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Thread: Mongolian Madness and the Gobi Desert

  1. #1

    Mongolian Madness and the Gobi Desert

    We've finaly got plugged back into the matrix, here in Kazakhstan after 3-months with effectively no internet.

    Lisa and I (Simon) shipped from the USA back in June 2009 and spent a month exploring Japan, from the heady madness that is Tokyo to the centuries old and still unchanged fishing ports in the north east.  Complete with theirblue misty morings, where an eerie fog pulls back each moring to reveal a picture perfect scene.

    Japan was stunning, but we were both keen to experience Eastern Russia.  A two day ferry crossing would bring us to Vladivostok, our spring board into Siberia at the begining of July. 

    Heading North to the city of Khabarovsk before west through Siberia, where we were literally eaten alive by the elephant sized mosquitoes that swarmed in their millions.  If you think that's an exageration just check out the Siberia video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S3XpWo_mdXA  and watch to the end.  

     

    Having lost an unsafe amount of blood we finally arrived at the Mongolian border on teh 8th August.  It was to be the start of over a month long ride that woudl take in The grassy northern plains, above Ulaan Bataar all the way down and through one of the toughest deserts in teh world....The Gobi.  This was some of the most demanding riding we'd done since the Amazon Rain Forest back in Brazil and re-affirmed our love of travel, putting ourselves to the test and Lisa's bizarre love of sand riding, yeah, I know weird!

    So sit down, strap in and let us share a country that has unquestionable put itself in our top ten.

    ................

    15-08-2009

    After yesterdays little ‘hiccup’, we were up at 5:45am determined to get down to the Mongolian border early. Jack from the Kudu tour had already warned us that we needed to give the process 3-6 hours. With the bikes loaded and the streets wonderfully quiet we made our way to the outskirts of Ulan-Ude and picked up gas at the same station as we had yesterday. South of the city we turned an easy left to pick up the A165 which would deliver us all the way to the border. Only 3 patches of bumpy pot-holed dirt interrupted our otherwise tarred route down to Russian immigration.

     

    By 10:30am we’d picked up the last gas we’d find in Russia treating the bikes to 95 octane. Then the fun and games began.

    On the Russian side we passed 23-30 trucks, cars and 4x4’s and rode straight to the front of the line and up to the closed metal guarded gates. Half an hour later and we were waived through along with 8 others, the gates were then closed behind us. We’d been waiting in line for 30 minutes when we decided to walk down to the unimpressive white bricked kiosk, realizing it was customs we picked up the required declaration forms (2 copies each) and were surprised to find them in English and Russian, that’ll make things easier.

    On the form we list our bikes details, make, model, year, etc along with the currency we are carrying and how much, then how many pieces of luggage we have. Basically at this point we’re making stuff up. We have no idea what counts as luggage? The tank bags? The water bags? The water proof waist bags? In the end we just wrote ‘3’. We already had a pretty good idea that no-one was going to check, and they didn’t.

    Finally we are called to the front, and back inside the kiosk we hand over the declaration forms, proof of insurance, passports and pink Russian registration doc to the scar faced, square jawed officer who was dealing with us. Occasionally he’d snort, hacking up loudly something from the back of his throat, rounded off with a loud sniff.

    An hour later we were done and could move all of 30 feet to the next kiosk where we were dutifully ignored for a good 30 minutes. Finally the curt female officer took our passports and then demanded I turn my head left, right, up, down and finally that I pull my hair back. She simply wasn’t convinced that the photo in my passport was me. Lisa was next – she was fine.

    We cleared the last military checkpoint and said adios to Russia 3-hours after we’d arrived at the border.

    On the Mongolian side things were about to get messy. Several squat buildings litter the compound, none of them signed. We knew enough that we rode into and through the deep concrete pit -filled in theory with strong antibacterial solution that by now was probably just shit-coloured slimy water. We were almost out of the compound when a female military official wearing camouflage shouted after us. We’d seen no sign of anyone and were still looking for where we’d start customs and immigration.

    ...our first glmpse of Mongolia


    Here’s what we ended up doing. We got a royal bollocking from the above mentioned guard and then were told that we needed to go back to the small red-brick hut by the pit of slime to get a small piece of photocopied paper declaring we’d been through the disinfectant. Back at the hut we also handed over our passports and got given in total 3 pieces of scrappy paper. A white overcoated girl waived us into another larger building where we’d filled in a declaration confirming that we didn’t have swine flu, or coughs, itches, runny noses, wet asses, dribbly eyes, headaches, feeling of lethargy, aching muscles, and joints and so on and so on. (Actually Lisa said later that she could have ticked ‘yes’ to all of the above…but decided it best not to!)

    Further into the complex we entered the only door we could see that was open in the derelict looking buling and again found desks and ‘officials’ all looking a bit bored. We handed over our passports, after being dismissed we milled around clueless as to where to go next – we had asked and the guy had waived us past with no specific direction indicated. Half a dozen officials lurk behind counters and none of them beckons us towards then. So, we just picked a window, turned up wearing our best ‘British, chirpy chappy grins’ and waited for something to happen. At the first window we handed over passports and confirmed our bike details. One of the scraps of paper was stamped; from there we headed over to another counter and simply handed over everything we had. More stamps. We were then directed back to the window we first come from. More stamps were issued onto before mentioned scraps of paper. The female military guard who’d run out and caught us earlier walked over and applied one last stamp. “You are finished…GO’! Exclaimed the official. We weren’t sure, we already been told that twice and then been pulled back in.

    On the bikes we rode away only to have to hand over everything at the check point 200 feet from the immigration building. 50 feet further one last guard stared at us like we were offending his delicate sensitivities and then pulled back the iron gate and waived us through disdainfully.

    Ha…here we are at last in Mongolia.


    The nonsense of the border was forgotten almost immediately as Mongolia cast it’s spell. Green rolling hills blend into the horizon, each one dotted with white coloured Ger, the traditional Mongolian home. Livestock roam free, occasionally herded by a horse riding Mongol. Short two tone whistles can be heard over the bikes as the herder directs his horse and the flock. We count at least 3 Yak, each raising its head as we pass South. Cresting one hill we pulled over, realizing that a herd of Mongolian two humped camels wasn’t something we’d see every day. We’ve seen more livestock in 30 minutes in Mongolia than we have in weeks of traveling Russia.

     

     

     

    Further south we pass dead-still lakes each one reflecting the yellow and green mountains around it. Two young children to our left are being pulled around like rag dolls as they hold on to a rope strung around the neck of petrified sheep. With each mad bolt the boys are yanked forward, their dirty skin and running noses all forgotten in the heat of the battle. They finally pull the sheep to the ground.

