far enough east to come back from the west or if you don't try it will never happen

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by oMeGAS, Jan 9, 2018.

  1. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 25 - 3 June
    Kostanay motorcycle festival

    First night at the festival was a crazy commotion of stage russian rock music combined with barrels of vodka being consumed. The percentage of sober people must’ve been below 1. I took the safe choice of consuming kvas as I fell in love with the potion and there was no way i was going to get into drinking with kazakh russians. That's probably the reason i did sleep in the tent that night an not somewhere between the trees.
    The next day I started the oil change procedure and after about 2h and with the help of two fellow motorcyclists who assisted in lifting up the engine on a wooden log and also procured a tool box (I didn't have all the tools I needed for an oil change) I had new oil and filters. I was missing a couple of screws but someone was immediately eager to help in replacing them. Never work with lots of screws in a forest as some of them might be very difficult to find.

    Place of the crime...
    [​IMG]

    ...and all the blood that was shed
    [​IMG]

    These guys were horrified at the cumbersome procedure to change oil and filters in a 640 lc4
    [​IMG]

    I could not leave the festival until I appeared on stage and gave a speech about my travels and my impression of the whole event as it became international with my presence. That’s when I also met the one person that was speaking fluent english. She had to exercise her translational skills on stage.
    [​IMG]

    Before leaving I took the coordinates of a group of bikers from Astana that were going to ride back to the capital city the next day. This will turn out to be a very fortunate piece of information.

    I wanted to do part of the almost 800km to Astana and also to avoid sleeping in the rain that the darkening sky was predicting. As i made it back to Kostanay, the only road from the festival toward Astana was via it, the sky was ominous and the drops of rain that were already shutting down made me stop at the first motel that I could find. I do not like riding in rain and it was a fierce storm that I managed to stay out of in a quite pleasant motel with a good chef and a car wash. Just what we needed.
    #21
    elron, Saso, edgeoftheworld and 3 others like this.
  2. chudzikb

    chudzikb Been here awhile Supporter

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2016
    Oddometer:
    981
    A speech? That is the kind of thing legends are made of, you are doing well!
    #22
  3. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 26 - 4 June
    Kostanay - Astana

    Wash the motorbike after thousands, i don't even remember ever washing it since i left, spray the chain with some lube and after around 10h make it to the capital of huge Kazakhstan through villages that are a strong contrast to the vast and modern looking citadel, populated with the same friendliness and curiosity all over.

    [​IMG]

    The day was sunny and beautiful and i spent it all trying to outrun this shade that was somehow able to maintain the exact same speed as myself
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Most of the road from Kostanay to the capital is good quality pavement with small amount of traffic, at least when i was there.
    [​IMG]
    I only made it to Astana when it was already night and after groping around the outskirts i finally found a hostel closer to the central area with a courtyard where i could park the motorbike. Next objective is the russian embassy with the desired outcome of a visa. One thing that concerns me is that there is oil leaking from somewhere around the front of the cylinder head and i suspect that it is the rocker cover sealant giving way after almost 40k km. I noticed it during the day and when i finally stopped in Astana the leak is obvious.
    #23
    yokesman, Saso and B10Dave like this.
  4. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 27 - 5 June
    Astana

    The three-bond sealant gave up in places and i was loosing more oil than i wanted, not that i wanted to loose any. I really need to look for a way to replace it. But before that I get the bad news that the russian embassy is closed until the 12th of June, that is for the next week. Ok, back to the sealant problem.
    I check where the motorcycle club coordinates that I got at the festival are and it turns out they’re… well 400m from my hostel. Sergei, the mechanic that I met at the festival is at home where he also works and has all the necessary tools plus sealant. When did I get so lucky I have no idea. We spent half a day to replace the sealant and I left the bike in his garage with the rest of his herd of engines that needed repair. The sealant needs some curing before the engine can be fired up. Sergei is a very friendly russian that lives in Astana and most of the time repairs motorcycles, when he’s not ridin’em. He does not speak english but will converse with you nonetheless. He has that energy and openness required to get over the language barrier. He’s speaking in russian, I reply in mostly english and some of the few russian words I know and we get along fine. After we finish the work he invites me to a shashlik and local beer evening that he and some of his friends planned for the next day.

    Getting to the rocker cover involves getting a lot of stuff out of the way
    [​IMG]

    This is how a 640 lc4 cylinder head with the valves and camshaft looks like after 40k km
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Serghei applying the sealant on the rocker cover side…
    [​IMG]

    …and his lazy cat taking nest next to my camera
    [​IMG]

    If you’re ever in Astana and in need of a good motorcycle mechanic I warmly recommend him. I do not know the exact address but he’s located on Takha Khusein street cornering some smaller street, right about here: 51°09'15.4"N 71°26'38.9"E. His mobile phone number: +77027683465. He does not speak english but he understands some.
    As a girl at the festival told me, if you have problems getting him at the door just rev your engine loud enough and it should do it. And don't give him any electroshocks cause he has a pacemaker in his chest.
    #24
    yokesman, Saso and chudzikb like this.
  5. oprider

    oprider Adventurer

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2016
    Oddometer:
    10
    Location:
    Port Angeles, WA
    Such an amazing journey! Thanks for this and anxious to read more.
    #25
  6. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Days 28-35 - June 6-13
    Astana

    All these days were spent in Astana waiting for the russian embassy to open so i can ask for a visa. I tried in the meantime the consulate in Ust-Kamenogorsk since it is more or less on the way to Barnaul but they couldn't even tell me if they can hand out visas to romanian citizens. The next day i called i only got a 'niet' and disconnected at my question 'do you speak english?' I met with Sergei and his friends one evening and discovered the fish jerky. Really nice stuff to go with beer. His friends being all riders it was easy to converse with them although they did not really speak english. Astana looks modern and western like with oriental motifs in places. No wonder as it was mostly built in the past 15 years, a young city.

