Zafir was wishing us farewell when we realized that the bus wouldn’t start so he walked up to the road and waved down someone for a jump… It didn’t help, as it wasn’t the battery, although we were both mighty impressed that he could flag someone down in the matter of seconds! The nice man who offered to give us a jump also offered to take Bruce into the next town, about 10km down the road, to see if they could get a new battery. We decided that Andrea would stay with the bus. Before Bruce left he told Zafir to take care of Andrea while he was gone and he actually did. Zafir did not leave Andrea’s side the whole time Bruce was gone. Andrea even tried to do a little laundry in the river near where they camped and Zafir helped her with that too. He made some disgruntled noises and took the sheet Andrea was washing out of her hands and showed her how to walk into the river and wash and rinse a sheet properly. It was very sweet of him to help, although it was a little embarrassing that I had to be shown how to wash my own sheets.
Bruce came back without a battery but with a Jeep willing to tow us to the mechanic. The new battery was over $100 and Bruce didn’t think it was the problem, even though the others did. Also, at first it was mentioned that we could return the battery if we didn’t need it, but Bruce didn’t get such a warm and fuzzy feeling from that promise from the shopkeeper! So we bid farewell to Zafir, took some photos, picked up our river washed and wind dried sheets, and headed off on down the road to another mechanic. Being towed in the BBB was an experience to say the least. It is a big vehicle to start with and the Jeep kept pulling and tugging us along. Finally, we got towed the 10km down to Onguday, the next town down the road. We got to the mechanics where no one spoke a word of English this time and there were no nice computers with Russian translators to help us out.
The mechanic’s shop was pretty run down but the three mechanics seemed pretty capable. One of them had brought his beautiful little blond son along to the shop. He was incredibly cute but very shy. The boy actually had a little place to play in the mechanic’s shop; it was an old Lada with no wheels and less interior. He just had the driver’s seat and the steering wheel to play with. I guess in a mechanic’s shop inside a car is the safest place for a little boy.
After a couple of hours sitting in the hot sun and waiting to find out if we will ever get to Mongolia, we find out that the solenoid (a part of the starter motor) was the problem. Bruce and one of the mechanics went down to the same store that he went to for the battery earlier in the morning. They took along the solenoid that the mechanics had removed from the BBB to see if they could get a decent fit. They bought four back with them and managed to jerry rigged one of them to fit with the starter motor. It wasn’t quite right but it worked and we started the bus first try! Yay! But we heard a clunking in the right passenger side wheel when we were being towed earlier, so we asked them to check it out. It was the wheel bearing. Five hours of banging away prying the pieces of the wheel apart and they finally got it apart but then we were 15 minutes late for the auto parts shop down the road. With no new parts and no way of getting anything until the morning we had a choice, go into town and stay in the local hotel or stay in the bus for the night. We were both tired and fed up at that point with this whole situation that we ended up sleeping in the bus, in the mechanics shop, over the mechanics pit, with the bus on a jack for the night. What a night. We tried to make the most of it and set out our chairs and the stove and made dinner on the forecourt of the mechanics. We waved on many a wayward driver who thought that the mechanics we still open. Sadly they were not, but maybe tomorrow. Tomorrow we are off to Mongolia…
As always Viva Mongolia!