Transmongolia – Part Five: The Finish Line

Transmongolia: Part Five. Click above to watch video after the jump

*After an extended hiatus (we blame the whole getting lost in the desert thing) Transmongolia is back to offer even more coverage of the 2011 Mongol Rally.


The Mongol Rally isn’t a race, at least not in the official and common sense. There are no prizes for first place except bragging rights. More than anything, it’s about who makes it to the finish line and who doesn’t. It’s about arriving at the finish line and scanning a large wall-sized poster that lists who has retired [RET] and who has completed the journey in their original automobile, no matter the condition.

After crossing through the fabled Mongolia Steppe, our team finally reached the end of their 10,000 mile long journey. Emotions ran high; we experienced excitement at the thought of being stationary for a long period of time and trepidation over knowing that everyone would be heading separate ways in just a matter of days. We had made it to Ulaanbaatar, victors of the Mongol Rally.


Transmongolia – Part Five: The Finish Line

For more information about the Mongol Rally, including how to sign up for the 2012 rally or tips for entrants outside the EU, visit the Adventurist’s website – or view the Adventurists’ 2011 trailer here!

Transportation was made possible by the scholars and gentlemen at the Adventurists. No editorial content or opinions were guaranteed nor was anyone’s safety or hygiene.

New stretch of Great Wall of China found using Google Earth

Great Wall of China, Mongolia, Gobi Desert
A British researcher scanning through images from Google Earth has discovered a new section of the Great Wall of China.

Surprisingly, this part of the famous wall isn’t in China, but rather Mongolia. The Great Wall is actually comprised of several walls built in various centuries by several different rulers starting in the fifth century B.C., or perhaps earlier.

When Great Wall expert William Lindesay spotted what looked like a wall cutting across a remote part of the Gobi Desert in Mongolia’s southernmost region, he headed out with a team to follow along 60 miles of it. This photo, courtesy Alec East, shows the kind of terrain these modern-day adventurers had to deal with.

The wall varies in construction depending on the terrain and resources. In some parts it’s made of local volcanic basalt, while in others it’s a simple berm of sand and shrub cuttings. Lindesey believes this new portion of the wall is part of the so-called Wall of Genghis Khan, which, despite the name, is not considered a project by the famous conqueror but actually the Han Dynasty of China in 115 B.C.

Lindesay says this is the first time part of China’s defenses has been found outside of the modern boundaries of China. A journalist for the New York Times may have discovered a portion of the same wall in Russia in 2001.

Genghis Khan exhibit in Chicago the biggest ever

Genghis KhanA new exhibition at the Field Museum in Chicago spotlights the world’s greatest conqueror.

Genghis Khan brings together the largest collection of 13th century Mongol artifacts ever. The exhibition traces the career of Genghis Khan from his birth in 1162, to a noble but obscure family, through his conquest of an empire that was larger than the Roman Empire. In fact, it was the largest ever, stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the gates of Vienna, and he built it in just 25 years.

More than 200 objects are on display including a Mongolian house, silk robes, weapons, and even the mummy of a Mongolian noblewoman.

The exhibition shows that while Genghis Khan was a bloodthirsty warrior, he was a clever statesman too. He established a complex and efficient form of government, a postal system, paper currency, diplomatic immunity, even wilderness preserves and laws against littering. His conquests had a profound impact on the development of Asia and Europe.

Genghis Khan runs until September 3.

Photo courtesy the Field Museum.

Transmongolia – Part Four: Traversing the Steppe


Transmongolia: Part Four – Click above to watch video after the jump

*After an extended hiatus (we blame the whole getting lost in the desert thing) Transmongolia is back. Click here for our previous coverage of the 2011 Mongol Rally.

Other than a complete break down or having to wait days for a spare part to arrive, there are few things as disheartening on the Mongol Rally as driving in the completely wrong direction for hundreds of kilometers. After recovering from a near-disastrous rendezvous with the Chinese-Mongolia border, our humble ambulance regained its eventual path toward Ulaanbaatar.

