Thursday, 11 July 2013

Day 129 - Western outskirts of Mandakh to Baruusuu - Tues 2 Jul

Day 129 - Western outskirts of Mandakh to Baruusuu - Tues 2 Jul
Lovely blue sky morning, on track for a 7.30am departure, but alas BoyRob spotted that our auxiliary fuel tank had dropped again. Looks like two of the new bolts sheared off on the final rocks and corrugations last night. Fortunately it only took half hour to empty and repair.
So many tracks and diversions heading towards Tsogttsetsii, it was hard to tell direction, Miles stopped at a ger and thought fellow said to take road around clay pan but once underway the bloke jumped on his bike and went ahead of us over open ground until we found right track. In saying goodbye we noticed he was only wearing socks, no time for boots.... 
Saw small marmot/ prairie dog running on old track beside us, heading for his burrow in ground, but not before he stood on his hind legs to see how much of a threat we really were! We are bordering on national park - gazelle country. 

Saw a wheelchair in one of the abandoned animal pens (waiting for owners to return for winter) - mighty hard isolated country for someone incapacitated to get around in. These pens are solid, backed by semicircular low stone walls with sturdy front walls of logs or sleepers, packed tightly to keep out bitter winter winds. Gers themselves have no windows, and walls are lifted up for summer ventilation. They have a stovepipe flume, as well as satellite dishes and some have solar panels or small wind rotors. Some have outhouses, including a single toilet some way off. They are quite distanced from one another, so must not mind solitude – so many parallels with Australian outback. Moved into valley, far less rocks, vast open plain. Large groups of two-humped bactrian camels shift reluctantly when we get too close.

Stopped at well, goat hair everywhere - and filled empty water containers. Murky-coloured water (with maybe some goat hairs thrown in for free!) but should be OK for clothes washing...at very least it frees up the current good water in the washing barrel to add to shower water (can't be choosy in the desert!)  Ah no, Miles's spring has broken through yesterday’s weld, time for an extended  stop in middle of hot plains. Wired up and on road again... (same discussion, which road?) Plump pigeons/ pipets nesting on side of track under saltbush clumps, flying away at our approach except one pair guarding chick who ran away with it closely following. Striking markings, black crest, bronze patterned wings. 

Drovers with huge herd of mixed livestock across road (shaggy goats and woolly sheep, horses). The caravan people looked down and out of their low shutters/ windows but didn't wave back. Horses saddled and tethered to wagon - its noon so it must be lunchtime. Reached Manlai at last - a credit to man and to gadgets! Bright coloured roofs provided first sight. Gers are being replaced by brick houses, but not discarded. Totally unexpected to find well-stocked market with English speaking owners and English labels or subtexts. GirlRob bought a shot-size bottle of Chinggis vodka (Ghengis Khan) to try, and BoyRob a can of Gobi Gold beer. He also chose herrings and brown bread for lunch which was consumed underneath statue of wrestler on hill overlooking town. Wrestling is one of the three "manly games" to be contested at the upcoming Nadaam Festival. Completed transfer of all fuel to main tank so we hope bolts will hold tank until longer high- tensile ones can be sourced.

Back on road west Guy and Cheryl in lead spotted a gazelle all alone on a hill, but it took fright and bounded well away from the road (They think it’s a black-tailed goiter) Corrugations very bad, teeth jarring, esp through stumpy saltbush country where only one track to choose from. Books and pencil case fell down from shelf above passenger, most other mobile items have been removed to electronic well or floor. GirlRob has to keep closed the arms of glasses on string around her neck or chance they may strike eyes/ face on some of bigger bumps. Poor old Wanderoo mascot has fallen from window to the ashtray (“hang-aroo”!!) Heat is pouring in windows -air conditioning can’t keep up. Goats and sheep single file on approaching hill line - like an old cowboy movie the rest of the Indians were spread out in the valley behind! Pieces of wool and hair caught in dry bushes, like overblown flowers ready to race off in the next wind. Some old porcelain conductors on track - must had had telegraph lines here at one stage. Ran over a couple of trench lines on way into Manlai so maybe buried now? Startled a light-coloured falcon from ground, big slow flaps to get away. Picked up row of 1mt high telegraph pole supports, heading west - another sign we are actually going in right direction. Cheryl using GPS coordinates from back of Lonely Planet for each next town in Garmin, so has “purple line” as additional guide. Bird of prey perched on concrete pole with vantage point over terrain. 

And then - amazing - 4 white-rumped deer/ goitre gazelles crossed road ahead of us and ran up the hill on the other side before turning to look back at us from a safe distance.The latest little gerbil type creatures have been tiny and lighter coloured compared to the first - funny to watch their fine haired vertical tales wriggling flat out as they dive into the burrows and try to make "headway" (literally!). 
Crested a ridge and saw township of Tsogttsetsii approx 10km in distance, with chimney stacks indicating Gobi Oil mining operations slightly to south. As its now 6pm (but still a hot sun) we are pulling up for night at Baruusuu. Found lugs on top shelf of fridge door had sheared off, all contents fell out when opened. As its plastic it doesn't look like it can be repaired, so those contents now overload existing until we eat it down enough for the new shelf arrangements. GirlRob to washing and BoyRob to dinner.
Cheryl found Geodes, maybe Leisengang rings (formed by precipitates in sedimentary rocks under chemical weathering), sparking a hunt. Red sunset, winds picked up strongly overnight, had to eventually bring in washing and sleep with roof down (remembering not to bump head when got up for toilet in dark!)

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