Driving, Camping & Final Days in Mongolia

The latest update from Harry Jurgens in his Peking to Paris Saga.

September 20th 2010.
Driving through Mongolia & getting a taste of life here has been an amazing experience. The scenery is quite beautiful, wide open plains, clear skies, mountains, deserts. Night skies present a display of bright stars, full moon, like you could reach out and touch them.

The roads are much worse than anticipated. When the route was planned two years ago, the roads were apparently in better condition. Rains, floods and other storms have caused pot holes and done damage to the surface. Many of our competitors have suffered serious damage to their cars, spending days (or evenings) in the local blacksmith, truck or auto shops. Those who are more competitive have taken the risk to drive faster in their attempt to win. We have decided to be more cautious, take it easy on the car, and make it to Paris safely and in one piece. That strategy has served us well, so far.

The local car/truck shop was busy today, our group has contribued greatly to the local economy, and local mechanics and merchants are taking advantage of this opportunity to “cash in” on the huge demand for their services.

One would think that in a country with only 3 million people in a space the size of Texas, finding a nice campground wouldn’t be a problem! The first night our campground was next to a railroad track, and the trains only run at night. OK, so that was only one night. The next night our campground was an area covered with rocks, so we spent time “clearing” a space for our tents. That wasn’t the worst, however. Our next campground was one that had been used for grazing cows, and was covered with 100′s of years of cow poo-poo. Yes, we had to clear that before putting down our tents.

The food has actually been pretty good. We’re not sure, however, whether that might be because we are so hungry at the end of the day. The shortage of wine has been an issue, however. On the last rally (4 years ago) the organization brought lots of wine, yet no one purchased it…so they didn’t bring as much this time. On this rally, however, the wine is in great demand, and has sold out quickly. So the rally organisation and local merchants are scrambling to keep the team in ample supply.

The people are fascinated with the old cars. If we stop on the side of the road, they stop to see if we need help, or just to look. Even though we don’t speak the same language, the language of cars is easy to interpret. We brought a “polaroid” type camera, so we take a picture of the locals next to our car and give it to them as a souvenir. They’re delighted.

We’re off to town to go shopping for cashmere blankets, which apparently is what you do here. Soon we’ll be in Russia and in a hotel again.

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