challenging BoyRob about who was largest in size, how strong in a tug of war, and who had best binoculars. When Rob demonstrated Endless Air, our visitor mimed he had blood pressure problems and wilted in the sun - he had us in stitches of laughter. His wife came in to look at vehicle and every time I showed her something she would go to door and call him in, but he kept miming that the stairs wouldn't hold him, esp when BoyRob (who had won the “write your weight in the sand” contest) jumped on them! He accepted beer though and they both ate crackers but he wouldn't let her take our offering of longlife milk. 

Off they went and we sat around reliving the fun over the last of our red wine, when up he came again, with either a relative or worker in tow, who he parodied as a dandy because his boots were polished, and hair plastered down. Turns out the new chap had been trained as a soldier by Russians and sent to Germany for service. Between Cheryl using her schoolgirl German, Marina's Russian, and charades we managed a broken conversation until they departed and we were finally able to prepare dinner and go to bed - fortunate that its full summer and not fully dark until almost 10pm. 

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