We leave early from Cheke's house after she blesses our bike with milk she splashes on the tyres. Oh my gawd we are doing it!! Less than an hour later flat tyre. Pull over at servo and a man who works there checks it out with us. "Hmm looks like a flat tyre" he says "we're going to have to take the tyre off and patch the hole" He doesn't speak English but I am a very good translator of hand gestures! Some of his mates pop round in a mini bus and come over to help us take the tube out. Men here love to pull their shirts up to expose their bellies when it's hot and man did his friend have a belly! Later he came out with his gut out just mungin' on a huge meat bone possibly mutton! He was a man!
After about an hour we fixed the bike and by 'we' I mean not frosty or me. Braaaap down the road we fly! Our bike has a large feather taped to the mirror by the last rider so we nickname her the Red Eagle and boy does she fly! With our gear and both our bodies, we can get to top speeds of 170km!!! Sorry, did I say 170km? I meant 70 km and she doesn't like it much. On we cruised until an hour later when our chain popped off. More guys come and help. Easily fixed! Hand shakes all round! braap some more.
It's damn hot here! Not as hot as Australia though because if you can find some shade the breeze is cool. There just isn't any shade! No trees, not even on the hills. Just short grass as far as the eye can see. We found a type of grass that smells like a cross between lemon myrtle and eucalyptus and if you drive past a herd of goats and sheep munching on the grass you get a huge whiff of it. Reminds me of Australia! It's a nice touch.
In the afternoon we decide to look for our night's camp spot. It was common for drunk men to steal your bike so there were a few rules to follow when deciding on a spot. Don't camp next to the main road, or near a town and be careful of guest houses as they can call their friends to take your bike in the middle of the night. Do camp with nomads, they love it and their dogs guard the camp, or stay in a ger camp set up for tourists as they have security. Off to the left we saw a prime spot. Near some water, beautiful hills, far away from road and nomads! We introduced ourselves to the first family and were quickly ushered into their ger for a large cup of airag and other delicacies (see Crunch n Sip).
The family was made up of husband and wife,their 13 year old son and two daughters 6 and 1. The one year old was hilarious! She was so serious and just wanted to be an adult, without the pants.The mum and daughters took us down to the river to wash off the days dust and afterwards we relaxed in our tent but not entirely by choice. Their guard dogs had been let off early and didn't like us or our tent. They would sniff around it and growl and bark at the tent. So we settled in for the night, our grand plans of cooking dinner out the window what with us being under house arrest. So we ate our 2 minute noodles dry and got comfy. Every now and then we would stick our heads out to see if the dogs were near and sneak out for some fresh air.
A little while later the family tied up the boss dog and invited us over for some food! We chewed on mutton bones and had mutton noodle soup. They traditionally pick the bones clean with a knife so there's no waste. So all the meat fat and gristle went down to our bellies! Because we had already had our 2 minute noodle feast I just had the one bone but Frosty went back for seconds. He was in the zone man!!
Later on we had milk tea and shared conversations using the basic phrases in our lonely planet book. They were such a lovely family. I even showed them photos on my phone of mum, dad, my two sisters and Beanie.It was so peaceful and quiet there.
We were exhausted by our big day and very keen for some good old fashioned sleeping. Back to house arrest we went too scared to even go out to pee! At least we knew our bike was safe. We were woken late in the night by men coughing and clearing their throats. Someone was speaking really weirdly, maybe a kid? We could hear them walking all around us. Was that a fart? And another?! Those are some gassy men! Baaaa! Bloody hell goats are freaky! They sound just like people sometimes!! My god these goats could fart.
aaaaand break down!
lunch spot day one.
Our picturesque camp spot night one!
The next morn we packed up, gave our lovely family some gifts for their hospitality and started on our next adventure. The roads were good. Very good but our GPS seemed to be playing up. It said we were in a totally different spot. That's weird! Hours later we figured out we must have been so caught up in the thrills of our first day that we missed a turn somewhere. We weren't lost! Just on a different track so we changed our travel plans to match.
The dogs here are crazy! Some families set up their gers right next to the road so on a few occasions we've had the camp dogs come sprinting up to our moving bike to try and get us! One in particular got pretty damn close. I thought we were either going to hit it or it would bite my leg or both! I lived to tell the tale and the dog lived to wag it's tail.
