After leaving Irkutsk and saying goodbye to a delicious omul and generally European food, we set off to the southeast. As soon as we left the city, a roof rack opened on the go. It was lucky that only a box with a packed ration fell out of it, from which the car that was following us dodged. We decided that in this way we brought a gift to the spirits of the road. In general, the farther east, the more superstitious people are. Pedestals with gifts to spirits tied with ribbons, etc., appear along the side of the road.
Closer to the border, the landscape began to change - they went forest-steppes. Having refueled to the eyeballs at the last Russian gas station, we are moving to a border crossing, the line of which was occupied by the Mongols in KamAZ trucks and shuttles in trucks. Asian women busily break through the sidelines and professionally unload boxes of goods. Part of the male population of Mongolia is idle or busy with a bottle of strong drinks, and women are trying to feed their families. Something similar happened and we in the early 90's. Mongolia, however, came to democracy only recently.
Border control from our side was overcome without problems, but there was a delay from the Mongolian, local border guards primarily served compatriots, setting aside our declarations aside. Through the efforts of the conductors, after an hour and a half, we managed to settle everything, and we went to the capital - Ulan Bator.
Most Mongols are very friendly towards Russians, and in general it is not clear why there is still a visa regime. There are few guests from the Russian side, but from time to time hunters and fishermen call in. By removing the formal procedures and organizing a normal transition, it is quite possible to earn money on tourism.
The beginning of the toll road
The beginning of the toll road The beginning of the toll road The beginning of the toll road
Roads to the city, where about half of the country's population lives (more than 1 million people), are paid, two-way, there is no lighting, there are no fences at the side of the road, and a steep slope begins behind it. I don’t even want to think what will happen if I fly off the track. The road itself is without holes, but the traffic is terrifying. Even in Ulan-Ude, we noticed that we got to Asia: a disregard for the neighbors in the stream, inability to use turn signals, etc. However, the Mongol customs were shocked - at night on the road, where there is such darkness that the starry sky is visible at a glance, most of the drivers use only high beams. The algorithm, however, is different: someone starts to blink when approaching, others turn it on when approaching closely, others do not turn it off at all. For what purpose drivers do it - a mystery. The guide explained this with selfishness …
As a result, driving, to put it mildly, is inconvenient. Despite the Buddhist and Christian commandment not to wish evil to their neighbors, the drivers now and then expressed themselves strongly. Surprisingly, along the way we did not see a single accident. By night, the temperature dropped to -11, the flow of warm air from the stove was directed into the glass, but it continued to fry at the feet no less, even at the first fan speed. The factory engineer says that is what was intended. Buyers complained that when distributing the flow into the glass, the driver’s feet froze, although flow control or / or exists normally.
Having entered the capital of Mongolia at night, there was a persistent feeling that we were in a post-apocalyptic city. The traffic intensity increased, acquiring a Brownian character, while the road became many times worse, there was only broken asphalt and terrible smog. The haze in the city is kept from the heating of the Mongolian yurts by coal.
Ulan Bator is actively under construction
Ulan Bator is actively under construction Ulan Bator is actively under construction Ulan Bator is actively under construction
Finally arriving for dinner, they were surprised by the performance of the folk group Altan Urag, who wrote the soundtrack for the film Mongol. After we moved to the hotel, however, along a different street. On this side, Ulan Bator already resembled, if not a European, then a large eastern city. Neon signs, high-rise hotels, youth on the streets.
Well, what about Niva? While holding on. I asked the engineer - he says that there is no spare gas pump, no generator … So far, only a stone has been caught in the left part of the windshield, a crack has crept.
Day Two: Desert
The further route to the campsite from the capital ran exclusively off-road. Many people believe that the Gobi desert is necessarily sands, dunes, and dunes. In fact, the steppe in Mongolia with a very diverse coating: stones, dust, earth, sand is also found, but there is not much of it. The relief is from plain to steep rifts.
In Gobi, a harsh primer began with bumps, pits, slopes and stones, in some places they had to overcome obstacles literally crawling in first gear, and although they didn’t have to use the step-downs, the defense was struck more than once. Most of the way was kept at high speed, turning the race into an impromptu rally, and, fortunately, Niva turned out to have a phenomenally energy-intensive suspension, just five points! When at night you rush along an unfamiliar road (conditional road) at 80 km / h and pits arise, you are internally compressed, waiting for a breakdown, and then a ski jump, but.. nothing like that - the suspension swallows all the bumps, and you go with speed, not slowing down. The kilometer of the last run can be safely counted as three. And the equipment coped with the tiresome drive better than drivers. The latter had a neck and back ache, the Niva was somewhat lacking in lumbar support, but the head restraint rests too intrusively.
On one of the hillocks, we jumped so that it seemed to have torn our wheels off the ground, and the glove box was opened from landing. After a few kilometers, the check engine light came on. Dull thoughts spun in my head, but the cool engineer Smetanin reassured us: the light is on, so the motor is working, do not pay attention. While driving, we wondered whether the knock sensor from vibration was making a fool, or the gasoline was bad - in general, cats scratched their hearts. But the error indication really did not affect the movement.
In such conditions, the lack of power somehow does not interfere, the main thing is reliability and good suspension. After several hundred kilometers, we arrived at a yurt camp, where we spent the night like real nomads.
