Eeveryone sleeps in today after the triumphant party celebrating the success of the Jimny. Nearing noon, we all pack up and head into town to pay the local mechanic a visit. Unfortunately, when we arrive, we realize that Richie and Freddie have fallen behind. Tom and Mette volunteer to drive back in the Doblò to see what's happened; the rest of us settle in at the restaurant next door: The Loving Hut.
A few days ago, Rob and company told us not to miss this unique and bizarre vegan / vegetarian establishment. Apparently, the place is run by a cult: the Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association, but more importantly: they serve up a half-decent pizza!
Inside, there's a big screen TV tuned to the Supreme Master Channel, currently showing hilariously bad home videos of the Supreme Master of the Universe herself, playing with puppies and bunnies and birds. After a few minutes, we've deduced that you should "Be Veg, Go Green, Save the Planet!" and that everyone should be more like gentle, fluffy vegetarian bunnies.
Ages later, Richie and Freddie arrive, having had to put the wheel back on five times during the short drive into town. The guitar string must have loosened up overnight? In any case, they've made it! The guys head over to talk to the mechanic next door while we get the pizzas.
There don't seem to be any toppings to choose from, so we just order eleven; one smallish-looking pizza for each ravenous member of the team. When we're done, a lone woman in the kitchen gets down to work.
Nearly two hours later, the first three pizzas arrive. The rest trickle in over the course of the next six. We don't mind too much, though, since the guys are still working on the Jimny, and the everyone else is busy playing cards or using a pair of computers in the corner to start the process of booking their travel home.
The pizzas are gigantic, covered in roasted vegetables, an inch or two thick, and deeply filling. We'll have enough leftovers to feed a small army! The pies are fairly tasty, though a bit bland. Some come from the kitchen burning hot, while others arrive oddly lukewarm, causing the fake cheese to look curdled and unappetizing. The dough is more like foccaccia than any sort of pizza crust. As far as we can tell, they're vegan?
I can't help wishing the Supreme Master would serve supreme pizzas! In an effort to spice up my slices, I unearth our seasoning bag from the car and bring it inside to share. Everyone's meals get a lot more delicious with chili flakes and garlic salt and a bit of dried basil.
Outside, Richie and Freddie have learned that the garage can do nothing to repair their strange axle dilemma. But, in a fortuitous twist of fate, they have a lone Suzuki Jimny axle in the shop! According to Richie, it seems to be the only spare part they have.
The shop wants $150 US, and all four of their good tires for the swap (they have a set of crappy wheels to replace them with). As per usual, the mechanic disappears and work doesn't begin for a few hours. When it finally does, the guys have to do much of it themselves.
Eventually the waiting, both for the pizzas and the Jimny, gets to be too much. So, we leave to check out the marketplace. Now that we know what to look for (a bunch of shipping containers), it is easy to find. Maybe I'll buy some boots!
There are old women doing their shopping:
…and friendly guys who ask for their photos to be taken and then pose for the camera:
I try on some boots…
…but I've become increasingly picky about what possessions I'm willing to add to my life these days. I really like the look of them, but they aren't totally comfortable, so I pass. This is a big deal for me – at one time, I had a closet full of cute shoes, each pair inflicting some sort of minor pain because they didn't fit properly. These days, I'm content with my comfortable hiking boots and travel-worn sandals.
I'm happy to pass on the Mongolian garb, too, though this woman is mighty pleased to dress me up. Tyler, snickering, correctly recognizes the "Okay this is not fun anymore, get me out of here!" look on my face.
As evening approaches, the Jimny still isn't ready. Tim and Charlie need to be in UB tomorrow to get their Russian transit visas sorted before the weekend, so we have to get moving. Richie and Freddie will catch up with us tonight or tomorrow.
On our way out of town, we stop for a round of cash-obtaining at a nearby ATM, once more becoming an entertaining scene for the locals in the process. This cute girl is just one of our many onlookers.
And then we wave goodbye as we head out on a paved road, towards Ulaan Baatar. We drive with the intention of traveling through the night to reach the edge of the city. Charlie and Tim only have one headlight, and it barely works, so they will tailgate us until daybreak.
Just when we're starting to make good time, Mongolia delivers one last curve-ball: Mette's tire violently explodes:
Mette quickly gets to work changing the tire. She is no stranger to this particular problem. Lately, it has to be done at least once a day. Usually the tires just go flat, though. This is the first, and hopefully last blowout. Pretty cool looking!
It is getting late, and everyone is tired, so we decide to make camp and leave early in the morning. Tim and Charlie and Tyler and I vow to wake up at 5:00 AM, offering to rouse everyone at the crack of dawn. For once, everyone agrees to this prospect, eager to make it at last to Ulaan Baatar.
Meanwhile, we're all feeling a bit barfy. Maybe the vegan cheese was off? Gem is properly sick, and Alex doesn't feel well either. With most everyone asleep or ill it's a very small contingency that sits around a late-night bonfire, still awake when Richie and Freddie show up with their new and improved Jimny.
Apparently the swap job was pretty bad because the ride is worse than it has ever been. No matter though, at least they'll be able to finish the Rally tomorrow, thus bringing and end to their saga.