A solo trip to Mongolia on a 125cc

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by guerreronegro, Apr 18, 2020.

  1. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Excellent update @guerreronegro! Sucks that the road was in such disrepair that it was fatiguing; especially as the vibrations are causing stuff to start failing. But great to read of the friendliness and hospitality you encountered as you made your way.

    Look forward to the next update; thank you for keeping this going.
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  2. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Been here awhile

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    A few weeks busy modifying a V-Strom 650 I just bought and with Christmas in the middle time to catch up with family and friends. Now it’s time to resume the diaries. Thanks to all of you reading the story so far and I wish merry Christmas and a happy new year to you all.

    Going back to somewhere east in the Kazakh steppe, and not so far from the Chinese border….

    After a good quality sleep I awake in the morning and realized more people from the rally had made it here overnight as the patio was with two Nissan Micras with Mongol Rally stickers and UK license plates. I learnt later they were Americans also doing the rally but who have bought their car in the UK as it was the easiest country in which to acquire a car without having proof of residence.

    Day 40th went by painfully slow. I covered 500 Km of again really bad roads and this took me about 13 hours. I could not resist making the comparison between any of the travels back in Spain with modern infrastructure this would have take me about 5 hours. It was just nuts. I concluded that whenever the local or Kazakh government wanted to fix the road, they just put fresh tarmac regardless whatever was there before. For all I know if there was a tree lying in the previous trail, they would just fill it with tarmac and call it a day. That’s how bad it was. No preparation was done so to save costs. It was not smooth either and of course it did not last long, probably in one winter it was already destroyed. This way to do roads was just a taxpayer waste of money in my opinion, likely going into some politician´s pocket.

    When I had thought that Turkmenistan levels of neglection were unmatched this was I believe even worse. In Turkmenistan it was so bad that all I had to do was ride slow and that was it. East Kazakhstan was like a façade. An apparently good road that was not good at all and played with you psychologically. Again, I do not know how these alloy wheels had survived so many potholes hitting them at a good speed enough to even break the tire. I now have the Enkei brand in my top reference podium when it goes to alloy rims.
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    I felt so miserable and tired that I stopped at a petrol station even when my petrol tank was full just to sit on the ground and eat some biscuits I had bought the previous day. While enjoying my break I met a few Kazakhs that were doing some tourism within their own country. They were very kind and friendly, I was offered a watermelon, apples and some water almost by force. To formalize the deal we took a picture together. Again, the people I was just meeting on the way made joy out of my misery. When I write these lines I go back to the recordings I did on my phone and at this point I sounded already as if I was used to it. I find it hard to believe even me myself now.

    I resumed my trip and now the traffic was increasing more and more with trailers and cars. I limited myself to just ride on the virtual shoulder of the road to avoid any disgraces. Cars would randomly swerve left or right without indicating to avoid the potholes with no consideration of motorcycles. Most of the energy wasted in this stage was put on traffic concentration so not to die on the road.
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    I stopped in what seemed like a military city, Ayagoz. They had a huge military base in the outskirts and most of the pedestrians walking down the street were dressed in military suits. I found a nice place to eat (with a nice presentation) and as I was eating it started to rain first lightly, and then it got worse. I took out my rain gear to prepare for it. Every minute wasted on the road was time taken of daylight and I now knew clear enough I wanted to cross this part as fast as possible.
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  3. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Been here awhile

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    Rain eventually stopped and as soon as I got back in the bike it went intermittent. A thunderstorm was forming in the distance allowing me to see an astonishing scenery riding in the steppe with thunders falling close. With the Forma boots I bring with me, I had a decent layer of impermeability but definitely not bulletproof and eventually I got soaked. While riding, I saw a BMW GS with a strange number plate on it, we said hi as the rider overpassed and lost me due to the power difference. It turns out I would be meeting this mysterious rider a few days after.





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    A cementery on the side of the road

    I ride until I was not able to keep up with the humidity going inside the bones. I passed a few villages, rural areas and after one there were a few lorry drivers parked out signalling probably a good place. And indeed this indicator never proves to disappoint. The place had even rooms for a few bucks and the most comprehensive menu I have found so far. I just wanted something hot to recover from the rain, so I get a pretty good borsch soup, a classic by now with some chai. Most of the truck drivers were minding their own business, but they could definitely notice my face screaming I am a foreigner, so as usual they came by to say hi and attempt to have a conversation with me. I was game in with the translator. By now I even downloaded a Russian version of google translator with better results for this language, Yandex. I don’t remember the details while hanging out with this people but what I remember is that I soon forgot this bad day and felt much better with a pleasant social interaction.



    The owner of the place even wanted to show me the rooms to sleep there but as there was still one hour of daylight I wanted to make it to Qalbatau. From there, the road promised to be much better and both Semey and the Russian border were nearby to cross in one day. So I kindly refused the offer and carried on. When something like this happened, I was always wondering if what was up ahead would be a better bet. Today I was lucky, but this kind of thing repeated many times and later in the trip I would experience also bad results.

