First Steppe: Mongolia

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Joe Motocross, Aug 17, 2012.

  1. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    233
    Day 1

    OK, on with the story. We'd been in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, for a couple of days getting some bikes lined up. It's a pretty small city but the streets are pretty congested with cars which makes me wonder why more people don't ride bikes around the city. Our friends live in the building beside the big tower.
    [​IMG]

    We load the bikes and get ready to depart the city. It ends up our buddy could't join us because his passport was at the Chinese embassy to get a visa. As it turns out, him not coming would be a good thing although we missed his company.
    [​IMG]

    We rode out of the city on tarmac for about 100km. There is very little tarmac in Mongolia.
    [​IMG]

    Soon we were on to dirt routes which was the type of riding we would do for the majority of the route.
    [​IMG]

    We were getting our first taste of the Steppe.
    [​IMG]

    We took a quick break and the first local pulls up to check us out. He speaks no english. Nobody does. We note that his bike is made by the same company as ours, Shineray. We think this is a good sign although his bike is completely beat.
    [​IMG]

    We start to see wheat fields along the way.
    [​IMG]

    The roads are more just routes that people have driven on enough to wear in a two track.
    [​IMG]

    It was now late in the day and we decided to find a place to camp. This is easy because you can camp anywhere you want. The land outside of the cities and villages is not owned by anyone throughout Mongolia as we understand it.
    [​IMG]

    We start laying out our stuff.
    [​IMG]

    Not a bad campsite but nothing outrageous. Just a comfortable place to enjoy the Steppe.
    [​IMG]

    A couple of Mongols passing by on a Chinese bike.
    [​IMG]

    About this time the mosquitos start getting out of hand.
    [​IMG]

    I have to "eat crow" and admit that having a tent along ain't too bad! Some minimalist I am. I crawl in, lie down and sip a little Vodka while looking at the sky through the tent screen. Pretty damn good!!!
    [​IMG]
    #41
  2. trackhead

    trackhead Utard Wankster

    Joined:
    May 13, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,754
    Location:
    Transient
    Amazingly beautiful. Looking forward to the rest.
    #42
  3. Paratrout

    Paratrout Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Oddometer:
    179
    Location:
    Cackilackistan, Concord Oblast
    I'm in. Beautiful pics so far.
    #43
  4. RokLobster

    RokLobster Far from sanity

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2011
    Oddometer:
    86
    Location:
    New Harbor, ME
    :lurk
    #44
  5. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    233
    Day 2

    We cover up to battle the mosquitos that are still at war with us and enjoy the sun rise. Not surprising, we don't hang around camp too long. I forgot to mention that we rode 210km on the first day, 100km on tarmac.
    [​IMG]

    The light is outrageous as we ascend a drainage out of camp.
    [​IMG]

    Then through a pass and down into another drainage. This is a main route so the road is fairly wide.
    [​IMG]

    Continuing down we came across a stream where I thought I'd take a quick bath.
    [​IMG]

    We rested for a moment after and took off.
    [​IMG]

    We were starting to see herds of animals which the nomads tend. Horses are used for milking, eating and riding.
    [​IMG]

    Buuuuuurrrt found this bug along side of the road. Wild.
    [​IMG]

    Next we come into a very small village where we decide we should stock up on some provisions. This is our first interaction with any sort of market. We cant read any signs so we just have to stick our heads in and see what's inside. This works fine. We find some food and learn how to say water in Mongolian.
    [​IMG]

    All of a sudden, these guys spot us and coming skidding up to us and stop. The guy says to us in very bad english "happy birthday!" I'm sure it was the only english phrase he knew but it was totally weird because it was Buuuuurrrrrts birthday!!! Too freaking funny!
    [​IMG]

    We filled the bikes with gas, crossed a big river on a bridge and continued on. We found it easy to find enough gas stations. Our Shineray "Mustangs" did exceptional on gas milage with 60 to 80 mpg and they had a 3.5 gallon tank. That gives them damn good range.
    [​IMG]

    Combine heading for the wheat fields.
    [​IMG]

    So, being on a main route, we would see an occasional truck hauling goods. Talk about a slow pace for these guys. Overall, the big trucks were not an issue to ride with. We really didn't see many. Not much traffic at all as a matter of a fact, even on the more used routes. Polar opposite of what we experienced on the roads in India.
    [​IMG]

    It's Buuuuurrrrt's birthday and he makes us pull over and have a beer and a shot of Vodka. We'd climbed up to a ridge with a great view.
    [​IMG]

    We're in no hurry and don't have anywhere we have to be so we just yuck it up a bit then move on when we're ready.
    [​IMG]

    We pass by the town of Bulgan which is one of the larger ones we went through.
    [​IMG]