We drove behind the driven machine along the paved track, but, in principle, to get there is not a problem for a beginner. All directions are rolled out and clearly visible even at night. By the way, 2/3 of the road to the border runs along the extra landmark in the form of a railway. All the time of our trip the weather was sunny. The cloudless sky here lasts almost all year round, although a lot of snow can fall in winter.
Monument to Genghis Khan is visible from afar
Monument to Genghis Khan is visible from afar Monument to Genghis Khan is visible from afar Monument to Genghis Khan is visible from afar
The farther into the desert, the friendlier the people. According to our Mongol guide, during the Soviet era, Buddhism and any mention of the great conqueror Genghis Khan was banned. Today in Mongolia he is the national hero No. 1. In the middle of the desert, the local oligarch built a monument of Tsereteli scale, only it does not cause rejection, is harmoniously inscribed in the desert and does not callus. After the introduction of the concept of private property, most of the subsoil went to a narrow group of oligarchs who run the business and establish orders.
On the way to the Chinese border, we decided to visit the former Soviet military base, however, the Mongols, who were not allowed to pass, came to meet us, motivated by the fact that the territory was guarded by the Mongolian armed forces. But we still have a suspicion that this is just self-capture.
Military hangars Military hangars Former military hangars
We stopped in a military town. Like every abandoned settlement, he made a depressing impression. In the middle of the desert, a Soviet residential neighborhood: a pedestal, posters, monuments to the victorious soldiers. Locals say that when the Democrats won the election, Mongolia recklessly tried to get rid of the Soviet troops so quickly that tea was left unfinished in many kitchen apartments …
Once upon a time, life was in full swing.
Once upon a time life was boiling.. Once upon a time life was boiling.. Once upon a time life was boiling …
Day Three: Shambhala
In the morning we found out the reason why the check engine caught fire. When racing through the desert, the canister tank turned away, and the ventilation pipe broke off. Repaired in 10 minutes - with superglue and cold welding. They threw off the terminal (there is no diagnostic scanner with them) and drove on. On this day, our path lay to the northern gate of Shambhala.
Yurt Camping Yurt Camping Yurt Camping
Having driven off in the morning, it turned out that “crickets” were wound up in the cabin. The panel of the right door creaks noticeably, and indeed there are additional sources of sounds both in front and behind.
According to legend, in the middle of the desert there is a special energy center. Of course, without any esoteric after the bustle of the city, you feel unusual in such a place, but, unfortunately, I could not feel anything unusual. Although the elderly lama who met us made the most pleasant impression.
We are going further. Closer to the border with China, asphalt appears. But, despite the fresh coating, it is impossible to drive on it at high speed. Every now and then in the middle of the road there are meter-long embankments, forcing them to pull over to the side of the road - the road has not yet been surrendered. The first puncture arose. Fortunately, not on Niva - the host Pajero got a nail in the rear wheel. 15 minutes to replace, and continue on to the border with China.
At the entrance to the border with China, it becomes clear who is the most important partner of Mongolia: a lot of hieroglyphs and the complete absence of Russian words. The transition itself is much better equipped, disciplined employees and the crowds of Mongols traveling to China leave no doubt - the main commodity circulation here is with China.
For the entire run in Mongolia, we have never met UAZs, although in Soviet times this SUV was very popular here. As soon as we approached the outpost, we were stunned by the number of "goats". Several dozens of 469s are used by the local population as the most utilitarian means for delivering goods. On the Chinese side, cars are loaded to the eyeballs and driven across the border. In general, overload of any motor vehicle is the norm here. Some antediluvian trucks loaded with goods to the eyeballs and even with a hook. Unfortunately, we were strictly forbidden to take photographs at the border, therefore without illustrations. Tilt UAZ costs about $ 20 thousand on the market, not cheap, because in Mongolia, too, rather big duties on used cars. On the rest of the territory there is a variety of SUVs: Toyota Land Cruiser 70, Mitsubishi Pajero, several times there were mods on the Hummer, Gelaendеwagen, etc. Surprised by the impressive amount of Toyota Prius, spare parts for the car are cheap, and the locals are not afraid of possible problems with the hybrid. The Korean auto industry is no less diverse than the Japanese. There are also “thieves numbers”, for a few thousand dollars you can buy a catchy combination of numbers.
China China China
In general, South Korea is a good friend of Mongolia. Wealthy local people often travel to rest on the peninsula. The attitude towards China is rather negative, since those, according to the Mongols, treat them without respect and infringe the nomads of inner Mongolia, which is de facto the territory of the Middle Kingdom. Although in Mongolia itself there are also enough Chinese migrant workers.
Bribery is not uncommon, mainly among traffic police and lawmakers. The latter, thanks to the efforts of the US State Department, approved several laws lobbied by America in the Constitution of Mongolia (I quote local ones).
The salary of a Mongolian teacher with many years of experience is about $ 350. The population of Mongolia is increasing progressively. More recently, there were about 800 thousand nomads. Today there are already more than 3 million, 7-10 children in the family are not uncommon. As elsewhere in the East, it is considered happiness to give birth to a boy, although they try to give girls a better education and marry a foreigner, because men remain to help their parents: graze livestock and farm. Old people complain about modern youth - it does not want to lead a nomadic lifestyle and changes its familiar values to the material world. And the traditions of the Mongols are worthy. Any interference in the life of nature is considered a sin. Digging the earth is a sin, washing clothes in the river is also a sin, you cannot cut a forest, it is strictly forbidden to kill young animals, for example, lambs. The traditions of Mongolia are an excellent example of respect for nature and the environment.
China China China