From Ulanbator(americanized spelling) to Tetserleg, almost 500 miles in just over 4 days.
Looking out our Hotel room window in Tetserleg.
We are walking the fast moving and somewhat dirty streets of Ulanbaataar, for a city of it’s size its pretty rough. Considered to have the highest crime rate per capita inthe world, as we read and have been told. All windows at street level are barred, all sidewalks are iether missing or severally frostheaved and cracked. Most of main street has 2 or 3 story buildings facing the street, in front of each building is an added on sort of leanto style store front, selling hair products, stereos,motorcycle repair, etc, you name it and it is here. Huge number of Hummers and Mercedes 500 sport vehicles. We are just window shopping so it does not really matter what we see. Pine is bothnervous and elated at the same time since he has over 1 $million in cash in the right pocket and about $6500.00 in cash in the other……..of course this is in Tugrik and Rubles……..all that cash added up in Usa would by 2 nice steak dinners.
Pine checking the map while we stop for water in Rashant
Many folks called this the true Big Sky country, and in many senses it certainly is a huge piece of blue sky landscape. No where near as grand as say our own Montana though. There are just a few things the guidebooks dont mention……like you literally never are out of sight of a Yurt as we have been told to call them in school, or a Ger. The ubiquitous felt round houses are everywhere. We stopped for the night in no particular place, just stopped when we got tired at the end of 65miles……we counted 48 Yurts in view. These nomadic stockmen, basically graze alongside the highways and within a few miles of them.
Yaks, have beenplentiful even though we are not yet in true Yak country, but that is comkng up soon.
Basically, I hate to say it but the grasslands are horrendously filthy with trash. It does not bother these folks to just flat toss it when done. Glass is smashed on the old yurt site, and anything not needed is burned right there. Water is a problem in much of the country we have rode thru, for all involved including the animals. As a generality they are friendly folks, but we have encountered a few that are very standoffish and give of a distinct “get lost vibe”.
Yaks, even though we are not yet in true Yak country…….that country is coming up.
The roads are just unbearably ruff, and my butt and Pines look like Santa,s hat…….might have to bend strait over in the next Pharmacy and ask the bespecktacled Pharmacist for his bezt advice. Heck, it may even make the Mongolian Daily Tribune……..a little publisity can’t hurt isn’t that the popular saying. We have found that these folks just seem to pop out of the ground at will, we have hadseveral wierd happenings that are just wierd. One night, as Pine and I sat in our tent to get out of a very cold north wind, this women just poof appears at the tent and without invite or hesitation climbs right in with us…? After wiping the panicked surprise from our faces, aksing what planet she just fell off of and other more pertinent bits of information…..she invites us to come stay at her Yurt and eat supper with her family. But where we ask, she climbs out and points back to the north west about 2 miles to a distant yurt…..smiles and
Looking thru the wall at Erdensan Monestary
Pretty typical to have a free moving horse herd move thru a villiage
Well, we already had camp set up, so now we pull it all down, get it all on the bikes and convince our burning tired legs they only need to go another 2 mkles in soft sand and grass for a true rest.@#&££#@ was the reply that we both felt. Off we go, start with the first yurt thinking that had to be it………after a long drawn out ‘potatoe, potatoe” attempt at a conversation…..we all smile and leave to try the next yurt that is visible. Same thing as the first Yurt, and onto now a third more distant yurt, and always the same thing……not this one. Its now nigh on dark, and we need to eat and get to bed, so we trudge back to where we initially had camp and set it all up again. We were half puzzled, and half perterbed that we missed out on what may have been a fun encounter……we will never know now.
