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Steppe Out: Travels Around Mongolia, Summer 2014

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by live2ridetahoe, May 22, 2014.

  1. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, MICN Supporter

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    Wow!! Thank you Buuurrrt!! High praise. Thank you again for the inspiration!

    Tahoe
  2. Roadracer_Al

    Roadracer_Al louder, louder, louder!

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    At the time, I threatened to have some deerstone art tattooed on my arm.

    I can imagine a LOT of worse designs.
  3. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, MICN Supporter

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    I have a friend who is going to teach me how to tool leather. I want to make a leather belt with some of the deer stone designs on it.

    Unlike a tattoo, you can take it off. Not that I'm against tattoos, I think they are awesome. I wish I had the courage to pull one off...

    Funny you mention tattoos... I was thinking this week of having my hands done. That would be an original start to getting tattoos...

    Tahoe
  4. Roadracer_Al

    Roadracer_Al louder, louder, louder!

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    Hey, what a coincidence. When you get up to speed with the leather, I'll need a leatherworker to make knife sheaths.
  5. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, MICN Supporter

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    I forgot to mention that Tatiana was sending emails on this strange device...


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    I guess I never thought that people in different part of the world might use different keyboards. The asian countries and Cyrillic language countries for sure, but I did't think about Europe...
  6. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, MICN Supporter

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    Once again, I was up with the sun. I awoke and felt parched. It must have been the beers with Tat and Romain last night. I made some coffee with the electric kettle that was in my room and pounded a 1.5L water. After a shower and after packing, I went for breakfast. I always like when breakfast is included in the price of your room.

    After breakfast, I loaded my gear onto the bike. It was about 800km to UB from Mörön. I had worked out a few areas to possibly camp/stay over the next few days. I was giving myself a couple of days buffer at the end of the trip, in case anything like a breakdown happened. Worse case scenario, I would be putting my broken bike in the back of a truck and getting a ride back to UB. I figured I had a good three, possibly four, days before I wanted to be back in UB. I knew I had plenty of time...

    I hit the supermarket across the street for water and supplies. I found the 1.5L water bottles fit perfectly in the front of my Magadan bags. Well thought out AdvSpec! I said goodbye to Tatiana and Romain and hit the road.

    I topped off before leaving town. After a few kms, I was waved down by two lads on a motorcycle on the other side of the road. I banged a U turn to see what they needed. When I rode up, I was surprised to see them on a Honda with a twin cylinder engine. You don't see many of these around. Usually everyone is on bikes like mine. They had their gas cap off and were pointing to my gas tank. I took the camping fuel off of the front of my bike and put a liter into their tank. Since they had a broken starter, we had to push and try to bump start the Honda. We tried several times with no luck. I had a quick look at the bike and found the fuel line from the tank to the engine to be pretty kinked and knackered. I turned off the gas and removed the fuel line. There was a clot of something in it. It must have gotten sucked into the fuel line when they ran the tank dry. I blew out the hose and reinstalled it. I turned on the gas and could now see gas running into the clear plastic tube. We were able to bump start the bike and I was confident they would make it the 5-6kms to Mörön for fuel. They offered me some dried cheeses for my help. I took a few and then was on my way.

    The road was paved until about 100kms east of Mörön. I could see huge plumes of dust in the distance where cars and trucks were driving. While the road was quite easy to drive on, the tracks were awful. These were the main tracks between Mörön and they were hammered. There were lots of cars and trucks kicking up massive amounts of dust. I continued on...


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    The road made a turn south through a beautiful river valley. The new road would follow this river south before once again heading east. I saw many eagles on the roadside and flying around. I followed a couple of locals riding 2 up on a motorcycle higher up in the hills and away from the main track. I found some great, little used double track that was not too dusty and was able to ride on that for a while before having to join the main track. The day was getting on and I was ready to find a place to eat.

    After another 15-20km, the pavement started back up. My bike had taken an absolute pounding. My forks were leaking again and my foot pegs were loose. When I looked where they attached, I found I had lost 3 out of the 4 bolts that held the footrest bar on. I took two bolts from the luggage rack and secured the footrests on tight. I had ridden 100km of pavement and another 100km of dirt. I found a roadside cafe and downed one of my 1.5 waters and had a nice hot meal of some kind of beef. When the lady at the count asked what I wanted, I just pointed to another customers plate. Lunch at the roadside cafe, including a warm beer, cost T5400 (about $3).

