Ok, ok! I’m sorry I’ve been incommunicado lately, but towns out here in the Gobi are few and far between. Larger towns with internet connections are ever fewer and farther. Also, don’t be too disappointed. I spent a little while resizing some photos for this post but this computer doesn’t have any USB ports that work. I’ll make up for it in the next town which should be tomorrow.
Anyways… I think we were in Kovd last time I posted (before Donna’s birthday). We got up and packed and we were met by one of Shombodon’s old friends. He had brought along the local museum director and he guided us out to some spectacular petroglyphs and stone men. Imagine, if you will, a very nice photo of a petroglyph of an animal with antlers and a man with a bow and arrow and another of a small stone statue in the shape of a man. The stone men and the petroglyphs date from the bronze age and are in great condition. The stone men are grave markers of heroes killed in battle. These are way, way, way off the beaten path so they are unmolested as well. I’m lucky in that very few foreigners and probably no tourists get to see these.
We head south after our good-byes (sans vodka). The terrain turns even more arid and sandy. We stop in a dusty, windswept town for lunch. Imagine a nice photo of a sun bleached town with dirt streets and a row of low slung buildings with lots and lots of small motorcycles in front of them. The only restaurant in town, lucky for us, is open for business. The only restaurant in town has only one thing on their menu, the house specialty, mutton with noodles. After eating our fill we all pile back into the truck and head farther south. A little ways out of town we come to a turn-off and take off up a road that leads us to a nice desert mountain pass. The air is cool and dry and I notice that this is a really nice road. I ask Shombodon about it and he says that it’s a mining road that the Chinese built and maintain. There is a coal mine up here and the Chinese are the only customers. We see a few marmots and some other little critters and lots of beautiful hawks out looking for a late lunch. It’s a perfect scene and I’d love to take photos if not for the fact that the mid-day sun makes it impossible to get a good shot. I am enjoying the vista none-the-less when all of a sudden, POW, no, make that a BAM! It sounds like a small explosion and everybody flinches. I take a quick scan of our situation. Engthbier still has control of the Isuzu so we didn’t have a blow-out. Nothing is smoking so we aren’t on fire. Engthbier puts the truck in neutral and pulls to the side of the road and turns it off as soon as we get stopped. I fully expect to get out of the truck and see fluid gushing from under the engine compartment. Nothing. Hmmmm. That’s odd. Engthbier opens the hood and we can hear the water in the overflow container boiling. There is a hissing sound coming from the cap of the radiator but nothing more than that. Engthbier gets back in the Isuzu, puts it in neutral and does a backwards u-turn to get the truck facing into the wind. A few minutes later I notice Engthbier getting ready to take the radiator cap off. I guess waving ones hands frantically and saying no, no, no, no, no is pretty much universal in any language that means that might not be a good idea. Imagine a photo of Engthbier looking under the hood of our white Isuzu Bighorn with a clear blue sky and jagged mountains in the background. We wait for a little while and start the truck up again. Everything is running fine so off we go. We reach the summit in no time and it’s all downhill from there. No problems. Never have figured out what the big bang was.
After we reach the bottom of the pass we head even farther south and end up looking for a nice place to camp. We don’t have to worry too much about finding a hidden camp site since the chances of anybody passing this way during the night are between slim and ain’t-never-gonna-happen. We spend the night in the middle of the Gobi Desert and it’s about as quiet and serene as any place I’ve ever been. I get up in the morning, take a short hike away from camp and catch some nice sunrise photos. Imagine an image of a picturesque mountain range lit by a lovely, early morning golden light. Imagine, too, another photo that shows the desert floor with my very long shadow in the early morning sun titled Gobi Self Portrait. Everybody is up and getting breakfast ready by the time I get back. We pack up the truck and everybody holds their breath when Engthbier goes to start the engine. To everybody’s great relief it starts without a hitch. We all climb in and head off even farther into the desert. Enough adventure for one day. Today will be the second day of this trip that we’ll pass without seeing another soul. Will post more tomorrow and I promise there WILL be actual photos.