“Shortcuts” through Nomad land – Part 2
- “Shortcuts” through Nomad land – Part 1
- 11 Feb to 13 Feb (Bayan Ulgii to Naranbulag)
- -2 °C to -22°C (Feel temps down to -38°C)
- Winds up to 70km/h
- Light Snow
- Roads: Sand, gravel, rocks, sand and more sand
I was grabbing onto my bicycle, trying to stay upright in a 70km/h sandstorm, while pushing the bike through deep sand toward the next town. I was determined to reach Nuranbulag before dark as I would then have 100km of tar road the next day… So I pushed, screamed, swore and shouted to Mongolia as I was creeping closer to the small village. In the last five days I got everything thrown at me, my body collapsed and until now I kept pushing on… I was very close and was not about to give up at this point.
I had some choices to make… my bike was too heavy. I knew that the roads can change in 20km, but I just had a gut feeling this will not be the case. Scanning through all my gear I decided to ditch my two studded tyres, some fuel, water and a little food. 5kg to 7kg will make a massive difference if I need to push through sand and the loose gravel roads.
I was on the 3rd day of “the shortcut” and was still in the deep sand. The town of Hovd was only 5km away, but with the sandy roads took my 70 minutes to get there.
After my short tea break in Hovd, I continued and was now heading over more mountains. The sand turned to loose gravel, but could stay on the bicycle most of the time. The cycling was going slow, with average speeds of only 7km/h, but was just happy I could cycle.
Over the mountain and then into a huge flat valley, where the gravel now turned to massive rocks. Could never cycle over 10km/h, but again, was just happy to keep moving and did not have to push. Its been a long time since I had a rocky road like this, so was nice to experience this once again. As I zig zagged across the road, trying to avoid most rocks, I cycled past a few Gers. There was some cows in the distance and eagles floating in the air. It was a beautiful sunny day with not much of a wind, with temperatures of around -8°C. Without the wind it felt like summer!
The 2nd climb for the day started and this was a big one. Was able to cycle 80% of the time with loose sand patches where I could not cycle and had to push. It took me around three hours to get over this one and finally, after almost three days had my first downhill. I was a bit reckless going down, but I just wanted to catch up on some kilometers and enjoyed going over 10km/h! As fast as I could I raced down dodging rocks and over bumps. 15km further I struck more sand as I cycled into another valley. So I was back at pushing and the occasional cycling if I could get going on the bike.
I pitched camp next to a lake where I got ice for the night. Water had a very weird taste… but had no choice to drink after sweating more than I have to during the day. Sweating has been a big problem during the first three days, due to the bad roads. Its been extreme hard work every single kilometer of the way and could not manage to keep the sweat away. The sweat also create more problems than just being cold during the day, as it needs to get dry before the next morning. At this point I was hoping that it will get dry as possible before I climb into my sleeping bag and that the sleeping bag dont suck up the moister. My body was very tired. This has been three of the toughest days in a row on the adventure. During each night I would eat as much as I can to get as much calories into my body… noodles (pasta), chicken, canned meat, garlic and lots of chocolates!!
I was now over halfway on “the shortcut” and according to my planning should make it to Naranbulag in two days. I was still in the sand and knew the 4th day will be even more challenging because of my tired body… and the start proved just that. The road where horrific! Sand, rocks, gravel… sand, rocks, gravel… bumpy roads, sand… bumpy… sand. Thats how it continued until lunch and then got even worse. I refilled my water bottels at one of the Gers and they offered me some tea. I accepted and before I could see there was a cooked sheep head in-front of me. I developed my 1st smile for the day and started eating! This was so delicious and to get some real meat into my body is a HUGE treat!
I was overly full when I jumped back onto the bike, but this is nothing to complain about. The little village sloooooowlyyyy disappearing as I pushed on through the sand and loose gravel, yet again pushing most of the time. I got extremely frustrated with this shitty roads!!! I was now talking out loud, with the occasional scream bursting out of my mouth. This sluggish pace was not something I liked and pushing more than cycling literally drained me. I would just look down and push, as the front wheel will always try to drag away from me. Sweat was dripping from my face and my clothing froze. My legs felt like jelly the whole day but this got worse. I have never been this tired, but I was not going to stop! I pushed and pushed until my body said thats enough! I collapsed falling with my face straight into the sand. I slowly turned around trying to catch my breath.
