“Shortcuts” through Nomad land – Part 1
- 9 Feb to 10 Feb (Bayan Ulgii to 5km before Hovd)
- -4 °C to -17°C (Feel temps down to -32°C)
- Winds up to 30km/h (mostly head- & cross winds)
- Liiiiiigghhhtttt snow on one peak
- Roads: Sand, gravel, rocks, sand and more sand
I took off my mitts and put on thinner gloves that I could get a better grip on my handlebars. I was now pushing the bicycle through sand and very loose gravel. Getting traction on these road was impossible, but I had to continue and make progress. So for hours and hours I pushed the 70kg bike on these un cycle-able road
I made it over the mountains after leaving Ulgii late in the afternoon the previous day and now could really start cycling to the east through Mongolia! The weather already showed its cold face and the morning breeze was slowly getting stronger. The road was at-least cycle-able, but when I say that, I was moving forward with an average speed of 10km/h. The sand was starting and the rest was rocky and lots of loose gravel. The 20km/h headwind made the -15°C very cold (with feel temps down to -24°C). I was struggling to adjust without my fleece top which was stolen when I picked up my new stoves in Ulaanbaatar.
I decided to take a “short-cut” towards Nuranbulag, which I figured would save me 2 – 3 days over the better (but longer) north or south routes. I knew this would be much more of a challenge, but did not really knew how big of a challenge it would be.
The roads were confusing and halfway through the day came to a point where the road split. I decided to take the right, which was in the direction of the next village. After cycling 8km I came to a dead end and had to turn back. This 16km detour was a quick lesson on what I will experience throughout Mongolia.[youtube=http://youtu.be/BndOkWeZXZI]
Just before sunset I pulled over at a Ger, which was surrounded by 100’s of sheep. I grabbed my water bottels to ask for water as they invited me into their house. They gave me tea and some Buuz (Mongolian dumplings). They then invited me to stay over for the night and I gladly accepted. I helped them to take all the lambs (which they keep in the house for the winter) to their mothers to enjoy dinner… and then it was our turn! It felt like I jumped back hundreds of years in time. We sat on the floor around a table, with a big bowl of meat in front of us. There was another bowl filled with pasta on the fire. We would grab big bones of meat and eat like cavemen! Tearing the meat from the bones! LOVED IT! You then would give your bowl to the woman of the house, refilling the bowl with as much pasta. If you are finished, just hand her your bowl. This was such a cool experience and one I will always remember.
With a headwind of around 25km/h was not the perfect start of the second day and the roads was bad from the start. The road was basically in the old riverbed of the lake which was now lying 1km to my left. With loose gravel I was now heading towards some hills, which looked like sand. There was not much cycling going on as I could not get any traction. This was where the pushing started. I kept switching between the 20 tracks that was scattered over 1km in width, but none of them was cycle-able. I struggled over an hour to complete 6km and then hit the sandy mountain. At-least some parts had some rocks, so I could manage to cycle a little and then hit the sand again, which meant pushing the rest. I made it over the hills/mountain and headed down into a huge, flat, dry valley. I saw some houses in the distance, next to anther frozen lake and headed that way. It was only when I reaches them, that I got the feeling I’m not heading the correct direction. I found some people in a Ger which indicated a direction back over the mountain I came from. A little frustrated I start heading back, which in the end was a 34km detour.
On the way back over the mountain I hit one of the toughest roads on the adventure, well… it was more of a massive sand dune. Cycling was out of the question, so I struggled pushing my 70km bike over this mountain. I covered 4km in two hours and was covered in sweat, which was not a good thing in this windy weather. Every few kilometres I had to stop and shake out the ice that was forming inside my jacket. I was now in the middle of nowhere and felt the nothingness. The de-tours was frustrating and it was extremely cold, but loved where I was. I was cycling between mountains, on a road thats not on paper maps, google maps or well… any map! This is why I was in Mongolia!! This is the places people don’t see!![youtube=http://youtu.be/zyHFcDvuW5I]
Its been a long day on the bike and I was exhausted. At this point I pushed the bike for about 15km through sand and loose gravel, but the day still had some big challenges. I finally saw the town of Hovd in the distance, with a frozen river running past it and at that moment the road turned to thick sand. At times was pushing the bike down 12% declines. The sun was already falling below the horizon when I called it a day and pitched my camp next to the frozen river. I smashed some ice on the river for food and to re-hydrate. I only managed 60km for the day and has been one of the toughest days since the start of the adventure.
I had a good idea that this was not the end of the bad roads towards Nuranbulag.
Cheers for now…