A solo trip to Mongolia on a 125cc

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

  1. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    Three weeks had already passed since I left home. Today I had an early start. Even though I used repellent, I woke up with several mosquito bites. I headed directly to the port at 8 AM, the most important thing was to get those tickets and then I would figure out what to do. Once there, and after looking for a while to someone around the gates an official showed up. He asked for my passport and told me to wait in an area where more people seemed to have passed the night. Once I was there, we started to communicate with the universal language of signs and universal English words. The main conversation topic was football team, players and my civil status. They were all from Turkmenistan and from what I understood they were telling me they had been waiting for a long time, perhaps days. This was going to be a slow procedure.

    I had time to kill so as always, I started updating the diaries. While waiting, my new friends started to tell me to install a VPN on my phone if I wanted to be connected in Turkmenistan as they had many Internet restrictions. Good to know, although I wasn’t planning on staying a long time within the country. The transit visa I had only allows for five days on a pre-agreed itinerary which was going to be Turkmenbashi, Ashgabat and Darvaza; two days maximum. After two hours waiting, I got a little impatient and came back to the officer to see what had happened with the staff at the ticket office as nobody had shown up yet. Apparently, they would be coming in a “few more minutes” which I interpreted as easily another couple hours. I was hungry but I was not moving from there until I had my ticket. The Turkmens were also convinced somebody would show up eventually so that gave a boost to my patience.

    Then the Mongol Rally people started to appear. If I was starting to run out of patience, these guys made it look like nothing. They were camped at the other side of the docks waiting each of them for a different amount of days. According to them, today was going to be the day the boat would be arriving, so they joined me at the queue. I met also a team of Spaniards driving an old-timer Mercedes diesel van. They happened to live close to me in Madrid and it felt nice to reconnect with fellow countrymen. Most of the people by what they were saying had been mislead by false information and many intermediaries.
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    While I was talking to them, I realize I had lost one of the chain tensioners plates at the end of the swingarm. It was not difficult to fix, I just needed to find someone willing to make a new rectangle with an angle grinder and drill it. I would take care of it later. The most likely reason it was the guys in Georgia forgot to tighten the two nuts while changing the rear tyre. Thankfully I didn’t ride the bike on harsh surfaces the last two days.

    After another hour of waiting a couple of guys came in and we started with the ticket procedure. For the motorcycle I had to pay 95 USD once on board of the vessel. The price to pay now was 125 USD with a credit card and another 20 USD in cash. It was a hard logic to understand but I was not going to discuss, the price seemed fair according to what I had as a reference and I just wanted to get this over with before the bureaucracy could arbitrarily jump to a harder level. I interpreted those 20 USD in cash as a tribute since this was an official institution and the guys knew there would be many foreigners on board these days. The ticket included lunch, dinner and breakfast for the one day of duration and no bed, it was the most basic one. The boat would be departing at 7 PM.

    Now that the tickets were in my hand and I had plenty of time to kill I headed to the same restaurant of yesterday to have proper breakfast while I thought on how to fix this tensioner problem.


    For anyone willing to take this ferry I recommend this contact for checking up on updates: https://asco.az/en/our-contacts/kassa/

    Alat (Baku) -Kurik +99455 9999 124

    This email address was also useful: seanews.az@gmail.com

    The sea traffic can be monitored using the MarineTraffic portal filtering the RoRo Vessels which can be found in Caravanistan.

    upload_2020-6-5_14-29-33.png
    Some of the vessels: Bestekar Fikret Amirov, Nakchivan, Dagistan, Qara Qarayev, Heydar Aliyev, Mercuri-1, Professor Gul, Barda, Akademik Topchubashov, Shahdag, Azerbaijan, Berkarar, Bagtiyar

    Akademik Topchubashov, Bagtyyar, Berkarar, Professor Gul, Shahdag were the ones I used to configure free alerts for when these will be arriving at each port. This is the maximum number of RoRos you can add on a free account, but it gives you an idea of the frequency. The whole point is to compliment this intel with what Kurik can tell you and avoid downtimes waiting at the port dying out of uncertainty due to the lack of schedules.
  2. James59

    James59 Adventurer

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    Beijing China
    VPN is a must anywhere. Get it before you travel to Central Asia/ China. Good advice. Thank you for the interesting post, I didnt know about the sea traffic, interesting.
  3. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Damn man, that's a serious set of logistics to work through, good on you for keeping a level head and being patient while figuring it out. I can't imagine trying to sift through all that in order to jump on a boat :lol2. I look forward to reading about the voyage, hope you're to get your camp stuff out of your bike so you're somewhat comfortable on the journey.
    guerreronegro likes this.
  4. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    Yes, I used NordVPN but it didn't work properly in Turkmenistan. I had to download another one and use the 7 day trial. Some VPN providers as far as I have heard are also locked so sometimes its handy to have a backup.
    James59 likes this.
  5. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

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    no problems in asia with the standard tmobile phone service, wifi or gps.
  6. OierXT

    OierXT Freedom-searcher...

