The Route

The Route
It is a very long way.....

Sunday, 31 July 2011

31st July - Finally made it to Moron!

Now I am Moronic!

Awesome day today - everything worked out really well.

I only woke up at 8.30 as even though I had gone to sleep about 10 I once again did not sleep well as I woke up several times feeling cold. I hoped that I would be able to get a sleeping bag in Moron today. We were packed up and on the road by about 10. It was a beautiful sunny morning. The ride was really hilly all the way to Moron and I was glad that we stopped when we did last night as there was no way that my legs would have got me into town before dark.

The roads were mostly pretty good. Much better than the section between Ih-Uul and Tosontsengel. It was a bit too sandy in places which meant that I lost control a couple of times and road off into the grass when I hit a clump of sand while going down hill. So far I have not managed to actually fall off in Mongolia but there have been a few close calls....

Jenna was ahead of me and I stop to take this photo of her chatting and having a cigarette with a horseman who had come to say hello to us.

As Jenna was chatting to him a couple came along on a motor bike. They were carrying a live sheep on the back of their vehicle. It still seems very strange to me to do this with animals. The sheep did not seem to be very happy about its legs being bound and being transported in such a way.

The ride down into Moron was fantastic. It went down hill for about 7km and we hit tarmac again (the last bit before Russia according to the map) and so just rolled into town and arrived by just past 12.

I am not sure whether it was just because it was sunny and we were feeling good but Moron seemed like a much nicer town than Bulgan (which we only experience in the rain or cloudy weather).

Jenna was desperate for some cigarettes so we had a fast ride into town and to then find a store. We checked out a couple of hotels and there were some OK ones with showers but all were rubbish in comparison to a new hotel that we had seen on the way into the center of town. I was treating Jenna today as I had wasted so much of her time yesterday having to go back for my phone and faffing about and so her slightly tighter budget was not a consideration and so we decided to stay in luxury today.

I was in the shower for about 30mins. It took ages to get off all of the ingrained mud. It was so lovely. Having spent ages in there I found that I still was dirty when I was wiping myself dry with the towel. I think several showers will be needed during this hotel stay.

I really did not want to leave the hotel room and I just wanted to have a nap in the lovely soft bed with clean fresh white sheets (the first decent bed since Beijing 2 weeks ago). My leg were tried after the last few days riding and I was happy not to go anywhere but we were planning on leaving Moron tomorrow and I had loads of shopping and organising to do and so I eventually left the room at 3ish.

I tried to ask the receptionist (who spoke English) where I could buy a sleeping bag and some other things and she could not help but went to get a friend to help me. Tuk spoke fluent English and said he would show me where I could buy the things I needed.

He was amazing. We spent about 3 hours at the black market finding all of the things I needed and also fixing my front pannier rack on my bike. A section of the pannier rack had snapped in 2 a few days ago and although it was holding together it was not as strong as it once was. I wanted to get it welded but we found that this was not possible and so instead we found a block of metal that would fit over the top of the pannier and strengthen the broken section.

Tuk thought it was funny that I was trying to strengthen the way the front pannier attached to the bike with cable ties and so he kindly found some strong metal wire that could be wound round and would improve the strength no end :-) He got a pair of pliers and did a few for me and got me some extra wire so that I can use it if I need to at a later stage.

The most important purchase for me was a new sleeping bag! I managed to get one for £7.50 with a fleece lining and camouflage on the outside! It is huge though and means that I will have less space in my bags now for food and water. I was soooo happy. I have been loving biking through Mongolia. The only part that I have found difficult is not sleeping well as I have been awaking up cold many times through the night when camping. This will no longer be a problem :-)

Another problem has been getting sun burnt. I bought suncream in both UB and Bulgan but unfortunately neither worked very well at all. While I was shopping at the black market Jenna was doing some other shopping for food and managed to find some Avon Suncream for me and so hopefully this other issue will be fixed.

The black market was huge with everything you could want to buy. I had left the hotel just thinking that I was going to be wondering aimlessly round shops trying to find the things I needed and I had not taken my camera. What a shame. I wish that I had managed to get some good photos of the market.

The only photos I got were ones taken on Tuk's camera of him having a go at shooting a target. It was a very productive shopping experience. Between Jenna and I we managed to get peanut butter, oats, a warm sleeping bag, suncream, hose clamps, wire for fixing pannier racks, loads of nuts and bolts for broken parts, fresh fruit and veg, brown bread, tape for handle bars, cereal for breakfast, sugar and a few other bits and bobs! Awesome. We did not think we would see oats or peanut butter until Moscow! This town does actually have most things that you need :-) I feel all relaxed now that we will be really comfortable for the next leg of the journey.

I took Tuk and Jenna out for dinner at a restaurant round the corner to say thanks to Jenna for waiting for me yesterday and thanks to Tuk for taking me round the market. We had a feast of Mongolia dishes - we were very hungry having not had any lunch. It was great to talk to Tuk about Mongolian culture as we had not found any Mongolians to chat to that speak good English up until now.

After diner I left the others to go for a beer or two and I went off for a bit of time on my own and to update this blog at an internet place. I met them again at 10.30 at the "club" in town. It was such a funny place with strobe lighting and modern club music but the decore was from the 1980's/1990's as were many of the people's clothing. It was quite an experience. I am really glad I went.

Tuk had brought along his friend, Hishge, who was also from UB, had spent some time in India at the same time as Tuk and speaks really good English too. I took along some wine and we all sat and nattered over some drinks.

We even had a short dance. Jenna was Thai boxing dancing..... very funny! A good night. The boys said that they would try to borrow bikes and cycle with us to the lake tomorrow. I wonder if they will.....

30th July - Bike back for phone and found it!

A tough day!

Notes - more text and photos to follow!

I did not sleep well through the night. There was a major thunderstorm and my tent lit up like a light-bulb. Freezing cold at 2am - my sleeping bag is only a summer one and I am wearing all of my clothes at night.

Could not find GPS tracker in the morning - faffed for ages looking for it.

At 11.30am I had lost both my GPS tracker and my phone in less than 24 hours and I was feeling rather down about it.

Asked at internet place in town. Little lad bought it for me as he had picked it up.

Biked back using GPS waypoints and found phone.

Bike back - hard.

Legs dead.

Biked 30km with Jenna against a really strong head wind.

Camped as could not push to get to Moron against the wind before dark.

Friday, 29 July 2011

29th July - Phone falls out of bag

We had an awesome campsite with views over looking the valley, town in the distance and mountains behind. It was a shame that it had been so cold last night and I had not slept very well as I kept on waking up feeling uncomfortable. It was a lovely sunny warm morning though and that always puts me in a great mood.

We were packing away and eating breakfast and drinking our morning coffee when this guy pops along on his horse to come and say hello.

Not long after his buddy turns up too. We gave them some of our breakfast and boiled more water so they could share our coffee. They did not speak any English but that does not really matter....

Within 10 minute the mother and father of the first horseman had turned up as well - this time on a motorbike. We all enjoyed a coffee together. The people round here are far more friendly than some of the other areas we were traveling through.

We eventually got on the road later than plan but having enjoyed spending time with our visitors. We biked down into the town and got water from the water house but found that the river was too far off our route to go bike and go for a swim/wash and so we headed out of town and got on our way.

There are these things everywhere!

After about 30km we did found a well and had a good cold shower. It was freezing but very refreshing :-)

The road today was terrible! When it is really bad you have to go slowly not only because it is uncomfortable but because of the strain it puts on the bikes. I am really worried about my pannier racks at the moment and I just hope that they last the distance across Mongolia. It would be such a shame to have to stop because of bike issues. Today was hard work!

The corrugation of the roads was terrible.

We arrived at the town Tos????? around 5pm absolutely knackered having only done 60km. We had been battling tough headwinds, an incline and corrugation on the roads. When we were biking round trying to find a place to stay Jenna met an American guy called Brian who is doing Peace Core in the village. It turned out that she was given his contact details from a couchsurfer in UB and was planning on contacting him but did not get round to it. She bumped into him anyway! Small world in Mongolia.

He joined us for our food and told us about his experiences living out here. He has been here for 1 year and is now engaged to a Mongolian girl!

While we were eating I looked for my phone but could not find it in my bag. I realised that it must have fallen out somewhere along the way today when I put my bike down. OH NO! I love that phone. I use it for GPS and maps, translation, email, internet and everything. It makes traveling solo so much easier as even though I am on the other side of the world it still makes me feel connected with my friends and family. I was gutted. I thought straight away about going back to look for it but there was not enough day light today todo so. I was also not sure how the hell I would find the spots were I stopped during the day. There are so many tracks that it is almost impossible to retrace your tracks.

I then realised that I have the GPS track of the day and I could use this information to get back to the points where I stopped. Even then it might not be there and it would be like trying to find a needle in a haystack. The problem was though that the road was terrible today and I really did not fancy going back on the same route and also I am running out of days on my visa in order to get to the western most point in Mongolia where I can get across on the border (there are only 6 border points were UK nationals can cross). I still have about 1300km to go and only 18 days to do it! I also did not want to waste Jenna's time with her waiting for me.

To go back and try and find it using GPS way points or just continue??!

Jenna sat and got merry on 7% beer while I faffed on the internet (fortunately there was a place next to the cafe were we had eaten) trying to get the GPS co-ordinates from my computer, changing all of my account passwords for email etc (in case anyone was to find the phone and use it), contacting insurance companies etc.

It was 8.30 by the time we left the town and headed about 3 km to a hill side to set up camp.

I sat and nattered with the strangely talkative Jenna and mulled over whether to go back for my phone or not.

28th July - 3 hours of bike fixing

Got on the road much earlier today. The first part of the ride was hard as we just headed straight North on a tiny track from our campsite to meet the main track. It was fine at first but then turned into slush.....

We had only been riding for a short time when Jenna had a problem with her front tyre and we had to stop for a while for her to mend it. Along came a Mongolian herdsman on his horse to come and see what was happening and to say hello. While Jenna fixed stuff the Mongolian man gave me a ride on his horse and he had a go my bike..... Even though I really can not ride horses, I was better at riding than he was at riding my bike. :-) His son popped along to see what was going on and found his Dad trying to ride a bike very funny....

The ride for the next couple of hours was really lovely over rolling countryside. We stopped off at a little stream to top up on water and have a wash and saw the tour bus from yesterday pass us with everyone waving at us. We got back on the road and found that they had stopped for lunch not too far up the road so we decided to join them. It was great. They feed us all the left overs - a huge amount of food. Apparently they have done nothing but eat on their tour so far. They are feed really well with morning and afternoon tea breaks too! However, they were not really enjoying the bus ride and it was obvious that Eric (the German) would have loved to be riding his bike with us instead!

The weather was lovely and sunny from midday and we were making really good time. Unfortunately, we are not quite sure how we managed it but we got on the wrong track and took a detour to the town of Tarialan which was 14km North of where we wanted to be. Oops. It only took about 30 mins to get back on to the main track again and the route was very pretty so we did not mind so much.

The scenery today was idyllic passing through miles and miles of meadows with loads of wild flowers rather than just grass land. The roads were also really good quality for dirt road tracks and so we could make good time. We were rocketing along and really enjoying it when I heard a snap and had to stop to fix my front pannier rack. I was very glad that Jenna is carrying some spare hose clamps as that was what had snapped on my front pannier rack. It is good as both of us are carrying different spare parts and so between us we have a good amount of replacement parts! It took a good while of fiddling to get a new hose clamp on my front pannier and get going again only to get on the road again and find that the screw was not tight enough and flew off.... The second time it was easier as we knew what we needed to do. 2 hours later we got on the road again.

We did not want to make the same mistake as a few days again and camp close to a town with dogs and people driving anywhere in the middle of the night (and possibly hitting our tents by accident) and so we stopped before Ih-Uul camped up on the hill with awesome views of the valley and hills.