    By early evening and with the hazy sun to our backs we finally reach Mongolia’s capital Ulan Bataar and ride into the chaotic madness. This feels familiar, more akin to Africa in particular our time in Dakar Senegal. 3 lanes of traffic carry 6 as drivers push, bully and cram their vehicles into spaces that didn’t exist moments earlier. You need a different driving mindset here; Lisa characterized the 3 features you have to employ here n the city if you are to get anywhere; concentration, awareness and aggression. Defensive riding here just doesn’t work. You can’t be intimidated. Like circling sharks, Mongolian drivers in the capital can smell the blood and you’re just chumming the water.

    By 10:00pm and with 380-miles and a border crossing under our belts we pulled into the Oasis café and guesthouse on the south eastern outskirts of Ulan Bataar. We’ve been given the choice of a room or a ger. How could you not want to spend your first night in Mongolia in a Ger? We’ve lit a small fire in the metal boiler inside and we’re tucked up tight, tired but very, very happy.

     

    ........

    16 to 28-08-2009

    ........

    10 days of working on the bikes and visiting embassies and generally trying to sort out exactly where and when we are going after Mongolia!
    There were quite a few jobs that we needed to do and The Oasis seemed the ideal place to do them! Here we have an area to work and secure parking, a supermarket nearby (albeit with little ‘real’ food) and a warm area to sit inside.

     

    The first job was my horn – I had ridden through Japan, Eastern Russia and yesterday Ulan Baatar without one and now really needed to ensure that it worked! It had been on the bike but not working since we replaced it in Washington. So, as usual a small job leads to a big one and many many more hours of work! On taking off my extra gas tank on the right side I notice that a bolt was missing – the area had worn around where it was meant to be and so I knew that one should be there! On mentioning it to Simon he looks and is horrified as what was missing was my main rear subframe bolt! Then on opening my left side pannier I notice that this was not sitting ‘quite right’…..we find that the main pannier bolt that holds the pannier frame onto the bike down by the foot peg had gone. The pannier frame was hanging and had been bashing against the rear swing arm. I had been saying that my bike had had a few more vibrations than normal!!

    So, this was a pressure bolt that now needed to be fabricated! After going to the Mongolian embassy, sharing a taxi with Bianca and Zorin (a German couple staying here traveling in a large touring truck) we head off and find that the visa extension is very easy to do but not necessary for us until 14th Sept. We aim to leave before then!

    The ger was great although the night was cold and rainy so it was great to be able to sit in the café area and work on the laptop and sit and chat to the others here.
    The next few days we worked on the bikes, found that all small jobs lead to larger ones and did all the jobs that we had intended to do before we left the USA but ran out of time to do after having the bikes back from BMW for such a short time before we had to ship them!
    After the 3rd night we decided that we couldn’t afford to stay in the Ger anymore and to be truthful we were missing being in our ‘home’ – the tent.

    So we were able to put up our tent (we asked the owners Sybelle & Renee very nicely!) in the grounds. This will save us quite a bit of $$. Also after a couple of nights snacking on food from the supermarket I was really in dire need to cook us something so I now got out our stove and pots and pans.

    Simon put a small aluminium tool box on the back of his bike as he had been carrying his tools around in his waterbags!! We need t o make sure that we have these bags available for carrying water when we head off into the Gobi desert.
    Then after a few days here we have been into the city centre, found a really great French pattiserie with great crossiant and coffee, and more importantly Wi-fi! We had also enjoyed waling around Ulan Bataar. We had been trying to find the Kazahkstani embasy but had found out that it had moved. GPS ref: N47 53.552 E106 54.443

     

     

     

    And was now over the other side of town. After a telephone call we find out that we can’t go until Thursday as this is when the Consulate is there! We had hoped to leave on Thursday!
    However, this does give us a few more days to work on the bikes and the route.

     

     

    During this time Mikai had arrived on his motorbike – 650 Dakar – in need of new fork seals. On entering the compound I went up to him to say hi and he came back with a ‘you are Simon and Lisa? – I am on your mailing list!’ Small World. Mika had emailed us quite a while ago asking a few questions re octane for the bikes. Apparently he as surprised that we had infact replied! One of my fork seals had also begun to leak so we decided to get oil for all of us. Found that it was very difficult to get the 10wt hydroscopic fork oil and after asking Renee where we could find it we gave up and got ATF fluid instead. We knew this was OK as we had done this whilst in west Africa.
    Mikai and Simon worked on the forks, changing the seals and were always coming across small other jobs in the process.

     

    We celebrated our 14th wedding anniversary here at The Oasis in Ulan Bataar – Sybelle had organized cake and candles!

    Thursday and we can get our Kazkahstan visa form in! Went back to the embassy on the motorbike, completed the forms after specifying all of the places we wanted to go. We had decided that we would head right across Kazakhstan to Aqtar and get the ferry across the Caspian sea to Azerbaijan. This was due to Iran stopping visas.
    We were told by the consulate that we could come back in a week if we paid $30 each for the visa – however – if we paid double we could get it tomorrow afternoon. We paid double as we really needed to leave UB and this would mean we wouldn’t leave until Sat morning. We would have been here a week!

    We walked back into town and decided to go into the …Palace. After paying 2500 tug each (about $2 each) we were then told we would have to pay another 10,000 in order to take photos outside!! We expected restrictions on inside photography but not outside! Stuipd. Simon told them that they needed to learn about tourism but we went in anyway and I took photos and video outside anyway! Maybe a little naughty but we had paid to enter. When we left I was able to take even more photos of the buildings by just standing outside the main entrance! Simon said I did it just to make a point!
    Friday afternoon and we were able to collect our Kaz visas. Arriving at 4pm we were told to come back in 30 mins and this gave us a chance to go and see the absolutely huge golden Buddha statue just down the road and grab a coffee and yet another Irish pub! We have found Monoglia to be full of Irish pubs!! We want to know what the connection is?

    This café gave us a view over the city of Ulan Bataar and it was hard to believe that 11 years ago (after talking to Sybelle) there had been no high-rise buildings or concerete and brick, just a few wooden ones and the rest of the city was made up of Ger! The countryside was closer as the city was a lot lot smaller and hadn’t extended to the foot hills. Its amazing to think of how fast this city has grown – however – you can see that the traffic has increased dramatically as the infrastructure is unable to cope! Traffic here reminds us of the riding through Dakar in Senegal.

    Going back to the embassy we were just handed our passports with visas included through the locked gates! All was fine with the dates. Cool – we now have our next country planned.
    Saturday morning and we decided to walk down to the …market. Once again it remineded us of the mayhem of the large African town markets where everything and anything is on sale. This time we went with Sebastian and Annette another German couple that we had originally met when crossing the border from Russia into Mongolia. They had arrived at the Oasis yesterday.
    We walked through the car/truck parts section of the market – amazing! Eventually we found the food section and a small café where we ate a wonderful lamb and rice dish with the lovely doughy bread that they have here – all for 4500 tug.

