So, we have spend some long and exciting days. After we visited the mayor the day before yesterday, we drove on to Ulaanbaatar, here we were able to take a look at this project of Habitat for Humanity. They were building twelve houses together with the help of three family members (if they were there) and with this project is meant to be that the houses are build within 24 days. Especially with the winter coming any day now, the people want to make use of these houses a.s.a.p., so often even the neighbours are lending a helping hand. I think this is a real cause!Blog ImageBlog Image

At 20:00 hours we were invited to have dinner in the largest Ger Tent of Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar. A hustling an bustling city with inhabited by 60% percent of inhabitants of all Mongolia. There are lot’s of cars and people off course, a big contrast between rich and poor. We had a lovely meal which was very welcome after spending 4 days surviving on only bread and water!!!Blog Image

Yesterday we left for the Gobi dessert, almost all cars are repaired and brought back to life in some sort of driving condition. So the plan is that today all cars will be united together again. Pieter and I left together with Jaap van den Ende and Robert Jan of Aktueel Sport Magazine, it will be a trip of 340 kilometres. That’s not that far one would think, but that’s far from the truth. We left at 01:30 am and arrived at 09:30 am at the last Ger Camp close to the Chinese border. We actually just drove all the way in one go so that we in principle could spend a day of good rest. The others will arrive tonight. But…………….Blog Image

When we left Ulaanbaatar a little black puppy crossed the busy street, it could not have been more then 3 or 4 weeks old! She stood still in front of our car very much in panick and lost looking. Pieter and I jumped both out of the car at the exact same moment, other cars beeping their horns loudly at us. I picked up the little pup and held her close against me, she shivered and cried but after a half hour she was calming down and already gnawing at my fingers. We stopped several times and tried to give her away to other people, but no one wanted to take her. So that’s how she travelled with us all the way to the Chinese border. We were already making plans to take her (Robert Jan called her Omsk) to the Nethelands with us. I knew that would finally cause problems for me at home but Robert Jan wanted it so very much. So we stopped a few times on our way to let Omsk take a pee and give her some milk. The funny thing abvout this story is that I kept trying to leave the dog with other people (after Robert Jan insisted on it) and that Pieter kept saying, no don’t do it, they’ll turn her into dog stew, we will arrange something for her in back in Holland, call Marjo and have her look into what documents and vaccinations it needs to bring her home with us. (It was way to early to call Hanny vd Horst out of her bed, and it gave me a peaceful feeling knowing there is someone back home who adopts little dogs like these). So said, so done!Blog Image

Suddenly while we were driving through the dessert Jaap announced over the CB that Pieter should stop as he thought that our car was smoking way to much. No way, said Peter, that’s nothing your car smokes too when you’ve just accelerated. The suddenly our whole drivers cabin filled up with smoke. Pieter stopped the car immediately along side of the road and tells me to leave everything in the car and get out straight away. Luckily it was nothing serious, it was the cooling fluid (the lid had come loose). Another good ending!Blog Image

So we are on the way in the Gobi dessert, just left 200 kilometres of asphalt behind us and then the real dessert begins….. During the trip we pass several check points, here the tyres are spread with a disinfectant and then we may get back on our journey. The landscape we are driving through now is inhabited by Guiney Pigs or also know as ground hogs. You’re not allowed to stop here or more importantly leave your car. These animals carry a parasite which is deadly for human beings. Then we got to a second check point were we were halted by people in a disinfectant clothing and they ordered us to take a different route. I had imagined a whole different picture of the Gobi dessert, but when you travel through the middle of the dessert it is a true paradise. We only raced over sand dunes after sand dunes and all kinds of obstacles, muddy roads and rocky hills. Then the darkness sets in and due to all the rocking and shocking our computer gives up completely, we have no GPS no more and there are so many roads to make a choice to take off???? Us was told that if anything should happen stay and follow the Trans Siberia, but this track also wrings itself in many curbs so you get very disorientated!! It is pitch dark outside, we drove through ghost towns, balls of bushes, like you see in western movies fly across the road infront of our car. The atmosphere carries a weird feeling. We were looking for other challengers because they would pitch camp somewhere in the dessert. But there was no phone network available to make calls, so we dicided to keep going for another 200 kilometers and spend a night in a hotel instead of camping out, which would not be ideal with the strong wind that was blowing. The weather has also turned for the worse. Yesterday we walked around in T-shirts and today we need to wear a winter coat. BrrrrrrrrBlog ImageBlog Image

