So after nine and a half hours I make it to my first target Ulansu Lake in Inner Mongolia with just enough time to find somewhere to park up before the sun goes down. Unfortunately it soon becomes apparent that there’s no lake! Well there is but a bare trickle compared to what’s on my map of China. After miles of driving on appalling roads I find the remnants of the lake only accessible via a Windermere-like holiday area for ski jets and the like. It’s just in the throws of closing down at the end of the season and there’s nowhere to leave the jeep. Taking a small dirt road I end up throwing the jeep through sand dunes to find somewhere but all there is is a deserted litter strewn wilderness with a terrifying empty half built mansion which is a definite no go.
Finally I find a clear space and decide to make my stand. It’s getting late and my stomach’s sending out alarm bells. Despite the wind and sand being blown everywhere there’s no choice but to get the stove going. Worse is to come as the entire insect population in the area descends on my torch light including locusts! Unperturbed I battle on, cooking the blandest unsatisfying first camp meal of the trip. Four mouthfuls later though this guy pulls up in his car and chucks me off. No negotiations or nothing. Cheers mate! I mean all it is is a clear area miles away from anywhere with nothing else apart from a few trees. AAAAAAGH!
Throwing my half eaten dinner in the bushes and the camping kit back in the jeep I drive off into the darkness mumbling complaints. Hold on. I remember a get/yurt a few miles away so I head back there, drive down the track to the owners house and bang on his door. Inside the guy’s watching the footy and though a bit shocked at the sight of a Westerner outside in the middle of the night, he lets me stay in his gear for the night. RESULT!
Turns out it’s not a ger for sleeping in but somewhere Mongolians would come for a banquet and has a huge circular table for which they would normally destroy a whole goat washed down with no doubt a few gallons of vodka. As per usual it’s brightly decorated with loud Mongolia colours; purples against bright reds and vivid pink against lime green. With a huge sigh of relief I brew up and crash out on the padded seating surrounding the table with.a giant picture of Genghis Khan above me.
Cheers Genghis mate!