The Sixth Week: or at least part of it.
Monday, August 22nd: Novosibirsk is exactly what you would expect a non-tourist Russian city to be like. Slightly bleak with beautiful moments. The city center is really cool, the buildings everywhere are weather beaten, and there are American fast-food chains with a soviet twist. Also, a few really awesome bridges. Most importantly though there is a mechanic taking care of Babs!
Ladies and Gentlemen, Novosibirsk! Photo: Blackstone Photography
We discover that Babs has a hole in her gas tank. YES PLEASE FIX THAT. We are trying to avoid fiery, explosive death, thank you very much. She also gets her booty boosted, and her spark plugs magiked with some tape. No joke, she actually had a little extra oomph after this shop was done with her! Woo-hoo! Babs is ready to go again!
Yes, please fix the hole in the gas tank so we avoid a deadly explosion. Photo: Paula
The whole convoy is staying at this very modern SkyExpo Hotel that let's us hang out and be loud in the lounge area which is really awesome. At this point we are 5 cars and 12 people!
- Team Keystone: 2 cars, The Pony Express and the Admiral's Opus. Joe, Alyssa, Anthony, and Frank.
- 101 Damn-Nations: 1 car, Cruella Deville. Cam, Jake, and Charlie.
- Team #WeLive: 2 cars, Babs and Fordnando. Alice, Bri, Megan, Paula, and Tabitha.
Novosibirsk Sunset: the taking of this photo involved being attacked by a swarm of killer mosquitoes. So worth it. Photo: Blackstone Photography
Let me reassure you that everything in convoy takes at least twice as long and that the term "faffing about" has never been more applicable. It's HILARIOUS and we love it!
Tuesday, August 23rd: We get a really late start, see the above "faffing". And honestly, this is one of the best days yet!
Finding a wild camping spot takes some skill. It must be accessible but out of sight, away from people/buildings, not on any obviously owned property, yet also dry and level. Bri's excellent campsite spotting ability finds us a fantastic spot where we set up for the night. There are only two downsides that we have zero control over: SWARMS OF MOSQUITOES and it's bone-chilling cold.
Early morning image of the convoy minus the Pony Express who has already moved along. Photo: Tabitha
Throughout the day Megan has been messaging with our friends, So Good It Yurts, who were part of our Iranian Convoy. Adam, Gus, and Harry were quite nearby, but we hadn't been able to link up. Megan managed to drop a pin and send our location to them in a message, but we were sure they hadn't gotten it. Never underestimate these guys.
Somehow, against all odds, they FOUND us! Tucked away down a rough field road surrounded by trees, in the dark of night, somewhere in Russia...THEY FOUND US! We were so happy! And thus our convoy was expanded by 1 car, Judith, and three young Brits.
Wednesday, August 24th: there's a rumor that Vladimir Putin himself is speaking in a town nearby and we're REALLY INTERESTED IN THIS. Miss the chance to hear Putin speak!? No way. Sadly, it turns out to be simply that, a rumor. Dammit. So we head on towards the Mongolian border.
Seriously, this countryside is SO BEAUTIFUL. Take a peek:
So fluffy! Photo: Blackstone Photography
Siberian Mountainscapes. Photo: Blackstone Photography
Just this magical fairy tale of a stream. Photo: Tabitha
Interesting things about this day:
- the highways are all two lane and crowded with large, slow trucks. We get a rhythm going passing them (think leap-frog), but then keep undoing all our work with pee-breaks and coffee stops.
- Brianna JUMPED INTO A FREEZING COLD RIVER:
- we got pulled over TWICE for speeding and passing in a no-passing zone. No tickets though.
- Car surfing
- and we wouldn't be millennials without a selfie in Russia...
Thank you for the photo and the beautifully awkward face, Frank!
We reach the Mongolian border town where most of the convoy decides to wild camp, but Paula, Megan, and Tabitha are too cold and find a guest house a.k.a. some lady's extra bedrooms. Meg and Tabs have Princess curtains in theirs. Win.
Thursday, August 25th: MONGOLIA, WE MADE IT.
We braced ourselves for a rough border crossing because, as you recall, there was that little thing about maybe not being able to get into Mongolia because of their general displeasure at us*. The Adventurists actually went to bat for all of us and negotiated with Mongolia, which was complicated and frustrating, but they worked it out so that we didn't have to pay outrageous import taxes. We do understand the Mongolian annoyance because this is the 14th year of the Mongol Rally so you can imagine how many cars have been ditched there. The Adventurists promised the Mongolian officials that all of the ralliers would be SUPER DUPER OVER THE TOP OUTRAGEOUSLY polite and happy and not only not ditch their vehicles but also be the picture of British Civility even of those who aren't British.