    [​IMG]

    Distance is not what i was used to in Astana. They should use nautical miles in this place instead of km.
    If you ask someone on the street about a place they will tell it's close by if it's 3km away.

    [​IMG]

    If you want to walk the city be prepared to walk a loooong way...
    [​IMG]
    and also meet the eye of Mordor...
    [​IMG]
    ...and queen Tomiris
    [​IMG]
    At the far back of this picture the globe built in the middle of the Expo 2017 Future energy can be spotted
    [​IMG]

    The wind is fierce in the kazakh steppe and city children are getting used to fancy cars from an early age
    [​IMG]

    Architectural achievements are everywhere
    [​IMG]

    A token for each country participating in the Expo was placed somewhere in the central area
    [​IMG]

    Atatürk seems to be an esteemed figure not only by turks
    [​IMG]

    And these plants grow on many of the streets of the city
    [​IMG]

    The auto-flowering Cannabis Ruderalis, enjoying the sun
    [​IMG]

    Spent a day in the Future energy expo with its sphere building in the middle...
    [​IMG]
    There were more than 100 countries participating and each had some different take on energy.
    This was also the reason for not needing a visa for Kazakhstan as they lifted the requirement for all participating countries.

    One thing that kazakhs like a lot is going to the sauna, simmering in over 70 degrees Celsius. I had the chance of trying the russian dry sauna that was somewhere above 80 degrees but i couldn't hold for more than a couple of minutes as i felt my nostrils burning and my brain slowly melting.

    After about a week i finally obtained a russian three days transit visa. The guy at the embassy wanted to give me just two days for the thousand kms of crossing through russian territory from Kazakhstan to Mongolia. He eventually deigned to give me three. Don't bother going to a russian embassy for a tourist visa without an invitation letter that can be obtained online for a fee.
    #26
    Saso and chudzikb like this.
  7. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 36 - June 14
    Astana - Pavlodar

    The road to Pavlodar is a 50/50, which means 50% acceptable to very good asphalt due to some portions being rebuilt and 50% bad road. I never really understood how i managed to get all the way to Pavlodar dry, with the sky literally pouring down everything it got all around me but not on me. It was almost like i was ridding in a dry bubble.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I could see the curtains of rain around me and even feel the cool breeze but somehow i managed to stay out of it.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Made it quite late in the city and ended up in somebody's apartment, he was just renting beds to anybody that would pay. It was weird cause it was on booking.com but then there was no way you could actually find the place, there were no signs anywhere and you really needed to know in which block building and which entrance to go and ring and it took me quite some time to find that. But it was all fine, the guy lent me a bed and i just dumped the motorbike in some parking near by that was guarded. There were some other people around and they were all nice and curious, everyone with his own reasons for being in the city and needing a bed for the night.
    #27
    yokesman, Saso and B10Dave like this.
  8. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 37-39 - June 15-17
    Pavlodar

    The next day i found another place to stay, somewhere closer to the outskirts of the city. The lady that i spoke with was very nice and we agreed i would rent the room from 7pm till 10am the next day. The plan was to ride to the border the next day and cross the border the morning after so that i would make the most of the 3 days russian visa which was valid from the 17th. I decided to take the direct road from Pavlodar to Barnaul instead of the main route via Semey. Everyone told me that the road is good and it makes no sense to detour south with the main route being more crowded at the border. The hostess and her family ended up being so friendly that i stayed there for two days. I could communicate with her in russian and with the help of her daughter over the phone. She was so nice that everytime i was asking about whatever she would get her english speaking daughter that was living in Astana on the phone, passing the phone to me so i could tell in english what i wanted and then her daughter would tell her back and so on and so forth. After the first day she told me that i can stay for another day for free, as a gift. Did i already say that kazakhs would strangle you with hospitality? They are simply amazing.

    As in Astana, these plants grow everywhere. Might be one of the reasons people are so happy and relaxed and friendly :)
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Pavlodar beach, very close to the city center, on the Irtysh river.
    [​IMG]

    Some weird contraption i met at the entrance of a restaurant.
    [​IMG]

    I left Pavlodar early morning on the 17th after two relaxing days of eating some of the best pancakes and drinking litters of kvas. Darn good, refreshing drink, especially during hot summer days.
    [​IMG]

    The border crossing went fast with the customs personnel being very friendly. After a full day ride i made it to Barnaul where i found that the welding that i did in Kandyagash gave up, as i suspected it would eventually. Good thing i reinforced the frame on the inside.
    #28
    Saso likes this.
  9. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 40 - June 18
    Barnaul - Shebalino

    I managed to find a place to weld the frame, again, just on the other side of the street from where i crashed for the night. I did not even have to start the engine, i just pushed the motorbike over the street. The guys at the workshop were keen to help a traveling dirtbike.