Looking back on Luz, from ten miles out. Great stop for cold water
Then we had a camp inwhich we set our tents up not under but close to a Mongolian power line. Everything went according to Hoyle, camp is up, we made muttoned noodles with sliced up small golden potatoes. We sat in the tent and visited and I worked on the blog pages……vroom,vroom znd along came a motorcycle with the usual pair or shepard riders in huge bright colored ropes tied at the waste with a brighter sash. Both fellows where pretty young, maybe mid thirties and all smiles and white teeth…….one guy hopped right off and came and sat in the tent with us, mi ni nereg Pine, and mi ni nereg Jeremiah. He was looking at the tablet, so I went thru some images of home in California as well as China images, he seemed amused, smiled, got up and left about as the manner he came in to the tent. So Pine and I turn in, the wind is just howling outside, trying to rip our tents out of the ground. About 2am, we are woke up by a motorcycle and its headlight right at the tent. 2 fellas, not drunk smelling, just concerned that we are to close to the power lines to be safe……….after much discussion we reneg and move camp another 500 yards out……omg we are dog tired and thankful, and they are gone. Maybe 10 minutes goes by, we are both crawled back in……and we hear Pine,Pine from someplace in the abyss of darkness that surrounds us. We crawl out, no light, nothing to know where they are? We walk towward the sound, and finally find them and the tipped over motorbike. Big problems is what we get from the younger of the two, and he demonstrates that the bike will not start……..over and over he tells us the story of how they fell and electricity will burn us, and then again, and again. There is gas, no spark, and no ignition…….we look around and find they now have no plug wire………can we have cigarette, you have cigarette……..you have no plug wire you idiot…..once again, we having that Mogolian potatoe,potatoe conversation. They up and decide to just push the bike, great idea we say, shake thier hands and watch them leave…..slowly.
Pine. Checking out the countryside from one of our camps.
At the moment our bikes seem to be running just fine, but roads like the last few days will take thier toll I am sure. Its a mystery, we run into dirt walls crossing the roads, it forces all traffic off the road out onto the grass. There are places where there may be 5 to 7 different paths to take. Then for no reason, you are back on the paved road, and quarter mile or 3 miles later, you are kicked off again. We figure its Mongolias mystery, much the same as the Italians have the mystery of creating the octagonal Duomo on top the Cathedral. My thought is, that given that we still have reminents of buffalo trails in USA from those longago days…..Mongolian steppes will never heal from thier car created buffalo trails. Many of these bypass roads are 4 feet deep inplaces, and you will have 4 or more of these roads created on each side of the blocked area of perfectly good highway…..go figur.
Just another street in Tetserleg.
Have a real problem with the wiring that runs from our high dollar Son 28 hub. At this point it has never worked and the wiring tabs are always getting pulled off. I sent them an email suggesting a couple of very easy changes they could make leaving you with a bullet proof hub connections……but I guess its just more advice from someone you dont know…….not sure I would take my advice either. But itsa hell of an idea. Another piece of equip we have come to hate is our useless Bontrager speedometer. Way to finicky for a rugged expedition type tour. I should press it flat under my boot heel so its easier to mail home????? without any doubt, we are just amazed at the Schwalbe brand Ultra Marathon Plus tires we are running, cant tell you how impressed we are with them. We bought all Ortlieb brand panniers, great product. We bought the stuff from Wayne who runs the Touring Store, which is an online store, thanks to wayne and his sound advice on preparing the bags for a rough tour, they have worked perfectly. Big thanks Wayne & The Touring Store.com folks.
Mongolian Wood Duck
Pine and I, have been Praying diligently for my knees healing. Pine has been Praying for it to be better so I can ride further, while I have been Praying with a little more of a self centered reason. I want it all better, so my big buddy Terry Hinkey does not get a chance to fold me in half during physical therapy. What ai have been doing is wrapping just below the kneecap, using a elastized velcro strap meant to hold my tent. I am using it much like a chronic Illiotibial Band…..ther ya go Terry, hows that for big word out of a canyon folk.
Pine, checking out whats for supper tonight, wait for it…………….wait for it…………..its coming…………Ramen
We like Mongolia, albeit just a tad monotenous in its geography, it. Its like a ride from Magrath to Manyberries in the spring……..thats it folks. Like crossing North Dakota 4 times,non stop. What else can be said, other than the head winds have been a brute for the most part. Todays winds were hitting close to 40, dropped to the low ring to just move forward, or to pedal down a danged hill for that matter. Plenty of climbs, especially today, with 8 good stiff climbs plus that headwind. The little stretch from approx 30 miles south of Tetserleg on into town is the prettiest piece yet, just gorgeous with some snow capped peaks off to the west. The road folows the river bottom, and the river is lined with huge cotton woods and larch.
