An update from Andrew (apparently the internet was too slow to allow for blogging, but worked for email):
I’m in Altai, Mongolia at the first internet cafe I’ve seen since leaving Russia a week ago. Most of the towns here don’t have electricity reliably or at all. Even cell phone coverage is really spotty. Mongolia has been amazing so far, in almost all ways.
The border experience was absolutely awful, to the point of some very serious talk of suing The Adventurists in to bankruptcy. Flatlanders, Rubikcrew, and I showed up at the border last Monday evening and got out of Russia in to no-man’s-land Tuesday morning. We drove about half an hour across the giant area between the borders and got in to a Mongolian holding area shortly thereafter. And that’s where we stayed for another full day with almost no information from the authorities about what was going on. Eventually we (39 teams) staged a sit-in protest in the customs office and were allowed to leave after paying $17 each.
Then it took us a day and a half to reach Ulgii. There’s some craziness that happened in there that is probably better related by one of the other teams. Flatlanders Andrew and Mike abandoned their Citroen Saxo in Ulgii after basically everything broke on it. We spent another night there sorting that out. They’re now traveling with me in the Skoda.
Since leaving Ulgii we’ve spent two and a half days on the road to go about 400km to Altai. The unpaved “roads” are unbelievably bad. Huge washboard sprinkled with bowling-ball sized rocks. We’ve joined up in a convoy with some Spaniards Juan and Nuria and some Germans Karsten and Robert. Joe and Tim (Rubikcrew) left us yesterday to try to make better time to UB, and I think we may have to leave the convoy tomorrow as well. The convoy has been great but I feel it’s slowing everybody down to stick together.
Sorry the story is a bit disorganized. So much time has passed since the team left in Novosibirsk and I’ve just been driving the whole time. I’ll try to set aside a little time at night just to write down what’s happened that day so I can keep track of it all.
Time to see if the garage in town can pull the CV joints off a wrecked Felicia rally car here to put on mine.