    ...modern UB.

    We were dusty and hot by the time we got back and so after a shower ( the only place that the locals can get a hot shower is here) we crashed out here with the others and watched a film on one of the laptops – of course with a few beers.

    We still had a few jobs to do – mainly the Autocoms had given up the ghost – even though they were the new ones! We now really needed them to work. Simon spent the day working on them with Mikhai.

    Today we were meant to leave…but who should turn up but Tiffany from the UK with her pillion Annie. We met Tiffany quite a few years before at a rally when we were in the UK when we were all part of the UKGser club. I had heard from her recently as she was going to be traveling through Mongolia and we had hoped to meet up although she was arriving here in UB a little later than hoped and we were already going to be on the road…however..here she was!





    We decided to stay a few more days and apply for our Mongolian visa extension. Monday morning we went back down to the Mongolian visa extension office – applied for the extension so we could stay here in Mongolia until 24th Sept. We would be able to collect our visas and passports this coming Thursday. We MUST leave Friday!

     

    ...a wet ride out of the Oasis compound.

     

     

     

    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  2. #2

    Mongolian Madness Part II

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    29-08-2009

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    Out of UB we pushed and jostled our way past old cars and belching jalopies and raced along with the fancy Toyota’s and Lexus 4X4’s. On the south side of town we easily picked up the main route and followed the new tar road for 15-miles. Out of the city and we quickly forgot the manic streets and traffic queues.

    We’d stopped for a few photos at the white and blue traditional monument on the left. The country side was opening up, the distant hills fading into light blues and greys on the horizon.

     

    Amongst the maze of streets in Dzuunmod we did our best to interept our route. We’d set the GPS to get us to to Mandalgovi, some 150 miles due south. Now don’t get us wrong, it wasn’t the lack of routes that was causing an issue but the quantity. On the south side of town twenty different tracks lead off with none of them heading due south. All we could hope was that the track we’d chosen would turn. 130-miles later and we knew we’d got it wrong. The track had turned to tar for 11-miles a good indiction that it was leading to a major town, that had to be Mandalgovi, we’d guessed. They’re isn’t another major town anywhere close. The tar fissled into 4-5 minor tracks that all eventually faded away. There was nothing for it but to U-turn and ride back to Dzuunmod. What a waste of time, we already knew that by now we weren’t going to reach Mandalgovi by tonight.

     

    Back at Dzuunmod we criss-crossed our original track and followed what had looked like a dead-end. Around the back of what appeared to be the shanty side of town the track suddenly broadened and cut a swath through the valley. In the distance we could see 15 or so tracks all running parallel to each other. This much traffic can only be going to Mandalgovi.

    3-hours later and we’ve been up on the pegs continuously, the dark clouds dappling the countryside with patchy light, which ony enhances what is a vast and open landscape. 4-miles ahead and a dozen dust clouds kick into the air each one trailing the speeding 4x4 that’s creating it. What a sight. It looked more a desert race than a commute home. At the top of a small rise and before entering the next valley we take a moment just to take in the view. Words don’t do much in the face of such overwhelming beauty.

     

    Pulling off the track we simply cut across country and headed up into the taller hills we’d been riding to for the last hour, the ground getting more technical rough and soney as we ride higher.

    We eventually made camp high above the track and out of harms way as the speeding 4x4’s will travel into the night. With the tent up and a cup of coffee in hand we perched ourselves on the taller rocks and whatched the sun turn the heavy cloudbase golds, mauves and yellows.

    Click on the thumbnails for larger images.

    It’s only just beginning to sink in that we’re in Mongolia and camped on the steppes. Perhaps Ghengis Khan once passed this way, who knows. Tonight we’re tired but happy and excited at to what tomorrow will bring.

     

    ...................

    30-08-2009

    ...................

    We’d sipped on coffee, much like last night, watching the number of dust tails increase as the number of vehicles heading south did the same.

    We were back on the track and snaking our way from valley to vale by 7:00am. By mid-day we’d found a steady pace and rhythem and had even become more accustomed to the weight of our loaded bikes.

    As we round a crop of rock a white temple suprises us to the right, there’d been not a hint or sign or a mention of the temple on any of our maps. 20 or so white painted mini temples situated around a larger brightly painted one. The smaller white shrines walling the larger to the north, south, west and east. A Mongolian herder races into the centre, stood in the stirrups to make the picture all the more perfect. We snap a few photos whilst trying to deliberate the route. The GPS wants us to go straight but we can see the passing 4x4’s all turning west, up and over the hill behind the shrine. With directions asked from a few local herders we turn south to follow the GPS.

    Two-hours later and I’m having my doubts as the tracks gets smaller and seemingly less used. By mid-afternoon and we’ve raced through low valleys and slowly wound our way into the next and stopped by a large lake. There was no way around, the track we’d taken had led us here. We needed to u-turn and search for another path. As we dead end again a half hour later outside a ger, the family come out, surprised to see us, their dog bearing fanged teeth until it’s brought to heel.

    Our attempt to ask directions is met with frowns and looks of uncertain confusion. We thank them and cut across country, making our own track. I’d left Lisa as I rode onto the steep hill in the hope of looking down and seeing a track. The deep water cut trenches that cut into the side of the hill weren’t making life easier and the thick mounds of scrub grass kept the wheels and suspension bouncing as I rode higher. At the top and end I could see the faint wear of a track heading south and back with Lisa we ride into the wettest and marshiest area we’ve seen so far. As I slowly ride into a shallow puddle, I know instantly I’m going down,

     

    the back of the bike slips out and my left foot simply slides as I try to find a solid footing. Lisa’s yells of laughter bring a smile to my face. Yeah, it was about time I came off the bike. It turned out to be impossible to lift the bike still loaded we simply couldn’t lift without our feet slding from under us. And so with the bags off got the big girl upright, we found drier ground and re-loaded.

    By late afternoon we’d again worked our way across country and found the main piste, a wide and corrugated track that looked like it had seen recent rain. The deep hardened trenches scared deep by the passing of heavy trucks during or after recent rain were the clue.

    Four hours later and we were cursing and swearing aloud as we skidded and bumped from the seemingly never ending washboard into the deep pockets of sand that line the piste. There’s no two ways about it, ride them fast or slow corrugations are a bloody nightmare and will drive you complety mad.

     

     

     

    We were by early evening chasing the sun, trying to get to Mandalgovi before night fall, the idea of being out on the piste, still riding the sand and the washboard at night was a cruel one.

    On the outskirts of town we flicked through the pages of the LP and after checking out one of the hotels it describes as ‘rundown’ we decided it looked derelict and headed for the hotel Temoujin. 12,000 tug seemed OK for night and even better to have the bikes locked up securely in a connected factory protected by 5 frothy-mouthed raibbied looking st Bernards. Massive animals that looked postivley wild, their heavy fur soaked in filth and oil.