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    Thank you very much for such important information, really welcome. And great writting, as always!
    guerreronegro likes this.
  7. James59

    James59 Adventurer

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    Yes, you are right, but, not all of Asia. For example, China. No VPN no western social media.
  8. mrsdnf

    mrsdnf Been here awhile

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    Lost between the Dandenongs and Yarra Valley
    What a terrific trip your having guerreronegro. Thanks for taking the time to post it up. :beer
    guerreronegro likes this.
  9. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    It is the same thing in Turkmenistan, nothing FB or whatsapp related worked; or in Russia LinkedIn. They used however VK, the Russian FB. There is something strange about this though, and I think this is what @yokesman experimented. When I was living in China I had an American colleage using his AT&T SIM card and for some reason he was able to bypass the Chinese Great Firewall without a VPN while roaming data. But, if you use a domestic SIM card then you must use a VPN, which is what I did for most of the countries I stayed more than 4 days.
  10. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    I had my last kebab at the same place of last night. Good and cheap. I didn’t know it back then, but it was also the last nice meal I would be having in a while. I tried to ask the owner if he knew someone in town good with working metal. He pointed me towards the town saying a lot of things I was not able to comprehend. I followed the directions and soon found a tire shop. I stopped to ask, trying to explain by pointing out the problem at the swingarm, making gestures and basically anything that could give the guy an idea of what was going on. He soon understood the problem and he pointed out in the same direction following the long avenue. I kept following and found another workshop for cars. I thought this was the place the last guy referred to and repeated the same procedure. A group of people were sited outside of a house drinking tea and observed me. One stood up and as if he was reading my mind, he told me to follow his car.
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    After 2 minutes we arrived at the place. This seemed to be the guy, he had a milling machine, a welder and all kinds of tools to work out a metal plate. The mechanic worked mostly outdoors in the dust, and without any safety equipment. He quickly got what needed to be done and took the measures with and old caliber, found and old piece of metal scrap and cut a rectangle out of it. Then he positioned it back in the swing arm and marked the hole to drill. It was done in less than 5 minutes. When I came to him to pay, he kindly rejected putting his hand in my back and telling me some words I didn’t understand while making a grin smile. He felt more like a friend than a service provider. I was not only amazed at the kindness of these peoples but also at how resolutive they were.
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    Saying spasiba to everybody at the workshop I left the place towards a petrol station to fill up before getting in the boat. I had no idea what to expect in Turkmenistan so I also filled up the jerry can I carried with me just in case. I bought the local Red Bull version at the petrol station to stay awake. The heat was strong and after waiting for so long I was getting drowsy. I loved the names chosen for marketing for these local brands of energy drink, it was always something like the “crazy tiger” or “victory horse”, what could possibly go wrong?

    I still had a long time to wait until the vessel arrived. Not enough time to go to Baku to visit the city but enough to find something to do in the area. I opened the maps.me app and found a place of interest tagged as mud volcanoes. It was really close so without much delay I headed there. The path was a bit broken but the rear tired work flawlessly. I still needed to change the sprocket and today I had loads of time to do so. The place was worth a visit although I didn’t really understand too much about the place due to the broken translation. The oil fields were really close, and this was supposed to be associated with the volcanoes having all kinds of good properties for the skin, etc. There were two Chinese ladies and a Polish couple also visiting and we took pictures of each other. The mud was at ambient temperature and there were locals bathing in it. After taking a few pictures and videos I went to see the rest of the place and ride around the oil fields.
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    IMG_20190804_142310.jpg IMG_20190804_142736.jpg IMG_20190804_141403.jpg


    As I was heading out, I saw many tourists coming in the local Lada taxis. I was lucky to made it before they arrive. I didn’t know what to do next and I didn’t want to go to the port to just wait so I decided to come back to the same hotel as yesterday to at least connect to the Internet and inform everyone I will be gone for a couple of days if not more due to the windy nature of the Caspian Sea. There I was able to charge all my electronics and check for the last time the social media.

