We had spent the last night in a hotel in a city beginning with ‘B’. A lot of southern Mongolian cities do. But this one was a capital city. Bayankonger or something. Perhaps.
In any case. It was a scant six hundred kilometers away from UB and the finish line. We had heard tell that the roads were paved and the driving decent. Of course, after the paved Atyrau to Aktobe hell road in Western Kaz, we knew better than to trust pavement.
We have traversed a third of the globe, armed only by a dozen CDs. This is the type of feat that would drive weaker men to insanity. Luckily, we have had a wide variety of music to ease the kilometers between London and Ulaanbaatar. Some notable donors, including Roberta’s dad and Keenan, have helped entertain us.
So, with our impending arrival in Mongolia’s capital city, it is our delight to announce the best and worst CDs of our journey.
Word spreads fast on the rally. Rumors abound. Teams leave cryptic Facebook posts. Information and misinformation run rampant, and are hard to differentiate.
But, one thing was for sure: 18 teams were waiting at the Mongolian border. Some had been there for three days.
So, before approaching the border, team Gobi or Go Home stocked themselves up. We prepared mentally and physically for the wait in no man’s land. We purchased water and food. We made sure croquet was strapped to the top of the car. I had been in a Siberian market for no more than five minutes before I had half a case of wine in my basket.
If we were going to be stuck, we would be stuck in style.
Well, it is about 4am in the frigid Mongolian morning and I have attained full adventure. I woke to the sound of my greatest fear, my own stomach gurgling and bubbling with reckless abandon.
Oh please no, I begged the Bowel Gods. Have mercy.
To appreciate Siberia one need only spend 13 days driving across Kazakhstan. The transition from desert scrublands to mountainy pine forest is quite abrupt. However, it is hardly the first sign that you are in a new, fantastic world. Instead, it is small little things that become quite striking. Not only do you have maintained asphalt, you have painted lines! What extravagance! Stores suddenly have signs! How clever! Street lights turn on at night! Hurray!
The mind is blown little by little.
Sarah, matron of the Dixie Chickens, has many opinions about my team. In particular, about my teammates. She is of he opinion that Shane and Roberta are either imaginary or dead. This opinion likely comes from her never meeting the whole team. Whenever I saw Sarah, at any of the Europe parties, it was after Shane’s bedtime. That is, after nine in the pm.
Sarah’s other opinion is that we are doing the rally wrong, since the Marabby is normally peaceful and conflict free. The first four weeks of the rally were uneventful and calm. We gently trundled along, white doves cooed in the air, God was in his heaven, and all was right in the world.
The Dixie Chickens will be delighted to hear that a schism divides the Gobis. Two schisms, in fact.
Disclaimer: Hans takes no responsibility for the viewpoints or actions seen in this blog. They are purely written by Shane and do not represent the feelings or opinions of everyone on the team.
Watching the Thunder Yaks pack their van fills me with a bit of dread. When the white and black Renault is carrying its full load it comes dangerously close to sitting on its back tires. They carry two teams worth of supplies and people, having rescued the Drama Llamas after their wreck in Russia. The reason for their low riding style would turn out to be something a bit more nefarious than just adding weight to their vehicle, but we would only learn about it at 2 am on a Kazakh “road”.
“You better run you adorable little child. I’m going to murder you.”
The Marabby has a steel armored undercarriage, iron knickers if you will. Thus, when I left her high centered, wheels spinning in the air, in what used to be the Aral sea, I felt pragmatic and justified in purchasing the sump guard.
Margaux, one of my TPMs at Amazon has claimed that our blogs can be a bit long and dialogue heavy. She recommends that we do short executive summaries at the top of each post. Let’s try this:
Today we were mobbed by a crazed hoard of Kazakhi children.
I will write about Russia.
A time will come where I will explain the effects of seven bottles of vodka given by a hospitable hotel manager. I will write about pool played with fifteen cue balls, the devastating realities of police stops, and tips on bribing and avoiding traffic officers.
I will write about all that. But not today. Today, we set up our first camp since Bulgaria. In Kazakhstan. And it was magnificent.