As we wait at the Russian border for re-entry it’s a good time to recap on the day’s activities. Fortunately, or unfortunately, there have not been too many. The 300k plus drive from the capital was sealed and apart from smog and pot holes, trouble free.
Reflecting back on our 10 day stay in Mongolia, I can say it’s been mostly enjoyable. The western part of the country is very underdeveloped and one can understand that. With such a small population for it’s size. Distances are great and roading infrastructure non insistent in places. Reading up on Mongolia in Lonely Planet it is quite normal for foreigners to be lost. We can certainly attest to that. Scenery in the west is spectacular and if your sole objective is to be doing 4X4 stuff, this is a Mecca. However, it can be frustrating and massively time consuming if you want to get to your destination quickly. The population in the west is of Kazak origin, mainly and one could say that they are “opportunistically friendly”.
Mongolian drivers have no patience. They will find any way to get to the front of a queue. On a four lane main road intersection they will take the most right hand lane and turn left across the traffic flow. Any space between cars is quickly filled but they show no displeasure if unable to cut in. No quarter is asked or given. When queuing to cross into Russia, a short time ago, there were three Russian registered vehicles in front of us and a Mongolian drove straight to the front of the queue and wedged in-between the first car and the barrier, so they were first through when it opened. Similarly when queuing to get into Mongolia there was a long line and we were about in the middle and about move forward when a Mongolian van attempted to drive straight into the gap but I was quick enough to thwart his move and gestured for him to go to the back of the queue. I saw later that he must have been successful a little further back. Service generally is pragmatic and responsive to the basic transaction. ‘What do you want – and give us your money’ A throwback from an earlier communist era. Mongolia gained it’s independence from China in 1921, with Russian assistance. However, Russia soon moved to control it until 1990. As in all former Russian satellite countries, security or control of the population continues. Roadside police are constantly stopping motorists to check their identity documents.
There is considerable expenditure on roading in parts and I suspect it is Chinese funded as all the earthmoving equipment is modern, brand new and Chinese made.
The road from Ulaanbaatar to the border is thankfully sealed.
We are now through the two border control points, both were relatively easy. The pace had been cracked on for the last 100 or so K’s, in the hope that we could be processed this evening, before the borders close at 6pm. Arriving at 4pm we were through in just on 2 hours.
Camp for the night is 200m off the main road in a clearing and its a pleasant evening.
A little bit about our slowly developing clutch problem. Clearly the seal on the master cylinder piston is slightly damaged. Probably through water content in the fluid corroding the cylinder walls. It will get worse but is only an occasional drip for now. Its quite a time consuming job to remove the cylinder and housing so we are hoping that it will last till we get to Vladivostok. It is possible to change gear without the clutch by timing the engine revs, should it fail to operate properly. Not the best scenario. I am eyeing Jen’s handbag to make up a leather seal, should it become serious. If I can find it..:)