Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mongolia Southern Route

July 15. Olgii to camping near Khold. 255 km
15 km south of the city the construction started. The main routes in Mongolia are the worse for bumpy roads. Especially when they get beat to shit by the haul trucks. It was slowish going the whole day. If this is how the whole southern route is, I definitely did not want to take it. I came up to an overland truck parked by the road and I stopped to say hi. It was 2 older German guys who put together a rig to travel in. They were giving a ride to the 2 hitchhiking girls. At least I know they were going in style. They would run into problems and it would take them about 7 days to get to UB in that truck. The coffee was great! I knew I was on a well traveled route when I had kids asking me for food and money. On the northern route, this never happened. Also, people trying to sell you shit. There were a few people on the side of the road with an eagle you could take a picture with. I decided to stop and ask how much. "5000" he said. This is about $3 and didn't really need a picture of me with an eagle. So I start the bike to drive away.. "1000" he yells. Ok now I'll do it. We snap a few pictures and he wants me to take a pic of he and his friend. I had him 1000 and he says "5000". I tell him you said 1000. He knows I'm not going to give him 5 so he takes the 1k and pretends he wasn't trying to screw me... out of $2.30. When I was in Olgii I heard there was a quarantine around the entire area. There were rumors no one could leave or enter. I had no problem leaving but they sprayed my tires with something a few different times. Apparently they were trying to stop the spread of a livestock disease and no one could enter or leave the Altai region of Mongolia. This was further west then I was planning on going so I headed toward Khold. I found some internet in Khold and tried to find a hotel but didn't really like the options so I headed back north out of town to camp.

Custom MAN camper.

2 stroke much?

What is your horse's name?... "my horse's name? No.. "

So majestic. And the eagle is pretty also. 

One of the ladies who sprayed my moto at a check point. 

View from the camp spot. Reminded me of something from the movie "Pitch Black".. I was expecting to see Riddick.
July 16. Khold to near Altai City. 431 km
This would be know as the day of the flat tires. The Mitus E09 on my rear was separating on the inside. I must have run it at to low of pressure. It is such a hard tire, it is difficult to gauge the pressure in it by pushing on the tire. I was riding at a pretty good clip and I felt something pull on my boot. I look down and there was wire wrapped around my peg and boot. I pull over to remove it and I notice it is caught up in my sprocket, brake and chain also. At this point I spot my first flat. The wire didn't have anything to do with the flat.. just a cuincidence. I felt the inside of tire with it on the rim and couldn't find any problems. It started to rain as I was getting ready to patch the tube so I threw a new tube in it. About 30 km later the tire went flat again. Right next to a Ger with a small building where some truck drivers were eating and drinking vodka. This time I knew something was wrong with the tire so I took it off the rim. It was now obvious I had cords poking my tube. There were about 5 places that were bad so I used grip glue to glue pieces of cut inner tube to the inside of the tire. I aired it up and tired to get going but the truck drivers made me take a shot of vodka. I said just one and they agreed. I took the one and started to leave. They poured another one and wanted me to take it but I said sorry and walked out the door. It is never "just one" in these countries. 5 km down the road there was a lady with a flat tire on her little hatchback. She had 5 kids with her and and no spare. It was a newish car so I was wondering why no spare... especially driving through the desert with young kids. This is Mongolia. I rode back to the ger and tried to tel the people but they didn't seem to care. A lady and her kids will have to spend a night in the desert? No problem. This is Mongolia. I rode on about another 40 km and I felt my rear going flat again. Screw this. I'm going to bed. I rode about 1 km away from the road and pitched my tent. The flat can wait till the morning. That night a big storm came. Not much rain but lots of wind. I had to go outside and re-stake the tent with guys to hold it down. I thought my tent was going to collapse but it held. I slept surprisingly well for how hard the wind was blowing.

Lots of eagles here. 

Wire and a flat tire. 

2nd flat tire for the day. 