    With our bags in the room we headed down into the eating room, yeah, calling it a resteraunt just paints the wrong idea. With two cold beers in hand suddenly the day didn’t seem so long and by 9:00pm we’d been joined by two locals who’d hammered down from UB, who were stopping for food and drink and then carrying on for another 5-hours to reach east of Dalandzadgad. Without a comom language we had a bizarre conversation. Randomly they’d spit up English words. Mid beer sip, one of the guys would turn, grin and yell”Dianna, Charles” and then “Beckaham”. “Manchester United”and “Beatles” followed quickly after. The bizzarest part of the evening was when the older of the two guys stood from his chair and physically demonstrated that he wanted to ass shag Britney Spears, the conversation turned political. “Terrorist, Bin, Bib, Bin Laden…Ghinkas Khan…same” the older of the men stated. We couldn’t believe our ears. Mongolias most famous hero slash mass murderer was being exclaimed as a terrorist by one fo his own country men. We checked we understood but there was no mistaking the worlds and the hand gestures. This guy was saying the Khan and Bin Laden were the same, a couple of terrorists. Bizzare.

    We turned in tired and slept heavily after eating a bowl of goat meat/fat stewed on hot water and onion. Sounds bad- tasted good.

     

    ...more to come soon.

     

    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  3. #3

  4. #4
    Magic
    0 te 60 in as long as it takes

  5. #5
    Subscriber Click here to find out how to Subscribe
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    Brilliant read & amazing pictures!

  6. #6
    I'm suprised Sybelle and Renee allow any GS'ers to stay at the Oasis after the riff raff who were almost thrown out earlier this year
    KEA

  7. #7
    ...yeah me too, they do seem to remember you!!
    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  8. #8

    Mongolian Madness Part III

    ..........

    31-08-2009

    At the last gas station in town we filled the bikes to the brim and set about cutting the 20 feet of tangled wire from Lisa’s rear wheel. It had got caught during yesterdays ride south and need to be cut with the Leatherman before it threw Lisa from the bike. There was enough of it to jam the back wheel if her luck ran out. She’d been lucky that it hadn’t already done that yesterday!

    A mini interview with the film crew from UB didn’t seem odd until 30 minutes later when our location and situation sank in.

    For the most part yesterdays corrugation had lessoned and we spent the day between wide open plains where we could gas the bikes and hit the higher gears and weaving over rocky paths that kept us in 1st and 2nd. Throttle control and a deft touch on the clutch kept us upright and moving forward.

    evening set in we resigned ourselves to not reaching Dalandzadgad. The mountains views, valleys and passes we’d ridden through earlier had disappeared and we were definitely now traveling towards the Desert Gobi region. The landscape open, dry and vast. We’d had to watch our speed earlier as the thicker sand we’d heard about increased. As yet we’ve not yet let the air out of our tyres. We want to acclimatise to the sand first and then gain maximum benefit from the flatter tyres and the gain in control.

     

     

    ..........

    01-09-2009

    Sticking our heads out of the tent bought gasp’s of “wow”.

     

    This incredible and solitary landscape is stunning. Lit pinks and golds, the long shadows cast by the rock piles shrink and pull back as the sun pushed higher. With strong coffee brewed we didn’t rush to pack up, it didn’t seem important when compared to the spectacle and views only ‘we’ seemingly witnessed. Not a bird in the sky or a beast on the ground. A private showing of daybreak just for us. These are the moments when I know our sacrifices of money and missed friends and family are worthwhile. In these quite moments I realise these times will be with us always, are part of who we are now and can never be taken away. The warm sun on our skin feels good as the chill morning air disapates.

     

    With air out of the tyres we’ve gained more control and with this a confidence. At 60mph around mid-day, I had a Sahara moment! After a tougher section of sand I looked left to see a kitted out bike come hurtling past me; impressed by the rider and the bike it suddenly struck me it was Lisa and much like the Sahara 7-years earlier I felt an immense pride in my wife. “Cool” I said to myself out loud.

    We’d seen no other vehicles for 5-hours when we at last rolled into DZ. The dodgy looking asphalt felt strange after all the soft terrain and after checking around town for a hotel that wasn’t $90, like the other two we’d checked, we ended up booking into a small hotel at the opposite end of town to the airport. (Find it at GPS: N43 34.515 E104 26.101) Clean rooms with secure parking around back for the bikes. The room cost us 20,000 tug.

    After a quick shower we walked across to the miners camp, a gated area with a dozen gers. Dinner was spaghetti inside the largest ger in the middle of the compound. Miguel the French owner, entrapenour and professor introduced himself and his French speaking Mongolian wife and with half a dozen local Auzzie miners we enjoyed some rowdy conversation and a couple of drinks.

     

     

    02 to 05-09-2009

    Well, it’s been a good but frustrating few days and pretty awful for Lisa. The morning after we arrived, Lisa woke feeling ill, sick, nauseous with severe stomach cramps. A bad case of food poisning.

    Lisa writes: I’d woken up in the very early hours of the morning with the most terrible stomach cramps. My first thought was food poisoning. Strangely enough I didn’t feel sick however, I could not even sip water without severe cramps a couple of seconds later. I had to just lie there. This was to set the trend for the next 48 hours….I kept thinking that it would just go- give it the usual 48 hours…….
    Simon worked over at the Miners Ger camp on the laptop catching up with all of the writing etc. We had such a lot to do and of course here I was not able to do a thing.

    So today I had left it long enough…..I needed to see a Doctor as things were not getting any better. Luckily enough Miguels wife was a Doctor and she came over to see me. Told me in French (my French is a bit rusty but I got the jist). What I had was indeed food poisoning – a very bad bout – and after checking she said that it would be the steamed ‘buuz’ (mutton dumplings) that I’d had in Mandalgobi…they mix them with camel meat there and its well known to have a very bad effect as the steaming doesn’t get them to a very high heat! She examined me and said that it was quite severe and I needed some very strong medicine and within a day I would be fine. Oh God I do hope so because feeling like this just wears you out. Off she went with Simon and Miguel to go and get my medicine, which cost about $4. 3 different tablets- not too sure what they were but they worked very quickly – by the evening my cramps had almost gone and I was for the first time in 3 days able to walk!!

    I was still very weak and so we decided that before we tackle what will be some hard riding, I needed to get some food inside me and re-hydrate. A very gentle day for me.

