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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    Vladimir took us through another exit from the campsite. It had a very steep muddy section. I made my way through best I could but not the right way, putting my right foot down. Vladimir told me off for that. He really wanted me to improve my riding skills and ensure I would keep my right foot (which controls the back brake, for non riders in here!) on the peg.


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- “I don’t want you to go on your travels around the world not riding properly” he told me some time before. I feared I was becoming some sort of "project" for him, make me into a descent off-road rider. When I told him, with his usual big smile, he denied... I had my suspicions though!


    The excursion up the mountain was stunning. It was hard going for me, to start with, but we kept in formation. I was right behind Vladimir, who, despite riding standing up on his foot pegs, continued to have that supernatural power of seeing behind him what I was doing at any time! How does he do that!?


    At first, I started slowly but soon got bored of slow and managed to go faster and faster.


    (PS: if photos like these don't make you want go to the Altai, I give up!!!! And these are taken with my crap 50 quids camera! )


    The bike performed so well on lose gravel, stones or anything, that I grew more and more confident. We managed to get to the 1st step up the mountain through narrow treacherous mountains tracks.

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    The last climb involved a very (very!) steep trail that would be hard to achieve, due to the lack of oxygen. Anton told me he managed once with Vladimir but they had to take the air filters out.



    Vladimir, Andrey and Alistair decided to try the climb, but their bikes died half way through and they had to turn back.


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    I felt comfortable with the way my bike behaved on any sort of terrain and performed reasonably well, although, I know that Vladimir was looking for the easiest ways off-road to get through. There was still lots of mud around.


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    Later on, Vladimir told me, with his usual big smile, that I had done very well that day. That was a big compliment coming from “Action man" himself!
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  2. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Back to the yurt camp, the guys decided to go out with the bikes to buy some beers to celebrate. It was Saturday evening after all! They took a detour by the hills and I heard that Andrey had a very spectacular fall in the mud. Sadly no one took a picture of it! That did not seem to deter him, as he kept taking off at the speed of light with complete disregard for the sort of track he was riding. He was certainly keen.


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    We went to the banya for a wash, Alistair and me first, then the rest of the gang.

    It was our first Banya experience and it was very nice indeed if a bit rustic!
    A vestibule with benches was there to get undressed. Then the next section was quite hot, with two taps: one with boiling water, the other with cold water. A pile of buckets and recipients were in the corner. So the was the "wash " section. Then the last section was the sauna. It was absolutely boiling hot in there, but I could get used to it!

    We all had a wash, then we went back to the colourful kitchen / diner for a meal: buckwheat and Russian sausage in the menu that evening, with plenty of tea, bread and biscuits. It had been an action packed day.


    We went back to the Ger, then Vladimir disappeared to the camp’s “Star Wars Tavern” / Kitchen / diner to play guitar and socialize with the strange fauna that inhabited that place, obviously feeling in his element!

    Andrey decided to follow to provide him with some much needed business advice, while we stayed in the yurt with Anton to talk and relax.

    Little did I know what was waiting for us the next day! We had had more storms and rain overnight, which was not ideal for the sort of roads we were going to ride.


    Vladimir had us up before 6am, as he wanted to leave the Yurt camp very early.


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    By 7am, after a quick coffee, we were packed and ready to go. It started easy on the M52 riding north for about 60 km until Aktash.


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    There, we stopped for fuel and then took a side road to Ust-Ulagan. The road started as decent gravel but soon turned into a narrow bumpy ride. At Ust-Ulagan we stopped again for more fuel, as we would not find any until crossing Lake Teleskoye.
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  3. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Isn't the Altai stunning:
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    We then took a road that got worse and worse up and up the mountains.

    We stopped at the "Red Gates" for pictures and also because Andrey’s bike was having some problems. The weather was rather bad, grey, cold and occasionally wet.


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    After some investigation on the electrics, we continued, keeping up with Vladimir at a reasonable speed. He was acting as a "hare" and we maintained up to speed to keep up with him. I was glad we did the excursion in the mountains the day before, so I was quite comfortable with my bike and I knew it could fly and skip over big lose stones and rocks and was easy to control. I felt my position standing on the foot pegs was improving, giving me more balance and control.