These guys wanted to keep giving me vodka. 
July 17. To near Bayankhongor. 357 km
I drank coffee while I worked on my tire. I re-glued the patches inside the tire and patched the better of the 2 tubes. The other tube I cut and made a "jacket" to put around the 1st tube to try to protect it from the tire. I had already come to the conclusion that the middle route or gobi were out of the question with my tire situation. I was down to 1 HD front tube and nothing else for the rear. After Altai city there was new paved road and construction for a while. They try to put piles of dirt to block the new road but its quite easy to get around them. You just have to make sure you don't ride into the whole where a bridge or culvert will go. So in the early afternoon I rode brand new pavement.. then freshly compacted gravel waiting for pavement.. then freshly crushed rock waiting for gravel.. then the road stopped in the middle of nowhere. I was about 10km north of the southern route on gps map so I took the 2 track in front of me. It was more enjoyable then the rest of the southern route because there wasn't any washboard or traffic. I camped as it got dark and made plans to get up early. I knew it was about 750 km to UB by major route and 800 offroad if I stayed north. Since my tire seemed to be holding I thought I would try to wake up early and do the 800 offroad. Alarm set for sunrise.

Weather behind me.

Weather south of me

Weather North of me.

Weather in front of me

Washed out roads

Nice sunset though. 
July 18. To Ulaanbaatar. 744 km.
Woke up 5 minutes before the alarm and got ready to go. Quick few cups of coffee and I was on my way. I was feeling good. The caffine and adrenaline on a well rested body. I was standing up riding the 690 like it is meant to be ridden. I felt like the bike was a part of me. I had visions of Dakar bouncing in my head. All was golden for about 45 minutes when I came over a small crest and the road opened up to 20 different tracks through a slick mud hole. On any other day this would not be a problem. But it had rained for 3 days when I was on the southern route. So I had no choice but to lean back and try to make it through. Before I knew it Katriana and I were sliding in the mud at about 50 km/h. The bike did 270 degrees and I must have done more. I was sliding backwards on my back when I felt my underwear filling up with cold slimy mud. Noting was broken. Noting was hurt. Only my pride of course. I picked up the bike and tried to figure out how to get clean. Just then a Mongolian pulls up in a minivan and asked if I need help. "No! I want to sit here in my pool of mud, pity and stupidity by myself thank you!". I started the bike and rode on till the next puddle where I proceed to try and wash. Try is the key word. After Bayankhongor my rear went flat again. The fix had lasted about 500 km. The heat had made the patch fail and the tube ripped when it did. My only hope now was to put a the HD front tube in and hope it held.
Look for the silver lining when covered head to toe in mud. I came to a checkpoint/toll booth and rode up to the toll guy and cop standing there. They just looked at me. I was on the pegs and I slowed to a stop but just stood there balancing. They just looked at me. They didn't say anything. So I revved her, let out the clutch and took off. If they aren't going to demand $0.30 to ride this crap road I'm not going to give it to them.
Once I was about 200 km from UB I stopped for fuel. Something felt different. It was not the same. Then I looked around and noticed it was the same. The same as Marrakesh, the same as Bukhara, the same as Dushanbe. Busloads of tourists going just far enough away from the city to feel like they have seen the country. People taking the same picture on a camel they take in Morocco or Egypt. The same venders selling the same crap. The same game. I knew I was close to UB now. The traffic was horrible now. I was running with my bright on and still oncoming traffic would throw it out into my lane to pass. Tour buses passing tour buses to get to the same place. Somewhere in the stress of near death, a drybag with my Klim fleece, a GL tshirt and a Klim long sleeve had come loose and fallen off the moto. It was either 1 or 100 km behind me. I did not know. With all the traffic I knew it would be snatched so I did not go back. Write it as a loss. I was so close to UB I could almost see the haze. It was 96 km to go when my rear went flat again. The origami attempt to fit my front tube into the rear had finally warn through. I patched it and limped into UB at 90k per hour to try to keep the heat down. Every puddle I saw I would ride through. I needed this to hold for just a little bit longer. Finally I made it to the city and I was splitting traffic like an asshole again. Just trying to get to the Oasis, to cold beer. I pulled in and was greeted by many warm faces. Kim was there waiting on parts for his BMW. Michel and the Austrians I met in Bukhara were there. I barely had my helmet off and there was a beer handed to me. I had made it. What a relieve. The next morning the tire was flat. It had made it just as long as it needed to.

Woke up feeling good. These are the mornings you dream of. 

Dew was dry by the second cup of coffee 

Washing in a puddle. 

Katriana is a dirty girl. 

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