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Good Friends, Air Filters and Shooting Stars

July 13, 2015 1 Comment

From the 10 July to the 13 July 2015

Bye Hendo

Friday 10th July 2015

We are still in China, up north of Beijing, in a place called Chengde. Smallish city of only five million. The neatest place so far. Neat in two ways: One it’s tidy and clean, two it’s well set out – parks separating commercial and residential, good road network, very polite and caring drivers. A very good overall experience. Beijing was the next best city for the above.

Today we go into a forest, move along and around, and camp each day for four or five days. Where’s Hendo when you want him? We are heading to a rural area in Inner Mongolia where they hold one of the biggest annual festivals, called the Nadaam Festival. It runs over this weekend, includes horse riding, archery, wrestling and all sorts of celebrations. It’s attended by domestic tourists, not gwailos, so it’ll be interesting to see how we go.

Yesterday we said goodbye to Hendo, the fifth wheel over this China leg. He’s spending a few days on a ship, doing a Three Gorges Tour, down south. Then he has a few days in Shanghai, then home. We’ve got plans to catch up at a later date. He has been a real pleasure to have along. He said he was going to be as small and inconspicuous as he could. He’s 120kg, so doing that was always going to be a challenge. But he has been fully successful. He and Lynn got along famously, he tolerated me, which he’s been doing for 30 years! Now he is gone, there is a certain vacuum in the group, but that will pass.

Air Filter for Cruiser

I left home with a half clean filter, thought to myself, these things will be anywhere, I’ll get one at Beijing before we hit the dirt of Mongolia.

In Beijing we had no luck. One shop could get one in, eight weeks wait, and 460 Yuan ($95). One guy could make them, minimum of four, but that would take five days, by that time we would be 800kms away with no way of getting them to us. One of the five Toyota dealers in Beijing (a big store – genuine parts only and prices to match), could not help. They tried as hard as they could, but the girls seemed to have a better idea of what stock they had than the boys in service.

So, I contacted trusty old Geoff at Haven Automotive (JTS – Kew) and my cousin Jim. They had one in stock, which saved an order from Bursons in Port Macquarie. So, they have mailed one to the Post Office at Mongolia.

In the meantime, at Chengde, where we arrived yesterday afternoon, Barry and I, with Green, went looking for a wheel alignment for Barry and an oil change place. Bugger me, we drove up this gravel track winding for 200m and Green saw the “mechanic repair” sign. Up there, through the gate, and in amongst a bunch of greasy, smiling blokes, we got the oil changes (we have the oil – thank you Bursons Port Macquarie), and they did the business! Green explained I was looking for an air filter, so while they were doing Barry, they took my filter away, and 20 mins later they came back with a brand new one. Unbelievable. So now I have a spare to pick in Mongolia! All systems go.

A Day to Remember

Saturday 11th July 2015

It’s our son Cliff’s birthday – but of far more importance, it signifies the day the Cruiser takes an unassailable lead in the vehicle performance stakes. We’re driving north, between 42° & 43° North and 117° East, in Inner Mongolia.

Remember I said Barry’s wheels were out of alignment? Well, today he hit a lump of hard stuff on the side of the road, on the bitumen, and it has damaged the front end. At the time, we checked the wheel alignment and it was toed out 30mm! So we reset it roughly while parked on the road and drove to a town, where a tyre guy made it worse. The front end is 40mm lower on the right side than the left side. Then we measured further and established the front right wheel is pushed back about 10mm. So some bent steel exists underneath. We go on a hoist tomorrow, but I think a mercy call to Oz to get some parts sent to Mongolia is on the cards.

Still the 11th, and we’re 43° N and 117° E, on a river. It’s a clear evening and we are hoping to show Green her first shooting star ever. But to no avail.

Sunday 12th July 2015

Barry was off to a workshop today, so we went there with him, then Lynn, Green and I went to a big lake which is like Lake Eyre, but surrounded by grass. All along the way are yurts – homes for these people. Horse riding for domestic tourists is everywhere.

The lake was good. We had a gorgeous lunch, then back to the workshop, where, fortunately, Barry’s car was fixed. I then got the Cruiser’s tailshafts greased and the front steering knuckles topped up, and off we went.

Tonight we camp in a river valley, in the grasslands. I’m sitting here, drinking beer, in a valley 300m wide, a creek/river within, and 500m high hills either side. The air is clear, there is a yurt over the river, 200m away, and a village 500m away. Perfect.

Looking for the camp site, on our first effort, BARRY GOT BOGGED, TWICE! We have the photos! First time was driving over a dry crust of alluvial clay silt, and sinking to the bottom. The Cruiser pulled him out.

The second time was 400m later, on a creek crossing, to get to a better spot. Baz, following me, misread the way and ended up getting fully bottomed out in the mud. Stuck fast. This time the tow was more complex, but ended up fine, with the Cruiser saving the day again.

That means the Cruiser has towed the Ranger on four separate occasions…

We camped beside a creek, which has a small waterfall, maybe 1.2m wide, with a drop of 900mm, into a sandy hole and 900mm deep. Perfect to wash! And wash your hair!

No GPS co-ordinates possible tonight. The GPS wasn’t interested.

Shooting Stars

Sending Green another Shooting Star

Shooting Star

To top the night off, Green saw her first ever shooting star, as well as three satellites! She was stoked. She had wanted to make a wish WHILE watching the shooting star. To see it made her realise how much time she has!

Monday 13th July 2015

I took a quick swim in the waterfall – much colder than last evening. We then headed north to another section of this park we are in. Its called Stone Forest. Its a bit like the Warrumbungles mixed with Kimberleys, and The Lost City at Litchfield Park. A bit underwhelming to me, but we have seen some extraordinary stuff in the past two months.

We’ve headed north and west some and are camped in the bush. The terrain is like a golf course, with no fairways (all rough), and is beautiful. I figure we are 43-44° north and 118° East. GPS still can’t pick up a satellite. I figure the area is blocked.

Why can I buy an ice-cream, equivalent in size and taste to a Gaytime or similar in China, and yet pay only pay 20 to 40 cents?

The national park (Keshiketengqi Global Geopark) we are travelling through up here is listed as a UNESCO endorsed item. Has the Chinese Government put pressure on UNESCO, so the park can be touted as satisfying any Chinese domestic tourist, so they don’t need to look at anything overseas? To me the area is of interest, but of UNESCO world heritage? I don’t think so.

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  1. Jim says:

    I think that a lot of icecreams we get in Oz are now made in China; I am sure that paddle pops are! The international space station is wizzing about on our longitudes too. let us know if you catch up with the UB poste restante filter.

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