    After a while we stopped again by a mountain pass. We had a snack and tea in a little café and, after more investigations on Andrey's bike; Vladimir decided to swap the battery from Andrey’s bike to Alistair’s bike. Alistair’s bike was the only one with a kick-start and Andrey's battery was presumed dead.

    So we continued, up and down the mountains until we got to the top of the Katu-Yarik pass.


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    As I looked down, I must have looked a little worried. Anton tried to reassured me by telling me “it is not actually as steep as it looks”. He forgot to tell me that non 4x4 cars can go up that track only by being pulled up by tractors on that track!


    The views were superb over the valley and the river Chulyshman, despite the bad weather, but the descent was quite scary. Well, there was no choice; we had to go down, so down we would go!



    I removed some layers as it was going to be hot, and we set off, Vladimir first, and the rest of us in our usual formation: me, Alistair, Andrey and Anton a sweeper.


    The descent was very steep, narrow, the track was covered with big lose stones and sand, and I had a big cliff on one side. There was no margin for errors!


    I am not comfortable with big cliffs, so I started sitting on my bike but it was very unstable that way, over the big lose stones running under my wheels. I was not feeling the foot (rear) brake when standing up, so it was scary. With such a descent I had to use the foot brake or the bike would go faster and faster. Such little engines are not powerful enough to brake using only the engine brake.


    So in the end I adopted the position described by Vladimir, standing up on the foot pegs, putting as much weight as possible at the back by leaning back so the front wheel would be light and skip easily over stones, keeping my shoulders and arms relaxed, looking far ahead and memorizing the obstacles.



    I slowly found the foot brake and went down, avoiding the traffic (tractors and 4x4!) by millimeters on my left and with only centimeters to spare on my right between the side of my front wheel and the big precipice. The bike, as usual, was superb and I finally got down into the valley.


    I pulled next to Vladimir, waiting for me, down in the valley. For him it was easy!

    He had been watching me. He gave me a thumb up, flashing his usual big smile, saying, with his thick Russian accent “ Very good!”.


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    His constant advice had finally got through in my little head, and I had overcome, or at least managed, my fears!

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    After a long while, the rest of the gang arrived. Alistair’s back brake had overheated and was not working during the descent. They had stopped and decided to continue the descent, slowly. It must have been scary!


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  4. robw

    robw Adventurer

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    Fabulous report, you have put a huge amount of effort into this. thank you very much!
    maria41 likes this.
  5. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    We then got back on the trail. It looked more like a dry riverbed to me, covered in big lose stones and giant big potholes full of water. It was tough going and very tiring! By mid afternoon we stopped at a camp by the river.


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    As we got changed and had some very late lunch, it started pouring down with rain and more storms.



    We had planned to take a small boat across the river and hike for about a mile up the mountain to see the Stone mushrooms. They look like the fairy chimneys of Cappadocia. However, because of the storm, we decided to stay put. Andrey, always keen to ride, decided to take off on his bike, despite the storm, to explore the valley.


    After a light dinner we opened a small bottle of vodka but it was not that tasty so we left it and went to get warm by a fire camp. We then went to the Banya for a wash, Alistair and me first, then the rest of the gang.

    The next day, Vladimir wanted us on the road by 6am, as we had to get to the boat at 8am. We would have breakfast by the lake. So we had an early night.


    The next morning, we left the camp at 6 and rode again that terrible river bed/ mud/ pools as fast as we could, well, as I could! I was tired and instead of avoiding every single pothole full of water I was just going through carelessly like riding a tank!

    As we stopped for a small rest, Vladimir turned to me laughing, mimicking swimming, asking if I wanted to transform my bike into a submarine!

    Damn, how does he do that? He is standing on his foot pegs, sometimes far away ahead; he can’t possibly see me … surely?
    He really must have an eye on his back! Or else he is some sort of Russian style James Bond and has super gadgets to see everywhere?


    To be fair, some of those water potholes were huge and deep enough! Luckily my boots and plastic over trousers kept my feet dry!



