A solo trip to Mongolia on a 125cc

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

  1. Speedmaster58

    Speedmaster58 Adventurer

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    It was Kazan in Russia, original route was: France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Russia Mongolia. then came back through Russia and got bike fixed then on to Estonia, Sweden for a rally and then back through Europe and home. Still haven't got Mongolia out of my system yet:D You are definately living the dream. Hope you are keeping safe in these strange times and if you ever get to Wales let me know, always a cuppa and a place to crash in the Mountains.
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  2. liv2day

    liv2day Life is about how you handle Plan B Supporter

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    Great update @guerreronegro, imagine it must have been surreal to be "stuck" on the ship like that after covering so many miles/kms over previous days. Likely a nice break from being in the saddle, but also odd as there's only so much to explore on a ship :lol2 :lol2

    Curious about the currency bit; are you using US dollars in places? Or are you using Euros?

    Great images of the sky and sea, hope the wind dies down and you're able to get underway eventually. Personally, being out on the water in any type of weather would freak me out a bit.

    Look forward to the next update :thumb
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  3. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    I carried arround 500 USD with me in cash. Depending which country you are at they tend to like American dollars quite a lot. You can negotiate everything with dollars as some countries it is just another parallel currency so its always a plus to have. I also had 200more in EUR. I used these in Kazakhstan for instance as I was running low on dollars after visiting the previous Stans where they only asked for these. For the rest of the trip I had two prepaid debit cards, one Visa and one Mastercard with free withdrawals from ATMs. Depending on where you are at these are also good to have so you can use one or the other depending the ATM. Some countries I even purchased in advance a small amount to minimize the hassle of bargaining at really low prices at the border. I did this for Turkey and Russia. Some may think this is overpreparing the trip but when it goes to currency I rather have a bit more leverage as it can help you out get out of some situations fast. This actually happened when we got off the boat already in Turkmenistan. I will write it on the next post.
    And yes, the boat episode one might think three days were a lot but it really felt like a bless after riding for so long.
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  4. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    Second day on the vessel. Because our ticket only included two meals, I woke up finding breakfast would be costing 7 USD. Soon all of us came to protest together and eventually they changed their mind leaving it for just 1USD instead. We still had no clue when we will be departing. Not that I was in a rush precisely specially if it came to security, but the weather was sunny, and the other vessels were still stationed around us. The lorry driver I talked to yesterday came to me with an estimate exchange of 15 manats for one USD so I accepted and changed a bit just to have some cash with me. He was very friendly, and we spent the whole morning talking about his country, which roads to take and which not. There were not many, but he gave me an idea the northern route going from Ashgabat to Darvaza was in terrible condition, him suggesting it was a much better option to keep going east. I had to go to check that burning crater so I thought to myself that for a motorcycle it wouldn’t be that bad but I was definitely underestimating his words. IMG_20190806_114317.jpg

    The morning passed out fast. I managed to convince the same guy to use his shower in the room and that left me as a new person. I also took the chance and wash the clothes so I could dry them on the deck. Everything I could do now it was certainly something I wouldn’t have to worry in the next days.
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    In the afternoon and after having some lunch one of the German teams took out their maps and we started to get around it to see which itineraries each of us will be taking. They were running out of time and opted to cross directly into Kazakhstan from Uzbekistan. That made me think as I was not doing bad in time. Worst case scenario I will be arriving a week later than expected which was ok. My original route was going to be a similar one trying to visit Baikonur but I didn’t really have fixed anything. Then I realized it might be a better idea to go through Tajikistan and do the Pamirs instead. I needed a visa for that but I would take care of it while in Ashgabat. The rest of the teams seemed they would be following the same itinerary so that was cool. I was not too confident on the Varadero’s capabilities at 4000 meters of altitude as it was running stock but it certainly promised to be one of the best attractions in this trip.
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    Time went by and we had dinner eventually for another dollar. There was a very friendly Turkmen family sitted next to us and they invited to some vodka which happened to be really good. They had a card deck with them and we started to play. Emil and Equs teached Paul and me how to play their game but none of us got it. We eventually got back to play a previous game and killed some time with them until the dining room was closed. Emil was kind enough to let me connect online for a few minutes as he still had some network on his Azarbaijani SIM card. I updated everyone on my whereabouts and after that we received good news by one of the crew guys. Tomorrow we will be finally moving and arriving to Turkmenbashi. I don’t know if I was too tired from not doing much or maybe it was the boat effect but by 9 PM I retired back to my corner and slept without having to wait for the lights to turn off.
  5. pitbull

    pitbull Long timer

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    Fantastic RR and great pictures!
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  6. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    Third day on board of the vessel. As I wake up, I sense the vessel moving and I go out to feel the breeze. I checked the Garmin; we were moving at 16 knots and the Azerbaijani coast was no longer visible. We were expected to reach land at around 6 PM but following the same logic as when we border, none of us expected to get there before 10 PM. I had some Azerbaijani cash remaining, so I decided to spend it on the last meal. At that point I had a bit of currency of every country visited so far. I wondered if I would be able to exchange it at some point later in the trip.
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    I spent the day reading the book from a previous rallier who had done the rally in a Yamaha SR250 from the 80s. He certainly suffered more than me so far on his way. Then I found the Germans had a Lonely Planet guide and switch to that to see any suggestions for Uzbekistan. Everybody was talking about Bukhara and I tried to save some space to visit at some point once done with Turkmenistan. Top attractions in the list were the Caspian Sea and Samarkand, I’d have to see if I had some time to allocate given the fact I would be running short now that I had decided to do the Pamirs.
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    Last night I couldn’t sleep well because someone kept messing with the lights so I took some time off to take a power nap and be ready when the vessel arrived. Finally we were able to see the Turkmenistan landscape on the horizon along with some gas fields on fire. The desertic landscape was shocking to see and reminded me how far away I was getting. Everybody was excited to jump off and we all started to pack everything back in our vehicles. We took a souvenir picture all of the ralliers together with the sunset. Once we arrived, some military officials came to collect our passports dressed in a Narcos fashion… the show was about to start.
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  7. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    Before this trip I treated Turkmenistan as one more of the Stans. Little did I know this country was one of the most hermetic and extravagant in the world. What followed after getting out of the boat was the most extreme bureaucratic experience I ever experienced. One could think that arriving at around 9 PM it would take one or two hours, three tops. I was not able to set foot in the country until 8 AM of the next day.

    The military just wanted to write down some details of our passports and soon returned them to us. We were welcomed by the typical white façade buildings you can see in the pictures. The main building was in inmaculate condition. The lorries and heavy machinery was first, we waited patienlly and then when we were given the green light it was basically every man for himself. The people in the cars were separated and only the drivers could come to the visa building. Nobody really know where to go and since I was the first one to get off the boat I headed to the first building but this was closed. I found ithe right one eventually and there we had to wait for an official to make us a visa on the spot. The president, Gurbangulí Berdimujamédov was on each of the corridors and hanged over the wall behind the official's desk in a very funny pose. Different nationalities were charged different prices. I carried the Ecuadorian passport and I was able to obtain it for 75 USD, the cheapest of them all. They only accepted cash so the people who didn’t carry any were put in a compromise. After this fairly simple visa procedure I thought we wouldn’t be staying much longer.

    With the visa, we had to figure out the next move. Officials were not helpful in this case and everybody was tired them included. I wanted to get going as soon as possible and I was the first one to abandon the building in search of the next step. This proved to save me quite a lot off time later as there was a massive queue not only for us foreigners but also for the residents. I went to the building the rest of the lorry drivers were waiting. It was the true definition of chaos. There is no way to put it, nobody respects the distance from person to person and everybody is fighting to be the next one trying to hand out their paperwork through a narrow window. I was able to squeeze between all of them and ask in my poor almost non existing, where did I had to go to do the temporary import of the motorcycle. I was signaled to go to the end of the aisle were thank God nobody was queuing. Little by little more and more cars started to arrive and followed me.