    After a few mountain passes and another 100kms, I was getting close to Bulgan City, the capital of Bulgan aimag. Again, I saw a motorcycle on the other side of the road. There was an old man next to the bike and he was waving me down. Never one to leave another rider stranded, I made a U turn and went back. He had his gas cap open and pointed to my tank. I know what this means! My camping fuel bottle was empty from helping the two boys earlier in the day. I found an empty bottle on the side of the road to fill up (they are everywhere!). I took off the left side panel of my bike and disconnected the fuel hose. I put about a liter of gasoline into the bottle and gave it to the old man. He thanked me and tried to give me money. I politely refused his money, but pointed to the VERY large beer he was carrying. His eyes lit up and he handed me the beer. I was super thirsty from the days ride and put what Joe Motocross called the "Mongolian Death Choke" on the bottle. I took a few good gulps and handed it back to the man. He then handed it back to me, insisting that I didn't take enough. I had another swig and thanked him. I'm pretty sure he was drunk...


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    I was dirty, dusty and sweaty after over 300kms. The weather looked like it was about to change. Even tho I wanted to camp, I really wanted a shower and a bed. I would look for a hotel in Bulgan City for the night.

    The evening clouds...


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    There was not much in Bulgan City. It was a pretty depressing little town for being the capital of the aimag. I made a few laps around the city before deciding to head to Erdenet. It took a bit of figuring out, but I found the road to Erdenet. Evening was upon me and, according to the sign, I had a little over 50kms to go till Erdenet.


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    The ride/road to Erdenet was quite nice. The sun was going down and I missed all of the rain storms. Erdenet was a much larger, busier and more modern city than Bulgan. It seemed like a mini Ulaanbatar with many young people out and about. Time to find a hotel...

    That was easier said than done. The first hotel I tried ended up having no water. This was a hotel that is mention in a famous guidebook of Mongolia as a "Top Choice" The second and third hotels I tried said they were full. I was starting to wonder if I would ever find a place. I noticed some people speaking English outside the third hotel. I asked them if they knew another hotel to stay in. Turns out they were part of group who was in town who was working with the US Embassy and Mongolian government. They were aid workers and working on social programs in the area. A few of them were at another hotel about 1km away. They said the hotel had vacancies and to follow them and they would show me where it was.***

    ***(Side note: While taking to these people I saw something I had not yet seen in Mongolia- A CAT!! It dawned on my when it walked across the parking lot that I had not seen a cat anywhere in Mongolia. The cat was a bit mangey and haggard looking, but there it was. I thought to myself, "this must be one fucking tough cat!" Anyways, I thought I would share that....)

    I followed them to the hotel and they talked to the front desk lady for me. They got me a room for their price of T25000 ($14). Secure parking in the basement garage for my bike was another T2000. The hotel didn't look like much, but my room was clean and neat. It looked like it had been renovated recently. All of the tile work and paint was well done. The plumbing and utilities all looked really modern. I was pretty impressed. I poured myself a Mongolian Red Bull and vodka and had a shower.

    If you ever go through Erdenet and want a shower, go to the Hotel Flowers and go to room 104. THIS IS THE BEST SHOWER IN MONGOLIA!! It has amazing water pressure and HOT water. I was a changed man when I got out. It was so good, I even took a picture of it...


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    I had my drink and went to bed. It had been a long day and was now past 11pm. As far as I could tell, I had done over 350+kms today on my little chinese bike. I was looking forward to a good night sleep and hoped to sleep in a bit in the morning...





    Tahoe
  7. Roadracer_Al

    Roadracer_Al louder, louder, louder!

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    Yet another great installation on the RR.

    You're right: Mongols are superstitious about cats. I didn't have quite good enough grasp of the language to understand if they believe they're bad luck, or harbor evil spirits. We did see a couple, and yes, none of them had led easy lives - they all had missing bits of ear from frostbite.
  8. MasterMarine

    MasterMarine Long timer

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    I dealt with that once while in Budapest, Hungary. I had fun typing emails with the letters in the wrong spots. :lol3

    I am really liking your report. Looks like a fantastic place to visit and ride! Thank you for sharing. :clap I know how much effort it can take.
  9. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, MICN Supporter

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    Thanks MasterMarine. It is a fantastic place. I just reread your Oregon/Nevada RR this past weekend. Thanks for following along.

    Tahoe
  10. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, MICN Supporter

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    Thanks RR_Al. I did not get to investigate if they were superstitious or not about cats. I just realized, at that moment, that I had not seen a cat my whole time in Mongolia. BTW, I would not see another cat during my stay in the country.

    Like George Carlin once said...