    Eventually we made it to the edge of lake Teleskoye, the biggest and deepest in the Altai, and we stopped in a village for a well-deserved breakfast: the usual pancakes, fried eggs, porridge, black Russian bread and jam, all washed down with plenty of green tea.



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    After that, we waited for the boat. Andrey, as usual, took off in his bike to explore the village while Anton and Vladimir were trying to trace our boat. I kept inside, having more tea.


    The boat was finally found, about a mile down a very sandy track.

    We managed somehow to get all the bikes next to the boat and loaded them in, basically by lifting them into the boat!


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    Once all were secure, we set off.
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  6. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Anton disappeared in the tiny single bedroom, under the bridge, next to the lounge, for a snooze while we sat in the lounge, which had 2 long sofas. We had a rest there while Vladimir was with the captain, and, according to Andrey, with his dry sense of humour, “Vladimir was shitting in the ears of the Captain”!

    The crossing took about 5 and 1/2 hours.


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    After a snooze and some tea, "businessman Andrey" decided to go give some more business advice to Vladimir, while we watched the bikes getting more and more unstable with the bad weather. Eventually Vladimir leapt into action and tightened the ropes. I really thought for a while that we would lose some bikes to the lake!


    The other side had beautiful pastel houses and seemed very touristic. That side of the lake has asphalt roads and is easy to access, unlike the south side that has only access via the Katu-Yarik pass or the lake.


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    Once we got the bikes off the boat, we rode to a little café for a late lunch.



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    The weather was cold and grey and I put all my layers and waterproofs. As we set off it started raining. We had 180km to ride, on tarmac, until Manzherok.


    We arrived rather late at the Altai-Moto’s club house. We had a quick change of clothes then went for dinner at a local cafe. We piled into Vladimir’s truck and we stopped to buy beer and some dry fish and dry meat. After a quick dinner we went to the Banya. The guys had included me by keeping their underwear, while I wore my bikini. Andrey kept putting water into the stone trying to bake us, and we got out into the ‘lounge’ area occasionally, to drink and eat and cool down.


    Below: Andrey, me, Anton and Alistair:
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    We talked, laughed and had a great time. I felt sad too, as we would be saying goodbye too soon. I had been riding with great guys; they felt like best friends, like family, we got on all so well despite the language barrier.


    Soon, we left the banya, moved to our chalet and gave a big hug to Vladimir and Andrey. Anton would stay with us in the chalet and would come with us to the airport in the morning, to help us for the check in.

    This trip had been so intense, terrifying sometimes, feeling on top of the world next, it has been a roller coaster of emotions and pure joy. The background, the Altai Mountains, had been spectacular, the company, exceptional…

    I miss the guys, Action Man Vladimir, Andrey the Fearless and Thoughtful Sweet Anton. I miss the mountains too. This trip had been so much more than what I expected.


    I thought my heart was set on the stunning Andes mountains of south America, but, somehow, the glorious mountains of the Altai have managed to steal a little bit of my heart too and will keep calling. Of course, the Russian hospitality has something to do with it too!


    Hope the following is allowed. If you want to ride with Vladimir, you can contact him via his website: see www.altai-moto.com and www.altai-moto.ru for details. Don’t hesitate! You will have the best time of your life! I know I did!


    He also has now a workshop/guesthouse in Manzherok. That may come handy for travellers.


    As for us?


    Well, 2015 was about work… summer 2016 will be play! :clap I am currently planning another trip for next summer. :*sip*


    Originally we wanted to go back to South America, but when I saw the staggering cost of shipping our motorbikes (2 bikes back and forth would cost near £5k not including our own flights!) … it was a no brainer…. We are going back to Russia! :D


    My plans for now: crossing through Europe and Scandinavia into the northern Oblasts (Murmansk, Keralia, Arkhangelsk, Komi) then descend into Southern Siberia and the Altai (of course!) … Explore a bit of Tuva…then…? Well you will have to wait. :eyes

    Departure end of May / early June 2016… My blog will be raw but up to date, once we are on the go… for the ride report you will have to wait for the end of next trip.


    I hope you have enjoyed reading this report as much as I enjoyed telling my story. I hope that some of you will follow in our footsteps and discover this stunning beautiful part of the planet and its equally amazing people.