    Simon Writes:

    With Lisa going a little stir crazy in the small room, we joined the french couple I'd met two before and headed into DZ by foot, hoping to fins some food and a coffee. After an hour we'd found nothing open, it's a Sunday. At the back of one of the larger stone buildings, we'd spotted some brightly dressed characters and after a quick chat, mostly with gestures and body language we got the OK to take a few photos. Little did we know these guys were the Mongolian Immigration traveling theatrical team, well, or words to that effect. Two of the smartly dressed officers led us all inside, offered us seats and without charge asked us to watch the show. Bloody hell, what a show. After almost 2-hours we'd seen acrobatic dancers, stoic soviet style singing, with a full orchestra, proudly voiced nationalistic speeches, recounting Mongolia's finest moments (we guessed) and heard some pretty incredible, professional sounding voices, belting out all manner of tunes. CHeck out a few of the photos, you'll get a better idea. I'll never be able to look at a immigration officer in the same way again. The whole thing seemed wonderful but so incredibly bizarre. The show totally out of sync, seemingly with our surroundings and what we'd expected to see or experience here in DZ. The four of us chatted and grinned all the way back to the miners camp, where I quickly downloaded the photos I taken.

     

     

     

    Lisa writes: OK – so I am now able to eat….so today is the day for eating!!! Yippe. A good sign is that I am hungry ?

    ..........

    06-09-2009

    My relief was tangible as I watched Lisa climb onto her bike with a grin and the first dust cloud kick up from her rear tyre as it hit the dry dirt outside DZ. The 5-miles of tar out to the airport had been a nice start to the day before things got…technical. 500 metres off the tar and Lisa had already pulled over. U-turning and pulling up at her side my first concern was that she’d over done it and her health had let her down. She was fine.

    “What’s up”I ask. “The bike feels wrong” Lisa answered, her face concerned. Now I love my wife but, friggin hell she’s annoying, when after 30-years of riding bikes, her answers are as vague as…”it feels wrong”. In my frustration I bring this matter up at the time, which in hind sight may not have been the best of times and shortly afterwards we’re both spouting angry words until common sense gets the better of us and we realsie that the bike’s not fixing itself.

    After a little gentler prodding I get from Lisa that the problem is the bike feels loose with more vibrations being felt than normal. “OK, at least that gives me some direction, when I start to look at the bike. Five minutes later and I’ve found her rear sub-frame feeling looser than it should and then the culprit is found. Her lower rear left sub-frame bolt is almost completely out. Tightening it back up does the trick for a while. The same bolt was to come loose another 4-times through out the day.

    Cuting across the dry dusty plain we made our own track until finding the smaller ones that would lead us to the main piste. The cement like mud track soon turned to loose sand and shale in places, left overs from rushing water after the winter snow melts. The bikes feel cumbersome and we needed all our experience to stay upright. Coming into one gentle twist I entered the turn too hot, I got on the brakes too late, hit a soft pile of crap over-cooked the corner and kept the bike upright by over running into scrub and then dropping down a steep embankment into an old river bed. My heart was in my mouth. It was another ½ km unitl I could find a low spot and gas up the incline and rejoin the track. Lisa knew what had happened, said nothing and when we finally pulled over, I grinned, she simply shook her head and raised an eye brow. This just made me grin harder. Bloody hell I love this stuff!!! I love having to think about the ride, every second, every corner, and each twist of the throttle, each tap of the brake. There’s a reward to it.

    Todays ride was just a short 41-miles out to Yolyn Am Canyon (Eagle Gorge), where we drove to the end, took in the view and declined the offer of a horse ride into the pass. Whilst the seting sun painted the cliffs, incredible yellows we chatted to the 3 men and i women who'd offered us horse rides earleir and who were now whittling small pieces of wood into anumal forms; goats, rams, yak and snow leapards. Lisa baught a small wooden ram for $5 which also allowed us to shoot some photographs of the three. Smiles and giggles filled the evening air was we showed each photograph as it was taken. I couldn't stop looking at thier hands, cut, brusied with dirt as much a part of the make-up as the skin covering them, ground into the flesh. Working Mogolian hands.

     

     

     

    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  9. #9

    Mongolian Madness Part IV

    .......................
    07-09-2009
    .......................
    After a good pack up we found a smaller dirt track just to the south of the main piste, we’d left earlier. The main piste west follows a river bed and between the corrugations and at times incredibly loose shale and silt, the ride had been overly taxing. The dirt track was tighter, more technical to ride but safer.

    We’d hoped to reach the dunes today, well that was the plan. Our first goal had been to reach Bayandalay, a short 27-mile to the west. The dirt track had gone and an hour later we’d ropped back into the river bed, Low jagged mountains and dak cliff faces lined the way. As the river bed twisted though another gorge we needed our wits about us. 4X4’s barreling down here, turning at speed had cut deep channels into the bed, deep enough to scrape the bottom of our panniers and on two occasions they did. We eventually learnt to tackle this at speed, riding the edge of the channel and letting the bank sling shot us around the obstacle. After a while it got easier and yeah…it does make you feel pretty cool. Right up until you realize that you’re on a 320kg machine and you need to stop fast before you plough into the rock pile ahead.

    Checking our fuel levels in Bayandalay we pushed on, we didn’t need gas. The flat open landscape around Bayandalay changed into wider plains of yellow scrub, until the mountains again hemmed us in from both sides. I’d marked a GPS point at the larger dunes and had been watching the compass heading for 45- minutes and wasn’t happy. I’d been sure we’d taken the right track out of town, but now I had my doubts. I’d kept waiting for the track to turn more North west. It didn’t happen. We’d taken a north turn and followed a barely visible line of wear through the scrub, which eventually fizzled out again on the flanks of a mountain range. I was pretty sure it was the range we’d been looking for, unfortunately I was equally as sure that we need to be on the easterly side of the range. Shit, shit, shit!!!!!

    We needed to u-turn and head all the way back to Bayandalay, where we knew for sure the track to the dunes began. This was going to cost us time and gas.

    Back in town and we found the small sinlge pump gas station and handing over 64,000 tug filled up with 80 octane. Outside of the major towns 80 oct is all there is and it’s expensive. But take a look around, remember where you are and you quickly realize why. Moving anything here in Mongolia is tough.

    Heading North west out of town we did our best to follow the mish mash ot tracks, each time swapping if we saw a track with more wear and tear, that was heading in the right direction. Two long mountain ranges now hemmed us in from both sides, channeling us north west. As dusk settled the light turned orange. A thick line of cloud sat above the range to our west, like a fluffy collar reflecting the pinks of the setting sun. The long shadow from the range reaching out to us. We rode closer to the flanks of the easterly range, like earlier it didn’t feel right, but also like earlier I’d hoped that the single width track that we’d now been following would turn west and towards the dunes. As the rocks and strewn boulders increased so did my concern. Shit two miss-directions in a day and we were stil 60 miles from the dunes we’d hoped to camp at. Pulled over at the side we’d spoken with a locall family in a broken down Russian jeep and after checking they were OK and had water confirmed we needed to U-turn. A short 5-miles later and we could see the track to the right, we’d missed earlier. It crossed a deeper gully and soft shale, wed been so focused on getting over this stuff we’d missed the larger track we should have taken.

