5 hour driving day (With a fair few stops….. snow trails, river crossings etc.)
170k of which first 60k tarmac.
Weather: Bluebird skies and sunshine but hit -15C at night inside the tent.
Following an interrupted nights sleep (thank you karaoke hotel..), and the usual start of country admin (banks for ATMs and changing roubles; phone shops for Mongolian SIM cards), we left Olgii early doors to try and make the most of the sunlight. After 60km of paved road, with white nothing on every horizon, we kissed goodbye to the tarmac and soon donned the snow chains. With a clear blue sky, the scenery was stunning and the path only vaguely distinguishable by the tracks in the snow left by previous vehicles. It was at this point that the day became much more challenging!
Challenges of the day:
1) Choosing the right path: the tracks in the snow split into two tracks. We chose the wrong one. After they faded into nothing we were forced to do a 3-point turn in the snow and travel back up the toboggan run we had left behind us.
2) Negotiating a deep snow drift: the path ahead had clearly been created by vehicles with a much greater ground clearance than us. After a lengthy route inspection (including much floundering in even deeper snow drifts on both sides), we ploughed through at speed (all things are relative!) and made it back to the path. Sadly the video looks less impressive than it felt at the time!
3) Crossing a river of ice #1: after (apparently) missing the fording point marked on the map, and unsuccessfully asking a local for directions, we were faced with an enormous river of frozen ice to cross (actually about 5m but it looked big enough!). What followed was another lengthy inspection, a healthy can of MTFU, once again ploughing at speed, and our girl making it safely to the other side with only a small crack in the ice.
4) Digging: Thrilled with having not sunk into the river, our excitement was short lived. A mere 200m away was an unforeseen gully filled with snow that became our temporary resting place (AKA we got stuck). Turns out ploughing is not always the answer!! After much wheel spin, a good 45 minutes of digging ensued with help from our friendly directionless local. However, just as we were about to try to drive ourselves out a helpful lorry diverted from his own path to tow us out of our mess! Thanks to Kat’s work for the tow stops (that may have once been crane slings!)
5) Skirting the lake: Next in store for us was another river! This one a tributary for a larger lake. By following more misleading snow tracks we had once again come slightly off course and ended up facing another river crossing. Approached by a friendly local with the most gorgeous Ginger Doggy (Tom felt the connection!) he kindly stopped us from the river and drew us a huge lightbulb shape in the snow – essentially we were to circumnavigate the lake – it took a while – still beats another river crossing!
6) Our Usual Daily Challenge – Making Camp and getting our girl flat enough for a comfy nights sleep.
Something we found odd and wonderful is how the Mongols pop up from seemingly nowhere when you need help, otherwise the landscape is deserted but so so beautiful.
All in all a day to celebrate and so we did, with a feast fit for Kings (Tuna, Pasta, Mayo), much Chai drinking and Port from Kazakhstan!
Today’s Time Lapse: