Ulaangom

We broke camp this morning and started heading towards Ulaangom through the Mongolian wilderness, fantastic country side here but no roads only dirt, gravel or sand tracks but a lovely ride none the less. We arrived at a river crossing (our first in Mongolia!)in the absolute middle of nowhere at least 60km for the nearest town in any direction, Kev rode up the bank looking for a shallow place to cross when he spotted 3 guys with push bikes on the other side. He shouted across asking where a good place to cross was, they wave an pointed to a point near them.  We rode along and off the bank into the river, which was a bit deeper than we were expecting, we made it through with the only casualty being wet trousers and boots for the rest of the day. They hadn’t heard Kev and were just pointing to where they had crossed.

Early morning at 3rd campsite in Mongolia.

Early morning at 3rd campsite in Mongolia.

3rd campsite morning view.

3rd campsite morning view.

Mongolian track towards Ulaangom.

Mongolian track towards Ulaangom.

French cyclists crossing river.

French cyclists crossing river.

So we introduced ourselves and they turned out to be 2 French guys been traveling for the last 2 months on their bikes and an Aussie (Benji) who has been travelling for 6 years on an around the world every country bike ride! (nuts or what). Benji offered us tea so we sat for an hour listening to some of the crazy stuff he has done so far. He had crossed a frozen sea which took him 4 days camping along the way and he had just crossed the Gobi desert.

Aussie cyclist Benji.

Aussie cyclist Benji.

Back on the road and next stop was a small town/village where we stopped for some snacks and a fuel top up. As the guy started to fill our bikes we noticed that a woman was hand pumping the fuel from the pump! Funny how the man was just standing there with the nozzle and the woman was doing the hard work 🙂 . I guess it doesn’t matter where you go in the world, it’s always the same!

Mongolian horsemen.

Mongolian horsemen.

Mongolian track.

Mongolian track.

Eventually arrived at Ulaangom and found a fairly decent hotel for the night. After we had locked the bikes away in a secured garage and showered up we were out for a Friday night beer. Unfortunately Ulaangom isn’t exactly a kicking place and after a couple of pubs and one Karaoke bar (seems to be very popular in Mongolia) we called it a night.

Riding into Ulaangom.

Riding into Ulaangom.

Ulaangom centre.

Ulaangom centre.

Ulaangom.

Ulaangom.

Distance travelled 284kms Max Altitude 1410mtrs
Total Distance travelled 7816kms

2nd to 3rd campsite in Mongolia

We woke this morning and had a lovely breakfast of pasta in creamy sauce (the last of our ration packs 🙁 ), while we were eating a herd of wild hoses appeared on the other bank of the river so we sat and drank tea watching them for a while before breaking camp and heading off.

Wild horses at 2nd Mongolian campsite.

Wild horses at 2nd Mongolian campsite.

Leaving second campsite.

Leaving second campsite.

Mongolian Track.

Mongolian Track.

Kev mixing with the locals.

Kev mixing with the locals.

Noodle lunch.

Noodle lunch.

 

Camel roadblock.

Camel roadblock.

Mongolian track.

Mongolian track.

After a day of fantastic riding we decided to find a site to camp, there was this small mound in the middle of a massive plain surrounded by mountains. What a beautiful setting to spend the night, luckily there was some old fence wood laying around to make a camp fire as there are not many trees in this place!

3rd campsite Mongolia.

3rd campsite Mongolia.

3rd campsite fire.

3rd campsite fire.

Distance travelled 332kms Max Altitude 2035mtrs
Total Distance travelled 7406kms

Tsetserleg to 2nd campsite

Up early today and out for a quick look around and up to the monastery on the hill, weather was lovely warm and sunny. We decided to head west then take the northern route up towards Ulaangom. About lunchtime we stopped at a row of shops to get some noodles, chocolate, etc and decided to see if we could get a cup of tea 🙂 .

Cafe in Mongolia.

Cafe in Mongolia.

Kev drinking Yak milk.

Kev drinking Yak milk.

Towards the end of the day my bikes front tyre punctured just as we entered a village/town for some fuel, so out with the slime pump to get it up enough to ride away from the gathering heard of locals. After about 10 more stops to put more air in, Kev had rode on and found a fantastic camping spot just out of the view of the road next to a large river behind some trees. I decided to let Kev change my tyre as he needed the practice 🙂 . To be fair he did a good job and it only took him about 15 mins.

2nd campsite in Mongolia.

2nd campsite in Mongolia.

