The road to Mongolia... on two wee bikes!

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by maria41, Oct 7, 2015.

  1. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 71 -1st of July – 70 miles – Mongolia, Tosontsergel -


    After a good night sleep I visited the dreadful pit toilet (!) before trying to get some breakfast. We asked if we could get some eggs but the landlady said no! So we drank some fruit juice bought from the local store, and some bread with our mixed chocolate spread. We abandoned the rest of the bread...rock hard.


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    We left Nomrog soon after 9 am. From there we were really expecting to see some improvements with the road, after all, in our map, this section is now a " major road"! It had been raining heavily during the night. I was hoping the sand would be compacted, making riding easier. Let's just say it took us 5 hours to do 70 miles!


    The road went from bad to worse, rivers, mud, sand, holes the size of a truck.... It was very hard and very tiring! I don't have any pictures of the hard parts, as I was too busy riding those and trying not to lose the will to live!


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    We got to Tosontsergel by 2:30 / 3pm.... Although...we must have crossed some invisible portal as we lost another hour to “time travel”....


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    This time we found two hotels in town. We had high hope of a hot shower and flushable toilet, after all, this town is quite important... It even had an airport, according to my map! Not that we ever found any evidence of an airport and I suspect it is just the Mongols being very optimistic!


    Unfortunately, there was still no running water in town.... Only drafted from a pump and brought home in containers.... So facilities were the same... No shower and the dreaded pit toilet! We picked the less dodgy looking hotel. Downstairs they had a restaurant, and they even served food there! We managed to get fried eggs and rice! That was quite a nice change from our usual diet!


    After that we went to look for the local "supermarket" (well, that would be the village shop for you and me!).

    We met two bikers, a couple from Poland, riding two up on a massive BMW 1200 GS with tons of luggage and stuff.

    And they looked so clean! My riding suit was covered in mud and sand, my bike the same, my panniers almost invisible through the dust and sand and mud.... They came from a different part of the country.... South. We told them it took us most of the day to do 70 miles.... They said they were doing 250 km a day. My jaw dropped to the floor! And they were not going to stop in town either but continue. Not tired at all! They were going the same way than us from here, East to Tariat and then Tsetselerg.


    I thought the guy must be some sort of semi God of the off road, we did look rather amateurs and useless with our slow progress! And they were so clean! Not a speckle of mud in their trousers! I could not get over that detail.


    Anyway, they left and we went back to the hotel, after buying some water.


    We did not sleep well. The hotel was busy with locals, each room filled with a full extended family. Very noisy. On top of that the sheet over the mattress was so ridiculously small, they always are in Mongolia, it did not cover half the mattress... This was not clean! Stressful!
    #81
  2. johnnybgood8

    johnnybgood8 Been here awhile

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    Great reports guys!!!
    #82
  3. PropTP

    PropTP Been here awhile

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    I think the australian company is called Liquid Containment.

    http://liquidcontainment.com.au/category/12/Motor-Bike
    #83
  4. PropTP

    PropTP Been here awhile

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    By the way...excellent ride report...I'm enjoying it tremendously, while I daydream of such a trip in the near future!
    #84
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  5. RumRunner

    RumRunner Sit there, turn that

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    Really enjoying the report, thanks so much for sharing.

    DW
    #85
  6. OnTheWay

    OnTheWay Long timer

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    Your seemingly indomitable spirit is admirable.Stay safe and keep doing what you enjoy.:-)
    #86
  7. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 72 - 2d July - 135 miles, Mongolia, Gers camp near Tariat


    Considering that Tosontergel is actually a biggish town (Mongol style!) we really expected this time there must be a road! Well, there will be one day, as there are massive roadworks, but for us it got worse!

    That's the road, and what you cannot see is how steep that was... more like sand riding!
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    We left after a solid breakfast of fried eggs and rice (!). The road leaving town was like riding in the Sahara, sand dunes and all! Where is all that sand coming from? It was horrendous and it took us an hour to do only 9 miles.

    y bike got stuck midway up, trying to ride up a steep sand dune. A truck was already stuck in the sand not far and the poor driver was shovelling the sand away from his wheels! My back wheel was digging a hole deeper and deeper, half way up the sand dune. Alistair had to come to the rescue and get the bike out of the hole and up to the top of the dune!


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    Few hours later the tracks came across a deep large river. We saw a 4X4 going through, it was waist deep, it would submerge most of the bike... we had already passed few rivers… but this one was no fordable for us. We stopped another 4 x4 car, they pointed further down a trail. We followed them. A mile later, the car went through the river. We had to get through, but this passage was almost as deep! The full bonnet of the car was submerged!


    Then, big luck, another 4X4 came behind us, saw us stuck and passed the river, doing a big swerve to the right! It was shallower on the far right side. We "thumbed up" the car to thank them and Alistair went first.

    It was deep but doable. I followed, without style or grace and rather wobbly but I did it and was really pleased with myself. I wondered how our polish friends managed with their huge heavy bike and the mountain of luggage? Maybe ‘semi-God of the Off-Road’ just levitated?


    Yes, I was still thinking about them! They made me feel bad about myself!


