Up early, for us, before 6am. The Russian border opens at 9am and we were advised to get there in good time. We were there by 8am, to find about 30 cars in front of us, as well as a line of tankers. Presumably Russia is supplying oil to Mongolia. In front of us in the queue were an Irish car and 2 British cars all participating in the Mongol Rally. (One was the Metro we had come across when refuelling yesterday).
There are apparently around 200 entrants in the Mongol Rally. The entry fee is £600 and they are expected to raise at least £1000 for charity. The cars are not permitted to be more than 1000cc.
By 2pm we had reached the gate at the front of the queue. I had read that this border could take 3 hours on either side to cross and yesterday we were told it could take between 4 and 11 hours!!!! Once we were let through the gate we had to leave the vehicle and queue to go through passport control. One desk for the car’s “passport” then another office for our passports. Today was decidedly chilly and overcast and at this point the heavens opened and heavy rain and hail fell. Next came the customs inspection. The Mongol Rally crowd were getting pulled apart. Everything out of the cars and having to open all their bags and containers. I dreaded what would happen to us. Fortunately the guy had a sense of humour and after he asked us if we had any weapons, Dennis said we didn’t need them and showed him his fist. He laughed and just had a quick look in our boxes and at our medical kit and that was it. We were on our way. It was 3.30pm.
A drive of 17kms through no man’s land and then the process started all over again on the Mongolian side. First a guy disinfected our wheels – and charged us 100 Roubles for the privilege. Next passport control. An initial check where we had to fill in an immigration form. Then through another barrier and out of the vehicle again for another passport check and then to customs for a temporary import form for the car. No customs search, however. Thank goodness! We were out of there at 5.30 pm. An entire day (9 and a half hours) spent getting through 2 relatively little used border points.
We drove to the first village – unmade up road, rather a shock after the good roads in Russia over the last few days. The 2 shops had very little in stock. We wanted some large 5 litre water bottles. A local guy overheard us and said he would take us to his home and give us water. He was very insistent and we did not want to be rude, although we really wanted to get on the road and find somewhere to camp for the night. Once at his house his wife and children came out to meet us and of course offered us chai. So, we had chai and tried to get the SIM card we had purchased at the border working. No luck though. We said thank you to our hosts and set off. As it was so overcast it was getting dark. We couldn’t find anywhere sheltered, so drove out into the middle of the valley away from the road, hoping for a good night’s sleep.