    "There's a lot of things you never see and you don't know you don't see em because you don't see em. You gotta see something first to know you never saw it. Then you see it and say, Hey, I never saw that before. Too late, you just saw it."

    I actually listened to George Carlin's album "Parental Advisory" that day on the trail. Kept me going....

    Tahoe
  11. SS in Vzla.

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

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    WOW! Great Report and pictures :clap:clap:clap
    I'm glad I caught it at this advanced stage so reading material was plenty!
    Look like you had a great trip. Looking forward to your next updates.
  12. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, MICN Supporter

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    Thanks SS! Much appreciated.

    Tahoe
  13. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, MICN Supporter

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    When I woke in the morning, I could tell something was not right. My stomach was feeling a bit, well, funky (to put it mildly...). After a couple of trips to the bathroom, and another amazing hot shower or two, I was packed and ready to go.

    The view from my room...


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    The hotel. It is a great deal in Erdenet. It has secure parking and the best shower in Mongolia. It is also right across the street from the amusement park and on the main road in/out of town.


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    I fueled up on the way out of town and put on some podcasts I had downloaded before I had left. I was planning on visiting Amarbayasgalant Khiid monastery today. Amarbayasgalant Khiid was built between 1727 and 1737 and is considered to be one of the top three Buddhist institutions in Mongolia. About 60 monks live in the monastery. I planned on visiting and camping outside tonight somewhere in the hills surrounding the monastery. The monastery is about 35kms off of the main road. There is a turnoff marked with a sign about 90kms out of Erdenet. I'll have to pay attention for that...

    The countryside was beautiful. I found myself wising for a nice single track instead of the main road. I wanted to be riding through the hills and fields and not be on this pavement. My thoughts wandered as I listened to my podcasts and the kms passed by...


    The copper mine, which is the big reason Erdenet is there...


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    The countryside...


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    Eventually, I came to a large river and a bridge. Wait, I don't remember seeing a bridge and river on my map before the turnoff to the monastery. As my thoughts wandered, I had passed the turnoff for the monastery, 35kms ago! Crap. I had now gone about 120kms since filling up. If I was going to make the monastery happen now, I needed more fuel.

    I looked at the map and found a town called Ohorn about 4kms off of the main road. I needed some food and more bottled water and gas if I was going to be camping tonight. I had not refilled my camping fuel bottle since giving the guys on the side of the road my camping fuel. I went into the town and found a market. I bought supplies and realized I only had about T5000 left. This would only buy me a few liters of fuel. I asked around for an ATM. There was none in town. I got back to the main road and drove down by the river to have a Snickers bar and a Coke and try to figure out what to do next.

    I figured that it would be 35km back to the turnoff and at least another 35km to the monastery. That would be putting me at 140kms back to where I am now and my total mileage since filling up at 260k. I wasn't totally sure I would make it to Darhan or an ATM before running out of fuel and money. I made the decision to skip the monastery and push on to Darhan...


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    I went over several passes on the way to Darhan. There were very few vehicles out here. It was quite lovely. I stopped at what looked like a rest stop on the side of the road and had some water and took in the views. What an amazing country...


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    Someone needs to empty the trash more...


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    Actually, I found that they just burn it all in an open pit somewhere or leave it all on the sides of the road. It is a shame because you'll find this absolutely beautiful place and there will be trash everywhere. It kind of ruins the experience at times...

    I reached Darhan and found an ATM. I took out enough Tugriks to get me through the next few days at least. I found a nice restaurant called "The Garden" and went in for lunch. I wasn't totally convinced I had made the right move by skipping the monastery. I was a bit disappointed in myself. The waiter brought me a cold beer and I ordered a pork chop. I realized that I hadn't had any pork in the last couple of weeks. The pork chop was amazing! It was this thick cut pork chop with spicy sauce and potatoes. It was a great lunch.

    My spirits were feeling better after a good meal. I decided to head toward UB and see how far I could make it. I was sure that I would find a good camping spot on the way. If you are reading this and have followed RRs on Mongolia, I am sure you have seen some of the following pictures....


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    There was a lot of traffic on the road from Darhan to UB, as it is one of the busiest roads in Mongolia. The road past Darhan, heading north, brings you to the Russian border. Heading south, to UB, the road ends for about 20kms. Since they were fixing the road, I headed off pavement for this time. My forks were leaking, badly. I had lost almost all dampening in the front. Fork oil was running down both fork legs. The ride was tolerable, almost, on the pavement. It was really harsh over these 20kms where they were working on the road.