    Then when I had one hour left, I said goodbye to the owners and headed back to the port. There were at least 20 Mongol Rally people waiting in the main area, so it was time to socialize. I met a couple of Portuguese doing the rally in an old Suzuki Samurai, a car I particularly liked. The guys were having some trouble fitting a set of auxiliary LED lights so I offered to give them a hand as I’d worked as an automotive electrician before. Curious to see how the old Suzuki did not have any relay box for the most common electronics and everything was wired directly to the switch and fuse. After this was done, I met again the English riders, Paul @whichwayaround and Holly. They just arrived and purchased their tickets. They wanted to change tires while waiting for the vessel to arrive. At that point it was also clear it wouldn’t arrive by 7 PM.

    I took the chance and changed the sprocket really fast. I had measured the chain at home, and it hadn’t stretched so far, so I was able to put it in without having to cut any links. After it I tested it and it felt much more agile at the expense of a red line maximum speed of 60 mph. Some lorry drivers came to have a look, there were many trucks on board, most with Turkmenistan plates. They tried to speak Russian with me but without the translator I didn’t understand anything. When I gave them my phone to write on the translator, I understood they only knew how to speak Russian, but not how to write it as the Translator was not returning anything intelligible. Like most of the people I met so far, they were just curious.

    I met another rider later on in Tajikistan who told me that part of the reason why people in central Asia were so kind to foreigners was that we were the ones bringing them news from abroad, just like another news media. I didn’t really think about it that way until I realized the amounts of censorship and propaganda, they are subject to. Anyways, after finishing these I found Paul and Holly were having some difficulties with fitting their new off-road tires. Having an aluminum rim and being the tire a tubeless one didn’t help. I thought they carried a tube with them but since this was not the case my best guess was to convince one of the lorry drivers to start the truck and let us use their air compressor. They kindly accepted and soon the problem was gone.
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    After a few minutes we were called to the migration office. It was already dark, around 10 PM or so and we were all tired. So far it had been a productive day. We still have to board inside but bureaucracy around here would prove to be a true exercise of patience...
    bomose, klaviator, Hannda and 11 others like this.
  11. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

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    James, using offline mapping, downloads would be accomplished prior to traveling, useful for preplanning.
    Getting some idea anyway of the distances. AS I understand in china the accurracy maybe varied but even here at home google sometime goes into a fit and reroutes without input. AS it did last week on the way to the ktm shop some 10 miles away.
    James59 and ricochetrider like this.
  12. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    The migration process took alone a couple of hours while each and every one of us was called separately to get the seal out of Azerbaijan. This was just the beginning of a very long night… I was told the ferry would be quite an experience and so far... it was promising. The Azerbaijanis spend their time checking that we had the Letter of Invitation and other possible related documents required by the Turkmen authorities to get our 5 day transit visa.
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    IMG_20190805_184510.jpg Once this was done, we were given the greenlight to go aboard the vessel. Most of the lorries were already in by then so this process didn´t take long. My bike was parked between a Turkmen lorry and the Portuguese Suzuki. Then the staff proceed to strap it with a massive strap from the seat. I didn´t like it how they were doing it so I asked if I could do it instead. Then I took the main bag out which contained all I needed for one night in this boat. We were then send to the upper level. There was a massive queue at the reception area for the check-in process. People were starting to loose their nerves and the person in charge did not really know how to handle the situation. Apparently, the truckers wanted to be the first ones checked in and since there was so many foreigners they kind of demanded preference. I kind of understood them, I have profund respect for lorry drivers and I was not in a rush anyways. Since there was nobody controlling us I decided to explore the main room. Here I had two options either choose from the airplane style chairs or find a nice flat area to put the air mattress on the floor. That´s what I ended up doing. I claimed a corner under the stairs leading to the private rooms for myself and inflated the mattress.
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    To be honest the vessel was in very good condition. I heard also that these used to be old from the Soviet era but this was relatively new, so I was happy with this. Back in the reception, the ambient was getting hotter and hotter with now the locals shouting at each other and getting very aggressive. I was quite tired, and I knew this could be possibly be done later on, so I just headed to sleep. Some of the people from the rally preferred to wait instead. I happened to wake up only two hours after. I do not remember exactly what time it was but there was still light and some people still waiting there to be checked in. I decided to give it another try and this time I was lucky. The guy in charge gave me a few papers I should be handling to the Turkmen authorities and charged me the cash agreed plus 5 more dollars upon at the ticket office.



