Saturday, September 7, 2013

Mongolia North Route

June 26. Baikal to Altanbulag Mongolia. 413 km
We had breakfast at a Cafe after about 100 km. Shortly after we were a Ulaan Ude. We said good bye and I watched her ride away. The next few days would be very difficult. In 15 months of travel I have never felt alone. I now know what it feels like. She suggested I go to the Ivolginsk Monastery so I went. I walked around in a daze. Someone actually asked me what was wrong. Was I sick? I didn't know. About 50 km from the Mongolian border I got a flat. Time to put on the E09. That was the widest 140/80-18 I have ever tried to mount but it went on easy with some Pert Plus and water. At the border for some reason my battery was dead so I had to push my bike into the Russian customs. I bump started her on the way down the hill to the Mongolian customs and they let me leave it idle for a few minutes. The guy trying to change money as I entered was a scammer. I never change with these people but its always fun to mess with them and see what kind of exchange they will give you. He was trying to give me exactly half what the ATM 500 meters later gave me. As I rode out of town the wind and rain came up so hard I was riding at a 45 degree. I turned around and went back to a hotel for the night. No restaurants were open so I had a chocolate bar and some sausage for dinner. The sunset was quite nice though. As I laid awake I tried to prepare myself mentally for the post high depression that was about to hit. Hard.

These guys were traveling on prototypes around the world. 

Bye Sveta. 

Everything is for sale. 

Building a rim strip

New tire. Mitas E09.

June 27 Altanbulag to Ulaanbaatar. 254 km.
I started riding and looking for a place to eat. About 20 km later I saw a guy camping with an African Twin. Bartose is from Poland and has been riding for a few months. He was camping and waiting for his friend to return from Ulaanbaatar with a new fuel pump. We had coffee and breakfast and chatted. He was showing me his Mongolian map and I asked if I could buy it. "No, but you can have it." The idea of trying to navigate Mongolia with a map is a joke... but it has been helpful. I tried to fish in the afternoon and got a few strikes. Nothing major. At the time, but I did not know that not pack my reel after fishing. A few days later in UB I was looking through my stuff and realized where I had left it. Shit. No one fishes in Mongolia. This is what makes it soooo good. This also makes it very hard to get a fly reel. I would have to wait for Altai in Russia. I got to UB in the afternoon and headed straight to the Oasis. There were a couple bikes there and a few overland trucks. No one I knew but it was good to be back among travelers. Oh. And cold beer.

June 28 and 29. Ulaanbataar at the Oasis.
I spent the next few days trying to get caught up while I had internet. Uploading pictures and video is nearly impossible many places I have been. Best to leave the computer sit connected and go do something else like work on the bike. Sitting behind a computer in a cafe, drinking coffee and beer gave me to much time to feel depressed about things. I had to get back on the road. Everything else could wait. The moto was ready to go. Why was I sitting wasting time?

Penny and Igor. These guys were awesome. Traveling on an old aircooled BMW. 

June 30. Ulaanbataar to a lake West of Bulgan 495 km
Leaving UB from the Oasis makes you ride the whole distance of UB before you get out of the city. By the time you get onto the road you just want to twist that right grip. Listen to that thumper sing. After 90 km of tarmac I turned north on to gravel and instantly my smile returned. I was riding civilization and into the unknown that I love so much. I was by myself again but no longer lonely. I notice a familiar grill coming at me that I have not seen in over a year. A very wide truck with FORD across the whole grill. Surely this couldn't be a Ford Raptor in Mongolia?.. as it passed by sure enough it was... And in the back, A KTM 450 Factory Rally Bike. I turned around and ran them down. 2 Mongolians in the truck who didn't really want to talk. I'm not sure who they were or why they had such an amazing truck and bike. After I saw another rally bike riding, then another, then a Toyota FJ racing I realized I was on a hot course. The guys in the raptor were probably going home early and that's why they didn't want to talk. Every time I saw bikes or trucks coming I pulled way over and tried to get some footage or pictures. There was absolutely no indication prior that there was a race. Mongolia rules. In the evening I hit Bulgan and I was back on tarmac. This wasn't going to work. I took some dirt tracks going toward a nice lake and found a great campsite. Great first day of actual riding in Mongolia.

An FJ hauling @$$

Looks like a 690. 

UAZ jeep thing. 

This dude had a brother racing. 

An "oh shit" moment skidding to a stop so you don't hit the washout hard. 

Dude lost the plug on his stator cover so we made one out of my spare fuel cap. 

The guy on the left owns the bike. The guy on the right could barely stand. To much Vodka. 

I had some visitors. 

And these guys. 


July 1. Camps spot by a lake to camp spot west of Tsagaan Uul. 353 km
I woke up with sunrise and rolled over only to be woken up by "Hey!.. Hey!... Hey!" I look out the tent and theres a Mongolian guy on a horse trying to figure out who this alien was. So I made some coffee for us to drink. The guy was pretty impressed with my beard and wanted made me lift my shirt to show how hairy I was. Kinda weird but whatever. I replaced my chain and switched over to the stock front sprocket instead of the +1. This turned out to be great for the 2 river crossings I would run into. They were small, but they were still rivers. Before I started the northern route, people would say "its to muddy" or "you can't do it". It was dry and dusty. I had to search for mud. I could see if there was a fair amount of rain how it could be bad. But when I was there, it was just very fun riding, amazing views and great people. I did finally catch a fish in Mongolia. It wasn't big enough to keep. Since I lost my fly real, I was trying to cast a mayfly pattern with a spinning reel on a fly rod. It probably looked quite dumb. I couldn't cast it far enough out to get to the big fish. I camped very high up on a mountain that night so I would be out of the view of the roads. I do not mind wind when I am camping because it means less mosquitoes.

