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 5
    Cheke-chow had a lazy morning with us.
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    After screwing around for a while, she wandered back down the hill.
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    We did also.
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    Signs that winter is coming.
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    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.
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    We were a little skeptical about it since it wasn't marked on our map but it was heading in the right direction.
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    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.
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    Now we started coming across sections of alternate single track routes.
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    Jackpot!!!
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    These routes would often go the same places the two tracks did but might avoid some big mud holes or really deep river crossings.
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    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.
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    Buuuuurrrrrt spotted this. It's called a "Deer Stone", carved thousands of years ago and still standing.
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    You gotta like river crossings if you're gonna ride in Mongolia. Here's Minxter showing us how its done.
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    After missing our turn and having to back track about 10km, we made it to the town we were hoping for.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    116km for the day.
    #61
  2. trackhead

    trackhead Utard Wankster

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    Looks alot like the Ponderosa forests of Flagstaff.

    What's the elevation there? 7k?
    #62
  3. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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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.
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    First river crossing of the day right out of camp.
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    We had been seeing a bunch of amazing birds like hawks, falcons, eagles and vultures. This would continue for most of the trip.
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    Getting into the higher terrain with nice sections of single track.
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    This guy presented himself. He's what's known as a Little Owl.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    The caretaker gets on the back of a Chinese bike and runs us back up the road about a kilometer to the hot springs.
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    They weren't quite what we were expecting. They were inside these little shacks.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    She's a real trooper. She held a good attitude and kept charging. "Thank you!! May I have another?!"
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    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.
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    RELIEF!!! We hit the lake at just about perfect timing for a nice evening.
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    This campsite was amazing!!!
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    The lake was still just warm enough to quickly dunk under and wash up.
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    Guess what's for dinner?
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    This was just what we needed after things getting a little tight up in the marshes.
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    100km for the day.
    #63
  4. SoloSurfer

    SoloSurfer iheartducati

    Joined:
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    Rossland BC, Canada
    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!

    :clap
    #64
  5. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    We've got a pretty decent gps track that I'll see about adding. What a ride!!
    #65
  6. travelingman32

    travelingman32 n00b

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    Salt Lake City, Utah
    Great RR. What an amazing ride. "The Steppe" looks like it could be dangerous.:freaky
    Keep it coming. :clap
    #66
  7. team ftb

    team ftb Befuddled Adventurer

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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!!
    #67
  8. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    Day 7

    Holy crap!! What a sunrise.
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    This ended up being our new favorite camp of the trip.
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    We were planning a half rest day for this day so we just hung around and looked at rocks and relaxed.
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    The route along the east side of the lake was pretty bad so we were in no hurry to get on it.
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    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.
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    Minxter loves rocks!
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    Pretty soon the town comes into view. Hotel? Yeah right!!
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    We stocked up on eggs and boiled them for the next few days.
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    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.
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    60km for the day.
    #68
  9. HickOnACrick

    HickOnACrick Groovinator

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    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.
    #69
  10. SS in Vzla.

    SS in Vzla. Totally Normal? I'm not!

    Joined:
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    Very nice report.
    It seems you had a great time there!
    :lurk
    #70
  11. Radioman

    Radioman Moto rider

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    Enjoying your RR!
    #71
  12. levain

    levain STILL Jim Williams

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    :freaky
    #72
  13. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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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.
    #73
  14. alcanrider

    alcanrider alcanrider

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Back in Superior, Colorado!
    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.
    #74
  15. Comrade Art

    Comrade Art Working stiff

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    Wow, what an adventure! Keep posting :thumb
    #75
  16. kobold

    kobold Been here awhile

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    Ankara, Turkey
    Great Ride Report and what i like most is, it is not the bike but ability to have fun which makes any trip great.
    #76
  17. HickOnACrick

    HickOnACrick Groovinator

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    Great ride report. One of the best I have read this year.

    I am wondering, as opposed to rallying a big-bore dirt bike through the desert for days, it seems this trip was much more laid back. Were the Chinese bikes fun at all? Were you ever wishing for a little BRRRRAAAP? Or were you just tickled to be where you were?
    #77
  18. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    Laid back is a great way to put it.

    Notes on the Chinese all terrain mopeds. We chose them because that's what ended up making the most sense for our budget and time frame. The goal was to ride around Mongolia on motorcycles. We decided we would ride whatever type of bike it took to make that happen. Of course we were all wishing we had our big bores but there is always the consideration of something breaking and the availability of parts. This is not an issue with the chinese bikes since even some of the smallest shops out in the country have parts. Also, there is something about traveling around like the rest of the population does. I mean, EVERY freaking nomad had a chinese bike.

    The Shineray "Mustang" 150 is basically a modded street bike. They've put in heavier springs, use large enduro style 18" tires front and rear (only one size tube to carry!), simple drum brakes, and add a beefy rack to strap your goat hides to. They are marketed to the nomads. And they do the job. I can't say anything about longevity, the jury is still out on that.
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    #78
  19. Joe Motocross

    Joe Motocross Been here awhile

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    Day 8
    With Hatgal being a tourist destination the road is being paved from the larger town of Moron which is about 100km away. We made good time on this stretch.
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    It wasn't long before we rolled into Moron which is a larger town by Mongolian standards.
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    We had to stock up and boil more eggs because we got too drunk the night before and left our eggs out for the Magpies to feast on. While Moron isn't as charming as Hatgal, it would make more sense to spend a day here to regroup since there are lot's of resources here. There are numerous larger supermarkets, a large black market, and a few decent looking hotels. We didn't stay, just got some stuff and kept moving.
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    The road was an actual improved road for a short stretch out of town.
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    The route quickly turned back into buttery two tracks and we came across these guys with a flat. Of course we have to stop and see what's going on. Flat occurrences are always very social and entertaining at least for everyone except the guy doing the repair. We we always classify the flats and this one rated as a "class 2 slice". Turns out these guys had patches but no glue so we pulled ours out for them. It's pretty funny how you can communicate with people without knowing each others language.
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    Pretty soon we started into a canyon that we hoped would lead us to a pass up over a small range. The riding was getting really good!
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    The route was smooth with a handful of easy river crossings.
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    Then we stumble onto this scene. We notice all the bikes neatly lined up and we think maybe we should go see what's happening.
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    Upon closer inspection we notice bodies strewn about, some kind of barely moving like they'd been drugged! One guy is stumbling around. Our senses tell us to keep moving.
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    The route continued up this beautiful drainage. The two track was perfect!
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    It just kept getting better as we continued up, tightening up a bit more.
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    Next it starts to open up a bit and…….
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    BAM!! We're riding through a very broad high meadow.
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    We find an awesome camp site overlooking the drainage we had just rode up. We all converse about what a weird scene that was back at the ger camp where Jim Jones and the Kool Aide Kids were hanging out.
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    During the evening Minxter announces that Buuuuurrrrt and I both have some rogue eyebrow hairs that she can't take looking at anymore and we'll need to have her do some manicuring. Too funny! She definitely has a very feminine side of her.
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    We had made some good time that day and really enjoyed the riding. We couldn't stop wondering what the hell was going on at the ger camp with the people flopped out everywhere?!!
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    174km for the day.
    #79
  20. linksIT

    linksIT nOObie

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    :clap:freaky
    Great ride and report really digging it thanks for taking us along
    #80