We got to our second nights camp in no time! Four hours! We stayed in a lonely little ger camp that was set at the base of some very cool rocks. We climbed around in the cool evening air taking photos and just generally loving life. We were still in a bit of shock at what we were doing! That evening we saw the most amazing sunset and feasted on lentils and pasta cooked lovingly in our cosy ger.
Our third day was a hot one! The roads turned to crap and it was very tiring but we only had a little-ish way to go. It was a mix of bitumen and dirt with huge potholes that sometimes didn't look like potholes until you were on top of them. For the most part it was easier to ride next to the road on dirt tracks rather than on it.
One of these dirt tracks curved around to meet up with a bridge that was part of the new fancy road they were building. But they had just closed it! So we looked around to see a bunch of other cars further down the creek with people on both sides peering into the creek and pointing. We went down to join them. Also there was some cops and a giant excavator. They were trying to figure out an alright looking section they could turn into a pass. We saw trucks floor it through and little cars get stuck. The excavator had done a good job by the time Frosty gave it a go, leaving me stranded on the other side. How was I going to get across? I was going to ask a car to take me but they all looked full. More cars were crossing and another got stuck. This was my chance. I plunged into the icy water and waded across to the other side. I amazingly didn't even get wet because it was only ankle deep and I have water proof boots. I'm pretty much bear grylls.
pitt stop with some locals. their dogs tried to chase the bike so we had to roll down the hill with the engine off!
Our nights ger in Kharkhorin was near a river. We were boiling, dusty and exhausted from the ride today so treated ourselves to a dip in the water. It was bloody freezing but oh so good!
In town we visited Erdene Zuu Khiid the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. It was pretty amazing in its heyday but Stalin smashed most of it in a hissy fit so only part of it remains. What's left of it is still pretty amazing and has been used as a working Monastery again since the 90's.
Our fourth day was saweeeet! Nice roads and even a bit of scenery change! For the first three days we saw grassy plains and distant hills. Today we saw small, rocky mountains and the road even went around the base of some curving here and there. The town we stopped at, Tsetserleg, even had trees! Real ones! we treated ourselves to two nights accommodation in a guesthouse with hot showers and laundry! I even got to Skype my mousey girl and her hairy, shirtless man friend.
Our fifth day we spent in Tsetserleg. Back to our old mode of transport, our feet, and our old style, getting lost. We visited a museum at the old monastery which had heaps of great old artefacts like gers, weapons, traditional outfits, kitchen and horse riding stuff. We also walked to the top of a hill to see the Galdan Zuu Temple which gave excellent views of the town.
Mongolia has some pretty interesting history. The craziest thing I read was about a guy in 1920 they called the Mad Baron, though probably not to his face. He was a renegade White Russian who believed he was the reincarnation of Genghis Khan and went around burning people alive in giant ovens or throwing them into locomotive boilers! And he called himself a Buddhist! He then took over a city over the Mongolian border and declared himself the Emporer of Russia. Talk about bat shit crazy! They shot him, but not before declaring him Emporer of crazy town.
Time to get out of Tsetserleg! We woke up to the relaxing sound of rain on our roof. Ah shit! We changed our plans to suit the weather over a hot cuppa and breakky. It was way too crazy to go to the lake but a little less crazy to ride to some hot springs! After um-ing and ah-ing we decided on a dead set, sweet plan. Enjoy breakfast, pack our bags, pay for room now go get bike. Holy shit it was pissing down!! Well we underestimated that from the inside. Quick, run to the bike! Go, go, go. What the shitting hell? Flat tyre! Shiiiiit! Stand in rain like looking like idiots while we decide what to do. Never taken a bike tyre off, don't really trust our skills. So we zip up our rain jackets and wheel the Red Eagle to the mechanics in the pouring rain. It's shut. Classic! Have a giggle then wheel the bike back. Pass another guy pushing his bike in the rain. This craze is catching on fast!
With the help of the lovely old caretaker we manage to change the tube and the rain even stopped! By this time it was late arvo so we decided to go half hour down the road to the next town. It's claim to fame is a giant rock which apparently has inscriptions on it that are thousands of years old though you'd be lucky to find them amongst all the graffiti though.
