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!

1st day in Irkutsk

After a fantastic sleep in a lovely comfortable bed it was up and down to the Marriott buffet breakfast, where we sat for an hour and watched the empty plates pile up in front of us as we went through everything on offer. Anyone watching would have thought we hadn’t eaten for weeks though we had been eating well we just had no proper western food for weeks, Kev almost had an orgasm when he found out they had fresh milk for his tea!

Mongolian Commission.

Mongolian Commission.

After breakfast straight down to the Mongolian consulate for our visa’s where we found out the really expensive 1 day service takes 3 days and cost £70 due to it being a Mongolian public holiday tomorrow. Stuck in the Marriott for 2 more nights, what a nightmare! 😉

Irkutsk Centre.

Irkutsk Centre.

After sorting out applying for the visa’s we headed into the shopping area to look for a replacement phone for my water damaged one. Irkutsk is a large city with many shops so wasted the day walking around looking at various things, eventually finding a new phone for me (another expense!). This evening we went to the centre of town and had a pint in the London pub then one in the English bar but the Dubliner was nowhere to be found 🙁 .

Zhigalovo to Irkutsk

After a good nights sleep and a stock up of water, chocolate and crisps from the shop we lined the bikes up for the obligatory photo of Lenin!

Zhigalovo Lenin

Zhigalovo Lenin

What a different day today from yesterday, the road started off rough but the growth at the sides started to disappear and views over the Lena river started to open up which revealed stunning scenery. After the first 150km the mountains started to shrink and massive plains opened up before us, the sheer scale here is amazing when you think the western part of the BAM road is 1500km which is like riding a green lane from Lands End to John O’Groats.

Lena river ride from Zhigalovo.

Lena river ride from Zhigalovo.

Lena river ride from Zhigalovo.

Lena river ride from Zhigalovo.

Just before entering the outskirts of Irkutsk trucking along at about 70mph on nice tarmac my chain decided to call it a day and one of the links snapped in the middle. Just as well I had bought along a spare new one, so an hour later we were back on the road into Irkutsk. First real issue with my bike for the trip so far, apart from both wing mirrors vibrating themselves to death by shaking off at the stems.

Mark's broken chain.

Mark’s broken chain.

Kev's 3rd pair of sunglasses!

Kev’s 3rd pair of sunglasses!

First stop we thought was to find the Irkutsk bike club HQ with the waypoints we had, then to get some information on where to stay and what to do whilst waiting for the Mongolian visa’s. Only problem was the club isn’t there anymore but a young lad pulled up in a car and wanted to help us, after speaking to seems like 10 of the lads friends on the phone and 2 hours had past we were still no closer to finding a bed for the night. Everyone we have met here (with the exception of the physco hunter that had previously shot at us) has been great and gone to great lengths to help us but as nice as it is sometimes it’s a bit of a hindrance. By this time it was getting late around 8pm and we had nowhere to stay, we were covered in dust and our bike kit at this stage stinks to high heaven so every hotel we tried told they we fully booked! Finally we got a room in the Marriott where the young girl on reception asked us why we were wearing funny cloths 🙂 ,  This was the first western style hotel we had staying in during our trip and it was heaven 🙂 !

Outside the old Irkutsk biker HQ.

Outside the old Irkutsk biker HQ.

Arrived in Irkutsk.

Arrived in Irkutsk.

 

Distance travelled 414kms Max Altitude 740mtrs
Total Distance travelled 5272kms

Severobaikalsk to Zhigalovo

After a good nights sleep and hearty breakfast we set off with Zhigalovo our next planned stopover. It’s about half way between Severobailkask and Irkutsk on the west side of lake Baikal. Tough going today road was the usual bumpy gravel potholed dusty track we have become accustomed to. 8 hours of bone shaking teeth rattling endurance riding later we arrived at the destination and found a B&B marked on Walter Colebatch’s way points.

Zhigalovo B&B.

Zhigalovo B&B.

Bit of a dull day today Kev didn’t even take many pic’s as we were inland from the lake following the Lena river on a road not shown on our map and lined with trees so no view. Tomorrow we have another  400km spin to Irkutsk where we will have a few days off to chill out and sort the Mongolian visa’s out, we’re getting a bit tied now so need a rest! I think now that we have done out main objectives we have crashed a bit on the energy front so R&R is needed.

Distance travelled 435kms Max Altitude 1210mtrs
Total Distance travelled 4858kms