Ten Days into Mongolia.

We have nearly reached Arvaykheer and are now only about 500km from Ulaan Baatar. Progress has been slow (an average of about 130km per day) but we have not encountered any major problems.

All the vehicles have withstood the constant vibration and occasional scrapes remarkably well. Imp and OJ have been towed out of soft sand and mud on a couple of occasions. The vibration has loosened Imp's exhaust pipe and K-Nine suffered a blocked fuel pipe. But considering we have driven 1300km over dirt roads everything is holding together remarkably well. Perhaps the biggest problem is dust. OJ's cab in particular fills up with dust each day.

The fact that all our maps are so inaccurate has been a cause for some anxiety. When you think you are heading off into the Gobi desert on the wrong road, and you don't have enough diesel, and your spare tyre has a puncture, and its hot, and everybody else seems happy about it then things can get a little tense!

To get a feeling for the remoteness and isolation of the road we are using imagine driving 400km (Altay to Bayankhonger) in three days without passing anything bigger than a village, without seeing a tarmac road, an electricity pole, a road sign, a fence or a fuel station. Imagine that your map says you are 50km off course. Imagine getting blasé about seeing golden eagles and camels. Imagine a 360 degree horizon 50km away without a single tree in sight. Imagine looking at every bump and sharp rock in the road and worrying about what they are doing to your precious tyres.

Ann gives the children "bubble toys".Occasionally we pass ger (yurt) hamlets in the midst of nowhere. A very few have solar panels and satellite dishes. Most have nothing. Nearby there are herds of goats and sheep and perhaps horses.

The inhabitants are invariable friendly but rarely over inquisitive about us. It is never clear to us how they support themselves, or in many cases where they get water from.

Usually one or two of the gers have "Cafe" signs above the door (and this on one track of a road with less than 30 vehicles a day).

Stephen Stewart.

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