You still with us? Today was the longest, most beautiful and most back smashing day yet. It started off sunny but extremely freezing. The cold got through all our layers and the warmth we had felt from our delicious pancake breakfast was wearing off.
Along the road we saw pine forest covered hills, a river with huge rocky cliffs, a flock of falcons swooping, snow covered mountains, darting squirrels, pine-clad lava fields, a volcano and we met the sweetest boy and girl at our lunch spot. They even served us a piping hot bowl of Not Mutton soup! AKA beef.
We also saw the worst roads ever! Our poor little Red Eagle wasn't sounding too pleased. It was hilly, rocky, sandy, gravelly and sometimes muddy from the rain. Our bums hurt, our knees were sore and our backs were getting smashed but holy crap it was stunning! We finally see our destination. 1 kilometre. 500 metres. 200 metres. 100 metres and we slow to avoid a pot hole aaaand stop. One hundred metres away. She won't start. We giggle and push her the last leg. She sorted herself out. I think it was her protesting from the 8 hour day (we stopped a lot).
At our camp we make a boring lentil dinner because we are running out of money. We have heaps in our bank, just forgot to get more out at an ATM like we do. At least we have a cozy fire and protection from the raging wind.....and a pack of oreos!
Worried about our lack of money, Frosty headed into town the next day to see if the bank would give us some. In the meantime, I went to pay for our nights accommodation and the lady only charged me for one person! score! So we had a bit more money to play with. Frosty went and stocked up on food to get us through and we set up our tent on the banks of the lake with our very own sandy beach spot. Spent the day relaxing in the sun, frolicking in the icy water and feasting on the goodies Frosty bought back.
At about 5pm the Mongolian version of The Gang rocked up and set up camp about 1 metre away. Dad got out of the car and ripped the biggest fart ever before pitching the tent. We just stayed in our tent trying not to giggle too loudly! It was slightly annoying that they cramped our style but they made up for it by inviting us over for dinner.
We had an early start the next day because we knew what was in store with the roads back to tsetserleg. Red Eagle was running really rough. We could barely keep up the 50km pace and she was coughing and spluttering all over the place. going up hills was hilarious, I'm pretty sure people could have walked faster than us, if there was anyone around. She still wanted some action though so we popped a mono doing a creek crossing. That sorted her for a while.
After 4 hours we decided to stop for lunch on the side of the road. We found the dustiest spot we could and collapsed in a heap. Boiling up our tea we spotted another tourist on a moto going passed. We knew it was a tourist because we are the only ones who wear helmets. We waved at the solo rider who decided to turn around and come visit.Jeff was holidaying from California and doing the big circuit we had originally wanted to do up to khovsgol lake. We looked like a bunch of dirty rats compared to Jeff who looked clean and had nice bike gear and heaps of energy. He even had beers with him! What a legend! While fro and I were sharing our last tea bag he cracks a coldy and gives us some. All we had to offer was a bland biscuit. Wasn't really a fair swap.
One of the things I had imagined doing in Mongolia was to watch a big storm roll in across the landscape. Sitting with Jeff we saw the big dark clouds on the horizon and the warm wind got windier. It was like a summer storm. Soon big, cold drops sploshed on us and our energy picked up. We said our goodbye s to Jeff and quickly got our shit ready to try and outrun the stormy beast! It was heading a different direction which was good because I'm pretty sure we wouldn't have made it. We felt heaps energised after our Pitt stop with Jeff and in no time we were back in Tsetserleg exhausted, slightly dehydrated but ready for a beer. We had the best nights sleep listening to the rain outside.
what, this old thing? Jeff the Legend!
Get up early ready to take on the day! Breakfast and planning. All looks good. Frosty takes Red Eagle to mechanic for a fix while I pack (and relax). He comes back with a whole new bike! Not literally but the mechanic was a whizz who did heaps without frosty asking and it only cost us $20!
After a quick hot choccy we were off and by golly didnt the Red Eagle purr! I don't think we had heard her sound so good and we were hitting 80 on the speedo! along the road we saw four of the big vulture looking hunting birds. They were massive and it was a buzz to see them. We were going to make it after all!
