Monday, September 9, 2019

In the Altai mountains and into Mongolia

Our third time entering Russia went uneventful, knowing by now which forms to fill in and how the procedure works 😆

After a night in the middle of fields and a morning of looking for a track back out of it we headed further into the Altai mountains. Our buddies in the Defender were meeting a friend close to Gorno-Altaysk and therefore decided to take the main route. As Melanie and I didn't have any plans we took the scenic route through the mountains instead. This turned out to be great: next to no traffic, okay dirt roads, lovely little villages and a fantastic view!

The next day we stopped to chat with two overlanders travelling each! in their own 250k$ truck... 😳 I guess not everybody has the same budget restrictions. After having reached Vladivostok (SPOILER 😜 ) I must say a huge truck like they had would not have been practical. Many towns and of course bridges have weight limitations as well the nightmare to enter any city and find a place to park. Also many of the tracks we drove would not have been possible with a truck of that size. Especially the coolest parts where we were totally off road, finding our way through the woods or crossing washed out riverbeds and ravines. Already the "full sized" Land Cruiser and Defenders where struggling 😈  But I guess that is the price to pay for a motorised home with air con, showers, toilet and induction stove... 🤷‍♂️

Anyway, driving down the main Altai valley guess who we found again? Of course our friends from Berne in their Defender. Afraid we would leave them behind they must have raced all the way to the border 😂 Albeit before crossing the aforementioned border we did some heavy grocery shopping. Everybody we encountered coming from Mongolia advised us to stock up. In hindsight it might have been cheaper in Russia but the first major city in in Mongolia, Ölgii had many shops where you could get anything you needed.

Once we reached the border a huge line of cars was already waiting. Due to the Mongolian Nadam festival the border has been closed for some days which must have resulted in this "backlog". Walking along the line to the front we encountered a Land Cruiser from Zürich waiting in line for some hours already. In the beginning it looked like we would have to spend the night in line as the border was supposed to close at 6pm. But the customs officer kept on working into the night and we could finally leave Russia. Between the Russian and Mongolian border posts are 26km no man’s land were nobody wanted to get stuck. Luckily the Mongolian side kept working even longer hours and in the end even opened the out-going side of the border post. We entered on that side and the whole procedure was totally off as the different stages of control and bureaucracy where therefore backwards. Anyway, everybody was still friendly but tired and our car only got a glance in the dark before we could enter.

We made it, reached Mongolia! But it was pitch black, close to midnight and everybody was tired. Together with the two guys from Zürich and the couple from Berne we decided to drive a bit and call it a night. Lets see what Mongolia has to offer in the morning ☺️