    I miscalculated again the distance, and it got dark while the rain it changed to just a light drizzle. I refuelled in a nice petrol station signalling also the end of bad fuel in this trip. It had also a small grocery store, so I bought some supplies just in case. Caught in the dark I struggled to find the place as the whole village was under road construction and many crossings were cut. I finally figured it out and crossed it all off-road style. It was not ideal, specially with so much mud and swampiness but the Varadero behaved well.

    The place, Rarat guest house had even a garage to lock the motorcycle down for the night. Not that anyone was going to steal it with such difficult access to the property but better to have it protected against the elements in case the rain would like to reappear overnight. There was a very friendly lady chatting with a friend in the reception, and she walked me in a pretty big room. Paid around 13 dollars for the night, and it included dinner plus breakfast so amazing value for money. There were many people working in the energy industry staying overnight as well so before going to bed I asked with the map in hand which route should I take to make it into mother Russia. Turns out I could bypass Semey and most of my original itineraries through unpaved roads, which according to them were in decent shape. Most of the time asking the locals was the way to go, so I rescheduled everything and decided to take their advice on this.
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    The feeling at the end of the day was as if I had been strapped to a mechanical bull for the day riding plus all the gear soaked. Hopefully next day will be better.

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  4. herseyb

    herseyb Driftless Wisconsin Wanderlust

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    just binged this whole thread. incredible.
  5. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Damn, that's a long day of riding, roughly 310 miles; at 13 hours, you averaged right around 24 miles/hour. Ouch. Riding in constant rain is draining enough, when you have to worry about dodging potholes and drivers who aren't paying attention to motorcycles...that sucks.

    Still, really cool pictures of folks you met along the way and the food from the cafe looks delicious. That cemetery looks huge?

    Unrelated, but it sounds like you have a new bike that'll be featured in upcoming adventures? Damn cool to get a Strom and make it ready for travel.

    Enjoyed the updates @guerreronegro, thanks for keeping the report going!
  6. openbughunter

    openbughunter n00b

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    nice post
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  7. ricochetrider

    ricochetrider MotoMojo

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    Hey this is still awesome! Thank you so much for continuing this fantastic ride report. Look forward to reading some new adventures with you & your V Strom.
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  8. nutmagnet

    nutmagnet Been here awhile Supporter

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    Love the small bike huge adventure!Enjoy the v strom,mine has never let me down.
  9. jowul

    jowul Been here awhile

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    arranged marriages are quite common all over the world. Practised since centuries and still today In Europe among the very rich and the so called “blue blood” and in particular the royal families
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  10. Outwardbound

    Outwardbound Been here awhile Supporter

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    So.... you should write a book about this trip!
    Great story. Binged it all evening.
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  11. sgio

    sgio Been here awhile

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    I am really enjoying this!
    Thanks!
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  12. danceswithcages

    danceswithcages Been here awhile Supporter

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    I just got caught up with this RR.
    Just wow.
    Thank you for all the great pics and fantastic writing. It feels like I have been traveling with you.
  13. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Been here awhile

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    You are right. They still carry on with this practice but in my view this is done more subtle. Rich powerful families in Europe they send their offspring to schools and places in which they will only have the chance to establish relations with people from their same socio'economic status. Not that it differs radically from a traditional arranged marriage but that is more like I would like to marry your daughter, here is the 5 cows as a gift (true story).
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  14. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Been here awhile

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    Thanks for the kind words. I will start to consider it once I am finished and have more annotations to make a more compelling story. So far I have 110 pages on Microsoft Word and it is taking more time for me to write than originally planned but I am enjoying writing every single bit of it.
  15. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Been here awhile

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    It seems that every day I come out with a new limit in terms of endurance, but this particular area is tough indeed. I took a picture of a few cemeteries down the road as I was driving. It definitely felt different from the ones we have home. I guess it is a Muslim peculiarity.
    The Vstrom is from a friend who upgraded to the new model 1000cc. I liked it from before and now it will be the new steed from the adventures to come as I am also selling my Africa Twin rd07.

    Thank you for reading. Here is a pic of the Strom IMG-20201227-WA0046.jpg
  16. OierXT

    OierXT Freedom-searcher...

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    Hey Guerreronegro, what a great adventure! Keep coming and thank you very much for your report, it's fantastic:clap.
  17. jowul

    jowul Been here awhile

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    That is true, the goods exchanged are different, however the custom of the Dowry is still in place. By the way I like your new avatar. As far as your RR is concerned, it was captivating. And interesting to see how China is encroaching on the next Muslim country to take over and enslave like they have done with the Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims.
    However I never read about your arrival in Mongolia, the Mongolia Rally outcome nor your adventure back to Spain. Eso lo hizo en teleportaje como en Star Trek? :rofl
  18. SteveK2311

    SteveK2311 n00b

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    Excellent, looking forward to following this
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  19. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Been here awhile

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    Following the advice of the workers at the hostel yesterday I felt quite optimistic about the detour. I had a pretty good breakfast and after I took out the motorcycle in the garage. The guys from yesterday were also out in the street waiting for their colleagues to go to their working site. One of them gave me some tomato juice and snacks wishing me good luck on my way to Russia.

