Altai turned out to be quite small but we till managed to waste most of the day there. The Yak needed some mechanical TLC we neded to get a new spare tyre and Kit had to go to the hospital. Eventually we got all our bits and bobs sorted and trundled out of the town. We had only gone for about 20 minutes when Doris yet again decided she'd had enough. A warning light kept popping up on the dashboard and she kept cutting out. None of us wanted to go back to Altai considering how long it had taken us to get there but if we had no choice,we would have to. We also didnt want to push her on too far and end up breaking down halfway between Altai and the next town. It was a tough call, but we decided to push on. She made it a little further before breaking down the next time and as it was now dark we just pushed her off the road and set up camp there.
George and Matt thought that this might be the end but being team unstoppable we kept our spirits up and the next moring we were swapping spares and jump starting her yet again. The next town on the map was Bayankhongor and we should have been able to reach this by the end of the day all going well. It was slow going with the Yak, seemingly reluctant to keep up, with leaks springing out here and there and failing breaks, but we kept moving and mid afternoon reached a lttle town where the locals advised we were only 125 km away.
We just needed to cross a few rivers and if we kept up the same pace, we'd reach the town in a couple of hours. Luckily for us we had been woken up by two canadian guys on the rally diving a Fire Engine earlier that day and they had reachd the river at the same time as us. They were more than happy to tow us over and lthough the river didn't seem incredibly deep there wasn't any point in risking it with help at hand. We covered up the air intake and exhaust to prevent any water getting in and were the first to be towed. We got through without any problems, so the Fire Engine wenback for the others. The Yak was hooked up next and Kit and Alex (whose tow bar had been knocked up inside the bonnet from incoming rocks) drove behind. Everyone made it through the deepest part so we thanked the canadian guys and bid them farewell. We just had to cross two shallow rivers similar to those we had seen a couple of days previously and we'd be on our way.
The first one I hopped out to check the best route and everyone followed us across. The second one looked a little deeper so I suggested getting out again and checking that one but Justin who was driving thought it was obvious and plunged straight in. We were going far too fast and halfway across an enormous wave of water cascaded over the bonnet and the car stopped dead.
Meanwhile one of the local children who had been watching us since we got towed across the first river whizzed across the shallowest part beckoning everyone else to follow him.
We were stranded. The engine wouldn't even tick over. The water came right up to the bottom of the door and some of it began splashing in. I quickly took off my shoes and jumped out to grab the tow rope from the boot. The water was really cold which didn't help but the river wasn't wide so we managed to quickly hook up to Kits car which had safely made it across with the others. It was a struggle to get Michaela out but after some revving and pushing she was at last dragged out to the other side.
It was a sorry sight. Our poor drowned car dripping water from every possible orifice. We really weren't sure what to do. We unpluged the air intake and poked about with a sponge in a vain attempt to soak up some water from there but it didn't make any difference. Our next idea was to get Kit to tow us around whilst we tried to bump start it hopefully forcing the water out of the exhaust but this didn't seem to revive her either.
I couldn't beleive that after making it so far and being so careful at all pevious crossings we might now have to give up due to one rash decision. I was gutted.
We were just discussing the possibility of the mechanics having a machine that could force the water out of the engine and how we would go about a tow, when some more locals came over and began guesturing at the engine. They pointed to the air filter but we explained we had already taken it out. They seemed pretty persistant so we let them have a look and they mimed unscrewing the spark plugs. We didn't have any other options so we got out our tools, put the kettle on the boil, and began to unscrew. Once they were all out they told us to start the engine and stand back. As soon as the ignition came on a loud gurgling ensued and water shot out of engine like a muddy fountain. Surely this was good news if water was coming out? We continued this for a while then they instructed us to take out the air filter housing to get to the air intake chamber at the bottom of the engine. We managed to get to it and could see that it was full of water. The locals guestures sucking it out through a straw but Matt and George had a better suggestion. They ducked into the van and emerged with the pump from a hand soap bottle which we used to pump out most of the water, the rest had to be removed the old fashioned way. Once that was all dry the locals got the last of the water out of the engine by forcing a rag down each of the cylinders, turning the engine over to pressurise it then quickly pulling the rag out the force out the last of the water. They made a few more suggestions then it was time to put her back together and start her up.
It was very tense. This could be the end of our rally. But it wasn't!
I don't quite know how we managed it, and we definitely wouldn't have without the locals help but it worked! She did sound a bit more rattly and strained than usual but she was running and this was good news. Water and steam poured out of the exhaust for a few minutes, a ridiculous amount infact, and after she had finished excrementing, and we thanked the locals with cheer and vodka, we slowly made our way onwards.
Now that we were not going to make it to the town before night fall and we had an eventful few hours we decided to set up camp nice and early and get to the town first thing the next day.