Pretty much all the Yurts right on the road have warm but safe bottled water that they sell. Some even keep some snack sort of stuff to sell. So, while we do carry a full and very heavy dromedary, we are niether convinced it is needed. And yet inthe back of our collective minds, we know we could get into serious ttrouble in a hurry without the added water and carry as just that, precaution…….and my wife told me too………good enough. One day as we topped a stiff climb and were dogged. Bang right there was a row of slum lord yurts (real ratty). One sun baked fellow in herdsman garb calls out as he hunkers on the front step to his Yurt. Hotel, hotel he says. We walk over for a rest…….hotel, hotel and he motions us in. In we go, and it is very clean inside, a women motions us to a tiny bench beside a table for us to sit on. Poor Pine, his knes were higher than his ears. The women takes a huge thermos and 2 cups and pours us some tea. The tea, is heavily doused with sheep milk and salt. Not to bad really, except for that lingering mutton taste. Another fellow gets invited in, he sits across the table from us, he is a fellow Mongolian and gets the tea himself. The women walks over to a board laying over a blue plastic barrel, takes up her clever and whacks off some pieces of sheep body parts with a clever…….chop,whack,smash and gersplit goes the sheep. She takes up the meat chunks with both hands, the meat is heavily laden with fat, she tosses that into a large bowl sitting on the stove which is 2 feet to our left. It sizzles and frys in its own fat for a little, she then gets on here hands and knees and ,ifts the bedding on a bed in the ger, draws out a huge bowl covered in towels, she throws those back and digs out several hand fulls of noodles whichshe adds to the stuff on the stove. A tiny 3 year old now enters and plays in the huge noodle bowl like its an everyday fun time thing????? We are mesmirized, as she soundly wipes her hands off on a pantleg, then adds a deft pinch of salt like a suus chef would, knowing the creation is now perfect. Pine and I, are both thinking we are about to be served noodles……..nope, she fills a huge bowl and gives it to the other fellow. I think she sensed our dissapointment, she takes the bowlscrapings and puts them into a small bowl for Pine. She makes a motion to the fellow with the fresh huge bowl, and we wonder? He then takes Pines bowl, he reaches into his own bowl using a spoon and his thumb to load the spoon twice in this fashion and placng his diggings in Pines bowl. All good, smiles all around, now shut up and eat
We hit 98 onthe bikes, so we rolled up in that cement culvert……….dang near died of hypothermia
We are dirty, no, we are filthy is more apprepo.(french word thrown in to appease my international fanbase). We have the usual one bottle shower every night, but we need to take a real shower at some point soon. I have 25 mosquitos in my tent with me right now, and they are trying there darndest to get out as I sit here typing.
Pine and his first plank. The irony, the cycilic letters spell out “no planking here”, gosh darn, so sorry, we just didnt know.
I had best turn in, we sit on a grassy bench of land over looking a huge grand grass covered flat that runs clear to the horizon with narry a bump nor imperfection on its surface. Whiles its beautiful to behold, its a pain to cycle thru, as you stuggle to fend off monotony.
Little update, we are now sitting in a very questionable Hotel in Tetserleg. This small outback village is a filthy little place that clings like a dirty barnacle to the hills that surround and bosome this forlorn place. The hills are dry and sandy soil, and the streets are dirt, so dust abounds. The surrounding hill tops are jagged rock spires made up of what looks to be more like shale than of granite, constant sloughing of small rock rubble down the hillsides.The houses are ramshackle affairs with an assortment of gaily painted rooves and rusting metal rooves, most houses are made of wood boards cut locally. The streets are steep and unkept, with dogs and trash in abundance. We checked into our rattrap hotel, sort of showered with a spray hand piece and cold water. Washed a few cloths in the sink, hunk those on the bikes to dry. Headed out to explore the town. La dee daa, thats done
Sheep dumplings, were actually pretty good. While we sat there the cook drug a live sheep right in thru the front door, rignt past us and threw the proverbial swinging door…….slit her throat and butchered her right there. The whole place smelled like Hannibal Lecters kitchen for about half hour……………… but after that there was even fresher meat on the menu.