    We pressed on through the day. We wanted to get to Tariat and check out if the hotel there had a shower. If not, few miles further north, inside the national Park, there was a Gers camp with hot showers and flushing toilets, according to our guidebook! By then we deserved that! Worst case scenario we would camp by the lake and bath there!



    Near 7pm we eventually got to Tariat. We checked out the local hotel, which was the same dreadful place than the others! We decided to ride to the national park, few miles further away and try to find the Gers Camp. I really wanted my hot shower!!! I deserved it!


    On the way there, just on the edge of town, what do we see but the big BMW of our polish friends, parked outside a little Cafe. They did not go far today... Less mileage than us... They found the road very tough and went very slowly.... So... No semi God of the Off Road then?!


    They just rode much easier trails before meeting us, coming from the south! I felt much better about my riding skills after that.... And they even looked a less sparkly clean in their riding suits! The guy even came out to have a look at my bike… and I think I saw a sparkle of envy in his eyes!


    Then we came across a board pointing toward Khorgo Gers camp. I checked the Lonely Planet. It was the one mentioned as having flush toilets and hot showers. To get there, we had to cross another river, that was fairly deep. Never mind... Showers, real toilets.... I would have gone through an lake!

    So we went there, they confirmed what the guidebook said. We took a ger!


    We got the ger's wood stove going and using it to cook our dinner of.... Noodles again... But with added onion and pepper! I know! How exotic and extravagant of us!


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    We were told there would be hot water at 9 pm. I went into the shower at 9. Cold water. Then a tiny big less cold water... I was not happy...


    The lady in charge of the shower block was around... I asked about the hot water...


    Now, you must know that this place is rather high up and it was quite cold, the water was icy. The woman just opened the curtain of my shower to check the temperature of the water! The fact I was stark naked there, trying to wash my hair, did not matter, obviously!


    Anyhow, we had a coldish shower... But at least the toilets were real toilets... With a flush! And clean! And with toilet paper! Civilisation at last! Of sort anyway!


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    #87
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  8. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 73 - 3rd July – 127 miles – Mongolia, Tsetserleg -


    We woke up very early in our Gers! Mainly because it was so cold! Alistair got the wooden stove going, which involved using some of our fuel to start the fire!


    After a breakfast of coffee bread and spread, we went for a walk. Across the river, there were some herders' gers. They had motorbikes and I had observed that they were crossing the river at a different spot that the one used by cars, and us, the previous day. For crossing rivers in Mongolia, it is useful to observe where the locals on their little chinese bikes do the crossing, if you have the opportunity. It is rarely the spot used by trucks and cars...


    The previous day we used the crossing for cars and trucks, and it was rather deep. This morning I was not keen on getting water inside my boots! We found a much shallower crossing.


    So we packed up and used that crossing. It had big round river bed peddles but it was no worries with our little bikes.


    This time we were seriously expecting the road to get better. Tsetserleg, our destination for the day , is a very touristy town!


    We got back to Tariat, and found the correct direction toward Tsetserleg. We followed the usual nasty trails, across steppes and more steppes.


    The valleys were littered with garbage, a very depressing sight, as the locals seem to discard about anything on the ground, anywhere. Picnic? Just leave the tins and empty cans and bottles! Drinking vodka? Just smash the bottles and leave them there.

    There are smashed bottles of vodka and beer littered all over, as well as plastic bottles, not only along the tracks, but all over the steppes. The amount of empty vodka bottles is worrying! Drink driving seems to be a big problem here. Once the roads are paved and they can drive fast, the fatality rate of road accidents will rocket I guess.


    After a while we stopped for a rest. We met an italian lad on a rented chinese bike, from Ulaanbaatar. He told us the road would get better... And it did! Tarmac at last!


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    We finally got to Tsetserleg by mid-afternoon. Obviously, as you may suspect, not all the way was nice smooth tarmac. We crossed plenty of road works. Now in Mongolia, Roadworks mean that trucks and cars randomly create tracks in the sand, by the side of the road. You end up with deep sand tracks as a result!


    Once in town, we found easily a place to stay and with hot shower!
    #88
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  9. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 74 - 4th of July – 0 miles, Mongolia, Tsetserleg -


    We decided to spend a day rest in town. We were incredibly tired and I felt all my muscles ached from the intense riding involved in the last few days. We did not do any visiting, but we found a place owned by a British guy, which served really decent food, although the meat still tasted disgusting.

    The problem with meat here is that they don't seem to use fridges. We crossed the local market, which was next to the meat market / abattoir, but in a separate building. The smell of rotting meat was overpowering! It was sickening. So we tried to avoid meat in Mongolia as I believe it is probably the primary cause of food poisoning in Mongolia (and the Stans!).


    Day 75 - 5th of July – 300 miles – Mongolia,Ulaanbaatar (UB) -


    We left town mid-morning, due to the late breakfast. People don't seem to work early in this country. Ever!

    We were told the road was paved all the way. It was, except when it wasn't, usually due to the tarmac being so damaged that it was impossible to ride through, or the many road works!


