We reached the Kazakhstan-Russian border in the early hours of the morning with buoyant optimism that the inhospitable time of day would result in a quiet border and swift exit. We were wrong. With all nearby crossings closed, everyone was being squeezed through the rather narrow and ill-equipped passage between these two countries. While exhaustion set in, the queue crept sluggishly forward ensuring there was never quite enough time to actually fall asleep.
The border crossing itself was uneventful and after 4 hours we were greeted by Russian tarmac as smooth as velvet. We floated onwards, being pulled deeper into Russia as the ease of driving enticed us forwards. We eventually decided it was best to get some sleep. Finding a small, seemingly quiet (in the middle of the night), road to inhabit for the evening, we grabbed a few hours reprieve. In the morning we awoke to find we’d pitched up on the track to a rather large factory. Luckily, no one seemed too bothered and we quickly hit the road again.
Stopping at a visibly Soviet-influenced city, we grabbed lunch at a burger bar, which itself would look comfortable amongst the hipster restaurants of London. Welcoming the ability to pay on card, we soon gorged on burgers, fries and milkshakes. Replenished, we set off through the Russian mountains to our planned rest stop and hotel.
The next day we discovered there was no water at the hotel during daylight hours. This would usually have suited our somewhat nocturnal existence, but it did pose some challenges when we were preparing for days on the road in Mongolia. Draining the water coolers on each floor seemed the only logical answer!
Fully stocked up, we headed to the Mongolian border - passing isolated concrete monuments, suicidal cows and homages to Russian industrialisation.
We knew the border would be closed on a Sunday, but took the prudent decision to camp nearby so we could quickly enter Mongolia in the morning. On arrival, we found other teams doing the same. We formed a car-based windshield with two German teams and settled down to sharing stories and beers until the morning, when the next border beckoned and we would finally reach our most anticipated country yet....Mongolia!!!