    I kept looking for a good place to pull over and camp for the night. Every time I saw a river valley or what looked like a good place, there were people there. These must be popular areas for people from UB to come and camp.


    I stopped at a rest stop on the side of the road about 100kms north of UB. People were gathered around this guy having a laugh and getting photos...


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    I didn't really want to camp near other people tonight, so I just kept looking. UB was getting closer and closer. Before I knew it, I was in the outskirts of the city. Time to press on and head to the Oasis Guesthouse. On the way into UB, I passed the finish line of the Mongol Rally. If it wasn't across 6 lanes of evening UB traffic, I would have stopped in for some photos. I decided to not risk my life by making a U turn.

    When I arrived, the Oasis was pretty empty. I recognized one vehicle right away. It was Tobias and Francesca's Land Cruiser. They had been here since I left the Oasis a couple of weeks ago. They had had engine trouble and had to get a new head shipped from Germany. Their repairs were finishing up and they planned to be back on the road in a few days.

    I met a guy named Jean Baptiste (JB). JB was a frenchman traveling on a Africa Twin. JB was traveling with a rider from the UK named Jamie Duncan. Jamie was a writer and worked for a british motorcycle magazine called "BIKE". Jamie was on the new VStrom and was taking it from Turkey to South Korea. The bike itself was going from the UK to the Suzuki factory in Japan, but Jamie's leg was to take the bike through Turkey, Georgia, Russia, Kazakstan, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and South Korea. The schedule was five months, five stories and five issues of the magazine. They planned to have the bike getting to the factory in Hamamatsu by September and to publish the final story in BIKE's 500th issue in October. Cool stuff!

    Lukas Matzinger, whom I had met the last time in town, was still here. He had found and bought a KTM 690 Rally and was setting it up for adventure touring. The bike was being worked on in a top secret facility in UB. Lukas' friend, Lyndon Poskitt, was off racing Rally Mongolia and doing quite well even winning overall on several stages. Lukas kept us all up with what happened in the daily stages of the rally and how Lyndon was doing.

    I met a cool couple named Adi and Seriana. They were a swiss couple and were traveling in a Land Cruiser. I also met two Germans named Hubert and Peter who were traveling in a pretty sweet overland vehicle. Everyone was super cool and friendly. I really enjoyed connecting with people and hearing their stories.

    I had a beer and talked with people. It was an early night for me, as I had done over 800kms on my little chines bike in 2 days. I was a bit disappointed that I didn't camp or have more time in the countryside, but I was REALLY glad to be near a western toilet with running water. My stomach was pretty sour. I took some antibiotics I had bought the last time in UB. If I still felt like this in the morning, I would go and look for some Tinidazole at a local pharmacy. Time would tell...



    Tahoe
  14. lukeman

    lukeman Cool Hand

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    Wow this is a great report and provides a lot of insight into how to do Mongolia on its own. With the family and a corporate job this might be the way I'm going to have to do Mongolia.
  15. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, MICN Supporter

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    Thanks lukeman. It is totally doable. Get out and do it. Email me if there is anything I can help you out with.

    Tahoe
  16. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, MICN Supporter

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    My stomach was pretty sour all night and was cramping pretty bad in the morning. I had some coffee and toast for breakfast, but felt really wiped out. I think it was a combination of what I had going on with my GI tract and riding 800kms on a Shineray Mustang in two days. Today I would just relax.

    Noah Horak described the Oasis Guesthouse as a "black hole". What he meant by that is that it is easy to get stalled here. The Oasis was started, I believe, by an Austrian couple. It switched hands about a year and a half ago, and is owned by Mongolians now. I have head that the place has gone downhill a bit since being sold. It was still a decent place to stay and the staff was friendly.

    The sun was out and it felt good to do nothing. I FaceTimed with family back home and hung out with other travelers. I love hearing their stories about where they have been and where they are going. The Oasis has a great international feeling to it, and the people I met there were all really cool.

    Adi and Seraina were from Switzerland. Seraina made the most incredible BLT sandwiches on the planet. She credits her sandwiches to the use of Thomy mayonnaise. I think she said she brought half a dozen tubes with her on the trip.


