Sunday, September 8, 2013


July 6. Olgii Mongolia to Kosh-Agach Russia. 180 km
Andrew and John left after a full breakfast in the cafe at the Blue wolf. I was trying to leave about noon but the moto would not start. I thought it was dead battery but jumping and roll start wouldn't work. Finaly it started. I was worried my battery was finally dead. It is the original in this bike and it has had some rough miles. North from Olgii is construction for most of the way to the border. Around 4:00 I was starting to get hungry and stopped in a small village before the border. I asked for a cafe or store. A Mongolia guy on a Chinese moto told me to follow him so I did. He brought me to his house which he said was a guesthouse and he has many motorcycle travelers stay there. His wife cooked noodles and we talked in broken English/Russian/sign language. He was telling me that the border is closed and I should wait till the morning to go through. He wanted me to stay the night so they would get more money. I said I was sorry, I had to go. I paid for the noodles and hauled ass for the border. I got through Mongolian customs quickly. They didn't want me to get stuck before Russian border closed. There is about 6 or 7 km from the Mongolian border post to the actual Russia/Mongolia border. There are Russian police at this post who write down your info then send you to the actual border crossing about 20km further. Once you get through the Russian customs you still need to register with the migration officer about 200m into town. I rode to Kosh-Agach in a rain storm and found a hotel. No internet, no toilet/shower/sink in the room. They had a kitchen you could use though. I cooked some noodles and talked with a guy from Azerbaijan who was now living and working in Russia. He was trying to tell me that AZ is a beautiful place. I told him about my experience and how it was difficult for me to enjoy.

It ran in front of me. then turned around and ran back. then turned around again and I hit it. Sorry little furry guy. 

Russian fishing. Throw as much hooks in the water as you can in hopes of catching all the fish.

July 7. Kosh-Agach to Biysk. 570 km
It was raining when I left Kosh-Agach in the morning. I found temporary motorcycle insurance at a shop at: 49°59'51.87"N, 88°39'57.53"E. It was about $60 for 3 months. I rode to Aktash and saw some motorcycles parked next to a cafe. I went inside and met the Russian bikers who owned the 2 Virago 1100. I told them about my battery troubles and they said they were heading to Biysk and there is a motorcycle spot there where I can get help. The rain lightened up and we weaved around traffic all day to get to Biysk. It was a Sunday so many people were trying to get back home from the weekend in Altai. Biysk, we were welcomed by "Black African" (he has a black African twin). He has been all over Russia and the stans and had a great shop to work in. I had to do a valve check/oil change and I had a funny feeling my starting problem was not the battery. As I pulled the valve cover, the problem was immediate apparent. The auto decompress was not engaging. The screw that holds the auto decompress weight had started to back out of the cam making it possible for the weight to put pressure on the shaft which in turn put pressure on the copper retaining clip. The clip wore to the point of failure and the shaft slid out of the camshaft. For a small amount of time the haft was contacting the valve cover but no major damage. The clip itself remained on the shaft but was moved out of position. We decided to work on the bike in the morning with a clean head. Lots of great food, some vodka and a banya lead to a great night of sleep.

July 8. Biysk
A clip the correct size was proving impossible to find. So I got my calipers out and found a washer with the correct ID. After about 1/2 hour of filing with some fine jewelers files and I had a new clip. I installed the clip on the shaft and re-installed the screw that holds the weight in place with a fair amount of locktite and a freshly cleaned hole. The bike was back to running early in the afternoon but I decided to stay another night. We went into town and found a few fishing shops and I bought a new fly reel and line. We had some dinner and I made plans to leave in the morning.

Lunch. It was filled with meat and cheese. 

The marks are from where the auto decompress lever hit the valve cover some. 

The clip that failed

They insisted I take a cruiser for a ride. 

My front brake pin was well warn. I machined one as a replacement. 
July 9. Biysk to Camping in Altai near Unguday 312 km
I rode in the rain off an on the for most of the morning and afternoon. In the evening I came upon a Russian couple standing next to a TDM 800. They had run out of fuel and costed to a stop about 30 seconds before I got there. I gave them enough benzine to get to the next town and we rode on. When we got to the station in the next town, they wouldn't let me pay for fuel and insisted they fill my tanks. It was about 22 liters and that adds up quickly. They also insisted I come camp with them and share the tequila they had. Since they insisted I didn't want to let them down. We had some food at a cafe then found a place next to a river. The campfire, conversations, and Tequila lasted late into the night.

1/2 of the bikers. 
July 10. To Altai camping near Kuray. 260 km
I woke up sweating in my tent trying to get some water into my dry mouth. I would have to get some food and a nap for this to be a good day. After a quick bath in the cold river we packed up and found a cafe. We met a Turkish guy on an African twin who was also heading toward Mongolia. I explained to him that the the border would be closed for the next 4 days because of the Nadaam festival in Mongolia. No one in Mongolia works during Nadaam, this includes government officials at the border. I had plans of exploring Altai but the Turkish guy was going to try to cross the border. I never learned if he was able to. The Russian couple were going to stay on the pavement so we split a few km after breakfast. I crossed the "suspension bridge" and rode until the 2 track turns into a single track and runs along a cliff. This was all the further I dared to go. A few km from there I found a great sandy beach along the river. It was perfect for a nap. On the map I spotted a few small lakes near Karay that might have fish in them so I decided to try to get to them. While I was leaving I met a girl who said I could come stay with her and some friends at a camp. I'm still kicking myself for not taking her up on the offer. I'm not sure what was in my head. Instead my evening consisted of a few muddy river crossings, not finding a lake to fish in and cooking noodles next to a fire.. also lots of mosquitoes.

