This final installment on the Mongol Rally will start with a bang!
At the end of the last part we had just towed a Mercedes 40 km to a gas station where he could call for help.
We had finally made it into Russia, we just had to get by the pesky border crossing…
We were told the Russian border could be a bit tricky, and when we told them our plan they really just did not believe us and we were called in for some advanced interrogation. I did sneak a couple pics in their super secret office space.
Eventually they realized our travel plan was too stupid to be a lie they let us go. We stopped in the next town which had one of the most depressing carnivals I’ve ever seen.
At this point we were pretty accustomed to not showering so we decided to keep on camping. We found a nice field and set up our no dogs sign once again.
Now the area of Russia we were driving through was actually pretty scenic and there was a good amount of general tourism through here so we did tend to stick out quite a bit. We attempted to blend in the best we could though.
It was definitely nice to get some more scenic views now as well.
I actually think we only managed to get badly lost once, which was a pretty big improvement for us.
It only took us roughly a day and a half do drive through this tiny slice of Russia and we pulled up to the border with Mongolia just after closing. There was another team from Switzerland also camping right by the border as well.
Since we had the rest of the evening to fool around in this tiny border town we decided to have a walk around. First, we cooked dinner and had a dance party.
After that it got more interesting. A local construction site’s workers invited us to party for the night in their trailer. What could go wrong?
Conner wowed them with some magic tricks, Jakub entertained them with stories. Things got a bit too nationalistic for us later on and we headed out and tried to set up a tent drunk.
The next day we got to head into Mongolia hungover, just like we imagined.
Now in between Russia and Mongolia there is a 30 or so kilometer buffer zone that doesn’t really belong to anyone. We had to wait here for a bit while dealing with standard bureaucracy.
Now when we first got into Mongolia we had to kill some time waiting on the other cars in our squadron. It turned out to be really easy as the kids in Mongolia are super friendly and expect us to give them presents…which we did…
We gave them most of the novelty items we acquired up to that point, which was sad, but it’s what Estoban would have wanted.
We were riding high at this point, we had made it to Mongolia and nothing could stop us! Until our exhaust got dislodged and our car became super noisy and a lot less powerful…
In addition both our sump guard and our travel buddies were being pretty iffy…
We duct taped up as much we could and hoped it would last until we hit a major town.
On the fun side we drove by a guy training his hunting falcon and he let us play with it a bit and another American team pulled up and joined it!
We ended up camping with those Americans that night and split up early the next morning. We’d meet up with them again later on though.
Driving through the tundra of Mongolia was one of the damn coolest things ever. Even when we had problems, it was still awesome. We had already come so far, all these issues just seemed like specs on the whole journey.
At some point we got tired of our exhaust hanging off the bottom of our car so we attached a tow rope to it and have the Micra drive in the other direction to rip it off. Actually worked out pretty well.
Except we had to strap the leftover exhaust parts to the top of our car for the rest of the trip.
At some point a Mongolian herder came by while we were ripping off our exhaust and fixing the sump guard again. He said very little, came and looked at the car, then walked away. I want to be as cool as that guy someday.
And now the time came for our first river crossing. We knew it would come and we were pretty nervous. On the other side of the river was a group of Mongolians urging us on and we did not want to let them down.
When we got to the other side we began talking to these guys as much as possible, fortunately Jakub and Hana had some knowledge of Russian and we could get by. It turns out these guys were Mongolian police. They also invited us to do some shots with them right there. Which we did. They taught us how to do a proper Mongolian shot and salute the sky god while we told them about our trip and where we wanted to go.
When it was all said and done they offered us a police escort. Which we obviously accepted.
We kept up as best we could but they did eventually get a call to go help some stranded Russian truck drivers, which we went along for. These truck drivers were clearly not super sober either and we didn’t know how long this would take so we left our police friends after a hearty thank you and went on our way.
Not much farther down the road we came to our second river crossing, which was much deeper. There was also another team from Switzerland waiting to cross here as well and opted to help push us out of the river when we inevitably got stuck.
While we were letting our engine drain out who else showed up but the Russian truck drivers who stopped and hopped in the river for a bath!
After we were back on the road we ended up all racing into the next town, the Skoda did not win, but it did not lose badly either. Our immediate stop was to a mechanic where they did their best to fix our sump guard and we checked out the town.
When we had gotten back Jakub informed us that the mechanic had invited us to stay as his guests in his yurt for the evening. We obviously had to say yes.
He fed us, we brought drinks, he started an acoustic guitar session and it was magical. It was an amazing night. That being said we were missing Harry that night. When we first got into town a lady came up to him and said another team was in the hospital for hitting a camel in the night and he went to the hospital to see if they needed help and it seems they did. He helped them get in touch with their families and organize a way back to a good hospital…you don’t want to get seriously injured in a hospital in the middle of Mongolia. They were diagnosed with a broken neck but could not leave until they paid the owner of the camel they hit, which is a backwards system especially since you shouldn’t let your camel roam in the middle of the night. This is also a PSA to not drive at night in Mongolia. Anyway, they got out of there and are doing fine, the initial diagnosis was wrong and they are good to go according to their Facebook page.