BUT WE'RE GOING TO MONGOLIA AND WE'RE EXCITED!!!
Video by Paula
Team #WeLive has amazing border abilities and we're all in no time! With zero trouble! It was wonderful! We even managed to not pay a bribe! Woo-hoo! Although, Fordnando pays full price for insurance because we forgot to haggle. Oops. "Dammit! Why did I not say no?!" - Tabitha
Our very first stop in Mongolia is at a little "restaurant." You need to understand that these are just house-like structures with a kitchen and an old lady serving whatever she has that day. IT'S AWESOME.
5 Star Mongolian Gastro Pub. Photo: Blackstone Photography
The children are beautiful, curious, and a little wary of the camera. Until Bri gets out her instant camera and they are SMITTEN with her!
Gus gives that delightful child his Uzbek military hat. Photo: Blackstone Photography
They were a liiiiitle worried about getting their picture taken. Photo: Tabitha
We drive a little ways and then suddenly...we REALIZE...WE'RE IN MONGOLIA!!! WE FINALLY MADE IT!! All the stress, all the rushing, all the worry that we couldn't get in! And NOW WE'RE REALLY HERE!! Thus began enthusiastic driving shenanigans and selfies!
Megan made this video that perfectly captures the sheer joy and freedom of finally being in Mongolia!
Team #WeLive in MONGOLIA! WE MADE IT!!! Alice, Paula, Megan, Bri, and Tabs. Photo: Blackstone Photography
And here we are! The whole convoy all together in Mongolia!
The people, L to R: Frank, Anthony, Adam, Gus, Harry, Alyssa, Joe, Charlie, Cam, Jake, Megan, Paula, Tabitha, Alice, Brianna. Also pictured: motorcycle dude and random father and baby.
The cars, L to R: The Admiral's Opus (Team Keystone), Judith (So Good It Yurts), The Pony Express (Team Keystone), Cruella Deville (101 Damn-nations), Fordnando (Team #WeLive), and Babs (Team #WeLive)
While we take these pictures we notice a local guy and his baby hanging around. One thing about Mongolia: they LOVE their children. It was so heart-warming to see BOTH parents hold, kiss, cuddle, and love their children. Well...you can see here:
Megan truly outdid herself with these images. Blackstone Photography.
Alas, the celebration had to come to an end eventually so we make our way to the next town for supplies and other necessities like local currency, beer, and warm socks. As we drive along we are continually struck by the sheer beauty of this place. There are eagles and yaks everywhere! There are constant velvety landscapes leading to stunning snow topped mountains, and there are prefect little ger (yurts) dotting the steppe in regular intervals. We are SO excited to camp in the middle of all this beauty.
#nofilter. Photo: Blackstone Photography
YAKS!! REAL LIFE YAKS!! They look like Muppets. Photo: Blackstone Photography
As we're leaving town we meet up with another Rally team, Grand Steppe Auto! Jamie and Nick! They join us so now we are 7 cars and 17 people. We're practically our own town. Some of the convoy goes ahead to find a campsite, while the rest finish getting supplies. Which sounds like a great idea until you realize that communication is challenging out on the steppe. We figure there's NO WAY we can miss them out on the steppe and drive and drive and drive. Still no sign of them. Finally we see flashing headlights behind us and it's Cruella of the Damn-Nations! Yep, we missed them. Oops!
*angels sing in background* I give you: Mongolian Nights. Photo: Blackstone Photography
But now we're camping and it's all good! Because there are hot noodles, great people, music, and fun to be had! We pitch our tents with great difficulty because of the raging wind, and then hunker down between cars to stay out of the bluster. Megan got some pretty shots because she's a magician...
The Milky Way. Just chillin'. Megan! Sorcery! Photo: Blackstone Photography
The Mongolian Milk Way by Blackstone Photography
*us = The Mongol Rally
Summary: I'm ending the week here even though it's only Thursday because the next week+ is all Mongolia and SO MUCH happens every day that we've decided to post each day as a separate blog. Just you wait...
The wild freedom of being in Mongolia never really wears off, to be honest. And we love being in convoy! It's just fun! But here, now, is where the Mongol part of the Mongol Rally truly begins. Until this point it's been something else; two very distinct segments led us to this point. There was the section of Europe through Turkey and Iran, then there was central Asia through Russia, and now, MONGOLIA! TALLY-HO!
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