It’s been long time that Mongolia was on my wish list of countries to visit. Even without knowing exactly why, this country has always attracted me.
More I come closer, and more I understand that it wouldn’t be as easy as I wished. Mongolia will be a challenge, physical as well psychological than mechanical.
Unlike as many people think, no, Mongolia is not an altitude plateau. There is even no more than 2 consecutive flat meters. Here, you climb up or get down…
We come in Mongolia by south-east, from China. The road is good, low mountains make an idyllic décor, We cross end of Altai to join the Gobi Desert. Everything is beautiful, asphalt road, everything’s gonna be ok
But that, was before.
But it was too nice to stay longer, Mongolia is more than 80% of unpaved road, so one day, we have to go on it, we leave our nice road and take the first trail on our right. This trek is still good, now we are following our instinct, every 500m our trail is divided by two (or more) so we are following a kind on overall cape that we correct more or less at the following intersection.
It’s difficult to know exactly where we are going to, we are searching some marks on the horizon, but mountains limit it to the next 300m. So as we can, we are looking far away, the first village, helped by our two GPS and a paper map (but no one is coordinated with the other).
We are obliged to cross all villages on our road, or, rather, making our road crossing all villages possible (these one are sometimes distanced than more than hundreds of kilometers) cause we don’t have more than two day of autonomy in water (17 liters for Amir and me).
So, in each village is the same scenario, we are looking the well (cause there are no life without water, each village is on a water source and have it own pump for the community) and we refill in water for next days, it doesn’t seem but it’s almost 10kg more each…
However, accepted in the north of the Gobi desert, we haven’t been more than one cycling day of the closest village.
Hundred faces landscape.
Kilometers goes, landscapes too, everyday they are different. We started by these old mountains that finish the Altaï to come in the Gobi desert (well, just a small part in north). Then we come inside lands and sandy mountains, more we go, and more they became earthy and green before seeing first trees apparaître. Then trees become slowly forest…
All that in a spring décor where grass grew up everyday making steppes greener every mornings.
It goes or… break !
We knew that Mongolia will put our bike within their lines, already tired by our firsts 15000 km, we make care of our bikes, but it was not enough.
Dust, sand’s tempête, cold get right of our bikes, and start killing team moral.
Resume of that we broke :
1 rear suspension (Antoine)
1 bag (Amir)
2 bags fixation (Amir)
1 chain support (Antoine)
2 bottom bracket (Amir + Antoine)
1 chainring (Antoine)
1 freewheel (Amir)
+ Our shoes, that disembowel a bit more everyday.
And all that in barely five days ! Fortunately we had (quite) everything to fix it.
(A special thought to Amir, who make last 800km without freewheel… My cycling friends will empathize!)
And when it’s not mecanic, the weather is in. We cross desert on almost 50°c on day, without and small piece of shadow to protect us during our lunch. Few days later, whereas we were more in the country, we wake up with almost 30 cm of fresh snow on the road, our bikes were already heavy, they become even more when we have to deal with fresh snow and push it.
Fortunately, it stays humans.
Fortunately in that story,like almost, it stays peoples. Mongols are a nomadic people, very welcome and warm.
All along our stay we’ve seen here and there some yurt, most of time with a herd, where sheep and goat are playing together. As well, that even with immensity of this country (Mongolia is countries with the lowest density in world, with less than two people by km2), we never feels realy lost.
It’s difficult to camp close to a yurt without being invited for the night (and when it’s snowing outside, we can’t refuse). This habitat offers a very rudimentary comfort, but, by the way, it make it an undeniable charm…
What about Mongols themselves, they are incomparably sympatic, discret, and respectfull. Still a bit curious when the see our mecanic mounts getting on their land. When through their long view (they used to keep an eye ont their herd) they can see us, they came to speak a bit, saying hello, and gone.
Mongolia is one of the best countries I’ve crossed up to now, but also one of the most difficult. I’ll get back for sure, to see the northern part, and see again all these mongols. But probably more at the autumn, when rivers furrow the country.
Now I have to fix my bike, then get back on the road.