Quite cold overnight, now up to winter blanket and mid weight doona. Up by 6.30am for these long days at slow speeds. So glad we bought our Ugh Boots for these cold starts. Dew on ground, flowers all tightly furled overnight. Cabin comfortable without jumpers in early morning sun. Light-faced hawk feeding on early catch of ground squirrel. Track mushy, potholes filled with rain. No one track better than any other. Quite a few Mongols out on horses or motorbikes, all wearing their distinctive greatcoats (in the rain yesterday we saw some have hoods) following cattle/ yak herds, one carrying old rifle slung across his back. Autumn obviously on its way, noticing some action around the winter animal shelters, small stacks of long grass being piled up for hay, dirt/old manure shovelled and heaped outside, new logs being trucked, and woodpiles appearing near gers. Saw bigger ground animal (marmot?) run into burrow, more grey-white in colour. Small mice diving into holes on track.
Stopped for morning cuppa, and a couple on motorbike stopped to look at Ozzie and were very happy to be invited inside for a look, and pose for a photo. It was amusing to see them ride off with a new microwave strapped to the back, in their full length greatcoats. Some very slushy holes in road, evidence of vehicles having been recently bogged. Boy on horse raced ahead of us to a flat stretch, then raced us along the plain... ah, the joy of youth!
More dense pine forests on hills, and eventually in a valley following a river (wonder what causes dieback though?). Clumps of wool caught high in prickly bushes lining rutted track - so high they must have been from passing wool trucks, not animals themselves. Chassis-twisting stretch of road through old riverbanks and dense pine forests to end of valley. Passed Labrador draped over seat of motorbike between two people - looked pretty happy! Can always tell the direction of the prevailing winds by the backs of the gers - the doors always face in the opposite direction. Pulled over for comfort stop, BoyRob took a walk along track and after grabbing cheese, cold meat and crackers for lunch on the run, GirlRob drove vehicle to catch him up on sandy loamy track. Yay, she can now boast of having driven in Mongolia! Spotted new little grass bird, light coloured head and shoulders with soft rust rump and tail.
Covered 200km by mid afternoon, between Bayantes and Tes, in middle of the “top road” (not highway), following telegraph lines. Spectacular "thin pancake" rocky hills at start of road, then past sand dunes, then through lowlands, and delta area in bottom of valley. Day became quite hot. Continued on Highway North, low green hills, long unbroken valleys, little activity. Agriculture seems to be new to the area, with new equipment behind high fences - maybe run by a cooperative? (Mused that golf would be a natural pastime with the natural long straight greens, marmot holes and sand traps?? Oh, except there's not much summer, oh and there's not much leisure....) Saw our first Mongolian sand dunes close up, stood out above steppes.
Heading for little agricultural town of Buruunturuun - stopped at 7.20pm having done 300kms in 11.5hrs (av 26kph!). Camped in river, amazing aromatic smells of different grasses, sweeter than more pungent basil smell of riverbank in Murun. Family from ger across steam came to see who we were, shared via photos that our daughter-in-law was also expecting - they looked inside our "mobile ger" and gave permission to stay. Spoke to Miles on satellite phone, he thinks we can be processed at border up to 5pm Saturday. With a full day and a half to drive, guess it’s an even earlier start tomorrow...