With a scheduled welcome party arranged in Mongolia’s capital just a few days away, we hurried to get back on track as fast as possible; while gradually losing more members of our convoy with every deep pit and poorly spotted rock in the road.

The end was in sight, but the final sprint across the steppe would still test the endurance of our newly formed friendships and our overworked engine.


Transmongolia – Part Four: Traversing the Steppe

As we ventured out of the Gobi and into the Mongolian steppe, the landscape shifted to sloping grasslands and sizeable hills that seemed small in comparison to the Altai range that we had grown accustomed to.

The steppe signaled several things for our battered rally team: that our journey was nearing its end and that our contact with large towns became more and more frequent. We no longer were concerned with filling up our jerrycans with the maximum levels of fuel and stocking up on food, water, and other necessities at every establishment we crossed.

With the moderate temperatures of the steppe, and the knowledge that we had only a few more nights under the vivid stars of the Mongolian wilderness night sky, we slept out in the open – with only sleeping bags, neighing horses in the distance, and the constant wind whipping across the hills.

It was bittersweet to know that we’d be back in the familiar grasp of a rapidly modernizing city in just days – one that for me, would now be revisited with an entirely new perspective.

For more information about the Mongol Rally, including how to sign up for the 2012 rally or tips for entrants outside the EU, visit the Adventurist’s website – or view the Adventurists’ 2011 trailer here!

Transportation was made possible by the scholars & gentlemen at the Adventurists. No editorial content or opinions were guaranteed, and nor was anyone’s safety or hygiene.

Transmongolia – Part Two: Hitching a Ride

Transmongolia: Part Two – Click above to watch video after the jump

After gaining my bearings in Ulaanbaatar and making a few friends over rocket propelled grenades, I set off for Ölgii – a dusty city of roughly 29,000 people and the capital of the remote province of Bayan-Olgii Aimag.

From Ulaanbaatar, the flight to Ölgii Airport was just 2 1/2 hours in a noisy Saab 340B. Flying over the wide expanses of the Gobi desert and Altai mountains, it was difficult to imagine that I’d be traversing everything that was passing below me in just under a week.

Joined by Mel, a journalist from an English newspaper, I arrived in Ölgii without much of a plan; to get a ride into town and hope to hitch a ride. But in order to find a team to ride with, the only thing we could do was sit by the side of the town’s one main road and wait – hoping that whoever came along would be willing to pick up two outsiders carrying cameras and notepads.

So, we waited. We wandered markets and sat by the side of the road. After just a few hours in the sun, we were relieved and exhilarated to see a convoy of four brightly painted cars and one ambulance heading in our direction. We were no longer lost in the Gobi; we had found the chariots that would (hopefully) take us across Mongolia.


Transmongolia – Part Two: Hitching a Ride

Luckily for Mel & I, we quickly made friends with a team dubbed Party of Five; consisting of a team of three (one member had dropped out) friends from Australia and their mutual friend from England. They were proudly commandeering an old Ford ambulance that they had named ‘Olive’ – a reference to the lovely interior paint job in the back of the ‘ambo’, which had served as their home for the past several weeks. With just enough room for two more people and our bags, we hopped in and got on the road; eager to begin our journey.

It was short lived; only a few kilometers down the road, we encountered our first breakdown – a car that had left Ölgii before us had lost the use of one of its tires after slicing through the rim of the wheel. The unforgiving nature of the dirt tracks that served as highways here, suggested that we’d see many more breakdowns in the coming days. The dust, rocks, and bumps would surely put everyone to the test. So after a quick push to turn it the broken vehicle around for towing, the convoy packed up and headed out to scout for the evening’s camp site.

Finding the perfect spot wasn’t very complicated; we pulled off to the side of the road, looked for a flat place to pitch our tents, and set up camp for the first night in the wilderness of Mongolia.

For more information about the Mongol Rally, including how to sign up for the 2012 rally, visit the Adventurist’s website.

Transportation was made possible by the scholars & gentlemen at the Adventurists. No editorial content or opinions were guaranteed, and nor was anyone’s safety or hygiene.