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Old 03-03-2014, 08:57 AM   #61
stickysidedown OP
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Borders are funny old places, this one was no exception, We did Britain proud by queueing in an appropriate fashion and observed the people around us, one Mongol turned up with a flat tyre and jumped the queue in his old Toyota Camry(One interesting side note is all the cars are LHD up until some point in Russia where they mostly all become RHD dependant on where they had come from) He had an expression on his face that suggested he owed somebody in Russia some money and really needed to get into No Mans Land in a hurry, but whatever he said he got through.

Meanwhile we were flanked by concrete barriers, behind some family saloons, to our 'six' was a completely tacky wealthy Mongol man in a shiny new Range Rover, his wife had a ferocity of lipstick that a girl half her age would have thought 'a bit much' and a fur over her shoulders, she was haughty and boney whilst he on the other hand was obese and wearing one of those naff pseudo captains hats with the gold braid on it below picture of an anchor, it was the kind that you might see a 5yr old wearing at a tacky victorian seaside town or would look adorable on a baby too young to be embarrassed in their sailors suit.

In this part of the world a hat was often indicative of status, the bigger and more grandiose the more important the official you are speaking to often is, In Russia I'd seen hats you could land a helicopter on, in the dark! but this man was clearly not a Mongolian sea captain, if nothing else Mongolia is a land locked country, It was a self appointed status along with his blingy motor and so I concluded he was a dick and full of his own self worth in an impoverished country, I loathe that in people as much as I admire people who succeed in life but still manage to be gracious for the life they have.


At one point I'd decided we weren't going to make the gate before it closed were it not for divine intervention, and what do you know two angels appeared from a little window at Russian passport control, big beautiful smiles they indicated to us to just jump the entire queue! I don't know why but I was happy about it!

We squeezed through a gap in the barrier to our right and bypassed passport control on the exiting side of Russia before proceeding down to Customs, randomly the Canadians were now directly behind us in the queue

A stern but friendly official got us to complete the customs exit form for the vehicles and we drove across no-mans land, this is it I thought were getting into Mongolia!

After driving through a fungicidal dip we went up to passport control.

Ed went first, but there was a problem with his passport..... we didn't know what, but the guy in the booth was just staring at it, and staring at it, a queue formed behind us, all anxious to exit no-mans land before the Mongol side closed.

Our team pen had stopped working so we cadged one off a shivering soldier after giving him some chewing gum and exchanging non verbal pleasantries about how cold it had suddenly just become, a prudent move as he started shouting something along the lines of FFS! get it sorted to the passport administrator and getting on the radio

Eventually a short stocky women in knee boots and a pencil skirt uniform marched forcibly up to the booth, there was some harshly spoken words and Ed was processed, it seems this guy couldn't work out where Ed was from

We could see everyone was pretty much packing up to go home for the night, as we rode down to immigration and customs we were met by another customs women who said Quick Quick Run, Border closing come with me and so we did.

Inside the terminal everything was very confusing, essentially there is another Identity check, a customs desk where you complete a form without English guidance that you then go to the Senior Inspector with, he will sign it, and then you go to the immigration desk and pay 25 rouble to have another stamp added before going back to the Senior Inspector. There is nothing to indicate any of this and so we did it by trial and error, me shouting back to Ed what I thought was happening as we were rushed through, all the time hurried by the staff.

Now I've learned some Customs officials do this thing, where they try to look very serious and stare at you, presumably to see if you show any signs of stress because you are nervously lying about something? in any event as the woman stared at me and my passport photo for about thirty seconds I gave her 'the thinker' pose and then a cheeky smile and a wink which in turn raised a smile from her, at that point I knew I'd won this strange psychological battle where they go from serious and oppressive authoritarians to human beings doing a job, I love that game!! and was going to benefit from the practice later on

I was dutifully respectful of the Senior inspector and he in turn came round to being quite helpful in return, I'd actually not paid the 25 rouble fee for immigration because I didn't know anything about it, left the building to an empty car yard and pointing at my form and the exit gate asked the Military official outside if I could go pointing whilst saying OK?, OK?

