Finally getting around to finishing the report of our trip north. We've gotten rather busy with some new and significant projects we have taken on. We'll tell you more of those later.
Amy asked about the length of our trip and where the towns we visited were located. Thought those were good questions and decided to include this little map so you could get an idea of where we were.
From Ulaanbaatar to Darkhan is about 223 k almost straight north - about 150 miles for you non-metric speakers. Then, from Darkhan to Sukhbaatar is about another 98 k (65 miles). Refer to the previous entries for a schedule of when we traveled to which city. In case your wondering, yes, we were only a couple of miles south of the Russian border at this point. And even if we would have had time to go see it (which we didn't), we would have likely had second thoughts about it. The last senior couple to go visit the Russian border (about a year ago) made the mistake of taking a picture and were arrested and thrown in jail!
You may also notice on the map that they have not included the silent 'k' in the spelling of those towns.
Once we returned to Darkhan, it was then 180 k (120 miles) west to Erdenet.
The challenges of driving 'out in the countryside' were . . . interesting. Often and sometimes unexpectedly we would come around a corner or over a hill to find livestock alongside or on the road.
Sometimes, the road just sort of disappeared. It wasn't too bad when you could see far enough ahead to see there was a problem or when one of these cute little signs seemed to warn you of impending doom (These gave us a real chuckle! But it took us a while to connect the sign to the idea of 'missing road ahead'). But other times we had no warning of any kind and it was 'hang on to your hat' and grit your teeth! On several occasions, the road turned into a cavernous hole big enough to swallow a small car.
This picture shows several sections of missing road in the distance. They are worse than they look in the picture (trust me!), but are still some of the 'milder' missing sections we came across. We were glad we were in an SUV!
Have we mentioned that we now consider it a privilege to pay high gasoline taxes in the states?!
Other sections of road gave us a headache as we sort of 'vibrated' our way across them, particularly an old 15 kilometer section of Russian concrete which looked like it hadn't seen any maintenance or repair since it was created some 40 years ago! But despite this rather gloomy portrayal we have provided, most of the road as actually fairly good and we always seemed to arrive safely and on time.
Along the way we would come across a variety of religious shrines and markers. Unfortunately, we didn't really have time to stop and take a closer look. It was drive here and teach there as fast as we could make it happen.
Next time we will plan a bit differently and make it a somewhat more leisurely trip.