    We finally got to UB rather late and found a hotel in the west part of town. The traffic was insane, aggressive, dangerous, and we did not fancy to cross all the town, so we picked a place near our arrival into the town. As we needed to use the same way to pick up the northern road, it avoided too much riding around UB.
    #89
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  10. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 76 and 77 - 6th and 7th of July – 0 miles - UB


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    We took a taxi to take us to the colossal statue of Ghengis ( Chiinggis as they spell it here!) Khan. We did not do much after that but rest, have a look around and do some chores like laundry etc…


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    Day 78 - Tuesday 8th of July - 206 miles – Mongolia, Sukhbataar

    The weather was less wild and we decided to finally leave Ulaanbataar! I was sick of pot noddles and could not wait to get back into Russia for a decent meal.

    Two nights before, we tried a local restaurant, not far from our hotel, chinese food, so it would be easy to order as each meal had a picture. It looked popular with the locals. It was vile! Trust me, it was. Even the chicken had that texture of chicken that has been standing around for a very long time. Like all meat in Mongolia, it was well past its sell buy date.


    So we went back to pot noodles and sardines to survive. To be fair the Russian sardines in tomato sauce were actually very tasty.


    Anyhow, we packed and rode to the border. The road was paved all the way, sort off, unless when it was closed and we would end up in random tracks, trying to figure out which way to go, as usual.


    By late afternoon, we arrived at the border town of Sukhbataar. We spent the night there, as the border is not 24/7. They rarely are in these regions. For dinner, as you may guess, we had more sardines with bread!
    #90
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  11. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Day 79 - 9th of July – 171 miles – Russia, Ulan Ude -


    The border was only 25 km away, so we got there on good time. There was already a queue. Getting out of Mongolia was a muddled affaire as it looked like they could not find my motorbike number plate in their computer records! Alistair blamed my very bad writing! I blamed incompetent officials!


    After that we rode to the Russian side. It took nearly 2 & 1/2 hours as they were thoroughly searching every car and minibus! I was expecting the same when it was our turn, but except the usual question "do you carry narcotics or weapons?" Which we always said no (does anyone ever say yes for the fun of it???) they waved us through. Mind you, with our minimalist luggage I really don't know where we could hide any smuggling!

    By early afternoon we came across a little café by the side of the road.

    We had two Lagmans (a noddle soup with beef and vegs) simple, but after so long surviving on pot noodles, bread, sardines and peanuts, it tasted glorious! And for dessert we treated ourselves with blinis with caramel sauce (pancakes).


    With our stomachs full, we pressed on to Ulan Ude through freezing storms and hail (again!), as it was quite a long way. It was a beautiful ride. When we got there, we found out that we had lost another hour!


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    After turning a bit we finally found a hotel. They even did a registration for two days, although we were only staying one night!


    So registration was now out of the way! In Russia, foreigners must register with the authorities within 7 days. Some hotels can do it, else it is complicated. And no registration could mean problems if the police ask for it.


    Then we went for a meal. We found some chinese / Japanese restaurant (lots of those around!) and we had a great meal! Food that was tasty, edible and no dodgy meat! Heaven!
    #91
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  12. Mark Manley

    Mark Manley Long timer

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    Hi Maria, Good to see that you made it on the plucky little Hondas, which reminds me that mine did not but never mind I have another now and am feeling inspired by you to have another go, sometime!
    Good luck with the rest of the trip if you are not already home.
    #92
  13. fearmor

    fearmor Adventurer

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    Great reading Maria,I,m looking forward to more.
    #93
  14. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Yes it looks like it could be from them. Worth it if you do not want to fit a bigger fuel tank. We did not want that expense considering that we didn't really need extra fuel that often.
    #94
  15. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Hi Mark!
    I followed your adventures with your XR when preparing my trip! Good to see you will have another go!
    The XRs are tough little bikes, as long as you keep the engine oiled! :)

    A little bike like that is ideal for tough trails... however.... a 125cc is a bit too slow on good roads and very dangerous in Russia in the main roads.... as you will see in the next few chapters.

    I am currently preparing our next adventure, but this time we will use 250cc bikes. Originally we wanted the same one: TTR250, but I could not lower it enough for me. So Alistair will have the TTR250 and I found an XT250, in decent condition, that has ideal dimensions for me! I will pick it up from the dealer on Saturday!
    #95
  16. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Thank you all guys for the positive feedback!

    It is good to see that at least I am not just rambling online to myself!
    #96
  17. Tod.

    Tod. Old, but up for it

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    There's probably more than you imagine, just quietly reading your inspirational exploits.
    #97
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  18. FlyingPenguin

    FlyingPenguin Been here awhile

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    In 2014 I rode 3 weeks on an XT 250 in Mongolia. Relatively light, decent power with fairly good suspension I thought it the perfect bike for there. The one I rented though had a very small air cleaner. The paper filter was non washable though I washed it a few times and blew it out several more. My XT 250 was a few years old and maybe Yamaha has changed the design by now.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-T537A using Tapatalk
    #98
  19. WJW

    WJW Adventurer

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    +1
    #99
  20. XRayTed

    XRayTed Fresh Sprocket

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    Keep it up! I've always thought Mongolia would be an amazing place to ride.