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.
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.
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.
The Mongol Rally is a sampler pack of Eurasia, you get a little flavor of everything. Some things that should impress don’t, and some things that weren’t expected to impress do.
Georgia is probably the best example.
That was quick. A week and a bit into the rally, and we already were ready for a break. Not surprising. Look at the adventure map. Jokers have dropped out. Teams have been torn asunder by police corruption. Handguns have been brandished in Russia, and a couple teams have prudently headed westward, retreating to the basecamp of Europe before making a final push eastwards. Like a climber on Everest, acclimating to the clime.
But we have taken a different tactic. We drove into Turkey and are on our third night in a posh little cave hotel. We are living up to the high standards which British explorers became known for while expanding the Commonwealth.
Shane had dodged back to the hotel in Istanbul to put on jeans so he could avoid wearing a scrubs-blue skirt to get into the Blue Mosque. Roberta and I had dressed more appropriately. So, by the time Shane rocked up, we had spent an hour in the mosque, chatting about the nature of free will, looking at the granite columns, and reading the pamphlet on Islam.
When Shane got back, I told my companions I would meet them in the courtyard after they had seen the mosque. What with taking off shoes, seeing the mosque, and putting back on shoes, I figured I had ten minutes to wander.
Little did I know I would soon be lost and abandoned.
Romania is a gem of Eastern Europe. The countryside is pastoral, the roads winding and epic, the women beautiful, and the beer mostly free. The accommodations are amenable though confusing.
Well. I say accommodations. Team Gobi or Go Home has spent the last couple nights sleeping rough, in a legal grey area. (This should come as no delight our parents, hopefully none of whom read this blog, lest they think all we do is drive around Europe drinking beer and dancing.)