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Khovd to Altai: Careering across the Gobi

August 22nd, 2008 · No Comments

August 22 and TDT faces a major challenge, driving 260 miles across some of the worst roads in Mongolia from Khovd to Altai.  We depart at 0930 with Max at the wheel. Rocks were bouncing off the undercarriage, the sump guard, an aluminum shield to protect our oil sump, gearbox and engine, is scraping the hardened dirt and rocks. There is no way to avoid them. At 1130 we stopped to photograph a herd of Bactrian camels which never cease to amaze us.

Unfortunately our sump guard does not extend to our fuel tank. When we stopped for the camels, Ed noticed a tiny leak which Max tries to plug it with gum and on we go only to stop again 30 miles later. This time Ed applies another wad of gum and takes over the driving. We have a long, long way to go. The inside of the taxi is now covered with clouds of Gobi dust which coats our hair, faces, hands and all the equipment. At 1230 we stop to check again. The tank is still leaking so Ed tries some "Quick Steel," that magical sealant that fixed our earlier radiator leak. While it dries, we heat up some water and dine on semi-edible bowels of dried noddles mixed with hot water with the gas stove given to us by another Mongol Rally team.

30 minutes later,  the Quick Steel had hardened and the leak stopped. Max says, "keep your fingers crossed.!" The Quick Seal costs 8 pounds or $16. a stick. We had 1 stick and Max says, "we should have bought stacks of it." We drive on at 40mph which seems from the back seat like 70. At 1305 the odometer and speedometer fail. Then, miles later,  we smell  fumes from the exhaust so we stop to check.. The left front fender has slipped backwards cutting a hole in the exhaust.

We open the roof window to breath and more dust pours in. Max says, "the car has taken a terrific pounding." But there is little we can do if we want to make Atai before dark. We can’t camp out because we’ve got problems. At 1830, our engine suddenly stops. Max checks and one of the  battery cables has separated, the two wires now exposed. He uses two plastic ties and gaffer tape to put them back together and we drive on. arriving in Khovd at 2030 (8:30pm). We spot a Mongol Rally mechanic sign and think our problems are over. We spend the night in a filthy hotel with no water and a thumping Mongolian night club next door, that seemed to be adorned with swastikas. A tad surreal.

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