    It took me about ten minutes to strip bare the back of the frame to allow the russian to show me his magic.
    [​IMG]

    Looking at the work done in Kazakhstan he tells me that kazakh don't really know how to weld. I have to give it to him, he did a much better job but he also had a more professional welding device.
    [​IMG]

    After finishing i asked him if it'll hold till Valdivostok and his answer was, don't worry, it'll hold till home. He had no idea where my home was.

    One other thing that i needed to make my day, fresh kvas directly from the barrel.
    [​IMG]
    And on toward the beautiful Altai. Since this was my second day of the three day visa i was going to ride as close to the border as possible. I had to stop when i hit heavy rain just when entering the mountainous region of the Altai.
    [IMGhttps://live.staticflickr.com/4658/40432836412_008c69fff5_c.jpg][/IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The next day will be truly beautiful. If you like riding good road through a beautiful scenery with almost no cars this is the place to do it.
    #29
    B10Dave, Saso and chudzikb like this.
  10. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 41 - June 19
    Beautiful Altai

    It is difficult to describe the sheer pleasure you can get from riding the 400km from Shebalino to the mongolian border at Tashanta on a June sunny day.
    I'll just get out of the village that sets the same strong contrast with the big cities...
    [​IMG]
    ...with it's simple wooden houses that have the same blue pattern windows...
    [​IMG]
    ...and wooden bridges...
    [​IMG]
    ...correct my heading, nope this is not the right way...
    [​IMG]
    ...and from here on i'll just let the pictures speak for themselves. There are not enough pictures to do visual justice to this place.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Can you girls please stay on the side of the pavement
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    No, i did not have to wait for the cars to pass to get clean pictures. There were almost no cars.
    The closer you get to Tashanta the less vegetation can be seen.
    It is really because when you reach Tashanta you will be at 2100m of altitude.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I exchanged the last few rubles i had left for gasoline and hit the border. Because i was missing some paper that i was supposed to have i spent almost 2h in the russian side.
    They kept asking me for some paper that i found out eventually i was supposed to get from the Kazakhstan border crossing in Aktau. I had trouble trying to understand why do i need a paper from the border with Kazakhstan when i'm trying to cross from Russia into Mongolia. And the reason is that there is a community of countries in some agreement and once you enter in this community they give you, or at least should give you an import paper for your vehicle. When you exit the community they ask you for this paper. My entry was in Kazakhstan and i was now going out of it into Mongolia. I was not the only one missing the paper, two spanish guys driving a van had the same problem. But remembering all the chaos at the Aktau customs i was not really that surprised they missed something. I was already convinced in Aktau that those people had no idea what they were doing. The russian control made some fuss about the missing paper and after realizing that i really do not have the paper and that it is my motorbike they let me go. But it was too late.
    The border crossing at Tashanta/Ulaanbaishint works office hours, that is 9am to 6pm. You cannot cross the border outside those hours and it is closed during weekends.
    There are around 30km of no man's land between the russian side and mongolian customs, almost all of it off road. Once you finish with the russian side they let you go into the wild.
    This last picture is somewhere on that road at over 2300m of altitude and ahead lies the land of Genkhis khan, finally.
    [​IMG]
    #30
    ShimrMoon, Saso, shuswap1 and 5 others like this.
  11. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 42 - June 20
    Ulaanbaishint border crossing - Ulgii

    Because i spent so much time in the russian side customs i only made it to the mongol border late, close to 6 and the border was already closing. This was the second night i spent in a border after Alat harbor in Azerbaijan. There were others in the same situation as the border just closes at 6 and you have to wait until next morning at 9, if it's not a weekend day or some mongol/russian holiday. I guess nobody risks going to the border at 5:30pm on a Friday. All of us so called westerners made up a camp right in the border before the barriers. All the mongols went into the small village ahead and had to return the next morning. And so i befriended two spanish driving a Daihatsu van, two french driving some Toyota(i think) off roader, and a german by the name of Matthias, riding, well, i believe most germans ride bmw gs, at least on this side of the planet. Some more of that spontaneous story telling set on until it was dark. The night was a bit cold at 2300m but at 10:00am the sun was up and getting hot. After going through another chaotic bureaucracy with papers that had no meaning to me we started towards Ulgii, the first bigger town. My initial intention was to follow the north route to Ulaanbaatar but i gave it up after reading that it is quite hard with a lot of water crossings and riding it alone may not be a very good idea. Mathias was also going to Ulaanbaatar and we ended up riding together.

    In the first small village of Tsagaannuur a police officer stops us asking about insurance. Well buy it in Ulgii. No, no, you have to buy it in the border. Some guy speaking scraps of english immediately appeared from the village telling us that we have to go back to the border to buy insurance there. Right, like i'm going to ride back 30km just to get insurance from your family business. But the police guy had the papers of the two french 4x4 off roaders. Now we were all there and not willing to give up, there was nothing they could do to us. When they eventually realized that we're not going back they let us go.

    Matthias as the only other two wheeler around
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A lot of grazing herds although not a lot of grass
    [​IMG]

    I believe there is really no other way for humans to survive here besides letting some animal ruminate the
    scraps of grass and then eating the animal.
    [​IMG]

    Yurts are spread along some distance from the road from place to place
    [​IMG]

    The mongol side of the Altai has the same great, grand openings that give me a scary feeling of freedom
    [​IMG]

    Some tarmac appearing all of a sudden but not for long
    [​IMG]

    We ended up at the Blue Wolf in Ulgii, a common place for two wheelers going through this part of the country where we meet four other motorbikers. One of them was a despondent german as his 690lc4 had a busted ignition coil that let him down 13km from Ulgii. He shipped his motorbike to Ulaanbaatar the next day with the hope to fix it there and bought a Super Dayun 150, some chinese 150cc motorbike, having his mind set on riding there along with his companion also riding a 690lc4.

    And the first night in Mongolia was spent in a yurt, as it should be
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #31
    ShimrMoon, Saso, shuswap1 and 3 others like this.
  12. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 43 - June 21
    Ulgii - Khovd

    This was the whole pack stationed at the Blue Wolf camp site
    [​IMG]

    As i remember there was besides myself, Matthias on his 1200gs, a french also on 1200gs, Cedric on his 650gs Dakar going to Japan and the two german guys Patrick and Christian heading to Magadan with one soulless 690lc4 plus one alive 690lc4 and a brand new 150cc Dayun. After getting insurance and waiting on Matthias to settle some of his visa situation we headed toward Khovd, starting on very good tarmac
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Sergei, the mechanic from Astana asked me why do i want to go to Mongolia, you already did the kazakh steppe, there's nothing there. It may well be, but it's a very special kind of nothing.
    [​IMG]

    The kind that makes you embrace your own nothingness
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Very good tarmac indeed
    [​IMG]

    But it only went for about 25km. And this is where the fun starts.
    [​IMG]

    The road becomes dirt lanes
    [​IMG]
    Sometimes going in all directions
    [​IMG]

    The main road is being rebuilt and the only way to keep going is to create your own way. There is so little traffic that rain and wind just covers some of the lanes and new ones appear.
    [​IMG]

    This looks like the road but we were not really sure. We were mainly following the GPS and trying not to stray too far from the route although the lanes were going off sometimes by hundreds of meters.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We met a family in the middle of nowhere
    [​IMG]

    With a child, a horse and a beautiful hawk
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Do you need anything else to be happy? I don't really know but i do know that you need more to be unhappy.

    It's hard for me to imagine how do they survive here

    [​IMG]

    The hawk master summoned us closer so we can play with the creature
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There is one thing that i felt that day and that i would experience again later on as i would travel deeper into Mongolia. Do not give money to these nomad people, they feel offended.
    Instead, if you want to give them something share with them whatever you got that is yours. They will share with you. What would they do with money anyway in this vast nothingness?

    [​IMG]

    Bidding farewell to the mighty creature
    [​IMG]

    And back to the game of choices, choices
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    More grazing herds
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Yurts can be seen from place to place in the distance
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Here they are really working on the road but why so far from the last piece of tarmac?
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The road was nowhere to be found at some point and we just went over the field trying to get closer to the GPS track
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    An oboo along the way
    [​IMG]

    It's difficult to grasp the whole vastness of the openings with your open eyes and whatever hw you have behind them. It's impossible with the hw you have in your hand.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Tobogganing down from a high passage
    [​IMG]

    And back to searching the way
    [​IMG]

    There's a sign here but it points to nowhere
    [​IMG]

    Maybe it's over there?
    [​IMG]

    It starts to look like we're back on the right track
    [​IMG]

    Now that we found the "road" we might as well have a break. I am now really curious what was going through Matthias' mind back then. Probably 'what the hell am i doing here, this is scrazy'. That's what was going through mine and i wouldn't have liked to have been anywhere else in that moment. I simply was and it was all there needed to be.
    [​IMG]

    Dust is something we did not miss that day
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And out in the distance the city of Khovd can be seen after i believe more than 5 hours of pure riding.
    [​IMG]

    There is no real road until very close to the city
    [​IMG]

    We looked for some motel or any place with a shower, after so much dust it would be a treat, and eventually managed to communicate non-verbally with someone that appeared to be the person in charge of the building that looked like a motel but not really. We also found what looked like a restaurant and met the two french guys driving the 4x4 off-roader with whom we camped in the border.
    They were heading for a lake that Matthias was also keen on visiting, somewhere not too far from Khovd, they said, that eventually turned out to be way too far for various reasons. But it did become our destination for the next day.