    On the way out there was a cop doing some sort of traffic stop checking everyone out. We showed him our passports and he starts walking around the bikes and notices we don't have any license plates. Did I mention how we decided not to register them? Of course, we have no clue what he's saying to us and he has no clue what we're saying. I show him the receipts to the bikes and he starts repeating something and holding up two fingers. We think he's saying we have two weeks to get plates. That was our understanding of what the laws are for registering bikes. He lets us go. We're on tarmac again for a short section.
    [​IMG]

    When we feel like we've ridden enough for the day we pull off the main road and climb into the hills.
    [​IMG]

    The trees are Larch. Their needles turn yellow and drop in the fall. This was just starting to happen a bit up here in the more northern part of the country. It's totally fine to burn the wood, at least the dead stuff.
    [​IMG]

    153km for the day.
    [​IMG]
    #45
  6. humanbeing

    humanbeing Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 29, 2007
    Oddometer:
    19
    These bike're inspired by this (GL145 for Kiwis) . In past the REAL one are quite popular by Tibetan herders , individual makers saw the market & "mod" it by using pushrod machine. The end result is almost EVERY countryman rides it in rough terrain.
    #46
  7. trackhead

    trackhead Utard Wankster

    Joined:
    May 13, 2009
    Oddometer:
    2,754
    Location:
    Transient
    Is Mongolian mud like the slick snot of the West Desert? Or more favorable?
    #47
  8. BIKE-R

    BIKE-R Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 6, 2008
    Oddometer:
    237
    Location:
    Hungary, Budapest
    MONGOLIA... I love it!

    End of July arrived home from 50 day mongolian trip. Fascinating country, friendly people, beautiful landscape.

    I started to plan the next tour for 2014 :D
    #48
  9. team ftb

    team ftb Befuddled Adventurer

    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2006
    Oddometer:
    1,772
    Location:
    Lost in the jungles of Thailand
    Awesome report, especially since there's not a lot of pavement to get in the way of the fun.

    Regarding routes were there any maps to persue or did you just use Google Earth for most of your route finding? Or something else?

    I'm trying to decide Mongolia or China for enjoyable offroad exploring so looking forward to your experiences.
    #49
  10. KingKong_500

    KingKong_500 big size ding dong

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2011
    Oddometer:
    40
    Location:
    India
    The preview pics look great. Looking forward to more. Subscribed. !!!
    #50
  11. LC4Dakar

    LC4Dakar Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Oddometer:
    675
    Location:
    SF Bay Area and Las Cruces, NM
    It is just like this, and hidden under an inch or so of dry dirt:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    #51
  12. AlpineGuerrilla

    AlpineGuerrilla Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    Oddometer:
    399
    Location:
    Basel, Switzerland
    When you're this deep in the mud, resist the urge to scratch when it itches on your face. :lol3

    Keep it up with the report. Great ride (rather unique I'd say) and report. Oh and why didn't you register the bikes? Bureaucracy? Costs? Time?
    #52
  13. iliketoskipowder

    iliketoskipowder n00b

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2010
    Oddometer:
    3
    Location:
    where the necks are red, and the snow is deep
    old crow voile'd on, classic...
    #53
  14. tmotten

    tmotten Lefthand ride Dutchy

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2006
    Oddometer:
    2,504
    Location:
    Calgary
    Go Mongolia mate. It's a bit harder to get there but worth the extra effort and cheap once you are there . The whole notion of no private landownership is something you'll never really appreciate until you experience it first hand. And the place is massive and littred with horse (read single) trails. Right up your alley i reckon. Coming back the fences will piss you off more than before though. I've still got a roaming trip in mind myself, but I've got a few other things I want to do first.

    Cant believe how fast it's changing. First time I went there were hardly any tourists except for naadam and lada was still the car of choice. The year after there were heaps of Japanese cars with all the foreign aid and investment along with some western building sites. A few years later heaps of German cars, big add screens in the street, Irish pubs full off backpackers. Now it seems they've got a brand new Mongolian style parliament building overlooking high rises etc. it's both good and bad, because the foreign meddling means they are 'asked' to reform their laws for economic reasons and subsequent cultures which ultimately include a reform to western land reforms based on trade. I can see the end in sight for the land without fences. But maybe I'm being pessimistic caused by the romanticized memories.
    #54
  15. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    233
    Yup, EVERY nomad has a Chinese bike. We have some experience with mud that we'll share soon. iPhone app (GPSkit) with Google Terrain, Bing Street and some satellite maps loaded coupled with two different paper maps is how we navigated. Buuurrrt's got one that has gas stations marked. There are basically NO road signs. Actually, there are a couple on the more used routes that we couldn't read.
    [​IMG]
    Crow bottles were brought for water and gas. Shoulda brought them full of whiskey.
    #55
  16. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    233
    Day 3

