Before you even enter Mongolia a guy is disinfecting the cars tiers and you have to pay 100 Ruble, he then asked straight away if we want to change money. Welcome to Mongolia where they figured out how to make money with tourists.
We tried to cross the border before lunch break, because they close the Borders during lunch and on the weekends. We didn’t make it all and this gave us the opportunity to have our first Mongolia Ravioli which are tasty. Mongolia has only 3 border crossings with Russia, and they close it on weekends and lunch break, they don’t like the Russians… On the western most border, where we crossed, nothing much is going on really. You have to know that Mongolia has less then 4 million inhabitants, 2 millions of them are living in the Capital Ulaan Bator and this in a country the size of central Europe. Nevertheless no matter where we camp it is only a matter of minutes until someone shows up on a horse, a bike, on foot or a camel and inspects us in wonder.
We drove south along the Chinese border to the snow leopard sanctuary (of course we didn’t see one, it’s close to impossible). The landscape is beautiful, grass land like in Kazakstan but with mountains and hills making it more interesting to drive and look at. First night we camped up in the mountain at almost 2500 Meters and it was freezing, -3 degrees with a strong wind. In the morning we had ice on the inside of the windows. Lucky does who have a heater.
Next day we camped around 30 Km before the sanctuary, not long time passed and a men and a child appeared on a motor bike. They traded cheese and onions with us (the cheese was terrible). About half an hour later a guy appeared who apparently was the park ranger, walking straight to the new proud owners of 3 onions: You have wild onions, it’s illegal, you pay fine. Of course no-one payed anything and he left without an extra pay check. Once again we felt a bit confused by this behaviour. We are not idiots after all. Bernd ensures us that the Mongolian people are very friendly and trustworthy, unfortunately this is hard for us to verify because usually they do not speak English and their Russian appears to be worse then mine.
Next day we drove along stone age graves and then into a canyon. It must have rained catastrophic a few weeks ago in this canyon and the road was close to undriveable. Quitschi got its first war wound when hitting a stone on the side. But once again the car impressed and drove like a real champion. We camped in the canyon where there where trees, a real sensation in this country. Next day we had to go on and it took almost 4 hours to drive the 15 Km out of the canyon, we had to cross the river 26 times, hard work for car and driver.
Then it was planed to drive another 180 Kilometres, which is a lot in this country as there are hardly any roads that deserve the name. Fortunately I was able to reach Johan on the phone and they are currently on there way to the Mongolian border but they can only pass it on Monday morning because it is closed on weekends and it is not possible to cross the border and drive to Altai in half a day, not even for them. So we inserted one more day before we hit Altai to give them a chance to catch up with us meaning we can take it easy and spent half a day camping at the lake Dargon Nuur. The Argali Sheeps are living here and we saw them. This are incredible creatures, they can run with up to 60 Kilometres an hour and it just looks incredible, unbelievable that an animal can run that fast. I tried to keep up with them with the car, no chance, they run and then they jump full speed.
Unfortunately a combination of stress, driving hard terrain and Bernds inability to listen to his paying customers escalated the situation once again and it is unclear if the group will stay together at the moment. As we hear that happens often. Bernd is a difficult subject, he is reliable, he knows amazing places and he knows lots about driving and cars. But he is a hardcore off roader and we are tourists, we want to see the country and learn about the culture. I think he doesn’t care too much about this things (anymore). However I made peace with him. I like the driving especially when it is difficult and he does what he can. If you want a tourist tour through this countries you are definitely wrong with him. If you want a reliable off road crack and don’t care too much about tourist sights, he is your guy.