    Before shutting down for the night i took out and washed the air filter. Thumpers do not like dirty air filters.
    #32
    td63, Saso, shuswap1 and 4 others like this.
  13. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 44 - June 22
    Khovd - Bulgan

    Started towards Altai with the intention to stop at one of the lakes on the left side off the main road. The gas is dirt cheap.
    [​IMG]

    Khovd city with its multicolored roofs
    [​IMG]

    The road between Khovd and Altai is all newly paved, first grade tarmac
    [​IMG]

    It's unbelievable how you can actually raise animals in this desert
    [​IMG]

    There's really almost no grass
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Looks like the Mongol Rally passed through here
    [​IMG]

    After checking the lakes closer to the road we decided to continue to the one that the frenchmen were also heading to and that was further away.
    It was supposed to be about 170km or so from the main road according to the GPS maps we had.

    We passed by a huge grassy meadow filled with happy grazing patrupeds as far as the eye can see...
    [​IMG]
    ...and had to do a stream crossing. After that the road became very sandy and the heavy 1200gs started struggling in the soft bed.
    We pushed for a couple more km and found ourselves between dunes with deeper and deeper sand. Handling a 250kg motorcycle in such dunes is no trivial thing and after picking up the heavy gs enough times we decided to go back. It was way over 30°C outside and the deep sand did not look like it was going to end soon. It took us way more than an hour to do around 10km and the lake was still over 150km away.

    Here is Matthias crossing the stream on the way back. It was deep enough to fill your boots with water
    [​IMG]

    On hitting the main road again we met the other car that we camped with in the border, a Daihatsu van piloted by two spanish nationals.
    We were all heading towards Altai at this moment and we decided to meet in the next bigger town of Bulgan and search for a place to camp

    Somewhere on the way we met Equus the godslave just sitting next to a pole. It looked almost like a specter, alone in that vast emptiness
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Sand was being blown over the road by the wind in places
    [​IMG]

    In Bulgan we ate local pancakes filled with meat. Finding food without meat is very unlikely.
    [​IMG]

    Before leaving i tried consoling an upset curious little girl with candy but she refused.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Judging by the color of her teeth she must've eaten huge amounts of bluish candies already
    [​IMG]

    We were not able to communicate but at least we could wave farewell
    [​IMG]

    That night we all camped just outside Bulgan next to an abandoned shelter under the clear sky of the mongolian Altai
    [​IMG]
    #33
    elron, Saso, shuswap1 and 4 others like this.
  14. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 45 - June 23
    Bulgan - Altai - Taishir

    Got up after a silent night in the open, brew some tea and coffee, everyone to his liking and jump started the gs before heading toward Altai. Looks like the battery was weary after the previous day's many restarts it had to put up with. The road to Altai is first grade asphalt.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Around half the distance to Altai we meet three motorcycles pulled to the side of the road with one of them really aside looking like it took a nosedive and we meet again none others than Patrick on his new 150 Dayun, Cedric with his 650gs Dakar and Christian picking his stuff which was kinda spread all over around his crashed 690. I could also see the line from the limit of the asphalt through the sand and all the way to were the bike was laying, like a wound.

    [​IMG]

    It was not clear how it happened and i didn't feel like going into details about it. Christian was now afraid to even try starting his engine while i tried cheering him up from his difficult to cheer situation that lc4s may break now and then but not when you crash them. They will take a lot of hard beating before refusing to act any further. Nothing was really badly damaged, the engine fired up without too much effort, except maybe Christian's ankle which he didn't even want to get out of the boot and look at. He felt it was swollen besides painful and he didn't want to risk not being able to get it back in the boot, here in the middle of nowhere. But he was able to step on it slowly which was a good sign, he didn't feel anything broken and it was probably just sprained. His handlebar was a bit askew, one signal light was broken and some other plastic parts were damaged but nothing that would prevent riding. We started all riding toward Altai in search for a workshop so he can straighten his handlebar. And the pack grew to five.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I am more and more puzzled about what do these animals eat.
    They must feed during the night in their sleep with the grass that grows in their dreams.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We made it to Altai and were now searching for the spanish guys. Matthias was able to communicate with them and they were on to buy a motorcycle themselves so they can ride it to Ulaanbaatar and then sell it, just for the fun of it.

    Someone was giving us directions by drawing on the ground
    [​IMG]

    We found them at a Mongol Rally repair shop were everyone was friendly and were the 690 got the handlebar straightened and some other minor fixes.

    This is how a Mongol Rally Auto Service looks like
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And you know it's a Mongol Rally Auto Sevice because it says it is
    [​IMG]

    If you're savvy enough you could probably build a space shuttle with the stuff that was laying around

    [​IMG]

    After the 690 was amended we decided to head towards Taishir that evening were there was supposed to be a campground that must've disappeared into the goats' dream.

    Starting from Altai the road is paved...
    [​IMG]
    ...but not far from Altai it turns into a dusty wide lane corrugated most of the way
    [​IMG]

    But it was still a nice ride with the sun setting on our left
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We made it to Taishir when it was already getting dark and we did not find the camp ground. Someone eventually took us to a place were a shop owner let us stay in what appeared to have been a place were people gather to have a drink, some faraway weird resemblance to a pub. That was after i refused to share one yurt with a family, just because they were too sweet when they offered it and i was afraid i was going to eat them during the night, being low on sugar.
    #34
    Saso, shuswap1, NaMi and 1 other person like this.
  15. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 46 - June 24
    Taishir - Uliastai

    After usual morning maintenance which is mainly concerned with cleaning and lubing the chain we started toward Uliastai. We took the decision to go north as the main road from Altai to Ulaanbaatar is mostly paved(probably) and is not that interesting as you stay closer to the Gobi where it's flat and barren. A wise decision as this route was besides very beautiful and at high altitude also more demanding and rough with various rocky and sandy portions. I remember it as the nicest ride that i did in Mongolia. Riding a heavier motorcycle on this part is what can make the difference between enjoying it and struggling to get through the deep sand and picking your engine from off the ground. Picking a heavy engine in the sand is a lot of fun, especially if you're by yourself and there's no one around to help you.

