Day 128 - Western outskirts of Saynshand to western outskirts of Mandakh - Mon 1 Jul
Pretty sunrise, off towards Mandakh by 7.45am, past large herd of camels at soak formed by recent rain. Small wild flowers, purple thistles and yellow pods on saltbush. Deep ruts from recent boggings now dried out. Rock protrusions - basalts with vesicles. Following creek bed with occasional trees (and camels). Swift birds fly low and ahead of us swooping and diving across road like dolphins do when racing with a boat. After morning tea, briefly explored village of Saikhandulaan, gers in beside small houses, behind fences made from Russian tank tracks. Ger family either setting up or dismantling their ger, round expandable lattice frame, circular wooden “hole” to hold roof struts, low wind profile, weighted ropes over top. Large herd/flock within line of sight.
Came across horse riding training camp, on a low rise. 15 or so sturdy and
spirited ponies, most with cropped manes; only boys allowed to mount and ride
around singing, whilst girls led horses. Men in traditional felt or satin coats
with bells at overlapping lapels, wrap or sash belts and knee high boots, some
with blade used for rubbing and grooming horses. Very small saddles, with wool
underlay or coloured rugs, some horses had topknots.
Miles limped up having broken a spring in half on the rough corrugations. Met
Jon and Jude, who stayed for horse ride, as we followed Miles to Mandakh where
he may be able to get a repair. Interesting change in rocks to granite pancakes
in mounds, many providing vantage points for crows/ravens? Found outdoor garage
who took five hours to weld and reattach spring, with BoyRob supplying tools,
while rest sat around in sun/hot indoors. Finally got “all clear” and drove out
if town after 5pm, initially confused about the direction, and
"exploring" until found the most used track west. Garmin will not
connect the straight line dots west between Mandakh to Manlai to Dalanzadgad,
it wants to take a 100+km loop north to include 4 other towns, so maybe the
loaded map is incomplete or there is a natural barrier in between (mountain
range, lake, desert etc??) The paper map shows a straight road through, but doesn't
have these towns listed, neither do the towns on the paper map show up on
Garmin or Pocket Earth - so easy to get confused out in the desert (even with
gadgets). Camped in dry river bed
shortly thereafter, near two beautiful trees with rough woven looking bark.
Cooked pasta whilst grey clouds came over, and a couple of sprinkles passed by.
Beautiful rainbow and sun finally set after 8.30pm. No real rain seems to have
fallen here in some time.
Obviously getting water is going to be an issue, so
are moving to shower every second (or third!) day with "sponge bath"
in between. Also have shower wipes
bought from Australia for these conditions (large version of wet ones). Tiring
day, but feeling free after confines of China, and comfortable. Terrain is so
much like Australia's desert country, saw three wells today just like on
Canning Stock Route, being used regularly by ger people, using bucket made from
tyre rubber wired to metal loop on long pole or rope to either fill containers
or to fill attached troughs for livestock. So nice to have loose itinerary and
not to have to conform, "check in", get permission, go to toilet
together etc. Vehicles performing well (that is until the spring broke!) sound
of silence… hopefully not too good to be true??