Posts Tagged ‘mechanical problems’

Our time in Ulaanbaatar

10th September 2010 by Helen
collecting water in the townships in Ulaanbaatar

collecting water in the townships in Ulaanbaatar

Well, as I said we’ve got a few days staying at the Oasis, so there’ll be no moving on the map.  Whilst Britain is having a Bank Holiday Monday (30th) at the end of August, there’s no such thing here in Mongolia.  For us it was a quiet day waiting for the UK to return to work so we can find out when our Landy parts were/will be dispatched.  In the meantime Paul got on with giving Landy a good shower – he still needs his internals cleaning out over the next few days though (Paul wants me to ensure you understand this is Landy, not him!!).

Quite a few Overlanders seem to stop here.  We’ve seen some guys on bikes and quads who have been, like us, passing through Mongolia.  Lee and Helen, with their daughter Beverley, are staying a bit longer while Lee finishes off some work on his Landy (sounds familiar) before they resume their journey to Australia.

We got some brilliant news last night.  We’ve had confirmation that our first article in LRM magazine has gone to press and will be included in the October magazine (out in September).  This covers the latter stages of preparation before we left the UK.

Paul has commented that I’ve not mentioned toilets in a while, so just in case anyone is suffering from withdrawal symptoms, I thought I’d better mention something.  The Oasis guest house is all mod cons, hot showers, running water and sit-on toilets.  Which is funny, cos only a few weeks ago I commented that I thought one of life’s luxuries would always be a sit-on toilet.  Now I think of it as just another option and am quite happy out in the wooden hut here (but only because it’s well maintained and clean, so maybe I’ve still got some adjustments to make).

We’ve opted to sleep in one of the gers here.  It’s a bit easier as it’s nearer where Landy’s parked and we don’t have to keep traipsing in and out of the main building with dirty shoes and the Gobi dust attached to all our belongings.  The gers don’t have all the traditional furniture, just the beds, central stove, a couple of stools and a hand wash basin.  We’ve found out how quickly they can get cold but also how quickly it gets very hot inside once the stove is lit.  The walls are made of surprisingly thin felt and the sun shines through in the morning, but, without any windows, they are quite gloomy inside and the single light bulb hanging in the middle struggles to cut through the gloom.

Tuesday 31st August Lee introduced us to one of the sights of Ulaanbaatar today, the Black Market.   It was quite quiet today for some reason, not all the stalls were open, but we understand it can get a bit rough and is a magnet for pickpockets, so we were very careful.  Got a few bits we needed, but with just a Landy to live in we can’t buy for the sake of it and it makes for good shopping discipline.  It’s a really huge market and very easy to find your way around.  All stalls selling similar goods are close to each other.  Much of the stuff is straight from China, including the “Levi’s oricinals”!!  However there are also some more traditional items, such as the wooden saddles and other tack, and you can even buy all the parts to set up your own ger.  Traditional boots and hats for keeping warm in the Mongolian winter, which can see temperatures plummet to minus 30 or lower, are as likely to be lined with dog fur as anything else.

Paul’s finally had the chance to get the fuel tank off today and get a good look at the damage.  Much of the tank is protected by the integral tank guard, which has been heavily scratched by the rock we had to drive over to get through the gorge last week.  However it then becomes one of those sod’s law things because we can now more clearly see where the rock then slipped off the more protected part of the tank on to the thinnest most vulnerable section just two inches wide, and it’s here the crack in the tank has occurred.  We will find out over the next couple of days whether or not it’s repair or replace.  We hope the former as the latter will be nastily expensive.

 

Landy Bear sits outside Immigration office waiting for us

Landy Bear sits outside Immigration office waiting for us

Wednesday 1st September

– we spent much of the day sorting out our visa extension down at the immigration office.  The offices are at the airport right on the outskirts of the city.  With Landy’s fuel tank already removed there was no driving there so we got a taxi, however there were no taxi’s outside when it was time to return so we started walking in the hope of finding some kind of bus stop.  A man in a private car pulled up and we agreed a price for him to take us back into town.  Like Kazakhstan it is quite common for privately owned vehicles to turn into private taxis if the driver feels like it.  Pedestrians simply walk or stand with their arm out indicating they want transport.  It can be dodgy and the guidebook advice is to trust your instincts.  This was an older guy (who spoke Russian rather than English as his second language).  In the traditional manner of the rural or older Mongolian he offered us pieces of cheese, Paul declined but I was delighted.  I think he must have been surprised to find a Westerner pleased to be offered Mongolian cheese and he gave me the rest of his packet. I now have a new supply of cheese – unfortunately the other cheese I had didn’t survive the heat in a plastic storage box and of course I’d given away my bite sized pieces to the hungry man in a broken down truck a few days ago.