    The door opened. Two officials inside told me to come inside and closed it as soon as I enter. They started to ask me something about a map. I didn’t understand anything, why would I need a map? They kept insisting and in the end they give me a form to fill out. With no understandment of what I was really writing I took it as a game and put my details randomly on the form. They stared at me as I wrote and didn’t complain so I guess this is what they wanted. Then they kept asking me for the map. They turned around the form and there it was, a full map of Turkmenistan with the main roads. With gestures they asked me to tell them my route. I took a highlighter and marked to Ashgabat and then north. As I finished they said in very broken English, ninety dollars please. I was puzzled. So, depending on which itinerary I took they’d be charging me more, or less. I was lucky this was the shortest one. I don’t want to know how much they had to pay the rest but I heard from some sources it was as much as double the quantity for the eastern variant. At least I was not fitted a GPS tracker device for them to see if I sticked to the route, they just took my word for it. Other ralliers had to go through that.

    At the beginning I was really thinking they were just messing with me, they were smiling and almost laughing at my face reaction. I really was thinking this was not an official procedure and that the guys were just there to see if they could cash in so I tried to bargain but they didn’t like it. They pointed with their finger at all of the services this fare included but these were just ridiculous like disinfestation of the vehicle, petrol tax, and more non-sense. No point on discussing I didn’t have any disinfestation, I am sure this would have taken another three hours and their battle is your time. What to do, at least I tried. I paid the quantity and they let me go, of course they didn’t tell where to next. Wishing the best of luck to the next one and indicating him what to expect I knocked the next door in the long aisle. Nobody was cooperating, and for the first time going as a pack with the rest of the ralliers I felt the officials all they see was our money in our pockets as if they had x-ray vision.

    It turned out I knocked in the veterinary office. This guy all he did was stamp three times the previous $90 slip three times. Not for free of course, he charged me some small money in the local currency. Thanking my friend the lorry driver for changing him some money this helped me speed the procedure a bit more. At least this official told me my next destination should be “the bank”. He handed me another slip which I was supposed to take to that bank to have it also stamped and then taken to the next office with probably the next slip I’d be handed. Sometimes I wish I’d be wrong but it was exactly like this, I was handed one more slip that also needed to be stamped for the cost of 5 USD. After this I was told to go to the queue at customs where the same lorry drivers I met before were now. I thought these guys for some reason could have gone faster but by now five hours had gone by and we were far from over.

    I was exhausted and since they were taking their time with every lorry at an average pace of 30 minutes per vehicle I went to the motorcycle, put it on the central stand and with me on top I layed my feet over the tires and my head in the yellow bag. Whoever had to wake me up, I would be ready to move on.

    No pictures of this whole chaos, pictures in Turkmenistan are not allowed in public spaces including their buildings, and didn't really had the motivation to record this whole chain of events other than in words.
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  8. squadraquota

    squadraquota mostly harmless

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    What a royal mess…a bureaucratic swamp. Personally, being in the dark about what exactly the procedure and requirements are, would be more frustrating to me than the waste of time involved with it.
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  9. mrsdnf

    mrsdnf Been here awhile

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    Not sure I could handle what you went through.
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  10. James59

    James59 Adventurer

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    Borders can be very wearing. I looked at Turkmenistans visa requirements, quite tough.
  11. johnnybgood8

    johnnybgood8 Been here awhile

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    You gotta love these 3rd countriest.... NOT!!!

    One reason I will never visit this country.
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  12. James59

    James59 Adventurer

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    They tend to have a Bazaar Mentality, you are passing trade and they just want to make money from you. They have no concept of long term strategy...they piss me off also. Usually people are great but officials in some places are not so great.
  13. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    After an hour and a half or so I was awakened by one of the ralliers. Feeling confused and tired I could see barely the queue had only advanced a few positions. By now most of the rally crew had caught up and we were told by a military official that we needed one more slip now in a different building complex. This was a nightmare. Not that I had anything against the group, but I felt going all together didn’t do anything but make matters worse rather than going alone. In their eyes we were nothing but walking dollar bags. One of the guys was counting how many slips and stamps have we had to collect so far, something in the region of 13 to 15.