    We needed to get a move and so picking up the speed we took the gamble of a bad fall and pushed on. By 7:30pm we’d been riding in each others dust for long enough and had to conceed that we weren’t going to make it today. We’d passed a sign confirming we were now in the Gobi Gurvansaikhan national park. Goats and livestock meandered across our path and in the distance small white gers dot the landscape. Suddenly it didn’t matter that we weren’t going to make the dunes. The views and experience of just being here more than made up for it. The mountains around were lit as the shafts of sun light split the low lying cloud and the top of the mountains to the west.

    Pulling up just 30 feet from the main piste we slid off our helmets, turned off the bikes and just watched the day slowly slide out in a display that can only be called majestic. Tired as I was I knew this was going to make some great photos and so after a little coaxing with Lisa I pulled out the camera and got some great shots of Lisa and her bike. The light was incredible. Have a look at the photos, I hope you agree.











    With the torch hung from my handlebars Lisa cooked a pasta with the left over crèam and two cans of tuna. Inside the tent we eagerly flicked through the photos on the digital cameras before giving way to drooping eye lids. We camped at GPS: N43 38.904 E102 53.208

    ................
    08-09-2009
    ...............
    After several a strong cups of coffe, we packed up and left our camp a little sad. For an unspoken reason both of us had felt last night was special. No-one passed us, the wind had died and being in Mongolia felt like the privelege it is. That’s easy to forget when wrapped up in the moment and dealing with what has been some of the toughest riding we’ve tackled since the Amazon.

    Passed our camp the piste twists and turns, diving into and out of 20-30 gullies and water channels that have cut into the landscape as the snow melts and the run off pours down the mountains ranges to find the valleys low point. 2-miles to our left we can see the start of the dunes. Bright yellow, low and patchy, growing in size and width all the time as we travel north.









    By mid morning we’d pulled over, grabbed the cameras and were taking snap shots of these incredible mountains of sand, whilst a herd of camels graze in the foreground. We were like excited school kids. Anyone that came to our presentations in the USA has heard me say we’re always impressed by wildlife, we’re English, our wildlife consists of pigeons and rain soaked sheep.

    30-minutes later and we’d ridden farther north and detoured to the base of the largest dune we’d seen. It was just too sodding tempting and so wearing a grin the size of Mars I followed Lisa into the sand, much to the amusement of 4 locals, who’d stopped to sip water from their goat stomach water bladders. I could hear whoops of excitement over Lisa’s engine as she slid and revved her bike in the thick soft sand. We were still fully laden and the tyres still harder than they should have been. Turning was getting harder the further into the dunes we travelled. After a couple of fun drops we knew we’d gone far enough and headed back out to the firmer ground. We then spent 20 minutes doing our best to convince the locals that we weren’t completely barking mad. We took a bunch of photos, of the guys sat on the bikes and each time showed them the results. Unlike South America, not once did they ask for money, just to see the photos was enough.





















    GPS: N43 46.495 E102 20.307 we pulled into the Gobi Explorers ger camp. It was the end of the season they had no guests, we’d hoped to stay overnight and get cleaned up but after the delays of the last few days we were now pushing it for time if we were to get out of Mongolia before our visa’s expires. Running over the visa here is taken seriously with a fine of $1,000 per person. At the camp a couple of Nescafe’s and two bottles of coke seemed to do the trick and by mid afternoon we doned our now filthy bike kit and were heading off.

    As Lisa sped out of sight my heart sank. Something’s not right. The front end of the bike was feeling awfully ‘squishy’. The temptation to ignore it was huge, but I knew better. Off the bike my fears were confirmed, the front tyre was as flat as the proverbial pancake.



    With Lisa back with me it took us all of 30 seconds to find two long slices in the side wall. Pulling out the puncture repair kit things got worse. The extra strong special rubber glue I’d bought in the USA had punctured and exposed to the air had completey hardened. We made a plan.

    With Lisa staying with my bike, I then rode her’s back the the ger camp, and talked a passing local guy in another Russian 4x4 into lending a hand. We’d already checked his puncture kit and glue. Back with Lisa we set about pulling the front wheel and removing the tyre. Repairing the slices was going to be suspect but with both of the slices patched from the inside we then decided to pull the tubeless valve and inserted the spare heavy duty 21” tube we’d been carrying. The entire exercise had cost an hour and a half. In the searing heat of the day, we’d not drunk any water and were now both paying the price in terms of energy and concentration.

    By the end of the day the landscape had changed to rolling hills, the dunes had disappeared and we’d ridden 72 miles, it felt more like 700 as we set up camp in the neck of a small vale. We’d hoped to reach the 3 Camel Lodge and get a wash, it’ll have to wait.

    As we set up camp we snatched glances to the south west the sky seemingly on fire, ruby blood red. The kind of colour that you see in photos and presume is photoshoped. This was for real and in spite of our fatigue…inspiring.

    OK, that’s it I’m too tired to write anymore.

    Night, night.

    ...................
    09-09-2009
    ...................
    OK, I’m not writing much tonight, what a friggin day with so few miles made.

    We left the camp this morning and found the going tough, the main piste corrugated from the hundereds of 4x4’s that trolley the adventure seeking tourist around and down to the dunes. We’d reached the 3 Camel Lodge (at GPS: N43 53.603 E103 44.435) and bulked at the idea of $150 for the night. It’s an American owned luxury Ger camp, nice but way out of our price range. **** we can’t even afford a price range these days ?. We choose the cheapest thing on the menu slowly sipped two beers and headed off. Seven miles north of the camp and whilst I filmed Lisa ride a soft stretch, her bike swerved, hit a thick bank and threw her off. And yes I got the whole thing on film. She was fine but winded. Her front tyre was looking worrying. A puncture had deflated her tube fast and between that and the soft tall bank of sand had stripped her front tyre off the rim.

    I was now using every curse word I could think of in every language I knew and when I ran out of those I’m pretty sure I made some up. After yesterdays puncture we hoped to reach the next town where I could get some repair glue, I still had nothing. We ended up pulling the tyre and rim from the 650, strapping the lot to my bike and I then rode back to the lodge and set about enlisting the help of 3, 4x4 drivers who’d stopped for lunch with their wealthy US tourists. On pulling the tube I was pretty angry to see the expensive ‘heavy duty’ tube was as flimsy as a balloon at a kid’s party. Even the drivers seemed surprised that it hadn't blown earlier. We found the split, made the repair and I then headed back to Lisa and refitted. It was late afternoon. Lisa had said that not a single vehicle had passed her in the 2-hours I’d been away. We ended up calling it quits for the day 24-miles further north east and pulled into the small ger camp to the left of the ‘Flaming Cliffs’. At GPS: N44 07.848 E103 42.171

    Our luck was about to change.The food was great and the hot shower an absolute treat. After washing my hair for the 3rd time the water stopped coming off me brown. Shaved and clean for the first time in a while, I’d hoped to write more about today, but I’m just too tired.