Apparently not! he took me back inside for the immigration stamp, I went back to the Senior Inspector who rose up from his chair and personally escorted me outside and without understanding a word knew exactly what he said to the other staff in Mongolian

I am the Senior Inspector here and I have said he may enter Mongolia so he is entering and he does not need this stamp, and you will not question my authority!
A couple of strange things in all of this,
The record keeping, the senior inspector presides over a large paper register, where he immaculately writes down your details of entry much like a Register of Births Deaths or Marriages.
The Canadians were not so respectful of the Senior Inspector and he closed the border on them, they were one vehicle behind us and we had cut in so We were the last guys into Mongolia that night and the Canucks spent the night in No-mans land

We exchanged a few remaining Roubles and $20 with a a young English speaking Mongol Girl and her father, she asked us how long we would take to make the 250km to the capital city of Ulan Bataar, knowing it to be a principle road made of Asphalt I said 4 hrs?? I didn't realise she was asking how any days!! She informed me we weren't in Russia that the roads were bad and it would maybe take more than one day and one that positive note we jumped on the bikes and as the last fingers of sunlight released their grasp of the distant skyline we headed out into the Dark unknown with our packet of Bekon chips and half a bottle of water

We were ecstatic and once we had got out into the countryside pondered where to stay in a country that pretty much allows you to camp anywhere.

I positioned the HID's in such a way we could see a nearby hill reaching into the stars and we decided that tonight, just because we could, we would climb to the top of that hill and camp there for a night.

We slept soundly and awoke to our first view of Mongolia, the hilltop being covered in a lavender scent

And what a view it was Had I died in that moment, it would have been happy that something I'd desired for so long had come to pass



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Old 03-03-2014, 02:25 PM   #62
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Old 03-03-2014, 03:46 PM   #63
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bloody marverlous beats the tele every night so far keep it coming
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Old 03-03-2014, 11:42 PM   #64
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She informed me we weren't in Russia that the roads were bad and it would maybe take more than one day and one that positive note we jumped on the bikes and as the last fingers of sunlight released their grasp of the distant skyline we headed out into the Dark unknown with our packet of Bekon chips and half a bottle of water
+1. Bloody marvelous. I long for that sight. Oh so subscribed.
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Old 03-04-2014, 05:43 AM   #65
stickysidedown OP
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Waking to the warm sun and the lavender scent I was pretty happy with my first day in Mongolia thus far, and indeed I remembered thinking that whatever came next, accident, breakdown or robbery, nothing would take away a glow of accomplishment in reaching this point, I'd set off for Mongolia and now here I was. everything else was a bonus.

I can tell you now that after a few cranks on the one armed bandit of life, a couple of lemons have popped up for me but overall and right now it was win, win, win out in Mongolia.

I followed Ed down the hillside and noted an opportunity for him to fulfil a goal of his, he had decided he had wanted a skull mounted on his bike, I think in his head this is how he saw himself...real badass



So I told him that I had found a horses skull and we bimbled up to get it before I watched him try to bungee it to his front fender.

He was pretty made up





It bounced off a couple of times and actually I was not so sure that keeping it there was a good idea, One thing I did now about Mongol's is that they love horses and after discussing this idea, and that it might be considered inappropriate when we rolled into the next town? (Like having a springer spaniels skull strapped to your bike going into Stow-on-the-Wold on market day) Ed took it off just in case.

In truth I didn't think the front fender would be thankful for the extra weight.

The ride down was pretty uneventful, at the first town we quickly found some ATM's, both out of order but we had our first experience of drawing in a crowd

So we had good practice for when we got to the next small town which had an ATM and a shop. The Mongols don't really have a great sense of personal space or ownership so you have to be quite forthright if you don't want them to be sitting on your bike pressing buttons on the GPS, or you can just lighten up and appreciate it's not done with malice but often under the influence of vodka





On the way out of this town I gave it some beans for the benefit of our fans here only to find a police checkpoint where I was asked to produce my documents, I did, though it was clear the policeman couldn't read any of them so sent me on my way.

