8.5 hours of smooth roads and a border crossing was all that stood between us the finish line. 360 more miles on top of the over 11,000 we’d already done. Our fuel pump was on it’s last legs so we’d be limping to the finish line. The Doblo was trying to give up on us but we just wouldn’t let it happen. The end was within reach.
We probably all planned on hitting the road early, but that just wasn’t going to happen after the previous night. We probably hit the road around 10 or so and all decided it would be nice to have some good old fashioned American food, so we found a Burger King on the way out of town. A whopper definitely hit the spot. From there we hit the road on our journey back to the Russian motherland.
A couple hours in I think we realized it was going a little slower than we hoped. We had heard the border was going to take a few hours to get through, so we wouldn’t be getting into Ulan-Ude until well after midnight. During a pit stop for fuel Rich decided to make a lovely addition to our Doblo.
Once we realized that we weren’t going to make it by midnight we slowed our roll a little bit and even stopped in some random town to have a beer. We walked into this pub and the lady shooed us off into this back room. I’m not sure if it was privacy hospitality or not. Whatever!
The closer we got to the northern border of Mongolia the more the landscape changed. It’s possible we hadn’t seen a single tree since we had been in the country, but all of a sudden it felt like we were driving through the countryside vineyards of Italy. I don’t have a picture of this sorry, but you can picture it I bet.
We probably arrived at the Russian border around 8pm, and it was a weird shit show. At first it appeared closed off, but after wandering around for a few minutes we found out that it wasn’t closed, they were just letting only a few cars through at a time. There weren’t too many cars in front of us, but it was clear we were going to be there for a little while. It was getting late so we decided to make some noodles and wait it out.
While we were waiting our car got swamped repeatedly by locals that wanted to buy any and everything off our car. The gas cans we had were specially of interest. On the plus side, I met a Dallas Mavericks fan! Who would have thought half-way around the world. I’m still curious how he got that sweatshirt.
Eventually we got through and then the next shit show began. There was zero instruction from any of the guards and apparently I skipped a step and ended up further in the process than I should have been. The guard that inspected our car kept insisting on some small piece of paper in broken English. I dug through all our paperwork but we didn’t have what he was looking for. That’s when he said I needed to pay a fine, and by that he meant bribe. Having gone through this before, I just played really dumb and eventually he pointed me towards a small building that was just past the gate when we got in. I was supposed to show the car docs there and get my exit stamp for the car, after which you’d be given the little slip of paper that the other guard was waiting for. Whoops. On to no man’s land where we waited for another hour. The down time did give me time to wire up the light of C that we had pilfered from somewhere in Ulaanbaatar. One of the guards got a real kick out of it. Real shame we didn’t get the silly stuff wired up until the day before we finished.
That was the Mongolian side. The Russian side was even painfully slower. It was however equally as confusing as once again the guards weren’t making clear the order of windows and what not we had to go through. Our car got yelled at a few times for getting some paperwork done before it was our turn. That’s when I met sleepy Sergei, the head honcho (I’m assuming.) There were only 2 guards clearing the cars through, one of which was doing the paperwork for all the locals. Lucky me got to deal with sleepy Sergei who handed me a form entirely in Russian and told me to fill it out. What? Google translate wasn’t working very well, so I kinda just sat there for a little bit trying to figure out what on earth the form said. That’s when I noticed a notebook on another desk that looked very worn and was filled with laminated stuff. I don’t know why but I guessed there was info in there, and sure it enough there was a copy of the form in several languages. After cross-referencing and muddling my way through the poor translations I eventually got it completed. Then sleepy Sergei just kinda looked around doing nothing for a while. Then he picked up my form and index finger typed the thing in. Like I said, painfully slow.
After that there was more waiting until a group of other guards decided to search a car. Like a few other times that I had noticed, once again it was clear that a lot of thing that happen in Russia are strictly for show and I guess some people don’t better. A female guard walked around the car with a drug dog, pointing at random points in the body. Then she had the dog jump in and sniff around.
Wait, I typed that wrong. The female guard walked around the car with a disinterested chihuahua who was not smelling anything and wanted very little to do with the whole process. Another guard came up to us and said something like “Marijuana yeah? It’s very cool. Do you have some marijuana for me?” I gotta say he was really close to tricking me into pulling out a stash of marijuana, but not this time. I think he needs to work on his script if he wants to bust anyone.
We were finally back in Russia, and we only had a few hours to the finish line. Problem was it was between 1 and 2am and no one had any desire to drive through. There it appeared to be a medium sized border town, so we figured we would drive around until we found a hotel. We found like 4, but none of them would take credit cards and no one had any Russian money left. So we had to drive around looking for an ATM – which we did – and then went back to one that actually had someone at the front desk. I think I remember this being a whole ordeal, once again going through the process of arguing about how many people could stay in rooms and how many rooms they had. We got it sorted eventually and then crashed for a few hours, too tired to even dream of the finish line.