We woke up the next day and found out a team had split up over the night and one of the members was looking for a ride to the end, and we welcomed him. We picked him up at his yurt and were on our way…until our sump guard went out again…
We duct taped it up again and pushed onward.
The next day we got to what looked like one of the worst rivers to cross we would ever have to, and we knew there was no way it would work out but we had to try.
Right as we were about to give it a go a lady approached us with a science research mission in a pretty tricked out van saying they knew an easier way to get around. Lo and behold they meant it. It was tricky to find but we got it and had no issues. They gave us their cards and said they would like to email us sometime.
We continued at a snail’s pace to the next town where the first thing we saw was this beautiful sight.
An auto shop catering specifically to Mongol Rally teams? Say it isn’t so, it must be too goo to be true!(Hint: it was)
We pulled in and let them try to fix our suspension, sump guard, and really just about everything they could while we played with some locals.
When they finished there was still some daylight and we wanted to get as far as we could. Now there was roughly 150km of paved road and one village before we got back to the rough dirt roads and no more than 10 km into the dirt stuff our rear suspension completely gives out. Now we are in a serious pickle, we WILL be continuing in the morning with or without suspension but the ride is ridiculously bumpy and this may mean we can’t make the finish line. Luckily Jakub did get the mechanics phone number but we are in the middle of the desert so phone service is non existent. So our newest terrible plan is I will ride with Conor back to the last village, call the mechanic, and get them to come out and fix us that night. Now you may remember earlier I said do not drive at night in Mongolia, well that holds true, we are just stupid. We get back to the paved roads and a large rock bounces up under the micra and we pull over to check their sump guard. Turns out the “mechanics” there actually cut a hole in it for….reasons. So now we have another reason to dislike these mechanics. We end up getting back the last village around midnight to 1am to another lovely surprise. Also stranded in that village is the AMerican team we met earlier in the rally. They had visited the same mechanic and now their car was completely broken down. They were trying to get in touch with the same mechanic as us but didn’t have a number. So we called the number Jakub got and had to do a solid amount of translation to get the point across. Basically it was that we can’t make you come out and fix our cars tonight, but if you don’t we will tell the Mongol Rally to skip your place for services and since you’re named after the Mongol Rally that would be bad for business. We convinced them to meet us where we were stranded.
They got to the American team first in the village and then they showed up at about 3-4am with the other team at our campsite to fix ours. To add insult to this Jakub and I had some bad, rebottled water and were having some…issues. We gave them some gas as a lukewarm thanks and prayed the suspension fix would get us to where we needed. That was a pretty rough night.
Over the next few days we pitter-pattered along. We met some teams, exchanged stories. We stopped at more yurts where we forced down some awful goat cheese to be polite.
Then it happened…we hit pavement.
There was pavement forecasted all the way to the finish line. All we had to do now was make it there without our car exploding.
It was basically a straight shot to Ulaanbaatar now, and we were in good spirits. It was infectious too as a rowdy group of Mongolians ended up pulling over with us to have a side of the road party with us.
We stopped at a weird shrine on the way because why not. The animals looked like weird horse/camel hybrids.
When we got into Ulaanbaatar just about everyone immediately crashed but myself, Harry, and Conor decided to grab a beer across the street. While we were there we met a group of locals that invited us to party with them. Long story short, they got super drunk, couldn’t pay, took us to a pretty shitty fast food restaurant, ended up throwing the food all over the place and we bailed on them. However we were in the middle of the city with no idea how to get back to the hotel since we left most of our stuff in our room. We got in a series of cabs trying to roughly explain where to go and we got dropped of in a very wrong direction and nearly getting murdered by a group of cab drivers trying to get us to pay more money. After dodging that situation we wandered until we found a hotel open late with a business office where we could look up where our hotel was. This all took place over the course of 3 hours so by the time we got back it was about 3-4am. We spent the next day in Ulaanbaatar sightseeing.
Now, at this point the actual finish line for the rally has been moved from Mongolia into Ulan Ude just over the border in Russia…so we weren’t actually done yet…
We get up not so early the next day and go visit the giant Genghis Khan memorial.
There’s always time for one last dressup…
On our way out of town we bumped into another team broken down so close to the end.
We ended up not quite making it to the Russia border by dark and decided to camp out one last time. We had a ritual burning of our poop chair(stool stool, get it?) and we woke up to a pig invading our campsite. It was really a good ending to the camping experience.
When we got to the border I proceeded to go to their duty free and get solidly drunk but from my perspective the crossing took awhile, but was pretty smooth. We ended up in Ulan Ude just in time for the final finish line party.
Side note…Jakub looks a lot like Lenin…
We partied the night away, several people threw up, stories were shared, normal food was ingested.
Jakub passed out in the car much like the first party, it was a pretty solid bookends to the whole experience. The next day we drove our cars with a good amount of other teams to get them shipped off for scrap. We took the opportunity to cause a little more damage…
And then I bought a hat off a Russian soldier and called it a day. This capped the end of one of the coolest trips I have ever done. Everyone I mention it to usually has the same question which is “Why?” and the response is always “Why not?” The goal of life is to lead an interesting one and it starts with looking at something insane and thinking “Absolutely I’m in.”
Everyone else headed out soon after and I hopped on the Trans-Siberian railway to go back to Mongolia, but that’s for a different story.