A few days before the celebration of the annual Naadam festival I arrive in Mörön and take residence in a hotel to enjoy a normal bed and to benefit from the WIFI connection.
Piggy has had to pay a lot on the Mongolian tracks in the last few days. It is frustrating to experience that he does not have the right qualities to defy the numerous bumps and potholes. I do not like to drive very fast on these roads with my rigid axles. Smaller 4×4’s and even the popular Toyota Prius regularly tear by. I notice that the cab is out of balance again and presses on the engine when tilting to the right. It is the same cab-problem that had initially been solved successfully in Greece.
In my opinion, it is more fun to experience this festival in the countryside, because one is right there in the middle and could even participate, though I do not dare to do that. In Ulaanbaatar it is celebrated in the stadium, where one can only watch the spectacle from a distance. Moreover, one has to try and get a ticket in advance, which is not cheap. And, of course, there it also attracts large numbers of tourists.
In Khatgar there are tourists as well of course, but the local atmosphere is very strong. People have put on their most beautiful traditional garments for the occasion. Where in the Netherlands the young men like to crawl along the boulevard in their striking cars, the men here do the same thing sitting on their horses, slowly mingling through the crowd, dressed in a colourful long Mongolian coat, the deel, and with a nice white hat on their heads.
Here I show a video of a Naadam in Olgii to give you an idea of these festivities.
In Khatgal the scenery is less exuberant than in this video, but more than sufficient to give me a nice day of photography. But I cannot film at the same time.
On the way to Ulaanbaatar I try to reach the large Amarbayasgalant Monastery. But on this route occasionally steep slopes have to be taken, as a result of which Piggy leans heavily to the right and threatens to hit the ground, while the cabin also leans heavily on the motor. So unfortunately I have to give up this plan and after a few hours I reach the capital of Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar.
But I have reached my goal for this part of my worldtour. I regularly doubted whether I would get this far, but I have succeeded. It turns out that there is always a solution to Piggy’s problems. I am encouraged by the experiences of other people traveling around the world with an old car, who always get things going again, although this can sometimes take quite a long time.
On the small premises of “Oasis Café and Guesthouse” I find a place among other overlanders, big and small, from camper truck to Toyota Landcruiser and normal 2×4 motorhomes. It is also a stopping place for motor travellers. They come from all over the world and there is an excellent atmosphere. Contacts are made and experiences and tips exchanged. Thus I get to know the address of a German who has lived here for years and has a large social network. And from him I get an address on the outskirts of the city where I can have Piggy repaired. I receive a warm welcome and free room and board there. The owner and manager are trained in Germany and therefore speak excellent German and English. One cannot wish for anything better, in Mongolia anyway. They manufacture their own trucks on the basis of the popular Unimog, making the box with carbon. Their company is called Yakmobil.
Again I meet globetrotters, but this time with technical problems with their vehicle, such as the Belgian couple whose gigantic M.A.N. camper truck had a blowout and landed on its side. Total loss !! They have decided to leave the colossus here to be repaired and to come back in six months time to continue their journey.
In the meantime I visit a number of attractions in the city and arrange a Russian tourist visa for a period between August 15 and September 13. I will be touring around Lake Baikal for a month, after which I will return to Mongolia.
Yes, that’s right. The plan to return to Kazakhstan via Russia and then leave the truck somewhere in Kyrgyzstan during the winter has been cancelled. The plan now is to leave Piggy with Yakmobil. In the winter months, he will be completely stripped, cab and box will be removed from the chassis so that all defects (because there are many more than I have reported so far) can be remedied. The interior of the cabin will get new upholstery and the exterior a new layer of paint.
I have every confidence in the plastic surgeons, because I’ve seen how they work here.
In the winter months I do not want to stay in cold Mongolia and have therefore bought a one-way ticket to Indonesia. I will be leaving on September 21, taking my bike, to travel around the archipelago, probably starting with Sulawesi. The first 2 months I will be accompanied by my old bike friend Sjoukje.
This story is not finished yet, because after a week at Yakmobil I leave for the Gobi desert.
When arriving in the city of Dalanzadgad, Piggy starts to shake violently at low revs. I take a hotel with Wi-Fi connection, ask advice from friendly travellers / technicians and call again to Yakmobil.
In this situation I am not going to explore the Gobi, for if I get stuck somewhere there on my own, help will not be easily available. In one day I drive the 600 km back to the garage where I am currently staying, already preparing a bit for the trip to Indonesia in September.
I am already looking forward to it and also to the moment I return to Mongolia in early May to continue the journey through Central Asia with a reborn Piggy.
TAKE LOOK AT THE IMAGERY AND FOOTAGE OF MONGOLIA & RUSSIA