    Once in the complex we were told to repeat the same procedure of pay per stamp in a previous slip, hand us a new slip and stamp it somewhere else to proceed. We didn’t know what to do but I was done with this ripoff. I went back to the military checkpoint alone with the ones I had stamped so far figuring the young kid wearing the military outfit would not know himself how many stamps I was supposed to hand him. I was partially right. He didn’t have a clue on how to proceed and had to call his supervisor on the radio. Then this guy with some medals on his uniform comes and gives me the ok face telling the kid to let me go almost slapping him in the face due to his incompetence. The kid then lets me go and I am stopped in the last stop, the one with the barrier. Now, these guys must had been rehearsing this over again to drive one crazy. Suddenly, what the veteran military official had said was no longer valid and I had to go back to the previous complex to finish the due business. I am very mad at them and I start to call the previous guy that said everything was fine, but this did not work. It appeared they had called him via radio to stick with their new plan so there was nothing to be done. At this point I would have given them a bribe under teh table no problem, but my mood was so altered I had spoiled any possibility of doing this in a subtle way.

    Frustrated and tired I walked like a zombie to the complex to see if this could be fixed somehow. A wall clock informed me it was 8 AM. Subreal. All I had heard about this country was going beyond expectations so far. Some of my rally friends back in the building informed they were asking more money and they had decided to stand up and denied paying more. I saw where this was going. The waiting game was their expertise, not ours. If it was for them, we could sleep in that marble floor no problem. I told them I was paying, after what happened with the two military, I was pretty sure this step had to be done no matter what. They didn’t ask much but it was all really weird. Sometimes they asked for dollars, sometimes for the local currency we were not supposed to have. Luckily, I had everything in the exact quantities they requested so I was able to get the last slips. None of these were computer made. Every single one was written by an official not too happy to be bothered at this time of the day. Multiply times 15 people waiting, a total madness for the last ones on the queue.

    The Portuguese couple, Pedro and Sofia came after me and we were able to be the first ones out of that boat to set foot in Turkmenistan even before some of the lorry drivers who were still waiting. We decided to convoy together for the rest of the day but first things first. We went to Turkmenbashi for some breakfast and the market to find someone to exchange currency. I had passed the pacience test but what waited up ahead was one of the hardest days so far.
  14. mrsdnf

    mrsdnf Been here awhile

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    I liked your above post guerreronegro but not sure I should have. I almost cried.
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  15. ricochetrider

    ricochetrider MotoMojo

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    Wow man what a complete nightmare. Obviously, the Turkmenistanians don't give a single flying fiddler's flip, whether anyone EVER visits their country.
    It's like they are as much as saying, "Well, WE don't want you here, but if you must come in, it's gonna cost you big time!"

    I wonder why the rally organizers would not either recommend you go around the country or make some effort to ease the bullshit for the rally participants. Clearly routing east & north across Kazakhstan would be far less problematic. UNLESS there's no other ferry across the Caspian Sea, like possibly via Georgia?
  16. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    Now that I am writting it almost one year in the future I remember and I just laugh at it. What to do? It was part of the experience I guess. Jokes asidem, I do not think I will be ever returning to Turkmenistan. Forgot to mention, other teams reported that the sotuhern border crossing from Iran was a piece of cake compared to this one so I guess it really depends on where certain officials are stationed.

    Yes, there are many different routes. From Azerbaijan you can also catch a ferry to Kazakhstan else you can border it through Georgia, Chechnya and Kazakhstan. The only problem has to do with bureocracy. You can only get a double entry visa for Russia and if you enter Chechnya one entry is wasted. Going to Mongolia involves entering Russia at least one more time and then if you want to come back from Mongolia you are done. I could have done it with my visa-free passport but I really wanted to check that fire crater down in Turkmenistan.
    The other route going south would involve going from Iran into Pakistan and then China. None of these countries are easy to cross which makes Turkmenistan not a bad option after all. The organization gives you complete freedom to choose your own itinerary but due to the high demand of Turkmenistan they "help you" obtain the letter of invitation needed to get the visa.
  17. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    After three days on the ferry, I could not afford to waste one more day nor Pedro and Sofia. We all agreed we will stick together until reaching the capital of Ashgabat. An almost 600 km ride. If the road was in decent shape it was doable. Their old Suzuki couldn’t go faster either and when the sun set it will provide better lightning with those LED we had mounted on the top while in the ferry.