    ................
    10-09-2009
    ................
    Long day, some technical single track through the mountains. Land turned green in late afternoon. Tons of ******* corrugations.
    Had Mongolian goulash for dinner. Very cold. Camped at Ger camp, we were the only guests. Bloody windy all day and bitter cold but we’ve managed 154-miles. Camped at GPS: N45 55.310 E103 34.945. Fifty miles south east of Arvaikheer, we ran out of daylight.
    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  10. #10

    Mongolian Madness Part V

    ..................
    11-09-2009
    ..................

    We cupped our cold hands around the warm mugs of ‘McCaf instant coffee, 50% sugar. Our hands tingle, the skin heated by the hot mugs. It had been hard to get out of our sleeping bags this morning. The weight of the extra blankets we’d layered on top felt snug and comforting. In the main ger I attached the wide angle lens and did my best to photograph the roof of this amazing structure, the brightly painted orange and decorated roof poles looking larger, stouter than others we’d seen. Perhaps this is a permanent ger?





    We’re really battling with our hands, even my finger nails have started to bleed around the cuticles. And pulling the staps and bungees tight to secure our bags is a painful experience as split skin on our fingers tears wider from the effort. Lisas fingers are also sore and bleeding – not a pretty sight.


    my hands


    Lisa's hands

    We’re heading today for Arvaikheer, some 220 miles south west of Ulaan Baatar. It’ll be the first major town we’ve seen in ten days. We leave the soft earth ground and cresting a steep rise by a derelict gas station bounce our way onto tar. Bloody hell it feels so strange to be able to just ‘sit’ on the bikes and go forward. We’ve got so used to continuously adjusting our bodies to stay upright. Soviet style austere buildings make up the main centre; the smaller side streets are dusty and pot-holed. With a few wrong turns we finally park up in front of a small café and order what turns out to be diced mutton cooked into rice. The mutton fat flavors the meal.

    [IMG]http://www.2ridetheworld.com/gallery/mongolia/images/chapter_3/2009Sep10_arvaikheer_temple_to_khoffd_2221.jpg[/IMG]
    ...a temple to the spirit that protects horses in Mongolia



    ...an old guy that we had a chat to. He had no English but it's amazing what you can express with gestures.

    Out of town we ride new tar for 15-miles before detour off and onto the dirt trail. Lisa has fallen behind and without dust kicking up from her bike I’m guessing she’s stopped. With a suspect u-turn made, my concentration is crap at the moment, I pull up at her side, she’s already off the bike and looking concerned. “it just doesn’t feel right” she shouts over the noise of the wind. “coming down onto the track the whole back end feels wobbly’, she continued. With the tools out and her bags unpacked some 20 minutes later we’ve ended up having to strip her panniers and even the front gas tanks.





    We can now easily see the problem. Her whole rear subframe is infact loose. The front upper sub frame bolt has sheared and the front left bolt is now working loose. The two lower bolts are also now working themselves free. It takes me two hours to find bolts and nuts from our now depleted supply and cram my hands into the tiny workspaces around the offending bolts and get them all tightened up. The left side lower bolts causing an issue, it’s still a torx head and is now rounded inside, making it almost impossible to apply any real force.

    Back on the road we spend the remainder of the day cresting rolling hillsides and sliding our way down soft churned piste, taking a more northerly line than the heavy trucks traveling to our south. There’s so much dust.

    We end up pulling off the track and pitching our camp amongst a rock field. The scene is nothing less than enchanting. Mountains to our north, soft rolling hills to our south that are lit hues of pinks and gold by the setting sun and around us close by rock towers worn smooth over time by wind.




    ...at the end of a long day, just before you put up your tent for the ten thousand's time, how could anyone look at this and not feel the absolute privilege of being here.

    ................
    12-09-2009
    ................

    By 6:30am our alarms had buzzed annoyingly and we’d managed to crank our sore backs from prone to upright and had slowly started to stuff our sleeping bags and gear bag into their respective stuff sacks. Even this simple daily procedure was now becoming a mission with sore and bleeding hands. The dry spilt skin on our fingers accutely painful.

    Out of the tent with forced buckles of our dusty mx boots snapped closed we take a few minutes to take in the majesty of our surroundings. The quickly rising sun over the low mountains in the east casts long contorted shadows across the yellow, brown and ochre landscape. They stretch and then shrink impossibly as the sun gets higher.







    With Lisa finishing the last few jobs I grabbed the camera and tripod and climbed one of the taller rock stacks. In the distance I can already see 3-4 blazing dust trails as Russian jeeps and vans tear through the valley we’d ridden last night.

    On the bikes we steadily and carefully bump over the loose rocks, across the gullies and bounce our way back onto the track, turning right following the path with the most wear, hoping it’s the right one.

    To our surprise, some 30 minutes later and we’ve found a larger flatter route, two cars wide, still rocky but we can pick up our speed at last. For the rest of the day we swap seated for standing as we barrel our bikes into washed out and sandy gullies and larger dips in the road. The new route that has already been ploughed to our left keeps us company for hours. We can’t risk getting onto it for fear of not being able to get off it, should we have to, In the afternoon we seem to do nothing but slide around as we rise and fall riding the low hills like a roller coaster. Lisa has to fall behind as we hit a stretch of terrain covered in a ‘fesh fesh’ like sand. Talcom powder like sand that pillows into the air, kicked up by the tyres. It then hangs in the air for an age, making it impossible to see. We take it in turns to lead.





    The countryside has become greener, not actually green but greener and thankfully less corrugated. Wide expanses of track open up, the landscape scarred with a dozen different tracks all heading west. At least Lisa and I can ride different track which means we’re not covering one another in dust. On the flatter longer stretches we reach 60mph only to pull in the brakes before dropping into washed out gullies and sandy, silty river beds. They need concentration as the bikes squirm, getting hard on the gas is the answer. Wild horses graze on the short scrub grass. The chestnut brown mares seem to glisten in the sun, they all look pretty healthy and totally unimpressed as we pass.







    By afternoon we are in lowlands and 15 miles from Bayanhongor, ger’s dot the landscape, their herds of goat seemingly larger than those in the east of Mongolia. More green land means more water and soon we are off the bikes, and I’m wading through the first of what turns out to be four water crossings. The loose gravel banks to the waters edge loose and deep, churned up by vehicles that all use the same point to enter into the shallower sections. In first gear I lean back from the bars and let the water plumes wash over my knees, the bike slides a little but less than I’d imagined. We need to be aggressive on the gas to get up the opposing bank as loose shale makes the slope more treacherous than it should be.