    A couple hundred meters after we left we met the spanish guys with the van. They found the river and camped on it's shore but they arrived there during daylight.
    Now that i know the state of the road from Altai i wonder how did they manage to go with the van over some of the portions. It was the last time i saw them.
    [​IMG]

    From Taishir the road climbs for a long portion...
    [​IMG]

    ...after which you find yourself on a wide plateau playing "find the road" and once you're on track "choose the least bad lane".
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Here i followed the wrong lane and found myself going further and further away from the one going toward Uliastai.
    [​IMG]

    The riding conditions on a sunny day cannot get any better. Not cold, not too hot with perfect visibility.
    [​IMG]

    The only thing you need to dedicate your full attention to is ride, ride, ride as hard as you can...
    [​IMG]

    ...and the Grim Reaper may never catch you
    [​IMG]

    But it may be waiting in Uliastai so maybe you shouldn't go too fast
    [​IMG]

    50km from Taishir, still ~100 to go.
    [​IMG]

    Hmm, choices, choices
    [​IMG]

    We spread away from each other to stay out of the dust and i sometimes found myself far away from the pack.
    It gave me the opportunity to take a break and enjoy the serenity of the place.
    [​IMG]

    It's not that obvious that you're at over 2000m of altitude
    [​IMG]

    We've seen quite some sand that day.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The water crossing we knew was on the route...
    [​IMG]

    ...turned out to be an almost dry riverbed. Just the place to stretch our legs and wash the dust from our faces.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Behold the true rider
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The second crossing luckily had a bridge.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And the water was deep enough to take a nice bath. Nothing like it after a few hours of riding.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Kids born on a horse
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Equus is everywhere in this land.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Looking back before descending on the other side of the crossing.
    [​IMG]

    This was the highest point on our route at 2500m with a gate at the top just before the road starts to descend towards Uliastai.
    [​IMG]

    Somewhere down in the valley lies our destination for the day
    [​IMG]

    We made it there when election campaign was unfolding.
    [​IMG]

    A friendly guy showed us the hotel in town for us. He made a match between the looks and the hotel and he nailed it. It was probably the only hotel in town for us.
    In the evening i took a short trek on the rocky peaks just outside of town.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The five of us had later dinner in a restaurant downtown not far from the hotel we crashed at and set the goal for the next day to make it to Tosontsengel on what we expected and also found out to be another 100% offroad ride. It was useless to make much assumptions about the road except that maybe it's not there.
    #35
    elron, Saso, shuswap1 and 3 others like this.
  16. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 47 - June 25
    Uliastai - Tosontsengel

    Morning routine in random order; breakfast, clean and lube the chain, fill up the tank and bottles of water and get another bag of local biscuits for the day. The road starting from Uliastai is a wide dirt lane, the town is really isolated with no paved roads leaving from it in any direction. The closer we were getting to Tosontsengel the worse would the road become. In some places they were rebuilding the old road and the only way to get through was on the sandy lanes snaking along it. At some point i lost it altogether and went over the fields and eventually found some workers that i asked which way toward Tosontsengel. One of them pointed somewhere far faraway in the distance a road going up a hill. Aha, and which way do i get there? He pulled out his ruler, got out about half a meter of it, put in front of me pointing straight towards the hill and jestured that way, straight, not left not right just straight line. Ok, got it and i started straigth over the field.

    [​IMG]

    We stopped on the way at a small family farm with the whole family working at trimming the animals.
    [​IMG]

    When i left Tbilisi, Nico gave me a pair of small tools and said that i should give them to some kids that i will meet in my travels.
    These two were the lucky ones.
    [​IMG]

    The mother kept saying to us what sounded like bok. We couldn't understand at the begining what was it that she was asking us.
    What does bok mean in mongolian? Anybody knows? Nope. We finally understood that she was trying to ask
    us if we have books with pictures for the kids. We did not so we gave them some pens and paper so they can make their own.

    Matthias exercising his wool trimming skills. Probably for the first time and very likely for the last
    [​IMG]

    We also received something that looked like cheese and was as hard as a rock and some cookies.
    When we tried to give them money their reaction was similar to the cross sign made with the fingers by someone compelling the devil away.

    A small house in the middle of nowhere with a man, a woman and a child inside.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Someone lost a pair of sheep hides.
    [​IMG]

    I made it to Telmen and while waiting for the others to catch up i found a place to eat in the middle of the village.
    I told the ladies to give me some food, they had a small menu that made no sense to me so i just pointed to whatever and crossed my fingers.
    It was the best food that i ever had on planet Mongolia.
    [​IMG]

    I found the rest of the pack outside of the village in the only gas station, playing deaf blind mute.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The road becomes just tracks over the fields.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I finally made it to Tosontsengel with the last part of the road being deep sand.