“ I always wondered how it would feel if my body just gives in, well now I knew! I took about one minute and stood up… and shouted out load… “You are not going to break me Mr Mongolia!!!” I then smiled at my little outburst, grabbed the handlebars and started to push. Every few kilometres my legs would give in and I will just get up and keep going. I have never been so tired, but quitting was not an option. I had to keep going until sunset! “
I made it into the little village of Olgiy, asking around for water as kids wanted to take my bike for a ride. I dodged the kids and found some water. It was already getting dark, so headed into a direction one of the locals told me I should go. I had to get over a massive mountain, but knew this will not be done today. I cycled about 1/3 of the way, pitched my tent and then another local came by with his motorcycle. He indicated that I was going the wrong way… At that point I was so tired that I did not care and just thanked him. I fell into my tent and started my stove as the temperature was starting to fall. I made a massive dinner and got prepared for the final day until I would reached a 100km tar road!
There was only 65km left to finish “the shortcut” and was determined to get it behind me as quickly as possible. Its been four of the toughest day on the adventure to date. My body beyond tired, mostly because of all the pushing and extreme hard cycling.
The day started to backtrack to Olgiy and head over the correct side of the mountain. The road over was sandy, which took me just over an hour to cycle the 5km to reach the top. I enjoyed a quick tea break and then started to head down on the other side of the mountain into big valley. At this point I was flying, racing down the mountain and into the valley. The road was rocky, but I dodged most of them swinging form the one side to the other. I was enjoying myself a little after the though four days. At 11:30 I already cycled 30km, which was very good if you look at the last few days.
I had another dinner when people invited me into a Ger, saw some sheep herds in the valley and took nice photos of some camels. The moment when I got the camel I got the first glimbs of Nuranbulag, about 25km in front of me and the road looked mostly downhill. After a good day I was hoping to reach the town at 14:00.
I took off my zoom lens and backed away my camera. It was now time to dart towards Nuranbulag… I could not have been more wrong…
The road was dipping and the turned bad… It was on another level. Rocks then sand… sand, sand and more sand… few rocks and then sands again. The pushing started again and my good mood slowly fading with every 100m of hard work. I just wanted to get to the frikin town! I changed my 14:00 goal to 15:00, 15:30, 16:00 and then aimed to make it before dark. I was yet again in some sort of a valley, but this was just sand. I pushed the bike for an straight hour and I shouted yet again… “Is this all you can throw at me Mongolia?!?!?!” BIG MISTAKE!!
Mongolia was now ready to fight back even more than before. The light breeze that was blowing the whole day slowly started to pick up… and then… boom! I was standing in one spot trying to keep my balance as the gale winds hit me from the left. I was getting cold faster than ever before, so parked my bicycle and put on my Down Jacket. I was feeling better instantly, but now had to figure out how to get to this town that was now disappearing in the sandstorm. In no time the winds was blowing around 70km/h. The gravel / sand was slightly harder and I tried to cycle, but failed miserably twice as the wind blew me 10 meters to the side each time into another lane. This was not going to work, so I got off and started to push.
It was hard, as it was too cold to take off my down jacket and too hot to keep it on. This time I decided to go with too warm but ended up with sweaty clothing. My legs was screaming and gave in yet again… twice… but I just stood up and continued. There was no way that Mongolia and this shit weather was going to win me! I WILL get to Nulranbulag and I WILL get to the tar road… TODAY! After 20minutes of shouting, screaming and swearing at Mongolia, I calmed myself down and started to focus. I took a nice hard grip on my handlebars, took a deep breath and continued my push. 7km from Nuranbulag the winds calmed down to a point where I was able to climb onto the bicycle and cycle the last bit. Just before 17:00 I arrived in Nuranbulag!!
There was not time to rest as it was already getting dark. I ran into a shop to get water, cooldrink and some chocolates… jumped on the bike and headed out of the town. And then…. on top of a steap hill out of town there it was… TAR ROAD!!!! I got off my bike, jumped in the air and shouted as load as I can… “TAAAAARR ROOAAADDDD BABY!!!!! YEAAAAAAAA!!” Some people next to the road stared at this crazy masked figure, but I really did not care. I jumped back onto the bike and cycled 2km away from town and found a spot to camp.
I struggled to pitch the tent as I struggle to hold a rock in my hands to hit the pegs into the ground. A few times it slipped out of my hand as the wind was picking up yet again. I made sure my tent was secured and jumped into the tent! OUT OF THE WIND!!! I fell back onto my back, with the idea of just resting 5min, but almost instantly fell asleep. I woke up an hour later very cold. I got my stove going and started the water boiling process. I was wet from head to toe! Big problem! I worked way to hard. I did not have many options and just had to wait to dry out.
I was forcing myself to stay awake while making my dinner. I wanted to doze off while sitting upright, but I knew if this happen my tent will probable burn down. I held out and, ate my dinner and jumped into my sleeping bag. I was still cold, but was more tired, so when I closed eyes while eating two slabs of chocolate, I fell asleep.
The shortcut was DONE!! I fell asleep with knowing I will have 100km of tar road the next day, so that is also my milage goal!
The rest of Mongolia was now waiting!!
Cheers for now…