    ...another soft pocket of 'fecsh-fecsh' type sands catches me out.

    By early afternoon we’ve reached the outskirts of Bayanhonger our route a mixture of shale and deep sand. We have more than a few hairy moments when the back of the bikes go completely out of wick with the front. We stay upright only with a few control blips of the throttle and a few prayers.



    In town we follow the advice of the lonely planet and after a few go-arounds manage to find the Seoul Hotel, a newer looking building, with a metal fence. Leaving Lisa outside I go in, my eyes taking an age to adjust to the dark. The hotel is on the second floor, a restaurant on the first. I finally manage to find who I think is a cleaning lady and arrange to book a night for 36,000 tugrik. It’s the most we’ve paid and expensive by our standards, although the room is clean and semi-westernized. With Lisa still outside I make 6 trips, through the dark corridors, back outside lugging all our dusty, dirty and heavy bags into the small room. We’ve even manged to park up the bikes in the small concrete garage around back. It’ll cost us 2,500 for the night, a small price for security. Lisa remains with the bikes as a bunch of kids all try to sit on them, picking and pulling at every item they can find.









    We spent 14,000 on a soup of Korean dish full of beef and tofu in the restaurant,we washed it down with a warm beer, we hadn’t really realized how hungry we were.

    Up in the room I worked on the Amazon article for RR whilst Lisa set about taking our bags into the washroom and systematically rinsing our bags and gear in the hope of getting some of the zips working again.

    With two bars of chocolate bought, we lay in bed, and watched the “Punisher”, we just didn’t have the energy to leave the room.

    ................
    13-09-2009
    ................

    Full of gas we headed out of town and for the day swapped flat firm track for winding rocky path. The room last night had cost us 36.000 tug and dind’t leave much left for fuel.

    We ended up pulling off the track and riding into the rocky landsape that was growing higher to our left. We needed to be out of sight as much as out of the wind.

    .................
    14-09-2009
    ................

    Perched ontop of a craggy outcrop of rocks high above the plains it felt pretty dam good to sip on warm coffee. In the distance we could see the dust clouds from the few trucks blazing their own path.

    Back with the bikes we picked our route carefully back to the track, cautious to avoid the sharper larger rocks.

    With the track wider and flatter for the most part we rolled into the town of Altai around mid-day and parked up in front of a café in the middle of this dusty town. Inside the walls were decorated with faded photos of horses, each inside a hazy plastic frame. The mutton soup took an hour to arrive and 5 minutes to scoff down. Outside we could see the bikes getting their fair share of attention. Men, women and children all clambering over the machines, pressing every button in sight. We’ve simply had to get used to people climbing onto the bikes, taking a seat and then wobbling as they battle to handle the surprising weight.

    It’s all meant well, but like Africa, personal space here is an alien concept. It’s been the same for weeks now. I end up feeling like a new dog in town, rolling up only to stand patiently whilst the local pack swarm around and sniff my ass. Nothings meant by it, it’s just how it’s done. 10 guys poke and prod every part of the bike whether I’m on it or not and then get on their hands and knees, looking into every nook and cranny, Under the front beak gets special attention as does the back end and exhaust. With inspection complete I (we) get the seal of approval and conversation is then struck up, but all basically in that order.

    With inspection complete in Altai, I start my own cursory check over the nuts and bolts that have required attention every day of our travel time in Mongolia. Sure enough the left lower sub frame bolt of Lisa’s bike is loose and I daren’t tighten it, the stupid torx head is now almost completely stripped. “You have a problem”? a deep voice ask’s over my shoulder. One of the guys who’d been inspecting earlier was offering help. I explained I needed a bolt and a minute later his driver was strolling back from his Land Cruiser and holding the right sized nut and bolt. Ten minutes later it was in place with a healthy dose of thread lock.

    Out of Altai the track was wide and pisted for the first time for a while we could hit the higher gears feeling like we were making some real headway, by later afternoon we were back in single track. Pulled over at the side the sight of a Mongolian herdsmen riding at speed across the plain on horse back had got my attention and so with handshakes exchanged and permission granted I took as many photos as time would allow.











    Back with Lisa and with the sun setting fast our luck was about to turn. Her pancake flat tyre wasn’t going to let us get anywhere. “No, no, no, c’mon” I yelled in frustration. Lisa simply put her head in her hands. Our spare 21’ tube was now in my font tyre. We were going to run out of light fast, it was desison time. Making camp close to the road would have been the easiest thing and sort the tyre out in the morning, but with drivers blazing through this route at night, there was a real chance they could easily plough right over us as we slept. We had to try to fix this now before we ran out of light. With the inner tube out the problem was easily discovered, the repair we’d made back at camel lodge had broken, the hole now an inch long split. Repairing the repair would be risky. We ended up digging out our old 19” tube we’d been carrying and then battled to stretch it around Lisa’s 21” rim, what an absolute ‘bitch’ of a job, my hands took a beating. It then took an hour to get the tyre back on and not pinch the tube that was contorted around the rim. With fingers crossed (and now bleeding) we nervously used the hand pump to re-inflate the tube to 20psi, the electric pump was still not working.

    To our ‘great’ relief after a few minutes the tube was holding and we could ride a kilometer into the plain and set up our tent in the dark…again. Dinner was tired and quiet affair.

    Our bodies ache and our fingers are still bleeding from the cracked dry skin around our finger tips. For good measure I’ve now got blood streaming from my dried cuticles on two fingers. Mongolia is so arid even our tent has dried out and we’re having to alter how we use the poles, not able to insert their full length into the sleeves. Its also now impossible to erect our Kermit chairs, their canvass backing so tight it makes it impossible.
    Lisa tries not to cry out aloud as she prepares the evening meals as with split and bleeding fingers cutting onion is like a form of torture!
    Ride Far, Ride Safe...

  11. #11
    SIMON/LISA

    GREAT STUFF can't wait for the book and DVD it has to be a best seller in waiting KEEP SAFE

    Norrie
    0 te 60 in as long as it takes

  12. #12
    The future's bright.... Click here to find out how to Subscribe
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    Stunning photos and a great read Simon & Lisa

    Keep safe

  13. #13
    Oh Yes.... Click here to find out how to Subscribe
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    stunning
    i wish.
    ride safe.
    Perfekt ist nicht gut genug.

    UKGSER-A place where I've wasted so much time, learned so much, laughed a lot and cried a few times.

    Every bed of roses has pricks in it!

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    Beautiful

  15. #15
    Gear whore
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    Simply stunning photography

    Keep 'em comin'!
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    UB has changed a lot since 1999/2000 when I was their! Glad to see the country side is just the same.. makes me want to go back..... may be a trip in 2012???

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