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Travelling east in the middle of nowhere ,we stopped to help a pregnant lady with a small boy who had broken down.
I fixed her leaking radiator hose and filled up with water from our mobile shower Jerry can so might not get a shower for a day or two! Onward and Eastward in dusty conditions with some interesting roads to contend with and still Amber trundles on! But which track to take? We attended a traditional Mongolian wedding and festival after a full days drive into the Alti mountains the groom was the son of a famous Eagle hunter so quite a Do with plenty of food and entertainment including ,wrestling,singing and dancing,and various horse related sports. Tradition says if the man wins the race then he can claim a kiss,if the woman wins then she can keep her man after Whipping him all the way in this race between male and female.
After a 4 hr journey heading to the northern part of Mongolia we encountered some streams which turned into raging rivers which we managed to cross four of but had to turn back as the fifth was just too wide and wild so four hours back to where we had started. Really wild camping with these wild camels for company notice the two humps as opposed to the single humped versions painted on the side of Amber.
After a day of extreme heat 44 degC I was looking forward to a nice hot shower from my Jerry can which was great until this desert sand storm blew in I just managed to finish showering when the dust arrived and covered me in dust.
Incredible strength of wind made it difficult to stand up so we retreated to Amber for shelter. Thankfully no photos of a dusty bear!certum.wecan-group.com/perspective.php
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Which sometimes means you park up in very remote areas ,as we head even further into the Southern Gobi desert …. This remote spot called the flaming cliffs was our destination where we were lucky enough to follow a guide who showed us the site of some dinosaur eggs laid 80 million years ago! This gorge was formed by ice which cuts its way through , unfortunately for us the last of the winters ice had melted only last week but made for a great walk. We then drove to the other end and camped for the night with a Dutch couple Denis and Mieka and Felix and his dog Essa!
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We then headed due North heading for Ulaanbaatar the Capital of Mongolia and found a wonderful campsite for the next few days where we could shower,do laundry chillout and write this after a day visiting some Buddhist monasteries and other sites. So our next challenge is km to Vladivostok with the first km of road reportedly very difficult conditions with recent flooding and treacherous road surfaces awaiting us. Raging forest fires in Siberia with smoke already in Ulaanbaatar and Putin announcing a state of emergency we will be travelling east hopefully south of the worst of it!
Sometimes you must ask again just to be sure. The experience we had made us both think that sometimes you just have to go with a gut instinct and act. We were heading out of town about 25km from anywhere it was about and starting to get dark added to which the intense heat of the day had turned thundery with dark heavy rain clouds opening up when we saw in the distance a solitary European young girl pushing her bike up hill puffing away, she was not dressed or equipped as other cyclists have been just normal clothes and a pretty shabby pushbike with no tent or other equipment it was just as if she was out for a pleasant cycle.
So we stopped and asked her was she OK? We offered her some water but she declined and off she went pushing her bike on up the long assent which we had just come down so we knew what lied ahead for her 25 km of hard slog. We set off down hill heading further out of town to find a camping spot for the night as it was getting late and the rain was imminent and we had had a difficult day ourselves With my head full of our own problems.
The smile on her face told us all she was far from fine,she was very happy to climb in the back of Amber with a snickers and a sprite from our fridge in stony silence obviously relieved to be in a safe place and possibly suffering from a bit too much sun. Picked up our Mongolian Visas after a couple of days great service from the embassy staff in Bishkek. Met up with these two legends of the overlanding community Coen and Karin check out LandcruisingAdventure.
They have been on the road since and a great inspiration and fonts of all knowledge, had a great evening with them getting advice for our next stage via Russia,Mongolia and onto Japan where they had spent a lot of time. Awesome chance, meeting with Coen seeing Amber and inviting us to supper so thank you guys and thank you Amber for catching the eye of another overland nutter! Side of the road beer stop! Very refreshing but non alcoholic!
Just as well as we picked up a speeding ticket doing 64kmh in an alleged 20! Just after trying a pint of this wheat based cold drink.
