We left the border town of Erenhot in China yesterday morning and after the usual border wait we entered Mongolia. We certainly remembered the border towns from our last visit but China especially has changed so much in the past six years. Huge growth, many new high rise apartments and now very few bicycles except in rural areas. Everybody has a cell phone and are mad about taking photos of the car. In fact they are terrible drivers and pull up close to take a photo and then drive slowly in front for more views. The funniest moment was when an ambulance came from behind with sirens blaring and lights flashing, it then pulled in front of us and slowed down! We thought perhaps the patient was not doing too well but after a kilometre we decided to overtake whereupon the paramedics all lent out of the windows to take photographs and then carried on their way at a fast speed!! I was glad I was not the patient. Later in the day we reached the Gobi!
After a sleepless night and breakfasting at 5am. we drove the 60kms. to the Great Wall at Badaling for the start of the rally. Chinese drummers and dragon dancers welcomed us and there was certainly an air of excitement and some trepidation as we line up in position. Being #8 we were flagged off at 8.04 and we were on our way. It has been sometime since I have done any navigating and was worried I had forgotten especially with a new GPS but all went well. It was a good day apart from the huge numbers of trucks on the roads belching out black smoke as they struggled up the hills with us trying to over take when we could. We had a nice clean lunch stop and then drove on to the hanging monasteries at Datong. Quite spectacular to see and well worth the climb to the top. Unfortunately I had only my point and shoot camera with me which decided to die when reached the top! The funny thing is that this is the camera we bought six years ago in Ulaan Batar because our previous one gave up the ghost in Datong!! Tomorrow we head for Erenhot and the next day we shall be in Mongolia. Ruby ran brilliantly today and so far no punctures!
We arrived in Beijing yesterday and today we were taken to the warehouse to collect Ruby! Luckily she started straight away and we then had to drive forty Kms. Back to our hotel, not an easy task in Beijing traffic. However we managed well without getting lost which was another milestone achieved. Tomorrow we have the scrutineering and final check. It is hot and humid here, 35C
Last week we drove Ruby to Vancouver for her long awaited voyage to China.We shall next see her in the warehouse in Beijing assuming all goes well. Now that we no longer have the car to keep us occupied our minds must now turn to applying for the visas. This time we only need three, China, Russia and Belarus. However all three countries require letters of invitation and the Russian form is long! They need to know where you have travelled in the last ten years and date of entry. The ancient brains here have been working overtime. We shall keep our fingers crossed that they will be processed within the next three weeks.
Last weekend we took Ruby on one last trip to Tofino.We had an excellent run to Long Beach Lodge although I got some strange looks from people as I removed my make up and hairbrush from the locked toolbox ! On the way back we decided to take the logging roads to Lake Cowichan. They were in very poor shape,huge potholes and ruts, a very good test for the car for Mongolia. The car handled it well with only one minor adjustment having to be made to the temperature sensor. However it made me realise just how uncomfortable the seats can be when tackling large and deep potholes!
Camping has never been a popular pastime with the Reddington family. Consequently every time we go it is a major feat! Why is it that when you practice putting up a tent at home all goes well but come the Gobi Desert tent poles have a law unto themselves! After the last rally I vowed never to camp again but here we are putting up the tent again and hoping that this time all will go well.
Now comes the difficult task of choosing what and what not to take on the trip. Last time we had a much larger car and so consequently we took far too much with us. I think we could have run our own mechanical truck! Weight is crucial on these rallies so less is more is the rule. My task is to record where everything is in the car so I put every tool and spare part into a notebook and have a code as to where they all are. The trouble I found last time around was that we didn’t put everything back in the same spot. Often if you were in a hurry on the road going to a time trial we would throw it all in the car and take off. This time I hope it will be better organised.I also find it useful to know the name of every part and tool! Nothing worse than being stranded in some remote part of the world and not knowing what ‘snips’ are! It can cause unnecessary friction between the driver and navigator believe me!!