Trying to crimp the link on the new chain. I thought I had a Clip type master link.. but I didn't. 

Dead in the water. 

Mongolians sometimes try to race you. 

Looks like a good camp spot. 

Some crazy plant. 

July 2. Camp spot near Tsagaan Uul to camp spot in the desert near Uvs Lake. 417 km
I started the morning by trying to catch grasshoppers for fishing. I never ended up using them and the container I put them in opened in my pannier. Resulting in mushed bug over some of my spares. At least it wasn't in my cloths. I wanted to find a good place to camp near a river or lake to try to catch some fish. The town of Baruunturuun had a nice river running through it. I thought that would be perfect. On the OSM map, it looked like the river wound around and I could catch it a few km down the road. I rode about 10 km on primitive tracks and when I got to the river, there was nothing there. I'm confused. 10 km upstreem the river had quite a lot of water flowing and here it is a dry sandy river bottom. I crossed the river because the track I was on crossed there and I rode parallel to the "river". I was in dune sand with dunes on my left and a dry river on my left. At this point I thought I just need to get back to the main road. There was a ger camp I could see so I pointed toward them. There had to be a road back to the main. Soon I was in some swampy grass and then nasty mud. It was on me before I knew it. When in doubt pin it out. First gear bouncing off the rev limiter I was standing on my pegs roosting this shit barely moving. Luckily I didn't get stuck. I pull up to a ger and a lady is just staring at me. I try to ask her where a road is but she doesn't say a word. Or blink. Or anything. Just stare. So I ride to the next ger. And the next one. And soon there is a track. And then a 2 track. And finally I'm back on a dry 2 track that shows up on the OSM map.. I stand up and roost for a while. I need to find a place to camp. Sun is going down. I ride for another 20 km and ride into the desert. I camped in a wash out. I thought "if it rains hard, i'm screwed. This is where the water collects". But, I took the chance to be hidden.

Salty warm milk tea and stinky hard cheese. 

about $1 for 3. 

 Bridge was broken. 

Gotta go through the river. 

Woops. Cracked rim. 

I draw a crowd. 

July 3. Desert camp spot to camp spot north of Achit Lake. 354 km
Coffee in my underwear soaking up the sun. It is amazing how fast your tent will heat up. No need to set your alarm. I have had cold nights where you roll over 1 time when you wake up in the morning. You go from needing your sleeping bag to stay warm to waking up in a pool of sweat. The boots were still wet from a river crossing the day before. My feet were very sore from being wet all day. I hope this is a phase. I have never had this type of pain before in my feet. The 100km into Ulaangom was fast. Mostly because I was hopped up on coffee on an empty stomach. My new favorite breakfast is 3 fried eggs over plov or rice. I found a place to buy a $30 Motorola cellphone. Its a phone. No camera, no anything. A dumb phone if you will. But the battery lasts a week easy. AND.. no touch screen. I was pretty stoked about this. Nothing more frustrating then trying to do something on a smart phone with wet hands. In the afternoon I stopped next to Uureg lake. Its a beautiful clear blue lake surrounded by mountains. I knew there were fish in there because I could see some small ones. A boat would be needed to catch some because it did not get deep very fast. I dried my feet and ate some lunch on the bank. My goal was to get to the Russian border that night. As fate would have it, I found the only river on the northern route you can't cross. North of Achit lake, every map shows a road going strait to the border. I rode up and down the river for about 20km and it was just to high to attempt. I saw tracks from huge overland trucks that didn't attempt the river. My only choice was to backtrack and go south of Achit lake. I tried to get out of the swampy areas so I would not be in the mosquitoes, so I found a good spot in the desert. It was getting dark when I stopped. The mosquitoes were so bad I didn't cook food. I wore my moto gloves and rain coat when I setup my tent. I climbed into my tent with my boots on so I didn't let any in. They were the worst mosquitoes I have had on this trip so far. Apparently I did not get far enough away from the swamp.

American flavor? I want black coffee. Not 1/3 coffee, 1/3 milk, 1/3 sugar. 

GTA in an internet cafe.

Curious kids

Either they drink a lot of vodka, or this bin does not get emptied enough. 

Napping Mongolians.

What my disgusting feet look like after 2 days in wet boots. 

I couldn't even make it to the river. 

Not going to try to cross this one. 

Katriana wanted to sleep. 

July 4. Camp spot to Olgii. 159 km
Not many bugs in the morning but I didn't wait for them either. I knew it was a quick ride to Olgii so I got after it with only 1 small river crossing. I had been comunicating with Andrew and Jon from the UK and the JABA MUNDUS fame. They are riding 2 KTM 690s around the world. I had a feeling my clutch was on its way out and they had a (slightly) used one for me. I checked into the Bluewolf Ger camp and waited for them. Just around dark they rolled in and we didn't waist anytime drinking beers and spreading the BS on thick.

Small river crossing

July 5. Olgii

This was a "fix the bike day" for John and Andrew. I had a few small things on my mind to do but most of the day I was helping them... pointing out tricks that I had learned with 15 months of travel on the 690. Andrew had a leaking counter shaft seal. He made the mistake of pinching the crank breather hose between the tank and frame. Lucky he didn't blow the clutch cover like some people have. We replaced the seal and he was back in business. 2 other guys on Teneres were also doing some service. We decided to BBQ for lunch. So that's when the beers came out.. around 1. Around 7 or so we were finally eating the chicken we cooked. Great evening with more beers, cheep vodka and some cards. I tough them the card game durak. Its a very popular game in any former Soviet country. They all had plans to take the northern route in the morning.

Been a while since the 690 was in shared company

A quick video I put together from my Mongolia footage. 

1 comment:

  1. What a fantastic adventure, man, thanks for sharing. Keep it up!