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    Adi and Seraina's setup:


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    Hanging out with new friends:


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    The other guys in the above photo were Marius and Martin. They were two Germans who drove to UB in this:


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    I had received a text message the day before from Jaco (one half of the Dutch couple I met by the White Lake). It was written by an American who they had met while returning their bikes to Cheke. Kelly was picking up a Shineray at Cheke's the same time Jaco and Jip were returning theirs. I guess they got to talking and my name came up. Kelly had been following this ride report and knew I was somewhere in the country. Kelly's text said that he had gotten a bike and was heading in a clockwise loop. He said that he was wearing a grey Klim suit, a red Arai helmet and was on a yellow Shineray Mustang. Ok, I thought. What are the chances of running into this guy?

    As I was sitting around, I saw a bike pull up to the gate of the Oasis and enter. As I'm looking at this solo rider, I realize quickly that he has a grey Klim suit, a red Arai helmet and a yellow Shineray. It was Kelly. Kelly, as it turns out, is from Truckee, California and hangs out at a coffee shop called Wild Cherries. When I lived in Truckee, I called Wild Cherries "the office". I could be found there just about every morning with the other locals, shooting the shit and talking about everything from bikes to politics to, well, everything. I met my daughter's mother at Wild Cherries. I also happened to be wearing a Wild Cherries tshirt that the owner of the coffee shop had given me when Kelly arrived...


    Me and Kelly... Notice my tshirt...


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    Kelly's bike from Cheke wasn't up to snuff, so he had arranged to get a Yamaha XT from another company and return the Shineray to Cheke. The XT's ass was pretty soft, especially with rider and luggage on it. We pulled the rear shock and dialed in as much preload as we could.


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    The garage next to the Oasis is called Fortec. It is owned by Koji, a transplant from Japan. He is an incredibly nice guy and a skilled mechanic. He helped Kelly get a bit more preload in the shock. You can tell a lot about a man by the way he keeps his shop/garage. Koji's place was tidy. Everything had it's place.


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    Some nice bikes in there too...


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    To be continued....


    Tahoe
  17. live2ridetahoe

    live2ridetahoe BSN, RN, CEN, TCRN, MICN Supporter

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    So we got Kelly's bike set up as best we could. It really needed a stiffer rear shock spring, but that wasn't an option. We had the preload dialed up and reinstalled the shock.

    Tobias and Francesca were finally leaving today. They had spent the better part of the month here at the Oasis. They had issues with their Land Cruiser and had to get a new head sent from Germany. It took a long time to locate the part and to have it fit by someone in UB. They were on their way back to Switzerland...


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    I met an Irish guy who had been paragliding across the continent. I had heard stories about him the first time I was in UB. Apparently, he left UB, got to the Chinese border and they would not let him in with his flying rig. I really wasn't surprised, but I guess he was. He had this strapped to his back...


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    This is the new Vstrom that Jamie Duncan was riding to South Korea. He had a week to get to Vladivostok before the ferry left. I'm keeping up to date on his story in BIKE UK...


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    I hit the black market with a Spanish rider who came in on a 1200GS. Karim didn't speak much English, just Spanish and French. With the departure of our translators (the Swiss couples), I was left to translate. The Swiss are really amazing. The couples I met spoke at least 5 languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish and German. My Spanish is decent, so I would translate our conversations to Karim and then his responses back to the group. I felt pretty useful. It was fun.

    The black market had tons of groceries and general crap. You had to be careful of pickpockets there. Karim and I walked to the market and spent some time walking around.


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    I bought some new fork seals from the moto parts guys


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    I was wearing my Barstool Sports Red Sox jersey at the market when I ran into this guy. He was pretty wasted...


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    After we cabbed it back to the Oasis, I packed up and had supper. Lukas Matzinger's cousin had come in and the plan was for him to ride Lukas's 690 Evo 2 to Baikal. Lukas's 690RR was just about finished and he was getting ready to head out with Lyndon to go to Baikal and then the do the BAM road.

    I drove out of UB and past the airport to return my bike. I got my passport back from Cheke and she offered to drive me to the airport.


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    I had a midnight flight out of UB and then a 14 hour layover in Seoul. I got a room at the transit hotel in the airport in Seoul. I had a shower, a 6 hour nap and some great food in the airport. The flight back to the US was easy. I watched several movies, had some bibimbap, several free whiskeys and a nap.

    Thanks for following along. I hope you enjoyed my story...

    Cheers all,



    Tahoe
    ballbag likes this.
  18. SS in Vzla.

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

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    :clap:clap:clap
    Well done. Great RR. Thanks for taking the time to post.
  19. Roadracer_Al

    Roadracer_Al louder, louder, louder!

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    Most excellent. Hamgeen sain, bayaarta.
  20. SavannahCapt

    SavannahCapt Long timer

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    Good job. :clap:clap:clap. Great fun to read.