    Setting foot in Turkmenistan was a much different reality than the previous countries visited so far. It was true, the majority of cars were all white. The roads were in perfect shape, but you could notice the sand on top. Climate was also very dry and as the sun rise you could feel this would be a very hot day. We headed together to the center of Turkmenbashi. This was a very small coastal town with nothing particularly interesting to see. Almost all cafes were closed but eventually we found one willing to take us in. We ordered something light for breakfast, a coffee and I found out they had their own version of energy drink so I took four with me. When paying the guys took our dollars, changed them and gave us back the difference in the local currency. They told us where to get more and that was the market. We headed there and soon we found the guy. He was giving us a crap exchange rate but after bargaining with him for a while he told us to follow him to an alley inside the market. This was all very shady, it turned out he was afraid of the police seeing him and automatically offered us a much better rate. After this we spend some time buying some supplies in the market. I was out of food, so I bought some canned food. The market was similar to the one I visited in Ankara.
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    Without much delay we set off to Ashgabat. The only problem is that we couldn’t. Unexpectedly, every single street leading to the motorway was shut down by the military. We asked them but they’d refuse to talk to us. Locals were much friendlier but they themselves didn’t know either. We then asked in the translator for the president’s name Gurbanguly and that triggered the answer. The president was coming, and we could not go out. Great. I looked on maps.me for an alternative route bordering the airport on the north side and the locals said to give it a try before it was too late. We headed there immediately and luckily didn’t find any more armed military. Soon we started to find camels chilling on top of long straights of paved road. We soon got back to the intersection of the M37 motorway and continued for half an hour until we found a petrol station to refill. Petrol was dirt cheap in Turkmenistan. More or less in the region of Venezuela in the Chavez days. I did the black market conversion and it was only 11 cents per litre.
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    All of us were destroyed so every chance we got we stopped for a drink. There is not much on the way, just a few houses and abandoned buildings and petrol stations only selling petrol. Fortunately, maps.me signals you where to have a drink because these are regular houses that go unnoticed while on the road. Inside them we found a family selling water, snacks and some food. Coffee is no good after this point. The only thing they have available is instant coffee with high concentration of sugar. Tea is not bad. Food is acceptable as long as it is chicken. Any other is usually hanged in the house with a million flies lying around.
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    More and more camels are found as we go by, quite dangerous to drive at night as they are slow in moving to avoid cars going at the speed limit. We soon pass a bunch of rally teams stopped at one side of the road. Probably taking a nap under the shade of an abandoned building. Surprisingly after a few hours riding I no longer feel tired. I have drink enough caffeine to keep myself awake and I was drinking water from the camel back every 5 to 10 minutes to battle the sun dehydration. Riding with some company certainly was the way to go today. Besides, everything looked vastly different so that also helped. We stopped a few more times to take some pictures of the landscape and eventually I run out of petrol. I had the reserve plus the jerry-can so we made it to the next petrol station no problem. By now the sun was starting to go down and we had about one hour and a half remaining to arrive to Ashgabat.
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  18. damasovi

    damasovi Long timer

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    great inspiration!! I will continue reading! I wish you the best!!
    Damasovi
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  19. G B

    G B Been here awhile

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    How much did you have to pay including visa to get into Turkmenistan ?
    I went to Mongolia in 2017 but omitted Turkmenistan, I went from Georgia to Russia and then to Kasakstan.
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  20. guerreronegro

    guerreronegro Adventurer

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    I reckon something close to 300 USD including all the bullshit paperwork, LOI and the visa itself.
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