Tuesday, August 23, 2011


We left Bayanhongor after tackling SIM cards and money exchanges with the vague notion that if we could we’d head all the way to Ulaanbaatar and find a hotel there. Rumor had it that the road from Arvaykheer to UB was paved, so it seemed entirely feasible. Leaving town found us on brand new asphalt for about five kilometers. Our fear was that this was an early start to paved road, but in short order we were back tackling the track. It was something of a relief that we weren’t really done with our Mongolian adventure so soon. Mongolia’s astonishing rate of growth leads us to believe that the entire highway will be paved within the next three or four years. When that time comes the Rally simply won’t be as much fun. 

Our road divided and then divided again into a dizzying array of paths, all going around a huge marsh with herds of yaks. Continuing due east we found our route becoming narrower and narrower and less obviously used by trucks. But we knew we were heading in the right direction. We pressed on, stopping by a ger for directions and climbing a couple of steep hills before finally overlooking the wide Ongi valley and tarmac. It was the spiritual end of the adventure: we had found a shortcut by dead reckoning and driven on a track that was technically challenging for any 4x4 and conquered it with our tiny 2x4. We had used all of our new-found knowledge in one swell foop and success was now all but assured. We were elated. 

Knowing we’d soon be saying goodbye to Swifty was poignant, but just when we thought it was all over, Mongolia found a new way of making roads crappy. This time they introduced randomness. Like water torture the roads would be terrific for miles at a time, then a yawning crater would open up and attempt to swallow Swifty whole. With great patience and perseverance Tom took it upon himself to drive us in to Ulaanbaatar and we arrived shortly after midnight on Tuesday, August 23. Several days of sightseeing and shopping ensued and last Friday we finally turned Swifty over to the Adventurists for sale at auction. She garnered a handsome figure of three million tögrög, some $700 more than we’d paid for her (less tires and accessories). Swifty will lead her new life in Mongolia and we feel completely confident she can handle any adventure that is thrown her way. 

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