A whole new bunch of overlanders have arrived at the Oasis tonight and in between Skype calls and updating blogs we have been comparing experiences and stories, vehicles and equipment, and places visited.

Thursday 2nd September – Paul and Lee went off this morning to find a welder to fix our fuel tank.  Done straight away and for the equivalent of a fiver.  Couldn’t get that quick a service in England!!  Still waiting for our spare parts to arrive from England.  Been held up by bad weather in China!!

Friday 3rd September – Cooked our first meal on the stove in the ger today.  The fire was only lit for long enough to cook but the temperature in the ger felt like a furnace.  The stove sits plumb in the middle of the ger, dominating the space and with the chimney rising straight up through the centre of the roof.  A health & safety nightmare if ever there was one.  If this were tested by English standards we’d be concerned about the risk to the children of families living in gers getting burnt if they fall against the stove.  Social Services would be round there tut tutting away.

 

the crack in the fuel tank

the crack in the fuel tank

Saturday 4th September

Paul has continued working on Landy, getting ready for our parts to arrive (which are now held up because it’s the weekend).  I found the local supermarket today, which means we can cook for ourselves more often (although probably on our petrol stove in the ger rather than the ger fire) and save a few pennies on the cost of meals in the café.  As for me, I found Suduko makes the same sense in any language and got on with writing our next LRM article.

 

a problem with the nut

a problem with the nut

Sunday 5th September

– Today is our first wedding anniversary.  After the wedding we used some of the sand to make pendants and brought the rest of it with us to scatter wherever we happen to be today.  Bit disappointed to find that our scattering is scheduled to be in the east end of a sprawling city.  Somehow it doesn’t seem right here and we’ve decided to delay the scattering until we get back out into the countryside.  We nearly forgot completely, it was only in reminiscing with other travellers a couple of days ago, about how our bag of sand attracted the interest of the drug enforcement officers at the Ukraine border that we suddenly remembered it was our anniversary!!  At least we’re both as bad as each other on that count.

bonnet off for repairs

bonnet off for repairs

Anyway we made up for it this evening by going out for a meal at the Irish Pub in the city centre.  It’s quite bizarre to sit on traditional green leather and wooden upholstered seats, with Western music playing in the background.  The clientele was an eclectic mix of locals dressed in very Western styles, alongside several other nationalities.  The menu was definitely the kind of stuff we’d expect to see in any restaurant back home.  Paul opted for a genuine steak and chips, while I couldn’t believe I could hear myself ordering ginger chicken and rice.  As if we’re not getting enough of rice in this part of the world!!

As if to remind of us why we are here, while we were waiting outside for a taxi, we witnessed a couple of the street children begging for money or food, trying to sell a few bars of chocolate.  The older boy was almost certainly a teenager while the younger child was probably around seven although he looked no more than three or four years old.

 

jacked up for repairs

jacked up for repairs

Monday 6th September –

we’ve been here so long now waiting for our parts several other overlanders have come and gone.  Our supplier (Foundry 4×4) sent them as soon as they had notification of the delivery address, but once on their way, like us, they have no control of the thunderstorms in China and the customs office here in Mongolia.   According to the tracking record our parcel departed Korea on Friday.  Here in Mongolia Paul has been given conflicting messages: one to say that the parcel hasn’t arrived, the other to say it’s with customs.  Who knows?  Some things don’t change the world over: when you phone they say they will phone back but don’t.

Eventually we went into town to look around and see if we could get any of the bits we wanted.  Saw some more of the street children begging on the streets, or trying to sell a few things.  Also noticed how some of the pavement covers have been screwed down so the children can’t use them to get underground.

