Monday, 22 August 2011

Ulaan Baatar!

Hello everyone,

We've arrived in Ulaan Baatar! A week of wandering in the wilderness through Mongolia has finally brought us to our destination, in fine health (and with a fully intact Catmobile, too).

Mongolia is a truly stunning country, with some of the most awful roads ever created by people. Unsurprisingly we got lost more than once, including a four-hour jaunt up a mountain through a field of rocks to a sand trap, where we got stuck and eventually had to turn around. Needless to say tempers were a little frayed, but we got through it (with some help from The Gobi Express, a team of two lovely Danes).

We had to be towed across one river, and forded several more without help (sometimes twice when we went the wrong way), got stuck in sand and mud, and ate cheese that came from an old man's sleeve.

The Catmobile is covered in a thick layer of dust inside and out, and I'm sure I'll never be completely clean again, but the feeling of satisfaction is palpable. We handed it over to The Adventurists this morning and there was already a swarm of locals looking it over, wanting to buy it. Understandable, really - it is a very desirable car, and we'll miss it.

We'll be back in England when we can, but for now, to all our loved ones: we love you; to all our friends: we miss you; and to everyone else: hi.


Tuesday, 9 August 2011

We have reached Astana!

Hello all,

Long time no report, but there ain't many internet cafes on the road. We've stopped for a day in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. It's a shiny new city with a skyline straight out of the game Mirror's Edge (in fact I think I recognise some of the buildings).
The Kazakhstani people have been the most friendly, open and helpful people we've met, often going miles out of their way to help the silly lost tourists. People keep coming up to the car whenever we stop and asking questions (usually in Kazakh, but we've developed a pretty good combination of sign language and pen-and-paper communication).
Russia was beautiful and Moscow was huge and impressive (and full of stunning women) but we felt a slightly oppressive air while we were there - like we had to be constantly on our guard. Not so Kazakhstan, where even when the locals were puzzled by two crazy Englishmen setting up tents by the side of the track leading to their village, they still offered to take us home and cook for us.
Kazakhstan is almost entirely made up of huge and flat open grassland. This would make for a very boring drive if they didn't liberally pepper even their major roads with huge potholes. Although the scenery quickly gets boring, the sky never does - massive blue skies with layered cloud formations, dramatic sunsets and billions of stars at night.
We're about two or three days from the border now - then back into Russia for a day or two before we take on the trickiest leg of the journey - the deserts and mountains of Mongolia. There may not be another update before Ulaanbaatar as there's few major cities on our route, but we'll try to post something when we can.

Wish us luck

Gary and Dave