The Police in Mongolia often have a viewing platform in the centre of a junction/roundabout, and mirror tinted windows so you can't see if you are being watched. I thought to myself that this was crude, rudimentary and actually very clever, essentially a derivative of Bentham's (https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rc...2286460,d.ZGU) 'Panopticon' Which he himself described as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example" I pondered on the parallel with our own reliancein the UK on CCTV in the absence of a community to maintain a public order with an increasingly strained police force"

From a philisophical standpoint I guess our CCTV generation is the ultimate execution of the principles of the Panopticon and paradoxically it's undoing, the ultimate because it puts everyone inside the observed prison regardless of evidence of earlier wrong doing, because society itself becomes the Prison, and it's failing because psychologically it's power is then undermined as peoples actions become shameless as people lose their individualism

These thoughts clearly evidence that I hadn't had much to think about whilst on the road, the ramblings of a mad man

Fortunately every now and again there would be a sight to see, like this strange sculpture on the outside of a mining town





We paid a couple of tolls on this road, you are supposed to pay something like 25 pence each time you crossed between provinces, this was the only road we paid though, most times you are just waved through

And so it came to be that we were soon descending into the coldest nation capital of the world, at 1300 metres ASL, Ladies and Gentleman we had arrived in Ulan Bataar!!

Our elation was soon overcome with a more basic survival instinct though, the tarmac on the roads was amazing, just not amazing 'good'

The traffic was manic and very Asian in it's style, oh and how on earth do we keep arriving in these places at rush hour?

It took us an hour to travel 2 km, Ed's bike started acting up the EFI lightcame on and he lost his clutch.

We pulled into a side road and there I adjusted Ed's clutch, I looked up and saw two blokes on similar Tenere's, I figured they had to be going to the same hostel as us, the famous 'Oasis' and given that I didn't have the address on my GPS spurred Ed on into rejoining the chaos of the traffic, cutting in at 90 degrees to go and say 'Hi' to these two.

We briefly exchanged formalities, they spoke a form of English called Australian which apparently is not uncommon in the colonies and so we mostly understood them, what happened next was a weird but exciting ride across town, each one of us four seemingly taking it in turns to pull some outlandish move, usually head first into oncoming traffic! and sometimes behind the whistling traffic policeman who despite frantically blowing his whistle as if his life depended on it (which may actually have been the case) was seemingly ignored by everybody.

It felt pretty good to roll into the compound of the Oasis where we were shown our Ger


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Old 03-04-2014, 06:52 AM   #66
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still loving it, and I see you had a Lindstrands Graffitti, fantastic jacket, mine did me proud, 50 thousand miles, snow storms, heatwaves, oh, and getting hit by a lorry. only after 50k did it start to let water in.
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Old 03-04-2014, 08:51 AM   #67
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Ah....rare is the ride report which soars above the dinner plate to explore such topics as the Panopticon. Is an all-seeing God being replaced by the State? Was Foucault right after all? If you make people afraid, they'll beg for "protective custody" but is it all by design or just the slowly turning wheels of social history? Damn, where'd I put that whisky?

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Old 03-04-2014, 03:08 PM   #68
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Originally Posted by stickysidedown View Post


The Police in Mongolia often have a viewing platform in the centre of a junction/roundabout, and mirror tinted windows so you can't see if you are being watched. I thought to myself that this was crude, rudimentary and actually very clever, essentially a derivative of Bentham's 'Panopticon' Which he himself described as "a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example" I pondered on the parallel with our own reliancein the UK on CCTV in the absence of a community to maintain a public order with an increasingly strained police force"

From a philisophical standpoint I guess our CCTV generation is the ultimate execution of the principles of the Panopticon and paradoxically it's undoing, the ultimate because it puts everyone inside the observed prison regardless of evidence of earlier wrong doing, because society itself becomes the Prison, and it's failing because psychologically it's power is then undermined as peoples actions become shameless as people lose their individualism

Good ruminating, a repeat worthy.
No worries, cauldron of revolution requires time to boil.



I understand Ed's desire to bring back a horse's skull. When in Mongolia...
Equally I share your thoughts on local feelings. Perhaps if he'd painted it red?
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Old 03-05-2014, 08:29 AM   #69
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Brilliant reading!

