Day 62 Mongolia

3 Aug

Day 62 Mongolia, originally uploaded by Big Al!.

Another cold, early start, but with great anticipation. In a few hours we’ll be in Mongolia! Some apprehension, too. No idea how hard it will be to ride across wilderness, how hard it will be to find petrol, water. Will Dave’s bike make it through? But lots of excitement too. This is the big one, the ultimate test. Dave drops the bike first thing, which doesn’t inspire confidence, but then we’re on our way. Fill up with petrol and stock up with supplies at the last town in Russia, and then we’re at the border. Exit Russia first. A little faster than entry, but still slow. Whole flocks of falcons circling about overhead. Eventually we’re through and on the pristine tarmac leading from the border post to the actual border about 5 miles away. Another quick passport check and then we leave the smooth tarmac of Russia for the badly corrugated and rutted gravel of Mongolia. Round the corner, the Mongolian border post. It’s remarkably busy, suprisingly modern and high tech. Apart from the disinfectant puddle we have to ride through, paying 15 rubles (about 20p) for the privilege. Formalities are incredibly brief, simple, efficient, and carried out in a very friendly manner, complete with a cheery "welcome to Mongolia!". It costs us another 60p in rubles for some unspecified processing fee, and then the lights are extinguished, the staff all disappear, and we are told we can go. Looks like we arrived just in time before lunch break, and now they’re off to spend our rubles at the local cafe. We head off down the gravel track, and at the first town, struggling to find the main track across the northern route, we are told by locals that it is in a very bad way after rain and we should not go that way, so we head south instead. The weather is grim. Cold, windy, threatening rain. The scenery is spectacular. The riding is incredible. There is a fairly obvious main track, mostly, but it’s been turned into a rough corrugated nightmare by trucks, so people have made numerous other tracks roughly alongside, and after a while we switch to those. Then i realise it’s even better to make your own tracks, and soon we’re cruising across the Mongolian steppe, riding on grassy, sandy, rocky ground that has never seen a wheel over that exact spot, and that is quite an incredible feeling. The vistas are huge, and though there are telegraph poles and the occasional Russian truck or jeep, it is empty wilderness to the horizon, and big sky. It feels amazing to finally be in Mongolia, and putting aside worries about Dave’s bike ruining my trip, it is hugely satisfying to have come this far and still be going. Now on 10,000 miles in 62 days, with another 28 days to get to (and out of) Vlad before our Russian visas expire.