This was the first puncture of the trip and I think it wouldn’t have happened, my front was running the standard tube as when we rode to St Petersburg in June to drop the bikes off to the courier I had the front tyre changed to the Michelin Desert at a KTM shop in Germany. I had given them the 4mm tube to replace the standard but they didn’t do it, somehow what I asked for was lost in the translation.
Distance travelled 331kms Max Altitude 2650mtrs
Total Distance travelled 7074kms

Heading west out of Ulaan Baatar

We finally left Oasis with a crowd of fellow travellers waving us off and wishing us well, back across the city again in crazy traffic coming from all directions which was actually good fun.  On the way we bumped into the couple on the fully loaded GS1200 who stayed at Oasis for 10 days waiting for a replacment rear shock, for such a bit bike he was quite nimble through the traffic. Heading out of Ulaan Baatar west was a lovely new tarmac road for the first 400km, then it turned to gravel, mud, corrugated or deep rutted sand tracks. They seem to cut a new track every time the old one gets a bit rough so you find 10 tracks spreading out from the original one all going roughly in the same direction but not necessarily! A couple of times we started our own tracks to get the GPS back on track, we changed our navigation to cross referencing a Mongolian road atlas the GS1200 couple had given us.

Leaving Oasis Ulaan Baatar.

Leaving Oasis Ulaan Baatar.

GS1200 couple riding out of Ulaan Baatar.

GS1200 couple riding out of Ulaan Baatar.

Tarmac road west out of Ulaan Baatar.

Tarmac road west out of Ulaan Baatar.

By 7 o’clock we’d had enough so stopped in a town called Tsetserleg showing a hotel on the GPS, turned out the hotel was attached to yet another Irish pub though it wasn’t like any Irish pub I’ve been in before. The hotel was a bit grotty but we are in a third world country after all, we paid extra for the shower in our room and I guess we should have paid a bit more again for one that worked!

Tsetserleg Mongolia.

Tsetserleg Mongolia.

Cleaned up we headed out to the Irish pub, which was actually some sort of restaurant come karaoke bar. So a couple of beers and a mutton dinner later, Kev orders desert from the menu. The waitress didn’t speak any English and we no Mongolian so he points to a dish at the bottom of the menu thinking it’s desert. 5 minutes later out comes a massive bowl of rice! Oh well another beer and we were finished for the night.

Irish Pub Tsetserleg.

Irish Pub Tsetserleg.

Distance travelled 472kms Max Altitude 1710mtrs
Total Distance travelled 6743kms

3rd day in Ulaan Baatar

We had breakfast and packed up the bikes ready to leave when a couple of Irish lads arrived. They had just finished the Mongol Rally and were setting down here for the night before heading home after donating their truck (or what was left of it) to a local charity. We mentioned that there is a large Genghis Khan statue to the east of Ulaan Baatar and that we were going to ride over to see it, they asked if we’d wait 10 minutes and we could all go in their car (sorted a nice relaxing drive out we thought!). So an hour and half later we were on the road!.

About 40kms East of Ulaan Baatar is a massive stainless steel monument of Genghis Khan

About 40kms East of Ulaan Baatar is a massive stainless steel monument of Genghis Khan

Genghis statue face from the maine of his horse

Genghis statue face from the maine of his horse

View from the top of Genghis Statue

View from the top of Genghis Statue

It took another hour and half to cover the 40km to the monument but was well worth the effort, it’s the largest horse mounted statue in the world. All made of stainless steel, you can go up inside it and walk out on the horses mane which is a long way up!. We spent an hour or so at the statue then headed back to Oasis to get our bikes to head off but by the time we got back we had made arrangements to meet the lads in the Irish pub (Grand Khan) another night in Oasis. A German guy was supposed to be bringing us to see tyres this evening so we waited for him until 9 but he never arrived. Off to the Grand Khan to meet the Irish lads through the heavy traffic across town, by the time we had arrived they had left but not without good reason as 2 days a month in Mongolia you cannot buy alcohol and this was one of those days!. Ended up at Oasis drinking their stock of beers down with some other travellers including 2 aussies that had rode from Amsterdam and were looking at riding the old summer road. They had attempted to ride the northen road across Mongolia but had to turn back shortly after the border with Russia due to heavy flooding of 2 rivers, hope we have better luck in the next few days.

2nd day in Ulaan Baatar

The weather was terrible here this morning, rain absolutely lashing it down so only thing to do was sit in Oasis eating and drinking coffee / tea. After lunch the rain cleared up so off to the black market to see if we can find mirrors and tyres, the place is massive with all sorts of car, lorry, van, and motorbike new and used parts. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any tyres to fit the 690’s and the mirrors were different size stems 🙁 . The receptionist has a few places she can ring around for us to try locate tyres, fingers crossed otherwise we’ll be riding on 4mm tubes by the time we get back to Russia.

Arriving in Ulaan Baatar

Woke up early this morning to a fantastic view, the weather was great and it was actually warm during the night for a change. Kev didn’t wake up until 9am, think the journey is taking it’s toll on the old man 🙂 .

1st campsite in Mongolia.

1st campsite in Mongolia.

1st campsite in Mongolia.

1st campsite in Mongolia.