    Happy to have settled everything, I headed briefly to the deck to see if the vessel had moved. I could still see the Alat port only a few hundred yards in the distance. Whatever was to happen it could wait. I headed back to sleep which was surprisingly easy.
    bomose, klaviator, Hannda and 10 others like this.
  13. James59

    James59 Adventurer

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    Yes, its funny how the accuracy varies in China depending on the political situation.....
  14. yokesman

    yokesman Long timer

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    with china, nothing changes.
  15. MaddBrit

    MaddBrit Now officially a Yank.

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    Allen, Tejas. Blissful state...
    Bravo!

    Another epic ride report.

    Thanks for sharing.

    :lurk
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  16. mpusms

    mpusms Been here awhile

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    Saint Simons Island GA
    I’m finally caught up with this awesome RR. It takes some cojones to ride from Spain to Mongolia “solo”!! All the different countries, cultures, languages, currency etc. Looking forward to more. Bravo!! :clap
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  17. Speedmaster58

    Speedmaster58 Adventurer

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    Absolutely brilliant RR, brought back memories of my solo trip to Mongolia which unfortunately ended in Kazan with bike problems. But as you found the kindness of strangers is humbling. Just read RR in one hit and can't wait for next instalment. Did you get the front brake rotor sorted in Georgia? loved Georgia Georgia 9.jpg
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  18. ishmac

    ishmac Been here awhile

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    Amazing ride report so far - utter respect to you in every way...!

    Ride safe - cherish every moment.


    Best wishes;
    Peter
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  19. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    Wow, did you crossed through Chechnya to get to Kazan or what was your original route? Unfortunately the Gerogians didn't find any compatible rotors so I had to continue with the bent one. At this point I had already got used to it and the only side problem was the front pad was wearing faster than it should. I basically kept riding the bike and breaking with the rear all the way to Mongolia and back to Spain.
    DavidM1 likes this.
  20. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    I woke up for once without the need to set route somewhere else. I didn’t really have anything to do but to wait for breakfast and enjoy the day on board of the vessel. The rest of the ralliers were scattered around the lobby area also using their camping equipment instead of the chairs provided. It was around 9 AM and according to some of the people who were awake the boat just started moving one hour ago. I came out to the deck and realized it was now stopped again. It had only moved a few miles off the coast, and it was now anchored. That was weird. I could count up to 20 other vessels also stopped in the distance. We found out eventually the reason. Apparently, there were strong winds up ahead and everybody was ordered to anchor until the situation improved. I thought this would be a matter of hours but again I was terribly wrong.
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    I joined Paul and Holly for breakfast, the Portuguese couple Pedro and Sofia were also around and we all had breakfast together. Our ticket only included two meals, after that we had to pay, they told us. The breakfast was nothing special. The staff was hoping at the beginning for us to spend more money at the bar. The prices were absolutely sub-real. They pretended to charge for a 1-liter Coke bottle something like 7 USD. Water was still free at least. Many of us had to go down to the hangar to get some of our own food in view of what was going to happen eventually.
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    The more we waited the clearer it was that we were not going to move that day. Some of the locals we talked with were saying it was possible we would be staying stationed for two more days. There was clearly a lot of time to kill. I helped Pedro finish the electrical installation on the Suzuki and then also checked with the Spanish guys their van, an old Mercedes MB100 to make sure everything was up to spec. Interestingly there was absolutely nobody on board telling you where you were supposed to go or not, so I had complete freedom to explore all of the vessel.
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    Back in the lobby most of the teams seemed to have joined around a table to play Catan. I didn’t know how to play and just limited myself to observe the whole situation. Half of Europe nations sited around plus some Americans which made a quite enjoyable multicultural clash. I remembered I should try to exchange some dollars into Turkmenistan manats, now it would be easier to negotiate a fare and I would probably need some when crossing the border. This led up to many questions about what was the exact exchange. Turkmenistan is one of those countries in which the real exchange rate deviates drastically from the official one. When I opened an app in my phone I could see that 1 dollar was equivalent to roughly 4 manats. Of course nobody in the boat was keen to tell us how much the real exchange corresponded to until I found one of the truck drivers I have been waiting with at the dock. Using the translator he told me to not change here, the real rate was about 5 times more, 1 dollar, 20 manat. Kindly enough he told me he would find someone willing to change some currency as this was highly illegal once in Turkmenistan. We still had lots of time so there was no rush.
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    And almost like that, day 22 was over. Interacting with the locals, ralliers, telling us the different stories up until Azerbaijan, walking around the vessel, checking photos and reading some ebooks… It was almost as a mini-holiday on a cruise. IMG_20190805_201141.jpg DSC02440.JPG
    damasovi, bomose, klaviator and 15 others like this.