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Old 09-22-2012, 06:12 AM   #61
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Voile Straps are marketed to the skiing industry but are hands down the best motorcycle strap you'll ever have. A crucial peace of equipment for the minimalist dirt biker.

Day 4

The morning routine was set at this point; boil water, make instant coffee (w/splash of vodka), ramen style noodles (with cabbage if we were lucky) and a hard boiled egg.


This worked well for us and we always enjoyed a leisurely morning.


Horse skulls near the camp.


And we're off!


We were traveling on one of the more main routes at this point. We found that the main routes were beat up a lot more due to more traffic and no road maintenance. The yurt in the background is very widely used by the nomads. It is the traditional Mongolian nomadic family dwelling called a "ger". It's amazing that this is what is used during the winter with temperatures to -40 degrees!


In a short distance, we turn off the main route and start getting into the more obscure parts of the country. We passed through this small town and got supplies. I swear it's like the wild west!!


Even the stores reminded me of the old style from way back with the shop keeper tending the counter which sits in front of all the goods. There would typically be a bunch of different vodkas, most places had some beer, lots of sweets, a small selection of vegetables if you're lucky, a cooler with some miscellaneous items like sausage, and a chest freezer with frozen goat yogurt and large chunks of meat - sometimes a whole head!


We were getting used to the crowd we would draw in every town. One guy here spoke some broken english and he would translate to all the other geezers who were quite curious to what our story was. Pointing to his buddy he'd say to us "he is asking, where did you get the motorcycles?"


I liked this garbage can, a gas tank from an old Russian bike. From what I've heard, this is a better use for it. I guess the Russian bikes are a cousin to the Royal Enfields - not much account.


We're heading into the sticks now. These drainages are awesome.


The nomads don't seem to raise pigs. We only saw a couple and I suspect this one was wild. I'm not sure why they don't use pigs. Perhaps because their fur and hide are not good for anything? I was told that they are hard to herd also.


The two tracks in the less used routes were heavenly! Smooth and buttery! Note the "salt and pepper" on the hillside - a herd of goats and sheep. This is what the nomads thrive off of and you see them everywhere.


During lunch we realized that we'd missed a turn about 5km back. We studied the map a bit and decided we'd try an alternate route. Now we were really getting out into the backcountry. These guys stopped passing the other direction. We couldn't say anything to each other. They seemed friendly. Note the Chinese bike. It was becoming obvious to us at this point that these are what everyone rides.


We keep going deeper passing herds of yaks and ger homes scattered about.


The drainages were really beautiful! Talk about isolated.


After dead ending in a small drainage we had to back track a little and try another route to get back on track. This one panned out and dropped us back to our intended route. This little detour was a great peak into the really desolate areas the nomads live.


Late in the day we passed through another town. Some of these small towns had what seemed like a municipal pool table set up.


We picked a ridge to camp on hoping we get a good view of the full moon that night. Next thing you know we had a new friend running up the hill to visit.


We dubbed her Cheke-chow (pronounced with a heavy Mongolian dialect). She hung around for most of the evening then disappeared.


There it was! The "Blue Moon". This happens when there are two full moons that land within the same month. The blue moon is the second one.


Check out the horse head wired into the tree. Not sure what that's about.


This move is called "the Steppe". Dribble a little Mongolian vodka over your beer as you take a swig. Party night! Buuuuurrrt had a few of these and the next thing you know he loses balance, gets caught in a donut running sideways in a huge arc trying to regain and crashes to the ground rolling and almost destroying his own tent!


After celebrating the blue moon it was time for bed. I guess our friend didn't leave after all!

160km for the day.
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Old 09-25-2012, 06:38 AM   #62
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Day 5
Cheke-chow had a lazy morning with us.


After screwing around for a while, she wandered back down the hill.


We did also.


Signs that winter is coming.


We were a bit unsure of our route at this point and ran into two nomads on bikes. We were able to get them to understand the next town we were headed for and the one guy had us follow him for about 25km. At his place he pointed us to a short cut to the next town.


We were a little skeptical about it since it wasn't marked on our map but it was heading in the right direction.


