Monday, November 30, 2015

Life in the freezer- day 26 & 27

The problem was the diesel fuel, which was the summertime mix and began to freeze into a gel in the engine. We went ahead to a small soum to try to get a heated garage, while the Toyota that was still going towed the other slowly into the soum. Heated garages are hard to come by, so the pump was taken out and heated in an oven in this roadside café and small shop.
We all had a nice Mongolian goulash dinner here before heading off towards UB. This back section was warmer than the front area, perhaps because it was near the kitchen action.
Eventually got a photo of this very active little boy, son of the family running the eatery. Loved his Mongolian hat and his expressive face. I spent some time showing him photos and videos on the i-pad.  He kept running outside without a coat- it was about -27 degrees C but it didn't seem to bother him.
We headed off towards Lun, the next soum but then both diesel Toyotas broke down due to the fuel issue. Luckily petrol vehicles are not affected by severe cold. We passed many vehicles stopped with the same problem. Our vehicle then slowly towed each vehicle, individually into Lun. We drank coffee and waited in this very cold roadside café and watched Mongolian TV, happy just to be out of the cold. A rescue, petrol 4W vehicle arrived from UB and a heated garage was found for the 2, out of action vehicles. Once the fuel, now gel, is heated and drained out, Winter diesel fills the tank and then there is no problem!
This man was one of the drivers, sitting in the cold vehicle as it was towed. The temperature was now -33 degrees C! He had his wolf skin coat to keep warm. I was impressed by how beautifully the pelts were matched and stitched. He waited 4 years for the coat. We eventually got back to UB early Sunday morning and crawled into bed at 3 am.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Life in the freezer- day 26

Travelling back to Ulaanbaatar in convoy with 2 other vehicles, we had high hopes of making it back in one day, but were prepared to overnight if needed. Little did we know what the day held in store for us! Views of camel herds were numerous, this herd with a female herder on a blonde camel, on the right side.
A return to Bayunlij for fuel. Our vehicle was petrol, the other two Toyotas diesel. Bob checks his messages with reception in the small soum [town].
And time for a group photo of our hosts and travelling companions.
We travelled through amazingly narrow, rocky gorges and across flat plains.
Lunch was Mongolian style with noodles and mutton, but it was warm and prepared for us by the camp cooks. We ate it once we had gotten back to the bitumen road, which was now a sheet of ice and barely distinguishable from the snow covered countryside.
As the sun set and a rainbow showed it's colours, temperatures dropped even further and the trouble began.



Saturday, November 28, 2015

Life in the freezer- day 24 & 25

Got further south today, where there was much less snow and warmer temperatures. We now think between 0 degrees and minus 7 degrees C are quite OK! How things have changed for this Queensland girl. The landscape was quite dramatic with eroded cliffs and this famous spot looking like the Sphinx. Our long afternoon shadows and Toyota shadow are all part of the atmosphere. 
Got into camp in the dark and was greeted by a warm donga room with ensuite and two new camel hair quilts to keep us warm also. It was much appreciated as I wasn't well nursing an upset stomach.
This was the view of Torom Khon the next day from an elevated picnic spot. Would be lovely in the summertime, but a bit chilly with the breeze and snow patches.
Trees have been planted in this desert landscape and this fountain must work when the water isn't frozen in the pipes.
And this was the view of the surrounding small hills.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Life in the freezer- day 23 continued

Finally we make it to our welcome ger at Altan nar camp! The coal burns warmly and for a long time as the fire is tended by a "fireman"  who also comes in at 6am to relight it with the wood. There are no locks on this ger door.
Two painted support poles are positioned either side of the stove.
Painted roof support struts meet at the central wheel support.
Vinyl covers the wooden floor. Sometimes the vinyl is placed directly on the dirt floor or a cement floor. This is looking back towards the low entry door. No windows. The wooden wall lattice is covered with the cloth tied to the roof struts. There is thick felt beyond the wooden lattice.
First light at the camp.
Bob coming out of the low door.
The ultzii symbol decorating the blue door covering.


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Life in the freezer- day 23

Our second day of travel to our Altan Nar [Golden Mountain] destination begins across an icy landscape. The sparse, hardy plants have a dusting of ice.
The sun comes up and turns the landscape into a million,magical sparkles.
A sign!
Wind shapes the snow drifts across the rocky ground. The snow is an unusual event in the Gobi, which is generally warmer than Ulaanbaatar.
We stop for a few photos with long shadows also captured. We are thankful that our driver is very good at negotiating the tough conditions safely especially as we are travelling alone in one vehicle.
When we see a ger or a goat and camel herder we stop and ask for directions as we try to find the well we need to use as our marker point for the last leg. The conditions of the rough ground and washouts make our going very slow. Will we get there before nightfall?
This is camel country and we pass many herds.
Modern transport on the left meets country transport. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Life in the freezer- day 22 continued

So, it's not often I can say I slept with 3 men, L-R Dasha, Oyunbat, Bob. We stopped in Bayunlij for the night instead of continuing on in the dark and snow, trying to find tracks we were unsure of. This is the room we found, at what I have dubbed the Bayunlij Hilton! The town was full of stranded travellers.
My bed on the right. The room was cold and only had minimal heating available. I was so happy I decided to take my own pillow and a Yak wool wrap, which along with the clothes I slept in, kept me warm, plus the body heat from Bob and I sharing this single bed.
We left at first light because we still had another full day of travel before we got to our destination at Altan Nar. The sign advertises "Hot Water" and yes, there was hot water, but the bathroom was not heated and no one felt like undressing at -17 degrees C. Pity there was no toilet!
We had unloaded the vehicle, as everything inside it would freeze overnight. 
The stars in the night sky were amazing and so many northern constellations were didn't know. Saying goodbye to  a snowy Bayunlij.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Life in the freezer- day 22

The expedition to the south Gobi begins with the buying of food supplies. It's nice to nibble on something during the long hours of driving. Not many places to stop for food once we are off the bitumen roads.
As we set off the outside temperatures vary, dropping as low as minus 26 degrees C just out of Ulaanbaatar. Even though we are warm inside the 4 wheel drive Toyota, the inside of the windows gets a light icy coating.
We pass many herds of Mongolian horses, especially in Bayanhongor Province. Most of the roads are not fenced and herds of goats, sheep, cattle and horses graze over the rolling, snowy landscape.
Just after lunch it begins to snow and continues for the rest of the day.
The snow gives our driver Dasha challenging conditions to deal with. Snow turns to ice, making the paved roads slippery. And we need to consult the map as we are about to travel on the dirt roads which sometimes look like little more than a narrow track.
Got to white-out conditions with the snow storm.


Monday, November 23, 2015

Life in the freezer- day 21

Amazing what can happen in a foreign country when you are a quilter! I was invited to go on the Mongolian National Broadcaster and talk about quilting, an opportunity I couldn't say no to as it is always great to promote this craft/art form.
This is a behind the scenes photo of the three cameramen filming the morning presenters.
With them recording live in the far right side, the producer sets up the colourful quilts and other items from the Mongolian Quilt Centre.
I had a silk eco dyed quilt with me that I'm hand stitching, so had that on set and talked a little about it. You can also see the Down Under Quilts magazine, on the right, that I brought from Australia for the local quilters. I write my Global Thread column for the magazine and this TV moment will be part of the story on Mongolia! I was very happy to have Boloroo with me. The presenters asked questions in English then translated my replies. It was a super experience.