We have a contact for when we are in Canada and another couple we may well meet up with again around Valdivostok.  They have left today for the Gobi desert before coming back this way to get into Russia.  Unlike us though they have no plans to head up to Magadan and will instead be skirting straight round the border with China and down to Vladivostok.

outskirts of Ulaanbaatar

outskirts of Ulaanbaatar

Since leaving Europe we have mostly only been able to buy eggs loose.  I was daft enough to throw away an egg box back in Kazakhstan and it’s taken until now to be able to buy eggs in a box again.  Takes me back to the old days of the 1960’s when only the posh supermarkets sold eggs in boxes and you always kept your egg boxes for when you bought your eggs more cheaply at the butchers or market.  Well, Mongolia is a bit like England in the 1960’s and here in Ulaanbaatar are some of the posher supermarkets that sell eggs in boxes and I’ve now secured one of these precious items.  It’s not the whole answer to the overlanding egg storage solution though: even an egg box is too delicate to be left bouncing around in a storage box with a load of tins.  So now it’s on to the next stage: making the egg box bag (to Paul’s groaning as it’s another bag, but this is practical I argue).  Anyway, my little sewing kit came out and I set to work with the lower part of a leg of a pair of zip off trousers that I picked up recently for this purpose.  No idea where the other leg and body part are but presumably they are now masquerading as shorts somewhere.  Anyway, the leg I have is a perfect fit for my purpose.  Sewed up the bottom leg opening and then folded the corners in to make a box shaped bottom the exact size of my newly acquired egg box.  Didn’t bother to cut the top down to size as that would mean having to edge the top seam and that would be more sewing so I just folded the top over to make a cuff, cut up a spare shoelace to make the handles.  Now it’s ready to hang on the bungee strap strung across the space in the rear of the cab area.  Short handles, won’t bounce around too much, keeps the eggs away from being crushed by something else, and room enough on top to add in a couple of tomatoes so they don’t get crushed either, and ready for turning into an overlanding version of a Full English whenever we want.  It joins the little bag holding the easy access rubbish bags, and other delicate bits and bobs we want to be able to get hold of easily while we are driving (like crisps or biscuits – not chocolate, that has to be eaten as soon as it’s bought and before it melts – shame!!).

Tuesday 7th September – Finally we got our new parts today.  It took Paul all day running around in taxis from UPS offices to customs office to get them.  Because they are to be fitted to the vehicle and will not be remaining in the country they are meant to be duty free, but he still had to pay over £50 in customs fees just to get his hands on his parcel.  Could’ve been worse I suppose.

Wednesday 8th September – With our newly arrived parts, Paul has been up to his shoulders in grease and gunk fitting new parts

us with some of the children from the Christina Noble ger village and some of the Mongol Ralliers who have been raising funds this year

us with some of the children from the Christina Noble ger village and some of the Mongol Ralliers who have been raising funds this year

 etc.

Thursday 9th September – After finishing off the mechanical stuff on Landy we were off to the Blue Skies Ger Village, the Christina Noble project on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar.  We had loads of questions about the work here and how the children are supported, as well as how the children who are still living on the streets are also supported.  Could feel my social work head on as the questions were tumbling out!!  Finally, a night in the tent back at the Oasis.

some of the children from the Christina Noble Foundation ger village try out Landy for size

some of the children from the Christina Noble Foundation ger village try out Landy for size

Could it be terminal?

5th July 2010 by Helen

Saturday 3rd July

After the punishing 140 km round trip over corrugated roads between Aralsk and Zhalangash (and the ship cemetery), the clanking sound Landy has been making has worsened.  We are now really concerned about the next stage of our trip.  A stop on one of the many roadside ramps (for checking under cars) did not reveal anything.  Paul hanging on the side of Landy while Helen drove did not reveal anything either.  Finally, after a lengthy roadside stop checking virtually every nut and bolt Paul discovered the front shock absorbers had shed their dust sleeves and the top mountings were moving up and down a couple of inches.  Further investigation revealed the workmanship at Land Rover in Stavropol had been less than competent.  Some components had been fitted upside down and some not fitted at all!!DSC_0309

We were still very much a long way from any village or town and with a full day’s mechanical work ahead of him we needed somewhere to park where we had easy access to supplies.  We drove carefully and very slowly for another 50km until we reached a cafe where we could park for the night and Paul could correct the work on the shock absorbers the next day.

While Paul was diagnosing the cause of Landy’s alarming rattle Helen did some housework and removed the bodies of dozens of grasshoppers from the lights and radiator grill.  We had driven through swarms of them earlier in the day.

Realising that after our long day at Aralsk we were running low on drinking water and siezed the opportunity to stop when we saw a sign for a tap.  We were disappointed to find the water both brackish and oily, a result of it seeping up through oil laden strata.  However, this water is all that is available to the local families of the village, and which these children were collecting in containers to take home.  Look closely at the sand beneath their feet and the black crude oil deposit is clearly visible.

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