Looks perfectly safe. 

I didn't want to go any further in fear of not being able to turn around. 

Great place to nap. 

These flowers were only growing were a road once was.

Svetlana and her nice smile. 

July 11. To camping near Teletskoe lake. 307 km
After a quick breakfast in Aktash I rode up a beautiful pass to get to Ulagan then another pass to get to the large river that feeds Teletskoe lake. I wanted to find a place to fish and camp but I tried to fish a few places and didn't have any luck. I rode to the lake but it was a tourist trap. The road ended and without a boat, there was no place to go. Earlier I had met some people on mountain bikes who rode to the north end of the lake and took a boat to the south end. I did not know if that was possible with a motorcycle. That night I stayed in a campground. Noodles again for breakfast because the fish were being difficult.

Some German bikers I traded info with. 

Thats the road on the right

More Russian Bikers

Seriously. Another sidecar just sitting dying. I want one!

July 12. Near Teletskoe lake to Hotel in Aktash. 177 km
After many days of being skunked, I was determined to get some fish. I tried a few small lakes with no luck. The bank was steep so I could not cast far out without snagging the line in the bushes behind me. A small time later I found a nice stream that had lots of action from the small ones. I finally figured out what the bigger ones were looking for and I had a great lunch. I think it was some sort of char.. but the body was in the fry pan before the heart stopped beating. That evening I stayed in a hotel north of Aktash.

Beautiful.. but no fish wanted to feed me.

I fell once trying to climb this hill

It was super tasty. 

July 13. Aktash to Tuva camping. 245 km
Just south of Kash-Agach, the road to Tuva splits off. For about 15km you ride on tarmac and after a small vilage there is high speed dusty 2 track. After the first river crossing the road got a fraction of the use. The farther you over the pass, the more worse the road gets. Even without the river crossings, you would not be able to take a vehicle that isn't a 4x4. After you enter Tuva the track gets even worse. It is grasslands with rock. Any small river crossing could be a deep mud hole or a rocky mess. I rode as far as I thought was a good idea. I had no permit to be in the border area so I didn't really want to talk with anyone. Later I camped next to a river that flows out of the small lake. The fishing luck from the day before didn't carry over and I was skunked again that night.. and the next morning.

One of many river crossings

Road getting good

Border between Altai/Tuva

Almost go her stuck here. 

My new rim? 

A head gasket. In the road. This is Russia. 

July 14. Tuva to Olgii Mongolia. 287 km
On the way back toward Tosh-Agach I took a wrong turn and found myself riding skipping 2 river crossings that I did the day before. But before I knew it, I had a very steep, long washed out downhill ride to do. Sitting down, feet on the pegs, clutch pulled in, I was "walking" down the slope with as much control as I needed.... until a small baseball sized rock turned over and kicked my front tire left into a washed out rut. Regaining control with the front brake is out of the question at this point. About 30 meters to a flat sharp right.. just ride it out. Let out the clutch and use the front and rear breaks as damage control. The rut got deeper and rocker and soon Katriana decided she didn't want me on her anymore and decided to take a nap in the dirt. The bike went down on the right side and I finally put some scratches in my helmet that weren't from dropping it. The biggest casualty was my mirror mount. This was the one that they welded in Semey.. Broken again but in a different place. I got fuel in Tosh-Agach tried to find an open cafe. No one was working on the Sunday. I met a guy on a GS1200 who had just checked into a hotel who said the border was closed so he would wait till Monday. A few minutes later I met a guy on a KLR who said he had just come through the border. They are rairly open on Sundays, but since they had not been open for the last 4 days of Nadaan, today was an exception. As expected, my passport and visa were over-analyzed by everyone in customs. It was the same people who had looked at it a week earlier but they look at my 3 year tourist visa like it is fake. It started to rain just as I got to the Mongolian post. Just as I was getting off the bike I heard someone say "Noah?". It was Penny and Igor on the old BMW. They were done with their Mongolian tour and heading into Altai. Later they would run into Craig and Patty in Kazakh. They were traveling with a few guys on African twins and one had a flat when he got to customs so they decided to change it under the canopy instead of in the rain. We had a great chat over some chocolate and cookies. Soon I had to say goodbye and get my paperwork done. I rode to Olgii with a Turkish guy on a Tenere 660. We went straight to the Bluewolf but they didn't have any beds available in the Gers so I pitched my tent in the yard. No worries.. I had a shower and wifi. I met 2 girls who were hitch hiking together. One Czech and one Ukraine. They had a similar timeline to get across Mongolia and up to Irkutsk by the end of July. We decided to keep in touch because they could probably get a ride with Kim and I from UB. I went to bed dreaming of which rout to take through Mongolia. I decided to ride to Altai city then decide. Either far south along the Chinese border into the Gobi or through the middle to find a few hot springs.

Katriana was tired. 

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