Today was an easy tarmac ride into Ulaan Baatar only about 150km on tarmac in great weather, biggest hazards were the herds of camels cows and goats on the roads at frequent intervals.
Straight into Ulaan Baatar and an 1 hour ride across the city to Oasis (right over the otherside of the city), traffic here is a nightmare they come at you from all angles so up along the sideways and pavments was a great option. Into the guest house and out with Kev’s sump plug while the oil’s still hot, service and repair time which took all afternoon and into the evening. The bikes have done well so far, only issues we have are the air filters getting blocked but with a clean out with petrol and some spare engine oil over them they are fine for a few days. Later we were off to the centre and an “Irish bar” (Grand Khan!) for a beer, very busy but not an Irish looking lad among them and not one strand of ginger to be seen!. Great pub though then off to a club called strings where they played live music.

Distance travelled 142kms Max Altitude 1595mtrs
Total Distance travelled 6271kms

The ride to Ulaan Baatar

After a lousy breakfast in the hotel we had another walk around the town to find the largest Lenin’s bust in existence, a few pics then back on the bikes for the Mongolian border.

Kev at Lenin's head Ulan Ude.

Kev at Lenin’s head Ulan Ude.

Ulan Ude hotel window view.

Ulan Ude hotel window view.

Ulan Ude hotel window view.

Ulan Ude hotel window view.

The road from Ulan Ude to the Mongolian boarder is good tarmac all the way, with the great weather it was a nice cruise. We arrived at the boarder around 3.30 and started queuing for Russian passport control where we had to fill in 2 forms and get 3 officials to stamp them. Then a 50m ride to the Mongolian immigration where we had to fill out 3 forms and get 5 more officials to stamp them all in different offices! blimey 3 hours to cross and we were lucky there were hardly anyone in the queue.

Mongolian boarder crossing.

Mongolian boarder crossing.

At 6.30pm we eventually get through the boarder through and started on the road down to Ulaan Baatar, it’s not a bad tarmac road with the exception of a few massive potholes and these huge speed humps across the road through towns. We hit a couple of them hard before we realised what was going on, lucky the bikes bounced over them.  Kev almost had an accident as a car stopped in front of him with not brake lights, he skidded along and managed to stop before hitting it.

Sign just after entering Mongolia.

Sign just after entering Mongolia.

Camels on the way to Ulaan Baatar.

Camels on the way to Ulaan Baatar.

When it started to get dark and there wasn’t a chance we would make Ulaan Baatar we decided to pull off the road and camp for the night up in some hills out of the way.
Distance travelled 455kms Max Altitude 1125mtrs
Total Distance travelled 6129kms

Irkutsk to Ulan Ude

Up and another massive Marriott breakfast, visas are due in at 3 pm today but the weather is rubbish so going to chance it after breakfast so we can hit the road early. Received an email back from Ulaan Baatar saying tyres shouldn’t be a problem, we also need mirrors and a new rear left indicator each which hopefully we can get in Mongolia.

Marriot Hotel Bikes.

Marriot Hotel Bikes.

Arrived at the Mongolian consulate for 11 and our visas were in so were off in the pissing rain and heavy traffic with our worn out Michelin deserts! Filtering through the traffic I hit a tram line and the bike went from under me so quickly I didn’t have time to catch it, lucky no trams or cars got int the way. We rode along the bank of the bottom edge of Baikal which should have been a beautiful ride but due to the heavy rain and traffic spray visibility was bad. The tarmac road hugs Baikal for about 250km with plenty of twists and turns, with the right tyres and good weather this would be a fantastic ride.

Cafe on the way to Ulan Ude.

Cafe on the way to Ulan Ude.

After 400km we hit Ulan Ude soaked to the skin and half froze we decided to stay in a hotel here for the night, after a shower to warm up we were out on the town for food and a bit of sight seeing.
Distance travelled 402kms Max Altitude 950mtrs
Total Distance travelled 5674kms

2nd day in Irkutsk

Another massive breakfast later we pop to reception to ask them we need to stay another night,  The women behind the desk informs us they are fully booked tonight! NOOOOOOOOO!!!! What about tomorrows breakfast! She sees how distressed we are  and says she will ask her supervisor if there is anything they can do, maybe we can pitch our tents in the garage next to the bikes 🙂 . Off we went into the centre to find a bike shop for replacement mirrors now the traffic is building up, didn’t find any mirrors but I did get a self inflating mat (No more camping on tables!).  Back at the hotel and good news, we are able to stay another night. Wifi is available in the hotel lobby so time spent catching up on emails and updates etc, then emailed the place we will be staying in Ulaan Baatar asking if they can get new tyres in as they do bike rentals it may be possible.

Irkutsk.

Irkutsk.

Irkutsk Coffee shop.

Irkutsk Coffee shop.

Talk about a country of extremes, we have gone from having a quick rub round our privets with baby wet wipes in the wilderness to 2 showers a day and restaurant quality food!