Lunches were the hardest meal for us because there wasn't much choice of food. We were tight on lunch supplies so we decided to whip up a quick batch of Steppe Stew.


Now we started coming across sections of alternate single track routes.


Jackpot!!!


These routes would often go the same places the two tracks did but might avoid some big mud holes or really deep river crossings.



We got dumped into another amazing valley that we followed upstream. Another nomad stopped. No words exchanged. Most of these guys would acknowledge their approval of our bikes.


Buuuuurrrrrt spotted this. It's called a "Deer Stone", carved thousands of years ago and still standing.


You gotta like river crossings if you're gonna ride in Mongolia. Here's Minxter showing us how its done.


After missing our turn and having to back track about 10km, we made it to the town we were hoping for.


We picked up supplies. Chinese motorcycle parts were readily available in lots of these little stores. We knew we had made the right choice of bikes at this point.


The Mongols all were curious about our helmets. They don't use them but many wanted to try them on. This was the only guy during the whole trip that could actually cram his huge head into it! Many tried with no luck.


We had a breakthrough at this town when we learned how to obtain water. All the little towns have a municipal well (hutag) which is open certain hours of the day. This is how everyone gets their water in the villages. Someone sits inside this little hut where the pump is and turns it on to fill your containers from a pipe sticking out of it.


We made our way out of town and found another awesome campsite by the river. We bathed and did our routine of Steppe Stew and vodka. The trip was going great! Nice relaxed pace.

116km for the day.
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Old 09-25-2012, 08:01 AM   #63
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Jackpot!!!

Looks alot like the Ponderosa forests of Flagstaff.

What's the elevation there? 7k?
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Old 09-26-2012, 06:22 AM   #64
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Most of the time we were riding in the 4500' to 5500' range.

Day 6

Beautiful morning at our camp after a cold night. Our water bottles had lots of ice in them. One of our goals was to make it to Lake Hovsgal which would be our furthest northern point of the trip. When we started we thought it would take us 4 days from Ulaanbaatar. It was now day 6 but we weren't concerned. We were just going with the flow. Even so, we wanted to make it to the lake today.


First river crossing of the day right out of camp.


We had been seeing a bunch of amazing birds like hawks, falcons, eagles and vultures. This would continue for most of the trip.


Getting into the higher terrain with nice sections of single track.


This guy presented himself. He's what's known as a Little Owl.


We climbed up above 8000 feet to a divide that separates Lake Hovsgal from the other drainages we'd been in. We were searching for some hot springs we'd heard about. We could see a little snow on the highest peaks in the distance.


Dropping down from the divide we thought we'd found the location of the hot springs. It was kind of an odd scene with this abandoned Soviet era resort of sorts. We stopped and had lunch.


Just down the road was another little resort that was doing business. We stopped in and finally were able to communicate that we were looking for hot springs. They gave us some salty tea and some sort of soft cheese. The cheese was pretty good, the tea just ok.


The caretaker gets on the back of a Chinese bike and runs us back up the road about a kilometer to the hot springs.


They weren't quite what we were expecting. They were inside these little shacks.


They ended up being a deep but very narrow wooden container to catch the thermal water. We decided to pass. It was time to push to the lake.


It took us a while to figure out the route. We finally did and it crossed this stream with boulders too large to freely ride over. We walked the bikes to try to keep dry.


The next thing you know, we're up in a high country marsh. It did not look good but we were way too far in to turn around. It was totally flooded with water which stunk bad! The mud was greasy and everything was super soft. We were really slipping the clutches trying to muscle through this stuff. It felt like we were asking a lot out of our Chinese all terrain mopeds. Also, the sky was starting to look a little ominous. We were hoping for smooth sailing after this marsh.


No such luck. It ended up being one marsh after another. They were about as long as a football field. Minxter went down trying to charge this one.


She's a real trooper. She held a good attitude and kept charging. "Thank you!! May I have another?!"


After starting to get a little worried we were going to get pinched and have to stay the night up there, we got into the forest which seemed like it was descending toward the lake.


RELIEF!!! We hit the lake at just about perfect timing for a nice evening.


