Monday 16 December 2013

Mongolia - As The Crow Fly's (Part 2)

Starting where i left off ill get straight into it.

Exiting the Khangai Mountains near the small town of Erdenetsogt we stopped for much needed supplies of bread, jam and water to keep us going and made camp a few km's out of town. The next 2-3 days we anticipated easy riding and hoped to cover over 200km a day. This we unfortunately never managed but came close and would have made it save for a detour to Dads old mining site where were to check the progress of his ground reclamation efforts. The second day of hoped easy riding was then cut short by a unanticipated and very tricky mountain range, this also signaled the end of the easy country for the rest of the trip.

Amazing reclamation efforts, all the flat ground on both left and right of the shot has been mined over the last six years

More reclamation efforts at dads previous mining site

Stunning rock labyrinths to ride through were a maze often ending in vertical bluffs!

Negotiating our next move in the base of one of the labyrinths 

Buutsagaan yet another fuel and supplies stop.

Just the normal by this stage in the ride

Beginning our ascent off the plains and into the unanticipated mountain range

Looking back into the mountains we have just ventured through

And the desolate rocky earth ahead
As we passed through this mountain range there were a good many times we felt a little lost and overwhelmed with the idea of making it out to the next large valley before nightfall. We repeatedly attempted to navigate small gullies with little to no success until we happened to amazingly stumble across fresh motorcycle tracks leading in the right direction. Absolutely stunned to not be the first ride in these gullies we pressed on following the tracks until we happened to stumble into their creator. A family of 5 riding on 2 beat up old chinese bikes were slowly pushing/riding there way out of the mountains to the shop (what shop we had no idea but through our broken conversation that is what we understood they were doing). The family gave us directions as to which gullies did not end in bluffs and we were then on out way and made it our of the mountains just before dusk. Where we ended up unfortunately did not fill us with hope for the coming days, it was a wide open flat valley of large volcanic seeming rock and a view into our next mountain range looking far more difficult than what we had just ventured through. Feeling a little beat we made camp on the rocky earth, ate our meager rations and hoped for no rain overnight.
The next morning luckily bought only an hour of horrible rocky riding followed by a few hours of highly enjoyable terrain to lift the spirits. We were then again left facing a daunting mountain range (the southern end of the Altai range) that by all mongolian accounts was un-passable except by a single pass through which there was a road. Ignoring all advice we simply stayed true to our line and pressed on. These mountains were then to be our home for the coming 2 days. They were filled with incredibly scenic, challenging and at times slightly terrifying riding but by the second evening we made it to the final town of our journey where we were to re-supply and refuel before crossing into the gobi desert.

An obstacle just slightly too challenging for our abilities, luckily there was a route just a few hundred meters to the right.

High on a mountain top and fogged out causing a mandatory half hour break

With luck our line passed just south of this huge mountain valley

Where there is grass there is people! And these people never ceased to amaze me with the places they choose to live, such as here on a cold mountain top at over 3000m high.

Our coldest camp, high in the mountains

If you look close enough you can see our bikes perched on the ridge, it was a huge effort to get them to the saddle i was currently standing on.
Making it to our final little desert town of Bugat we loaded up so as much as ourselves and the bikes could carry. 14 liters of fuel and 8-10 liters of water in each of our back packs on top of all the other essentials was certainly a heavy burden but we set off with high hopes that a nice easy riding desert was just over the next hill. Very quickly we realised that our packs were on the heavy side of ok with bike performance way down, sinking in the sand and personal maneuverability down to near zero, we also realised our next little hill was once again a very substantial mountain. We made camp at its base and began the climb first thing the next morning. Climbing to 3600m we were up in the snow and had a stunning view of the Gobi ahead, unfortunately we could see no easy way down. Hours on foot looking for the best route and we decided to make an attempt and a switch back goat trail  straight down the mountain face, it took another hour mainly on foot holding back the bike but we made it to the next plateau and easier riding ahead.

A heard of camels as the terrain starts to dry

3600m high and looking out over the Gobi desert

The shear face we had to make our way down, this thing was steep!!

The mountains which we are just exiting

And the desert we have to cross

We quickly found ourselves venturing off into a hot and baron land on nothing but scorched earth. To me this was by far the most intimidating and scary part of the whole journey knowing it was just us and our limited quantity of water and fuel. The riding was however easy and we made good miles before daylight failed us.
Next morning the easy going continued for some 100 km, before we began to approach the chinese border and our last obstacle. The border was in the middle of a final mountain range to which there were many sandy difficult foothills. It took the best part of the day but we eventually made it as far as we could by motorbike. With no chance of riding further and only 5km from our finish point we continued on foot determined to finish the journey. Back at altitude on seriously steep ground it was an exhausting push but we made it!

Unfortunately the journey was not yet over we had minimal fuel and a flight to catch in 36 hours time 600 km away. This gave us no time to relax or reflect on the journey and we set off hoping to make it close to the nearest town before nightfall. Half an hour in and now taking roads we stopped at what appeared to be a tourist camp to ask for directions and possibly fuel. No such luck however this tourist camp turns out to be a military border patrol post, not good for us at all we were detained the night (given a reasonable room and hot food though so not all bad). Next day were escorted by high up officials back to town where we were fined around $100NZ each for being to close to the border then released at 5.30pm with still 450 km to go and our flight leaving 7.30am the next morning. Not good at all! This for both of us was the biggest challenge of the trip by far, riding on rutted dusty and constantly crossing roads until 1.30am with only a small headlight. By the time we arrived at our hotel we were beyond the point of exhaustion and entirely broken in both mind and body.

Empty! The view at what tomorrow will bring

Empty! The view behind at where we have just travelled

Huge Yanga (Mountain Goat) head. These animals look like someone has put a monster goat head on top of a big red deer that takes steroids and goes to the gym. Unfortunately they have been hunted to near extinction.

On foot looking back over the vast nothingness of the Gobi
The Chinese border and our finish point

Filthy but finished and couldnt be happier!

Below are a bunch of screen shots of what we actually achieved showing the line we attempted to follow in dark grey and the line we actually manage in red or blue alternating day by day. The little blue flags are where we made camp each night.

The Trip!

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

Day 8 and 9, by far the worst of all days.

Day 10

Day 11


Day 13

Day 14

Day 15

Day 16

The trip stats at the finish point

Over 61 vertical kilometers climbed!

One of the more impressive afternoons elevation graphs

Thank you dad for the unbelievable adventure, it was the trip of a life time and i'm not sure there is anyone in the world that could have pulled it off like you did!