We were going to take the north road back to ulaanbaatar through Orkhon valley which we were looking forward to because it was meant to be beautiful. There was also Ogii lake and a town that had some old ruins and bushwalks to keep us occupied. Flying along the road we made it to Ogii lake turn off in no time. Slowing down, Frosty applies the breaks as one does, and CLUNK! He pulls off to the side. Our back brake has snapped clean!! I don't know what a back brake is meant to look like but I'm pretty sure it's not meant to be dragging on the ground. we pull over and inspect the damage and try to tie the loose parts up with fluro rope. some locals are impressed! We are getting the hang of it!
The north road has only small towns that are spread apart. There was a risk we would get to a town and there would be no mechanic. It also had an 80 km stretch of apparently terrible road. So we had to go back the way we came, along the south road. It was pretty funny how much our plans had changed since we started. It definitely wasn't about the destination! I was surprised at how well we took it all too. We just laughed it all off and did what we had to do. Which was be awesome, on a tiny bike, with matching helmets.
A lovely old man with many skills fixed Red Eagle in Kharkhorin for a miniscule fee and all was right with the world again. on our way out to dinner we ran out of petrol......:) :)
We had to cut our time slightly short in Mongolia so we had enough time in China before catching up with the ever demanding Princess Marty and Queen Mouse (we just can't resist their charms!!!) so our last day was long and tough but still awesome. It was about 400km with a mix of beautiful roads, crap roads, rain and shine! We thought maybe we would be a little bored going back the way we came but no siree!! It was like a totally different track and all because of the weather. The sky was like patchwork with spots of sun, rain, grey cloud, blue sky. It was beautiful, freezing, but beautiful.
We finally made it to the dirt back road that took us back to Cheke's house only 15 minutes away. we did it! We had been so nervous in the beginning and just a little unsure but it had all been worth it! Did we come in this way? No over there. Frosty takes us down a muddy path, our wheels spin and the only way we go is down. Into the muddy puddle. we roll onto our backs and just lay for a bit happy for the break. If there was a word to describe the sound of our stack I think it would be 'floomph'. Well, we had to have one stack I'm glad it was that! We were laughing so hard because it would have looked ridiculous but luckily only some cows were watching. We now look the part covered in mud. I think we can tell people we did the Dakar rally.
Back in UB we had hot showers, a massive Korean feast,a Skype with our damsels in distress Marty and Mouse and the best sleep ever.
There's been a hero of this loooong and arduous story. Someone who made me feel safe, made me laugh and got me through a crazy journey. I'd like to thank that person and thank them I shall. The person I'm going to thank is this, the person to thank and who should be thankful for the thanking is Steven Segal. I love that guy.
WE DID IT!
We sure did!
Crunch n SipNot the most inspiring cuisine ever, but still tasty. Well, most of it!
- Airag - fermented hhorse milk, 3%
- Guriltai suui - handmade noodle soup with mutton or beef
- Süütei tsai - milk tea with salt
- Aaruul - dried milk curds
- Mutton and veg soup - the best part was the huge slabs of cabbage!
- Stir fried, handmade noodles with mutton
- Mutton and beef goulash. Beef was better!
- Salads - cabbage and cucumber, grated carrot, and coleslaw
- Plov - rice with beef, carrot and potato. Their take on pilau, not as successful
- Bansh - small mutton dumplings served in milk tea
- Khuushur - fried dumplings with mutton and onion
- Buuz - steamed dumplings with mutton and onion
- The best lunch I had! Big beef chunks served with mash, rice and coleslaw drenched with delicious gravy mmmmmm gravy
- Best breakfast! Potato pancakes fried in plenty of oil and served with jam. I feel the pants getting tighter!
- Tiny little berries that looked like miniature gooseberries and extremely tart.
- Mutton bones!
- Korean feast! Kimchi and tofu stew, bipimbap (rice, veg, pickle, meat and fried egg served in clay pot), bulgogi (fried beef stir fry) all serve with sides of kimchi, pickled cucumber, seaweed soup, pickled seaweed, vermicelli salad, battered tofu, shallot pancake, sprout salad and potato salad. Ooooh my gawd
-Vegan varieties of kushuur and buuz (filled with soy and veg)