We arrived in Kosch-Agatsch at night, a quiet town with not much going on. Santiago from the boat is already at the hostel to greet us with a great dinner also. And we are all hyped with anticipation that tomorrow we head into Mongolia.
The crossing takes all day. On the Russian side we are made to wait ages outside in the cold for customs, then passport control, and finally a very thorough inspection of the car. It turns out that for customs we needed the temporary import document from Kazakhstan. They have a Shengen type agreement between the countries so once in Kazakhstan it is easy to go into Russia.
So a few hours on the Russian side and we enter no man’s land. A climb to the top where some poor Russian border guard let’s you through the geographical border.
We arrive on the Mongolian side at their lunch break. After sitting outside the gate for an hour or so we are let in. Passport control is easy (after she fixed her broken computer) and customs even easier. They asked if we were on the mongol rally, which we aren’t and then gave a piece of paper. Is that all? I was sick with worry turning up at the border after reading about all these large deposits for cars. Anyway better not complain. A basic check of the car and we are off. Off to Ulgii.
So the road is paved all the way to Ulgii. There are a few areas of roadworks of course. Mountains, beautiful views and snow…WOW. It is clear to see why the vast steppe captures the imagination of so many people. And with hardly another car on the road, it felt like we were driving in some unknown frontier.
So we find a guest house…or rather the guest house owner finds us and stay in a yurt. Warm at first with the fire then the temperature drops to a cool 4C in the morning. They feed us well and we have chai.
There isn’t a great deal in Ulgii but we invest in some balaclavas for the wind chill. Then we hit the road. Great asphalt melts into gravel as you hit the spectacular and frozen Tolba lake.
Sadly the car didn’t survive the gravel road to the lake and a whine turned into a horrible, unbearable screeching noise Checking under the car we found the exhaust pipe had fallen off from the exhaust manifold.
Fortunately there was a town on the horizon and with the worst noises you’ve heard (like screaming) we nursed her into town. After struggling to find a mechanic, we were directed to a scrap yard. Eventually a fella turned up and set about welding it back on. Quick fix but it was getting late, so we attempted to find a hotel. Apparantly none in Tolbas so we ended up paying a bloke to stay in his house. Very comfortable.
Onto Khovd tomorrow