    Family vehicle. If you cannot see the child between them look closer.
    [​IMG]

    The road from Tosontsengel and all the way to Ulaanbaatar is mostly paved with short unpaved segments once in a while.
    The scenery becomes greener and i can see forests for the first time since entering the country.
    [​IMG]

    We found a perfect spot for camping with clean water close by.
    [​IMG]

    Two young kids from the yurts nearby visited us on horses and let us experience a bit of the true way of riding.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    They brought fresh fish from the nearby river and we ate it scorched on wooden sticks in the small fire we
    managed to make from the twigs scattered around while the evening was slowly fading into darkness.
    [​IMG]
    #36
    elron, Saso, shuswap1 and 3 others like this.
  17. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 48 - June 26
    Tosontsengel - Tsagaan Nuur

    The morning was promising another sunny day in the mongolian plateau and after the random and usual routine we get back to riding towards Tariat and further on to Tsagaan Nuur or White Lake.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Over 90% of the road to Tsagaan Nuur was first grade pavement.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Lots
    [​IMG]

    of patrupeds
    [​IMG]

    And also more green
    [​IMG]

    Funny animals.
    [​IMG]

    I thought i told these ladies to stay out of the road. Naughty girls.
    [​IMG]

    I was not going to argue with these guys though. They want to spend time on the road, fine with me.
    I'll just wait here patiently until they clear the way.
    [​IMG]

    Planet of Equus
    [​IMG]

    If you cannot be a good photographer you can at least be a diligent monkey.
    [​IMG]

    But I suspect there aren't that many good photographers out there.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We made it to Khorgo, close to the lake.
    Cedric, Patrick and Christian decided to push towards Ulaanbaatar as they were running against their own schedule.
    Matthias decided to spend a few days at the lake as he was not in a rush and i was also looking for some time off the saddle and maybe ending the ride with a short swim in cold water.

    And then, after a farewell to the three musketeers...
    [​IMG]

    ...there were only two. We made it to the lake on a very bad road around the crater that's left from an extinguished volcano...
    [​IMG]

    ...and enjoyed the rest of the day in the sun, on the lake shore. After renting one of these.
    [​IMG]

    The water was not as cold i expected for a lake at just over 2000m.
    [​IMG]

    In the evening i took a walk up the peek that was close to the lake at over 2600m.
    I felt i needed to put my feet to work after so much saddle time and i would also get the view as a treat.
    [​IMG]
    #37
    elron, Saso, shuswap1 and 4 others like this.
  18. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 49 - June 27
    Terkhiin Tsagaan Lake - Kharkhorin


    The next day i decided to continue to Ulaanbaatar. I needed a russian visa and the sooner i would apply the better. It was Tuesday and i really wanted to apply before the weekend. With these embassies you never know what surprises they have in store. The two french nationals that we left in Khovd passed by or camp that day. It turned out that they made it to the lake after struggling for 4 hours through the same sands that made us turn back. At one point they had to unload all the things from the car to be able to get it out of the dunes.

    Before leaving I took a morning walk on the lake shore through a mystical place filled with human made cairns.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In the back is the peak i climbed the evening before.
    [​IMG]

    The cairns seemed all made from pieces of volcanic rock.
    [​IMG]

    Matthias was to spend a couple more days at the lake and we decided to eventually meet in Ulaanbataar.
    I did not want to spend too much in the saddle that day and decided to split the distance to Ulaanbaatar in two. Next stop was Kharkhorin.

    I passed by a heavy sky and was expecting to hit rain.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    But it never got over me. By the time i reached Kharkhorin the sun was out again.
    [​IMG]

    Once i reached Kharkhorin i stopped at a bank machine to get some local currency that was running out on me. 2 minutes later a lady stopped her car next to my motorbike and asked me if i need a place for the night. She had yurts for rent at her family place and she threw in a good deal so i followed her and was set in a nice yurt with diner and breakfast included.

    Her kid was of course very fond of the motorbike. I think i 'spoke' with him for half an hour as he was playing around the yurts with other kids and had the strange feeling that we could understand each other on some subconscious subterranean level.
    [​IMG]
    #38
    elron, Saso, shuswap1 and 3 others like this.
  19. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 50-59 June 28 - July 7
    Kharkhorin - Ulaanbaatar - Ulan Ude - Chita - Never - Khabarovsk - Valdivostok

    Next day i made it to Ulaanbaatar and crashed into some hostel not too far from the russian embassy.

    This is one of the last pictures i took in Mongolia
    [​IMG]

    Ulaanbaatar did not look like a place worth picturing to me. It is very crowded and the traffic is horrible. If you're a pedestrian you have no rights and the only time that you can cross the street at a clearly visible pedestrian crossing is when there are no cars passing. I attempted to cross once to see if the cars would stop and i had to jump back.

