Sunday, September 15

Fording The Tuul River

We wake up to rain coming down hard against the felt of the ger. By 9am or so, the Tuul is in spate; its pebbly course is shallow, and it spills over at the provocation. The expedition plans had, fortunately, taken into account seasonality of the watercourse, and we ford the Tuul brazenly in our Unimog.

Unimogs, made by Daimler-Benz since after WW2, and standing for Universal-Motor-Gerät ( the German word for device being gerät,) were designed to be 4-wheel-drive trucks with portal gears (a design where the axle is higher than the center of the wheels, power being transmitted via gears situated on the wheel assembly.) This affords a very high ground clearance; these beasts also feature a flexible frame that allows the tires a wide range of vertical movement to allow the truck to comfortably drive over extremely uneven terrain, even boulders of one meter height. They can belly-ford 120 cm of water, force their ways through piles of snowdrift on high alpine roads, climb up 70-degree grades with loads of 1.5 tons, climb down 90-degree grades, and power through mud flows. Consequently, Unimogs can be found in jungle, mountain and desert; as military-vehicles, as snow-ploughs, as disaster-relief vehicles, as expedition-haulers, and even in the Dakar Rally. Bundeswehr used them in Afghanistan, and Arnold Schwarzenegger drives one in California. More on their specs here; they can truly go anywhere; the couple-of-feet deep Tuul watercourse is not a problem at all for ours.

The rising water has travelers on the wrong side of the Tuul scamper to get back before things get worse (the forecast calls for a few days of rain.) We spend most of our time pulling vehicles that have managed to get stuck while attempting to cross back.


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