In Mongolia, the shelves in the shops are often filled with the German premium brand: Good & Cheap.
Today there was 390km of driving on the agenda. From another team we had learned that the track was not great, and 250km of gravel road was waiting for us. Since we expected a long day, we started early, and by 6:30am we were on the road.
There was a main road, which was bumpy, washboard gravel, and tens of other smaller roads that led parallel through the plains. The roads weren’t that bad, we had as always a fast driving style.
After the first 100km off-road we made a photo stop on a hill with a great view…
… when we noticed – uh-oh, that looks like a leak… but the oil pan was repaired only two days ago.
The old patches were still good, but the oil pan had cracked two more times due to the bad terrain and the next town was 160km away.
We mended the oil pan from the outside as well as we could with some glue left over from the last patch. While the glue was drying we played a bit in the field with “Team Mayo to Mongolia” and “Team Smashed Avocado”.
So many ways – all with the same goal. So on we go in zigzag, this time driving slowly and paying attention!
A few minutes later….
Ok, of course we couldn’t go on with such a big loss of oil. Team Smashed Avocado, our heroes from Australia, agreed to tow us with their Opel Meriva (1.2L) – to the next town – 155km away – through the open terrain. Of course there was top support from our favourite Irish from Team Mayo to Mongolia, who drove ahead again and again, explored the track for towing capability and towed us the last kilometres when the Meriva from Team Smashed Avocado started to get tired. (Note: The team name Mayo has nothing to do with French fries or ketchup, the area in Ireland where they come from is called that).
On the right side you can see the highway, which is currently under construction but of course not accessible, and on the left side all the country lanes.
Of course we were always looking for gaps to get onto the highway in order to be able to drive at least a few kilometres comfortably. Unfortunately, this was prevented again and again by huge heaps of earth, which blocked the way. Most of the time this meant turning around and driving back.
The most difficult part was towing downhill. Since we couldn’t let our engine run, the brakes didn’t really work and only the handbrake was available. It was clear that with a towing speed of 20-60kmh a braking distance of 2-3m tow rope is not sufficient, especially without not really working brakes. Therefore our car is now a little bit dented in front. For a bigger descent we separated the connection and rolled several kilometres silently into the valley.
Due to the uneven pulling through the terrain, our tow rope wear was not exactly low. We used up all four available tow ropes, which were torn and knotted together again and again: 35 times.
A flat tire must not be missing on such a day of course.
At some point, of course, the car battery was still empty and we were dragged into the dark, cold night without lights or heating.
Towed away under one of the most beautiful night skies I have seen so far. Unfortunately my tripod is broken and I had no time to take a decent photo. I only had 2-3 minutes (if the tow rope broke) and 25 seconds exposure time… that’s not much. But at least you get a small impression :).
Finally, after hours of towing through the darkness, we could finally see the lights of the city. But the impression can be deceiving, from the time of the photo to reaching the city we took about 1.5-2 hours. Without decent roads, turn around several times and find the gaps in the terrain. With a Land Cruiser cross-country this is certainly not a problem but our racing machine is rather designed for flat roads.
We reached our accommodation around 22:30 o’clock. After 16 hours in the car, about half of it on the tow rope. 1000 thanks again to Team Smashed Avocado and Team Mayo To Mongolia, without you we would not have made it! We still have 4 days and 1263Km to the finish line, hopefully we get our car quickly made fit to drive again.