Friday 17 September
We are now making fast progress.
For the first 10 days we were dogged by windless
days and progress was patchy.
Every so often we had a spectacular day with big
mileage and then we'd be stuck for a day or more waiting for wind.
It was hard to establish any momentum.
Peter Ash on the satellite phone in the Gobi
However, things look as if they might have changed.
We have just had our two best days in succession with approximately
70km each day.
This may not sound much but the ground is very
much harder than we'd anticipated.
Yesterday, for example, we only had about 1 or
2km across reasonable ground. The rest was through thorn bushes
which grow out of sandy mounds up to a half a metre high.
We also had to ascend some big hills. The wind
averaged 20mph yesterday and it was right behind us making tricky
At times we were travelling at 20mph bumping and
crashing through these obstacles. The support vehicles could barely
keep up with us.
Towards the end of the day Kieron had a spectacular
crash into a massive mound and instead of bumping over it his left
rear wheel stopped dead.
He spun right round in a 360 degree spin and broke
the rear axle clean in two.
The Protex tyre sealant has worked well and we
are still on our first set of tyres, although they are peppered
Our PKD kites are incredible. We dump them into
thorn bushes and still they fly beautifully.
The expedition is now going strongly and today
there is already a favourable wind as I write this update at 8am.
Wednesday 8 September
We arrived in Ulaanbaatar on Tuesday 31 August
at 9am after our Aeroflot flight from Heathrow via Moscow.
By 2pm we had unpacked the crates, loaded up the
two Russian mini vans, bought a spare charging battery, been to
the bank and bought the detailed maps we needed, so off we went.
We camped that night about 50km from Ulaanbaatar.
Two long days later we arrived at our starting
point where we spent a day sorting gear and setting up the buggies
ready for their journey through the Gobi.
The roads in Mongolia are nothing better than heavily
rutted farm tracks. When any particular track gets too worn for
comfort, the drivers just avoid the bad bits and create another
We saw about one vehicle every hour on this main
road to Altai from Ulaanbaatar.
First sucessful day of kiting
Our first day kiting was the best day any of us
have ever had in a buggy. We covered 50km over difficult ground
and gained almost 1000 feet of height.
For most of the day the wind was very strong, perhaps
up to 30mph at times. We flew tiny kites, 1.8sqm, 2.0sqm and Kieron
flew a 3.5sqm for most of the day.
At times we were in danger of being overpowered.
For a couple of hours we were chased by a storm cloud which brought
violent gusts of wind.
We ran before the wind at speeds up to 41mph as
measured on our GPS (very accurate).
That night we camped when the wind died, very happy
indeed to have had such a brilliant start to our expedition.
In this day we had proved the concept was feasible,
that the buggies Kieron designed would do the job and that our beautiful
PKD kites were superb.
Unfortunately our good wind didn't reappear in
the morning and we spent a frustrating day in the strong sun waiting
for a change that never came.
Lack of wind power
The following day brought almost complete stillness
until about 2pm when we had a faint breeze from behind.
Up went the 9sqm kites but almost as soon as we
got them set, the wind faded again. We decided to cut our losses
and drive a few kilometres to a river for our first wash since leaving
This morning we awoke again to clear blue skies
and no wind and as I write this we are still waiting for the wind
to pick up.
It looks like we are in the middle of an anticyclone
which has parked itself over the Gobi.
We are ready to set off in the buggies at a moment's
notice and we will remain like this until about 6pm when, if there
is no wind, we will have to call it a day.
Three windless days out of four is very unusual.
Let's hope we have a fair wind tomorrow.
The terrain so far has been challenging with thorny
bushes that make Scottish heather seem like a powder-puff and tufts
of grassy vegetation that are virtually indestructible.
Dropping the kites in the Gobi desert is not a
good idea! From here onwards vegetation should get more sparse and
the ground is getting much flatter.
If we get a wind now like we had three days ago,
we will fly.
the team's send-off at the Mongolian Embassy in London