So whilst on our way we see a light burning somewhere far away, so we drove towards it when suddenly a soldier jumps in front of our car. He came towards the car and Pieter told him that we were looking for the Chinese border but he could not understand us and signed to us that we had to stay there. We smiled and told eachother that he probably was going to get his car and would escort us to the border. And we joked towards Jaap that the soldier had gone to get more colleagues to arrest us. He returns with another young collegue soldier and signs to us aggressively that Pieter must turn of the engine and has to get out of the car. So Pieter said, no we are leaving now and starts to drive away and suddenly the soldier signs to his collegue that he should aim his gun at us and get ready to fire at us. So he comes running towards Pieter and he nervously loads his gun with trembling hands and aims at Pieter. I just didn’t know what was going through my mind at that moment. It seemed like we stepped into a movie scène!

Pieter understood straight away the seriousness of the situation and signs “no no” and turns of his engine and gets out of the car. Minutes pass by and a third colleague soldier and they keep looking into the car and start laughing. Then comes (who we think) is their leader, angry because he had to get out of his bed (it was already 03:00 in the morning), looked very angry inside our car where I sat keeping myself busy with Omsk. The soldiers stood in front of the car now aiming their machine guns at it. All kinds of scenario’s crossed my mind. I found my mobile and started to dial all kinds off numbers before I saw “No Network” on the mobile screen. Well, what can you do then? The panic button! A half hour had passed and our passports had been confiscated and three armed soldiers were still keeping us captive. One of them kept spitting on the ground, I had this strange kind of feeling that these people did not even know or had any experience before with situations like this, so my conclusion was that they would react straight away if we would make a strange movement. Pieter kept talking to them even though they could not understand a word. He told them about the Peking Challenge and that tomorrow probably another 13 cars would join us. He showed them Omsk and told them how we found her until he finally walked towards the car and told me to turn the key and make contact with the battery and then press the panic button.

Shit, I said. I have already tried that 4 times but without result if you don’t turn the contact. So I try it again. Now we wait. Suddenly their leader returned with our pasports and gave them to Pieter and tol dus to drive back 35 kilometers where we came from and then keep going to where we wanted to go. For what we could understand out of the rest of his story is that we were already in China and had entered illegally. So who knows who they thought we were, making an illegal pass across the border in the middle of nowhere. Luckily it all ended well, but what would have happened if Pieter did drive away before and we would see angry Chinese soldiers follow us with aiming guns in our rear view mirror. Blog ImageBlog Image

Even though we drove back the way we came for 35 kilometers we still did not have any clue where we were and which way we should go. We did find the tracks of the Trans Siberia again but we did not know which way would go towards the border or go back towards Ulaanbaatar. Finally the twilight set in and the sun would be up soon. We saw some people who live in the dessert and asked them for directions. Thus we were the first to arrive at the border town and we look up the Ger Camp. Here we find the old timer that drove the Paris to Beijing challenge 100 years ago. It has not been two months ago back in the Netherlands, when our Peking Challenge organisation had an introduction day of the teams and this historic car was there as well and now it is here at the Chinese border. Now it was making another attempt to make the same trip from Paris to Beijing again. After a lovely and sociable breakfast we finally find our way to bed. We gave left Omsk with the manager of this camp as according to Italia (the team driving the old timer) it was almost impossible to get her into China and God knows what could happen to her then. Blog Image

Many greetings and maybe until tomorrow.

Love, Pieter & Gaby