We woke up late and had a leisurely breakfast – we had a side wind so there was no hurry, it was going to be a slow day. We set off down the hill we’d seen the trucks winding their way up and down. The wind wasn’t too bad but the terrain was hard going with loose sand in places. The road was no longer flat and we seemed to climb up for long periods with some short sharp downhills. After 8km we stopped for some food.
After about 13km the rain clouds started to gather and the wind increased, across the horizon we could see sand been whipped up into the air forming dust clouds that obscured the land. Even the sheep in the distance were lost. After stopping to let it pass over and a few games of I spy (including light discussion of the rules – ‘no you can’t ask additional questions for clues, it’s not animal vegetable mineral’), we carried on. There were more black clouds in the distance and more ridges to go over.
I was struggling a bit with the wind and it was all a bit hard going, I ended up pushing my bike for a while, then cycling, then pushing. We’d hoped to do 50km today but right now doing 20km would be great. The road turned east and for a short time we enjoyed a slight tailwind and had fun whizzing over bumps and down hills. After 22km we stopped for coffee and a snack. Probably seems that all we do is eat, but the wind saps your energy and leaves you feeling hungry. As we sat there it started to rain and we stuck on some waterproofs. I know I’ve said it before, but I really wasn’t expecting so much rain! It’s the Gobi desert for goodness sake. We’re carrying 30 litres of water because there is no water out here!!
Finally blue sky appeared and the wind dropped enough for us to cycle. I was hopeful we might be able to get another 20km done before it got dark. Chris said ‘let’s see if we can manage 10km without stopping eh?’ yes, sounds good. We came over a ridge and flying down the other side. Chris was ahead and I saw him pulling over, “What now?” A puncture! So we stopped yet again.
Half an hour later, back on the road and it was almost 6pm. The road was nice and quite flat. As we rounded the corner the storm we thought was to the west now appeared to be right ahead of us. Flashes of lightning appeared and the sky was rumbling with thunder. We were high up, we think – everywhere looks like the top of a fell or moor here – and we felt pretty exposed. Not the best place to be in a thunderstorm. We headed over to the telegraph poles – they would get hit before us, then dumped the bikes and got down into the side of a shallow dried up river bed for shelter.
We sat watching the storm. It seemed very high up but the fork lightning was all across the sky. I felt very small and at the mercy of the elements right then.
As the storm passed right over us, hail began to pelt us, big hailstones the size of marbles came raining down. So much of it, so fast; the ground was covered in seconds. I could feel the ice soaking my socks and running down into my shoes. Chris put our rucksack on my head for extra shelter and I tucked my head into my chest.
After a few minutes it passed and the wind eased up. As I looked up to ask Chris if he was ok, to my right I saw a wave of water coming towards us. ‘”Quick” I yelled pointing to the water, “move!” We both jumped up and got out of the way. The dry river bed was now flooding with water. We stood and watched before realising that we needed to cross to get back to our bikes. We ran 200m ahead of the wave and in front of it to get back to our bikes. By the time we got back and looked at where we had been sat, it was under a foot of water, flooding through at a quick speed.
But the sun was now shining and the rain and hail had stopped so we couldn’t help but smile. All around us the grass was covered in puddles of water. We were wet and mud splattered, but otherwise fine.
Realising that we weren’t going to make any progress now, we decided to find a place to camp. With the tarp up and dinner on the go, I changed into some warm clothes and peered out to see that our tent and tarp combo looked like Harry Potter’s tent, with roll mats, stoves, plats cups and all sorts of activity going on. With some hot food inside us we’d be fine and ready for a good night’s sleep.
The forecast for tomorrow is 50kmph wind, so we may stay here for the day, but we’ll wait and see.