    The road was in much better shape today but as soon as I took the detour to bypass Semey it turned into a dirt road. Not as bad as the previous ones from past days but still not what I expected. It turns out I was crossing through a perpendicular road to the next main road, the R24 leading to Bulak next to the Irtish river. This dirt road was pretty fun to ride as I crossed a couple of cool rural areas with green landscapes in between towns. Not only that but there was literally nobody but me which made it also safer. Having known this I would have spent time tracing a route exclusively through secondary roads.
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    The steppe was finally disappearing. Due to the rain from yesterday, some sections were incredibly muddy. After figuring out the GPS directions were useless passing the first set of houses (outdated maps) I had to stop and ask for directions with the traditional paper map in hand. Then I managed to follow an old trail that seemed unused. I thought I was lost because up to this point everything was much simpler and this was the first time I was doubting which way to go. But eventually I reached the road and got to see a massive hydro power station. To cross the bridge to the other end I had to wait a few minutes as it was done in turns. The landscape was definitely different. Much more rocky and green than the previous steppe, signaling the proximity to the Altay region. Crossing the forest at the other side of the bridge made me suddenly remember of the perfect habitat for bears. Weather was also getting colder than previous days but luckily free of rain, though still humid.
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    Before I realized it I was in Shemonalkha. This would be the last town before crossing into Russia so as always I tried to get rid of almost all the currency I was carrying. I had to wash the bike so I looked for a car wash. I found one workshop which had one but the guy would not let me pay him anything. These people looked more Russian than Kazakhs, I guess because of the proximity with the border. We as always had a brief talk and after a couple pics I thanked him and moved to my next destination, the gas station. After refueling, I decided I might as well get lunch as I didn’t know how long it would take me crossing this border. All I have heard so far was that the Russian border was no joke.

    When I finally found a place I liked, I could see it was almost full. Then something strange happened. I entered the place and I directly sit in one of the free tables so to wait for someone to come ask me what I wanted. There was a lady, presumably the owner of the place who for some reason saw this inadequate and without hesitating, threw me out of the place.

    I did not really know whether I did something unpolite without me realizing or maybe she just didn’t want me there for some reason a failed to understand. The thing is that shortly after as I was jumping back again in my bike she came out trying to apologize and now insisted to let me in back in the same table I was sitted a fewe minutes ago. This was really strange. The place was crowded and locals minded their own business as if this was normal. I think it had something to do with the table being dirty and now that she cleaned it, she considered it ok for me to sit there. The communication barrier was definitely an impediment. Food was homemade and incredibly tasty. The lady wouldn’t take any cash either. I don’t know, the whole situation was really bizarre. I really wanted to finish all the dengue left so this time I insisted more than her to take it.
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    Back in the street a few people were looking at the bike and asked me to take a picture with them, so I had another souvenir to associate to this story.

    I didn’t know this before crossing but I believe this was one of the few borders on the way that had a schedule and remained closed during the weekends. Lucky enough I arrive on time and managed to skip the queue one more time. Exiting Kazakhstan was easy and after crossing one or two km of no man’s land I arrived at the Russia’s border post. They were calling us in groups of 10 vehicles to access the border area. Skipping the queue once again this took no time. The Russian officials were a bit reluctant about my visa free passport and because they hardly have ever seen an Ecuadorian passport before almost all of them came to see if it was good. In the end they let me go without even registering the bike, just briefly opened the top case as a sign of good faith and then they opened me the gate to finally enter the country.
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    The difference in road infrastructure was noticeable. My first impressions of the country came after interacting with a couple of locals. I stopped in the first store iin Sabyyushka to buy a SIM card again from Beeline. When I exited the store someone had left me some sausages and apples in the bike’s seat. When I turned around to see who was the kind soul behind this I saw a couple in an old Lada Niva waiving their hand as they departed. Feeling shocked about the gratitude of these people, I went on to the next destination, an ATM. Same thing happened. I went in and after back in the street someone approached me speaking in Russian and basically telling me to accept more food. I just didn’t know how to proceed. In just a few minutes this whole myth about Russia being dangerous kind of went away. And this was not the only lucky incidents I ran into. I then decided to go to the next lake a few km away to camp. There I met Igor who happened to be living there in the summer in a hut.
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    IMG_20190823_200753.jpg Igor allowed me to stay in his property and put the tent there. I did some preventive maintenance and opened the air filter to wash it. As I tried to ignite the stove I found out the injector was clogged so that I also had to repair in order to boil some water. A Russian couple came later in a camper van. Igor invited me to dinner and tea over in the hut. With the help of the translator we managed to understand some how. He said that tomorrow he would invite me to go in his zodiac around the lake. The russian couple then came and invited us to drink some vodka. Together we drink until it was dark. Not bad after 400 km. Actually, I think it was one of the best days in this trip.

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  20. mrsdnf

    mrsdnf Long timer

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    Loving the story still guerreronegro.
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