This campsite was amazing!!!


The lake was still just warm enough to quickly dunk under and wash up.


Guess what's for dinner?


This was just what we needed after things getting a little tight up in the marshes.

100km for the day.
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Old 09-26-2012, 08:52 AM   #65
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Fantastic!

Excellent trip, thanks for the report. If you have a chance to throw in your route (GPS tracks?) at the end of your RR, it might be helpful for a carbon-copy trip at one point... I'd love to get over there! Cheers and keep it coming!

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Old 09-26-2012, 09:00 AM   #66
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We've got a pretty decent gps track that I'll see about adding. What a ride!!
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Old 09-26-2012, 09:37 AM   #67
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Amazing RR

Great RR. What an amazing ride. "The Steppe" looks like it could be dangerous.
Keep it coming.
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Old 09-26-2012, 09:42 AM   #68
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Again, a fantastic report. Great to see the singletrack with no mud (ok a bit of marsh), rocks or whoops. Pure heaven.

Looks like I'll have to leave the hammock at home and get a bag.

keep it coming!!
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Old 09-27-2012, 07:50 AM   #69
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Day 7

Holy crap!! What a sunrise.



This ended up being our new favorite camp of the trip.


We were planning a half rest day for this day so we just hung around and looked at rocks and relaxed.


The route along the east side of the lake was pretty bad so we were in no hurry to get on it.


We only had about 60km to get to the town of Hatgal where we thought we might find a hotel and regroup. The route improved and we were enjoying the riding.


Minxter loves rocks!


Pretty soon the town comes into view. Hotel? Yeah right!!


We stocked up in town and were getting ready to leave after not finding a hotel when we bumped into two french girls who were in the area doing a horse trek. They told us about the ger camp they were staying in so we decided to check it out. We gave them a ride back to the camp.


There were no more ger available so we just paid a couple dollars to pitch our tents and use the showers. The town of Hatgal is the gateway to Lake Hovsgal so it is as touristy as a town gets in Mongolia which ain't much. We wanted to wash some clothes but the people running the camp said we'd have to use their laundry service. Minxter was wary of this having had bad experiences in other countries. Sure enough, we get the laundry the next morning and something's missing. Minxter immediately goes to the woman running the joint and points this out. She makes a phone call and then goes and pulls out Minxters missing pants stashed away in a cupboard. Seems like they thought we wouldn't notice something was missing. Kind of a turn off for us. Most of the folks at the camp had gotten there by bus and were a bit jealous of the mobility we had with the bikes.


We spent the afternoon checking out the town. Buuuuurrrt always has to put on the dumbest looking hat he can find at all the shops.


Alcohol is a problem in Mongolia as lots of Mongols consume mass amounts of vodka. This is the cheap stuff the locals drink. This stack crammed into the tiniest little food shop gives you and idea of how it's prioritized.


We stocked up on eggs and boiled them for the next few days.


We made some friends with this couple from Amsterdam. They invited us over to their ger for cocktails and we had a riot!! Arno claimed he had the fastest Vespa in Amsterdam. We're hoping to see them again sometime.

60km for the day.
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Old 09-27-2012, 10:54 AM   #70
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Hick, I don't know if we've met but I think we have some mutual friends. Did you bust up your collar bone riding?
Yep, I am that guy. I have read your RRs through Utah, and have been inspired to go ultralight as well...but I still carry a bivy and pad. I am not man enough to sleep in the rain on hard ground.
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Old 09-27-2012, 01:36 PM   #71
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Very nice report.
It seems you had a great time there!
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Old 09-27-2012, 06:04 PM   #72
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Enjoying your RR!
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Old 09-27-2012, 08:17 PM   #73
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Old 09-27-2012, 08:46 PM   #74
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Too bad Hick but it comes with the territory doesn't it. I busted my femur and badly blew out my knee at the same time a few years back. With a little patience you'll be back like new. Good luck man.
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Old 09-27-2012, 09:09 PM   #75
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Love your report!

Mongolia has the largest species of trout. The name of them is escaping me right now. Some get as long as 6ft! So want to go there and fish. Keep the cool pics coming.
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