The two tales of Team #WeLive continues on!
written by Tabitha
Another GLORIOUS morning on the steppe! Bri and I get up pretty early because we agreed with Team Keystone to be driving out of the city at 8. We pack up, Bri makes a delicious breakfast, and we wait for the convoy to come scoop us up.
Image by Tabitha
Team Keystone (The Pony and The Admiral's Opus) roll up, but no Damn-Nations or Yurts...and no Fordnando most importantly. We are informed that we're going on and they all agreed on a few specific meet-up points along the route with the other teams last night. So we drive on.
And it's gorgeous. There are camels, the hills starts to level out and the plains spread wide around us as the landscape becomes drier and more desert with every mile.
This dust is not normal dust. It's like powdered cement and cements things closed forever. Image by Tabitha
The first part of the day is more gorgeous road, but we're savvy now and know it won't last. We have lunch in a one-street village where we wait several hours for our team, but nothing. Rather than stay and wait there and risk being separated completely, we go on with Keystone towards the next appointed meet-up area.
The road disintegrates into dirt tracks again. The infuriating part is that China is building a major highway across Mongolia and it's RIGHT THERE but we are prevented from getting ONTO it! So we're driving on the crazy, tire sucking, dust tracks on either side of it.
Always waiting. Bri and Babs didn't get stuck ONCE! Image by Tabitha
The dust is DEEP and if you don't just GUN IT AND GO you will get stuck. We discovered that the tracks farther away from the elusive highway are hard pack and we aren't worried about getting stuck. Team Keystone takes a track that moved them to the other side of the unattainable highway, so we're separated by an asphalt barrier. We keep an eye on them, but amid the dust we lose them.
Soon, there's a place where the tracks lead up to the highway! WUT. Yes. We get ourselves up on the highway and then...park. Yep. We wait for the teams. Meanwhile, these Chinese workers came over to take pictures and kiss us on the cheek. Mildly creepy.
Creepy Selfie by Tabitha
2 hours later: Team Keystone comes rolling up to us! But we agree they should move on and we need to stay to wait for our team. Another 45 minutes later (we had almost set up camp by this point) we see some cars in the distance. IT'S THEM!! IT'S OUR TEAM!! AND Damn-Nations and So Good It Yurts!! We are RELIEVED and DELIGHTED! We all are together again! We move on in the last hour of daylight.
It was continually stunning. Image by Tabitha
And then, before we know it, we see Keystone off on the steppe next to the highway. The highway in front of us is blocked by a small encampment and a dirt pile, and they are stuck in the dust? No. Oh No. The Opus is not starting. Something bad happened when they hit a very large rock that came out of nowhere (you have no idea.)
We end up camping there that night. All of Keystone, All of Team #WeLive, 101 Damn-Nations, So Good It Yurts, and a team whose name I do not know, but they did a temporary fix on The Opus! Woo-hoo!!
written by Megan
Many, many, many camels. Huge, mean, and stinky. Image by Blackstone Photography
We wake up to no water and no electricity. The town is apparently experiencing a planned power outage. Thankfully, Cruella and Judith are fixed and returned (the mechanic worked overnight because of the planned outage) and we get some supplies from a tiny market (the only one open we can find), and get on the road around 10. Before we leave, we try sending Tabs and Bri a message to let them know where we'll be, using Jake's phone as a hotspot. But then we get out of service range, so we have no way of knowing if they've gotten the messages or sent anything back. Alice, we assume, went ahead with Keystone earlier.
(This shall forever go down as one of the worst nights/mornings of communication ever. A mess on all fronts.)
Riding on top of cars: check. Image by Blackstone Photography
We carry on as a convoy of 3 - Yurts, Damn-Nations, and Paula and I in Fordnando. Because of the power outage, it takes us a bit of driving to find an open gas station. We find one running a generator, fuel up, and the Yurts take the opportunity to add a protective layer of foam to their newly-repaired sump guard because it's somehow still leaking.
The families in Mongolia are so lovely. Image by Blackstone Photography
The Boys. Big heart eyes to them. Image by Blackstone Photography
The tarmac ends, of course, and we find ourselves off-roading on some insane tracks - straight up dune buggying sometimes. It's exhilarating and insane. I'm convinced to ride on top of the car because it's Mongolia and these aren't actual roads and why not?
At one point, two other rally cars driving like maniacs catch up with us. We're pulled over waiting for the Yurts to make their way through the dunes, and they stop for a chat. It's Team Alpha Squad and Team Beauty and the Beast. They express envy over Fordnando's racing seat, look at the dead camel we've found, and speed away. We see them later, pulled off in the distance, and don't find out why until later.
Sorry not sorry, Mum! Image by Blackstone Photography
Next to us the entire time is freshly paved road. They're literally building the highway and we have to ride on these dirt tracks next to it, just staring at it and seeing it mock us. At one point, the Yurts have had enough. They cannot take the mocking and risk damaging their car any longer. They and the Damn-Nations somehow manage a low point where there's not a steep ditch between the road and the dirt and get up on it, but Paula and I (with Jake in the backseat) stay down in the sand for a bit. Paula spots a part where we maybe could manage it and hauls around to get a running start.
SAFE. Image by Blackstone Photography
Me: I don't think so, I don't think so, I don't think so--ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! *grips the ratchet strap above my head with closed eyes and gritted teeth*
We're alive! We made it! Sand is literally pouring out of the car, but we made it. And just a few minutes later, who's waiting for us on the side of the road? Tabs and Bri with Babs!
Reunited and it feels so goooood.
Dead camel says "Good job, Fordnando, ya filthy animal." Image by Blackstone Photography
It's not long before we come across two things: an impassable road block and the end of the construction, and Team Keystone, both cars stuck in the dirt tracks off to the side. Everyone piles out to get them un-stuck, and we aim to keep heading towards the next town, about 50 miles away. But then Anthony, behind the wheel of Keystone's Opus, hits a large rock and the Opus immediately coughs a dying breath. It won't start, and we're left to set up camp right then and there.
Camels were always nearby supervising our challenges. Images by Blackstone Photography
Alpha Squad and Beauty and the Beast catch up with us as we're settling in for the night. Thankfully, Linden and Kevin of Beauty and the Beast are actual mechanics and get to work on the Opus. I ask Rhys of Alpha Squad what happened to them earlier, and he sheepishly admits that he was showing off with the fast and crazy driving and blew a tire. He wasn't planning on admitting it if they ran into us again, but he says he can't lie to my face, which is super endearing. Between that and the other guys working for hours on the Opus to get it running again, they're all right.
Camping is good food and guitars come out and terrible but joyous singing occurs and the day ends on a hopeful note.
Every sunset it glorious in Mongolia. Every. Single. Sunset. Image by Blackstone Photography
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