    But above all, I hope all this shows that, if I can do it, anyone can!


    Until next time xx
  7. zandesiro

    zandesiro In rust we trust....

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    Just finished this RR now from the morning!!(21.00 now).

    I enjoy your adventure so much!

    Great story,great pics!!

    Be well....:clap
  8. LC4Dakar

    LC4Dakar Been here awhile Super Supporter

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    Great write-up. The Altai is one of the prettiest areas I've been to.

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  9. SNOMED

    SNOMED Adv'rized

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    Thank you for your great RR!!! :clap
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  10. Bob

    Bob Formerly H20Pumper

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    Nice update, thanks for the great pics!
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  11. davey1212

    davey1212 Been here awhile

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    Superb !! I know it takes plenty of time and effort to write these reports so well done & many thanks for entertaining us but a GREAT BIG well done for getting out there and having such an adventure.
    Dave
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  12. Alpineandy

    Alpineandy Adventurer

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    Maria, Thanks for nothing.... Now I have to add the Altai to my ever expanding list of 'Must Go' places :lol2




    Thanks for the great report.
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  13. Speedmaster58

    Speedmaster58 Adventurer

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    How spooky is this, just planning my own trip to Mongolia for next year, via turkey, Georgia, Stans and Russia and then back to a rally in Sweden via Moscow on the train and ferry from Tallin to Stockholm... Brilliant Ride report and stunning pictures. So helpfull for my planning.. thank you
  14. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    Hi guys,

    thanks you all for the kind words and compliments. Yes it does take a lot of time and work to put a report online, but what a pleasure to relive it all again in writing.

    I also enjoy sharing, as it is my way to give back. I have been using much info in here and "the other place" :D - can we mention it here? HU?

    I am glad you enjoyed reading it and that you may use the info here for your own travels and plans. Or finding inspiration.

    At least I demonstrated that if, even a clueless couple like us, and an easily spooked woman like me :yikes, on tiny bikes and no support, can do it.... anyone can... it is just a question of state of mind. Just do it! :-)

    Until my next report xx :ricky
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  15. empty tank

    empty tank Adventurer

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    You do understand that its going to be a long winter now i have finnished this RR thanks for the time spent you have topped the memory bank up!!!
    maria41 likes this.
  16. OnTheWay

    OnTheWay Long timer

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    I love your writing style and the photos, and your interactions with the people you have met along the way are wonderful.
    maria41 likes this.
  17. btrrtlwtr

    btrrtlwtr Been here awhile Super Supporter

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    WOW what a great adventure and read .Just amazing . thank you for posting.
    maria41 likes this.
  18. thirsty 1

    thirsty 1 Rider Supporter

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    I'm only to page 3 but I have to admit I have huge amount of admiration and jealously for/from you both. :) You guy's are Awesome!!!! :))))))
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  19. bountybuddy44

    bountybuddy44 Adventurer

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    This was truly a trip of a life time. I take my hat off to both of you. I have long thought about taking a trip like this but I have waited to long. The years have caught up to me. I'm 71. I'm 5'9" and I was cursed with a 29" inseam. My wife is 5'2" and weighs between 100 and 110 pounds. I've been blessed with a wonderful wife and wonderful children. My wife loves to ride with me. She has begged me to give up riding but it is one of the few things I truly love to do. In the spring of 2016 I plan on buying a Honda CB500X and putting on some serious aluminum saddle bags, tank bag and small tail bag. Maybe we can go on some short camping trips. I'm praying we can. Ride safe my friends. I wish you many more wonderful trips. My one rule when riding is that I am never in a hurry. If it take a few more hours, days, weeks or even months so be it. Ride safe.
    maria41, Tom48 and fearmor like this.
  20. maria41

    maria41 www.franglais-riders.com

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    hi everyone! Just to let you know that I am now back from my 2016 trip and will be posting my trip report in a new thread, link below:

    http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/back-to-russia-and-kyrgyzstan-again.1177765/

    If you enjoyed this ride report, I hope you will enjoy the next one. We went back to Russia and Central Asia, with plenty of nice encounters, meeting new and old friends, and, once again, plenty of challenges on the way.

    :-)
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