    I acquired a russian invitation letter online and the next day i applied for a 30 days tourist visa that i received the next day and as it was even valid from that same day i immediately started towards Ulan Ude. I wanted to get out of UB as soon as possible. It took me almost 2 hours just to get out of it in the right direction. To make the experience complete someone tried to steal the side bags while i was collecting my passport inside the embassy. They couldn't strip them down so they just took a charger and a hand pump from the side pockets. Big crowded cities are not my favorite place to be.

    I crossed the border into Russia and made it on the 30th to a small town called Gusinoozyorsk on Lake Gusinoye where i stayed in a hotel and met Jon, a local that came and asked me if i needed anything, being himself a motorcyclist. He was also riding dirt bikes and told me that there is a nice ride from the town to Baikal but you have to know the way through the forest. He and his girlfriend invited me that evening to a restaurant with some of their friends. He also helped me get a hold of two litters of engine oil. 10w50 is not something that you can find that easily but he new a place in Ulan Ude.

    I did not take many pictures after Mongolia as i was rushing towards east faster and faster.
    This is one of the very few, taken somewhere south of Ulan Ude
    [​IMG]

    On the 1st of July i rode to Khilok where i met two motorcyclist that helped me find a place to stay and on the next day i reached Chita where i changed engine oil and filters. I decided to make it to Valdivostok as soon as possible and asses the chances of crossing the Pacific to US or Canada. I knew it was a long shot but i was willing to go for it depending on time and costs.

    Someplace i stopped after Chita
    [​IMG]

    Along the way somewhere between Chita and Never...
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    In Never where i stopped for one night I met Ian from Magadan who was also riding to Vladivostok and left early.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Riding during the night in Siberia is not something that i would do due to the amount of insects. Even during the day it's a mess. I must've killed millions of them.
    [​IMG]

    Somewhere after Never and before Khabarovsk i just stopped after dark on a river side not far from the road. It was to be the only night that i had spent in the tent.
    I found it very difficult to take out and pitch the tent with only one hand as the other was assigned 100% to keeping the zillion ferocious mosquitoes away from my skin.
    I finished pitching the tent with the helmet on. At least in the early morning it was more quiet and i managed to get away with only 10ml of blood loss.
    [​IMG]

    Nothing like the cool water of a lake after hours of riding in 35°C.
    [​IMG]
    I almost stepped on this big guy while coming out of the lake
    [​IMG]

    The outskirts of Khabarovsk on the Amur riverside
    [​IMG]

    Wetlands are everywhere after Khabarovsk with the road sitting on a tall bed
    [​IMG]

    Beautiful mist covering the fields as this side of the planet turns away from the sun
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Almost two months after leaving home and a bit more than 15000km i made it to Vladivostok
    [​IMG]
    #39
    elron, Saso, B10Dave and 4 others like this.
  20. oMeGAS

    oMeGAS derspy

    Joined:
    Nov 9, 2005
    Oddometer:
    70
    Location:
    Europe
    Day 60-64 - July 8-12
    Vladivostok - Irkutsk

    After some discussions with someone dealing with crossing motorcycles across the Pacific it turned out that it is going to take a long time to make it to the western coast of North America. Long enough that it is probably faster to make it back to Europe and make it there by air across the Atlantic. Besides the costs which are pretty steep. But my main concern was time and after reading shared experiences it can turn out to be much more than what you estimate at the beginning with all the customs related unknowns between Russia and US/Canada. There is an option to fly the motorbike via South Korea but even that one can take a long time as you first have to take a ferry to South Korea and deal with even more customs. Another option that i also considered was crossing through North Korea and as crazy as it sounds i met people that have been there, just not on a two wheeler.

    So after weighing my options i decided to take another challenge. Take the train to Moscow along with the motorbike and then ride home from there for another ~3000km. It takes about 7 days to get to Moscow by train and there's the risk of loosing your sanity. I suspect that i am less sane than i was before the 7 days in the train but i'm not sure anymore :D. I think what saved me was the 1 day pit stop i took in Irkutsk to take a dive in the deepest fresh water pond in the world. And also David Foster Wallace as i had plenty of time to finish his gargantuan masterpiece called Infinite Jest.
    The one thing which tilted the balance towards this new direction was that the engine has started to bleed in places and i knew i couldn't ask much more of it. It was getting very close to 50000km and it has seen some rough times already. I really doubt i could have had a better companion especially in Mongolia where offroad capabilities and weight of the motorbike can make the difference between struggling and having fun.

    But this of course means that i haven't gone far enough east to come back from the west. To me it really means that there's something i haven't finished and need to look forward to accomplish.

    It took me some time to find out if it is possible to send the motorbike by train to Moscow and where and how to do it. After finding the place I left the motorbike with two friendly guys working for the russian railway postal service. They told me that i should be able to pick it in Moscow in about 11 days. I had only a piece of paper with a phone number and an address in Moscow where i was suppose to pick the package. I spent a couple more days in Vladivostok to synchronize my arriving with the motorbike, discovering very friendly pubs and that the hand crafted beer hype has spread all the way here and then embarked a train myself.

    Here are some pictures that i took from the train. It's mostly endless wilderness that i encountered while the train was constantly humming and although not a motorbike ride it was quite a ride.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    These last pictures are from the shore of beautiful and mystical Baikal.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #40
    elron, Saso, B10Dave and 3 others like this.