We ended up doing 97km today (about 14km of which was an unnecessary detour) but could have got much further today with out the 3 hours of bike fixing. It was a lovely sunny day though and neither of us really minded. It is just part of the course when trying to get across Mongolia by bike. Distance and time estimates should always factor in a few hours of bike fixing/maintainance!

27th July - Gray day and only 63km

Up at 7.30 but it was peeing down outside and my tent was very comfy and warmer than outside. After some general mermerings and grunting between Jenna and I across tents we both went back to sleep and only woke up at 10. It was raining less at this point and stopped for long enough at 10.30 for us to get breakfast and coffee and then hide again for a while as it rained again. We decided not to wait it out as it could go on all day and packed up in the rain. It is never great packing a wet tent, until you are sure that it you will be able to dry it again before you need to use it again!

We did not manage to get on the road until 12.30. The first hour of the day was hard work. It took a while to warm up and the road was really muddy and it was slow going. We got so much mud in our gears that they were slipping really badly and it was not great fun. We got to the top of a little hill and stopped to chat to some people in a tourist bus. Eric (a German) invited us over to join the others for a cuppa and some chocolate and bread and a natter. As we had only just really got going we were hesitant but then they offered chocolate and I could not say no.

They were a nice bunch on a 20 tour of Mongolia and are heading up to the lake (like all tourists to Mongolia it appears). Apparently they were planning on stopping at a tourist camp only 35km from where we were and that the camp had hot showers! We thought we might catch them up and camp with them....

The road is much more of a highway than the other roads we had been traveling on. There are restaurants every 10km or so and tiny settlements and Gers that are not on our maps. We do not need to be carrying and much food as we are (we did on the other areas). I am now not very worried about getting water or food on the rest of the way to the lake as I once was (heading west from the lake is another matter).

Jenna is a great traveling companion. Good sense of humor. She does not talk much (unless she has had a few beers) and is quite happy to push it and rough it. As long as I don't try to talk to her in the mornings things are fine.

Jenna once again won the price for the best route finding on the tracks. There were several times when I was in the lead and then she would take a different track and come out in front. Little races add a bit of fun and variety to the day.

It was gray all day and the sun did not quite make it out but it did not rain heavily so it was OK.

Not long after leaving the tourists the river came really close to the road and so we decided to filter some water and also have a wash. It took a while but we were in no hurry.

We looked out for the tourist van for most of the afternoon but did not find them. Once we had stopped at the river for water and a wash the roads improved and we actually managed a good speed. We reached the town of ???

There was as new hotel in town which had really lovely rooms and we contemplated staying and getting our first hot shower in 1 week but it was too expensive (55000 - £27) and so we decided to camp instead. We did stop in town for a lovely meal of mutton, eggs, veg and potatoes though. We hung our tents out on the fence in front to try and dry them out for 30mins or so. I am glad we did as my tent was absolutely soaking.

As we biked out of town we tried to find the tourist Ger camp but still could not see it. The route out of town was very flat and there was no were obvious to camp that was safe. Mongolians have a habit of driving late at night of the tracks and so we did not particular feel like camping close to the side of the road as it would be rather exposed and a car at night might not see us and hit us by accident.

In the middle of the plains there was a strange structure in the distance and so we headed towards that. As we biked along a man with his wife on the back and his child in front accompanied us on his motorbike. We were not sure if he was just fascinated by us or wanted to check we were OK and found a place to camp.

They followed us all they way to the structure. It turned out to be 2 old mud walls, probably an old fort or monastery. They provide excellent protection from the wind of the plains and any vehicles and so we decided to camp there. Our new Mongolian friends seemed to agree and once they had checked that we were sorted they headed off into distance on their bike.

It was a lovely evening, even though gray. We put on some music and set up camp and had a chilled night. The views of the surrounding mountains and the open space is fantastic. I love the fact that in Mongolia you can just set up camp without any problems.

It was a chilled biking day today - only 60km. We wanted to stay with the others in the tourist camp and so we did not push to get very far (as they were only supposed to be 35km from were we met them) but we did not see them.