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The police officer had parked his car in front of the 20kph sign so well hidden ,I could sense he was quite cross when he pulled us in. So I decided that it was a fair cop and paid up ,treating it as a road tax. Excessive vehicle speed was the cause of an earlier accident we had witnessed where an articulated fuel tanker had flipped on its side on a narrow mountain road earlier that morning spilling its load of diesel and resting on the edge of a 50m precipice.
So from then on ,every speed trap we passed well below the limit as we waved at the police to their disappointment. We had stopped for a coffee and this guy arrived sharing coffee a biscuit , he was the local farmer and very proud of his crops and cattle which he showed us. He was wearing the traditional Kyrgyzstan hat which he explained is to symbolise the many snow capped mountains which surround the area. Another bit of tractor Porn!
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They do like to bale their hay green. After travelling on tracks like this with severe corrugations, poor old Amber suffered a bit, unsurprisingly! We had been doing quite a lot of off road and these tracks are the worst ,with regular evenly spaced bumps in the road which set up severe vibrations throughout the vehicle and the only way to overcome is to travel at speed and keep out of the ruts!
This however had its downsides which we experienced eventually. Earlier on in our day of rescuing lone female cyclists we had been in search of a birds of prey centre which was down this track, with lots of shaking and shuddering giving us and Amber a good old shake down. After climbing up hill for about 3km I applied the brakes and nothing happened! No brakes is a serious issue at the best of times and where we currently were ,this was no laughing matter! Upon inspection I could see we had lost a brake pad ,the retaining pins had shaken out shearing the locking pins and letting the pad fall out!
I concluded that the missing brake pad would be back down the track so off we went for a walkies hunting for brake pads, pins and springs! So back to amber and strip down brake calliper to get pistons back where they should be and then improvise with some tent pegs? The saga continues when I try to find some replacement pins in Almaty after travelling km with tent pegs holding us together and bump into Leigh and Steph who are better know as GrizzlyNbear check them out on youtube!
These guys were a great help in advising where to get replacement pins ,which were available to order but a two week wait! Leigh introduced me to a local 4wd specialist who ran a workshop in Almaty. So I had a rummage around in their old nuts and bolts heap and found some used bolts which were the right dimensions and with a little grinding down and drilling holes, bugger me ,we have pad retaining pins!
The second highest highway in the world! Leaving Dushanbe with a happy Amber! Clutch sorted,water and diesel tanks full and fridge replenished with supplies. These guys could win any ploughing match on sheer effort alone! Onward and upwards through the Wakhan valley through villages with children, teens, adults and old folk all waving at us with genuine smiles on their faces and a true welcome which is pretty awesome as we have noticed those with the least have been the most friendly! Amber to the rescue!
Waved down by a worried looking truck driver with a problem we soon realised that he was well and truly stuck in the sand and had been overnight as it was only about am. Amber always a willing workhorse was hitched up and soon straining at the leash dragging the truck out with cheers from the onlookers who had gathered for the spectacle! With 82 hp, 4wd ,low range and diff locks engaged along with two Otters,two Collies,and six Camels ,out she comes onto the hard surface with lots of whooping and hollering from the crowd of on lookers!
After finding a wild camping spot off the road we settled down for the night to be waken by this stunning view of Afghanistan on the other side of the valley the next day. With sunshine illuminating the fields of crops all ripening at different times it made a really colourful sight worthy of any art gallery. Crops being harvested by hand field by field as was done in England years ago! This one says it all!
Again running along the valley with Pakistan and the Hindu Kush on opposite side.
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If anyone has been at altitude for a while will also confirm it effects the body in different ways the most obvious being the need to pee! Checked gearbox oil leak as I was convinced oil leaking from oil cooler pipes and thinking it would not be a good place to have transmission failure turned out all ok but satisfying to know I needed have been worrying again!
Still chasing the brake squeal which was now coming from the last wheel to be checked cleaned and reassembled in the desert sands with the help of our air bag jack along with std jack which was sinking in the sand! Before our arrival in Osh I thought Amber deserved a birthday treat as she had been through some messy places and was looking a little grubby! All that was needed next was a celebratory pint or two with thoughts of Glastonbury happening as we supped our beer!