    We woke up with the sunrise again, heated our coffee and noodles and started riding.
    [​IMG]

    We dropped off the back of the ridge we were camped on and came across our first river crossing that we needed to cross to get back on the main route.
    [​IMG]

    Minxter got bounced around and tipped over but she made it without putting her bike in the drink. She wasn't happy with her performance!!
    [​IMG]

    As fall approaches the nomads were gathering grasses for their herds for the winter and we were seeing piles like these drying everywhere.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Just up the road we came across these guys with a flat. Being "flat tire technicians" ourselves we stopped to heckle them a bit and then see if they needed anything. Total language barrier of course.
    [​IMG]

    They had put in a new tube and were pumping fiercely with their pump which they didn't realize had a huge split in the hose so no air was going into the tube. I pointed it out and they held it closed as Buuuuurrrt helped them pump it up. They couldn't get enough air with their pump so we finished it off with ours.
    [​IMG]

    As we travel on we come to a town where we can stock up on food again. The towns kinda remind me of towns in the western US from about a hundred years ago. Wide dirt streets with businesses lined up on each side.
    [​IMG]

    We were following a valley northward. It was a really nice ride with mountainous terrain and wide meadows used for grazing.
    [​IMG]

    The valley we were in dumped into a larger valley with a substantial river in it and this small section of sand dunes.
    [​IMG]

    We spun around on them a couple times for fun and then kept going.
    [​IMG]

    We dropped into a larger town where we picked up some more food and met a Canadian couple who'd been living there for 20 years! They moved there as Christian missionaries and were currently setting up a feed lot and slaughter house. They confirmed that Mongolia was like the wild west with cattle rustlers and people killing each other for gold that they dig for. We boiled a dozen eggs at their place before leaving.
    [​IMG]

    At one store some little kids came out with some sort of popsicle. We decided to try one. Frozen goat yogurt. Quite interesting to say the least.
    [​IMG]

    We ride out of town and cruise until we'd had enough. Then it's up onto a ridge to find a campsite.
    [​IMG]

    This turns out to be a really nice camp. As we're sitting there enjoying our Vodka we see a rainbow appear.
    [​IMG]

    We walk over to see that it's actually a double rainbow (the second one not really visible in this photo). This was our favorite campsite up to now.
    [​IMG]

    Now it's time for our nightly routine of cooking what we were calling "Steppe Stew". Steppe Stew consists of any vegetables you can find chopped up and cooked with powdered soup and or gravy seasonings. We were buying various sausages that were a mix of goat and other animals which we'd throw in toward the end along with some noodles. We would find potatoes, onions, turnips, carrots and cabbage in the little towns although most of the stores had a very limited selection. The Canadian Christian Cowboys gave us a few ears of really starchy sweet corn. They were nice folks.
    [​IMG]

    We were running a stove that burned unleaded gasoline. It had two settings: off and weld. What it lacks for in temperature control it made up for in reliability in burning gas from our bikes tanks.
    [​IMG]

    Mmmmmmmm! Looks like the Steppe Stew is ready!! Tonight it was cabbage and onions with sausage and noodles.
    [​IMG]

    130km for the day.
    #56
  17. kobold

    kobold Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 9, 2006
    Oddometer:
    101
    Location:
    Ankara, Turkey
    Great ride report. Thanks for sharing. I hope someday, i could do a similar trip to Mongolia.
    #57
  18. _cy_

    _cy_ Long timer

    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    6,468
    Location:
    Tulsa, Oklahoma
    great trip!!

    got to get some of those cool looking straps.
    #58
  19. harcus

    harcus Long timer

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2005
    Oddometer:
    1,333
    Location:
    Edge of the Wasatch

    They are made right here in Salt Lake. Come in various lengths. PM me if you want. I'll get u some. :D
    #59
  20. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 23, 2007
    Oddometer:
    233
    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.
    [​IMG]

    This worked well for us and we always enjoyed a leisurely morning.
    [​IMG]

    Horse skulls near the camp.
    [​IMG]

    And we're off!
    [​IMG]

    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!
    [​IMG]

    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!!
    [​IMG]

    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!
    [​IMG]

    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?"
    [​IMG]

    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.
    [​IMG]

    We're heading into the sticks now. These drainages are awesome.
    [​IMG]

    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.
    [​IMG]

    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.
    [​IMG]

    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.
    [​IMG]

    We keep going deeper passing herds of yaks and ger homes scattered about.
    [​IMG]

    The drainages were really beautiful! Talk about isolated.
    [​IMG]

    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.
    [​IMG]

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

    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.
    [​IMG]

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

    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.
    [​IMG]

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

    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!
    [​IMG]

    After celebrating the blue moon it was time for bed. I guess our friend didn't leave after all!
    [​IMG]
    160km for the day.
    #60