Day 67 Mongolia day 6 – Lost!

3 Aug

Day 67 Mongolia day 6 – Lost!, originally uploaded by Big Al!.

Lost in Mongolia! The day started well with a fairly easy ride to Baraanturuun, where we find the only petrol station for miles. The manager has to phone somebody to turn on the electricity so that they can pump fuel. Leaving town, the terrain changes from the flat grassy sandy plain to steep forested hills, and the weather changes from sunny to rainy. There are a million tracks all going slightly different directions, none looking any more main than any other, so we ask a local who happens to be passing by on a russian bike, and he confidently says that’s where he’s going and indicates that we should follow. We do, and the road is a mix of every type of trail riding, some quite challenging, but the guy on his bike, and two younger guys on a chinese 150cc bike make light work of it. The scenery is stunning. Like the alps, like the moors, there are goats next to camels, mountains next to streams next to barren rocky hills next to grass mingled with fragrant wild flowers and herbs that smell wonderful as you ride over it. We stop for an early lunch break and while we eat, an eagle soars above us, circling on a thermal, so low we can see every detail, every tiny adjustment of wing and tail feather, and hear its haunting calls to its mate. It is stunning and beautiful, something i’ve never seen in England but have been seeing several times a day here. I never tire of it, it is breathtaking to see such majestic animals in the wilderness so close you could nearly touch them. Our local escorts give us more of the cheese we had a couple of nights ago, and more for later. They also give us sweets. Then they put on a show of Mongolian wrestling for us. The older man is a policeman, it seems that the younger two may be his sons. The wrestling is fast, hard, serious, and leaves them exhausted. They are going out of their way to entertain us, feed us, communicate with us, guide us. The friendlieness shown to us in this country has been amazing. Later we part company and realise that we are heading the wrong way. Asking several locals achieves nothing. They don’t understand maps, can’t understand our pronunciation of place names, and probably don’t know where they are anyway. Instead they peer closely at the map, point at all places, want to open it and see the other pages. They look so earnest and serious, but they clearly have no idea. We work out where we are, and the map i have shows no road between where we are and where we want to be. We fear that there may be a mountain range or other feature that blocks that direction and may require a big detour, so we have a nervewracking time following very indistinct, infrequently used tracks trying to head east. The terrain crosses hills, grass, rocks and marshes, the track varies from barely discernable single wheel impressions in the grass to car sized sandy muddy ruts. After a long time riding, we gradually get closer to the next town to the east, and camp about 8 miles short, hoping that there is a way through and that tomorrow we can continue east and not have to back track a whole day of very hard riding. It has been exciting, difficult, amazing, spectacular, enthralling. It has been the most incredible day of the trip so far, and it’s hard to imagine any other experience matching the day we’ve just had, riding places that probably no other westerner has ever been and making our own tracks through the mountains. Simply unforgettable and brilliant in so many different ways.