The tow truck arrived and it was a proper one that winched our car onto the back. We left the side of the road and drove the 15 miles into the city centre. It took close to two hours due to traffic. Not having seen more than 10 cars in any one place in Mongolia, it was a shock to see the size of the traffic jam we were now in. read more »
The truck we were in had two people – the driver and his friend. We asked them if they had a Kalashnikov, and they told us no. A good sign. The cab had two seats in the front and two mattresses, one above the other, in the back. The upper mattress was full of junk whilst they were driving and only used for sleeping. I sat in the front, and Amir and the driver’s friend were squashed in the lower mattress in the back.
In the morning we asked the truck driver transporting MDS if he could take us to the next town. He said he could take us only to Ulaan Baatar as he wouldn’t be able to drop us off before then. The reason for this was the way the cars were loaded up. The truck was a kind of flatbed truck with sides that had been clipped on, but it didn’t have a ramp that would lower for goods to be put in the back. The way our car was put on was by having the truck back up to a mound of sand, and our car then being pushed up the mound, but from the other side, and then rolled in. It would need to be rolled off the same way, and that meant doing it outside of the town – not into a mechanics yard. read more »
It was quite late in the day when we left them, and our progress was slow. We’d also started losing power intermittently. Matt had told us that the oil leak he fixed may have been from the gearbox, and not from the engine oil. This meant our gearbox was failing, and we needed to get to Bayankhongor quickly so we could have it looked at. At our current speed we’d not make it, and we didn’t know how long our gearbox would last. read more »
The following morning we looked under the car and there was no oil. However, the car didn’t have any power when we tried to drive forwards. The guys had a look, but couldn’t see anything wrong. We tried driving forwards again, and this time it did move. read more »
The roads became horrible. Rocks the size of footballs littered the tracks, and the tracks themselves became hilly, potholed lanes of rubbishness. The roads became dangerous for everyone. After one particular bad stretch we started losing power. We stopped and MDS came back to take a look. Matt got out of the car and put his hands on his head and said “Oh No!”
I got out of the car to see what he was so upset about. We had an oil leak – it was almost flowing out under our car. Matt very quickly got a large 4ltr water bottle, cut it in half and placed it under our leak to catch the oil. read more »
The morning found the car to have no ground clearance again but luckily we’d actually joined a brand new road the night before and we made excellent progress in the morning. The Chinese had actually laid this road across a large part of Mongolia to quickly get the ores and minerals they require for their booming industries. It carries on all the way to China, but we were not going that way. After a hundred miles or so we were forced off it and soon back onto the dirt tracks that travelled to Ulaan Baatar.
The mechanic wanted $1200. This was extortionate. We were expecting something around $200. Also, without the expertise of MDS the car wouldn’t have been fixed. We pointed this out. He then wanted $800.
We argued and haggled, and eventually he dropped his price to $500. We paid (unhappily) and left Altai. It was late in the day so a few miles out of the town we camped for the night.
We still had very little ground clearance and on the Mongolian roads we would eventually break our car. MDS had an idea to fix this though. They would pump air into the suspension bags then clamp them shut. This would give us a fixed height, but since we had no height, we asked them to try.
It took a while but eventually they managed to give us the same ground clearance of a normal 4x4 jeep! We were ready to leave!