Looking forward to the next installment!
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Old 03-05-2014, 10:10 AM   #70
meatshieldchris
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This was my favorite part about Long Way Round, crossing Russia and Mongolia. Keep it coming!

edit: you guys are doing it way less pampered and with way fewer support crews though, +4 internet points.

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Old 03-05-2014, 02:28 PM   #71
Klay
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This is a great story. Thanks for taking the time for the narrative.
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Old 03-05-2014, 02:44 PM   #72
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Great RR and love the sense of humor/humour:) I see you choose your rides with great research and also some soul searching.

A C90 for the northern snow plow Arctic Circle expedition and now the KTM 990 land cruiser for Mongolia.

RIDE ON, keep us smiling

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Old 03-05-2014, 05:38 PM   #73
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Great Stuff

This RR has everything....adventure, humour, crashes, Canadians.....even a horse skull.

I'm hooked.
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Old 03-08-2014, 02:14 PM   #74
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Come on we need more
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Old 03-09-2014, 05:03 PM   #75
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The Oasis was great, and aptly named, after the chaos of the rush hour traffic we were so glad to pull inside the enclosed courtyard, under the watchful eye of the watchmens tower.

They had everything that was needed or wanted really, park next to the Ger tent, restaurant, home made cake and cold beers in the fridge to which you could help yourself (they have a kitchen passport, throughout your stay you just write down what you order or take and settle up on departure) There were showers, a hairdressers, laundry and a clunky old internet connection.

The Oasis is a well known stop for overland travellers, it is therefore somewhat 'de rigueur' but it also means you can get info from other travellers about conditions on the road

The first night we sampled 4 or 5 bottles of beer and got speaking to the other travellers, I met a couple of great Brits including Francis, a Professional storyteller who formerly worked as a tightrope walker* amongst his duties as a clown, naturally he was on a 1200gs though it had stood him in good stead that day after he accidentally hit a horse


*when I asked him how he ever got into that line of work he just told me he went to a lot of the wrong kind of parties as a youngster, I liked him immediately!


The Watchtower and our guard at the Oasis hostel Ulan Bataar


The following day was a lazy one, We swapped the tyres over on the bikes, I was cursing at breaking the bead on my rear tyre, it really was being awkward and when I did pop it there was a loud bang??

I spent a couple hours just going over the bike, looking for loose or missing fasteners, checking spokes etc and then spent the rest of the day surfing the web, getting my laundry done and generally just relaxing whilst contemplating our next move.

All the travellers in the Hostel who'd come from the Western Border in Russia's Altai were telling a similar story. Flash flooding, high river levels requiring the hire of tractor trailer combos to get passage, even reports of snow in the desert, apparently the worst summer in 30yrs, seemed like the strange weather at that time was not just in the UK.

There are two principle routes from Ulan Bataar to the border in the West, one going through the North and one going through the South, the Southern route is better surfaced and less demanding from an 'off road' point of view, but the tougher Northern route promised better scenery, more mountain passes and some great lakes.

Everyone who had battled their way along the Southern route basically said it wouldn't be possible to take the Northern route??

This left me with a difficult decision to make, Selfishly I wanted to see this better scenery, I'm quietly self confident in my abilities off road and in the KTM (I've hucked it around a MX track before now, Not a stylish rider but I get the job done)
http://youtu.be/LhRCgZ8PAcA

But I didn't really have any frame of reference for what the conditions would be like, moreover the bike was more heavily laden than usual and most importantly I was responsible for Ed's safety and well being as he had less of a clue, This was something I took quite seriously.

Ed spent a full 8hrs changing his tyres and cleaning up his bike, his rear tyre bead seemed unbreakable and in the end the Security guard helped him out utilising a trolley jack from his hut to get the necessary pressure, he strolled into the restaurant area of the Hostel where me and the Ozzies were nattering over a cold one and proclaimed
"OMG That man could emasculate anyone, he's like the Chuck Norris of tyre changing and shall henceforth be called Mr Miyagi"





A top bloke who certainly earned the cold beer Ed took him afterwards!

Inside the Oasis hostel building after everyone else had gone to sleep




So all in all a quiet day in Ulan Bataar, but don't worry reader, unknown to us at this point, it was going to get bat-shit crazy tomorrow
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