17 June Ulaanbaatar – Mandgovi 280 kms – Total 6372 km
On the road again. Willy Nelson or Canned Heat come to my mind, but Jonny Cash’s lyrics I find most suitable:
On the road again
I just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
On the road again
Goin’ places that I’ve never been
Seein’ things that I may never see again
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
Here we go, on the road again
Like a band of Gypsies we go down the highway
We’re the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turnin’ our way
(don’t worry my ‘musical-phase will soon be over). But, finally, I am on the bike again! – that counts!
Brand-new seals and a set of brand-new Heidenau tyres. Shiny black they are so I’d better take it carefully for the first 200 kms.
The total ride to day will be just below 300 and is the half-way point between UB and Dalandzadgad, the Gobi town right down south.
Leaving Oasis Hostel is an interesting dynamic. I’ve been there more days than planned and more than I want to count, but it’s almost two weeks or more? It has become a ‘honey-trap’. A cumfy place with interesting people, all fellow-travellers, always leaving and some new arrivals. Beer in the fridge, food on demand and hot showers. One can easily get used to it and this may make leaving harder that consciously aware.
Here are some impressions on the place so you can understand me better.
The ride getting out of UB was terrible, as expected. Traffic her seems mayhem anytime of the day or night. Smog, horns and Police-checks for alcohol. Everybody has to blow into a little handheld thingo, no straw or even replacing a mouthpiece or even wiping it clean, just blow. And everybody does. Well, “not on my nelly!”, so I smile, play the dumb-tourist card and drive past. No adverse reaction by the coppers.
The maps.me navigates me through all this southern part of UB and not too soon I find myself on the road to D. Another toll-booth requires me to play dumb and just pass, now I can relax.
I can feel how these tyres, especially the front react differently when cornering, not that there are too many corns, but still it is noticeable. A matter I shall get used too soon. After all, the previous set took me for 7000kms through Russia and I gotten accustomed to their ‘falling onto the most outside knobby when cornering’. Well no worries, it will work out just fine!
I am conscious not having my ‘mojo’ back, yet. Not only the tyres are ‘fresh’, I also re-adjusted the handlebars, so I can manage clutch and front-brake easier when standing in the pegs. This opportunity arrives soon, a long stretch of ‘Mongolian Piste’. I shall offer up a pix soon, so meanwhile only words: the road ends and through a little dip one is side-tracked onto dirt. Almost immediately several tracks are on offer. Which one to take? Well, id a local is in front of you, I always choose the same. S/he mist know. If not, well more tricky, somehow a middle-one will do. After a while you ride on a track and on each side are at least 6 more. It is quite smooth and easy to cross-over. However, I ride standing up, as I need to get more familiar with ‘Pistes’ and hate to fall on the first day of riding it.
Ahead I can see a big truck and note what track it is taking. I also make a mental note when it is slowing down, as I expect the Piste to be a tad tricky there.
Indeed it is, but all goes well.
After about 10kms or so I find myself back on ‘save’ asphalt.
The landscape in undulated. No trees anywhere, just rolling green hills, wherever I turn my head. The grass is short and any animals must feed for a long time to get their belly-full.
I see so many horses, never seen as many before! Some with young foals. Each bunch ahs at least 80 animals in it, some are even much larger. Surely a horse-country. They roam free, none is hobbled or otherwise constrained. Often the hang-around close to the road and I decelerate substantially to be prepared for any sudden movements.
I see sheep flocks in large numbers. All sheep have their tails. No flies here??
I ride past goat herds, I guess 60 or more animals all very wintery looking in their long, zotty fleece. Apparently ‘zotty’ is not in the dictionary, but I am sure you can see the picture …
Even several Camel-herds are nearby, the two-hump kind. I always believed the one-hump ones are called Dromedar …? Now I feel unsure.
As the weather is fine, sun not too hot, a steady wind from the west, I can feel ‘mojo’ again. Good! Fold-out my highway foot pegs and move into ‘relax-position’. Aaahhh, that’s the way. The road is next to perfectly sealed. Neil B, was right, no more than four potholes on 200 kms. A very easy ride.
About half-way I invite myself having a break. I slow down to find an opportunity to leave the elevated road. Soon I am off the street about 50mtr on fat county-side. A spot as good as any to have a Brotzeit.
I make sure waving ‘thumbs-up’ to passing cars and trucks to signal all-is-ok. So no need for them to stop and offer help.
I ride one and arrive mid-afternoon in Mandgovi. The hotel recommended is shut. Well, not quite, it is fully occupied by a bunch of politicians campaigning in the area. Elections are on at the end of the month. Back in UB I could see emerging pictures of people on large photos, cars with same and flags, loudspeaker messages etc, etc – all to make sure you are ‘in’! I guess, like most up-coming/developing countries being a member of parliament brings great privileges and plenty of snout-in-the-through opportunities. However, I am disappointed. The only hotel hotel was specifically not recommended by travellers who had been there a few days ago. No choice, into Hotel Gobi with all it’s former old charm, now reduced to a rather run-down affair.
Several rooms are at offer: one, reeking of cigarette smoke with 6 beds; one less smoky with two beds, but I take the one at the end of the corridor with one bed. The room even has a fridge and, once plugged-in, it stars to purr. My room also has its own toilet and a basin. the shower is downstairs, a communal one, and the middle/late-aged landlady is reputed to walk in on you whilst under it ….. Well, let’s see what will happen. For an extra-bonus: e bike is behind a locked gate – that’s reassuring.
So now I am sitting on the balcony.
By the look of it I hope I wont crash through. I pulled my one-and-only chair from my room outta here and write these notes. Some traffic goes by, many Chinese motorcycles with two, even three people on it, cars, some rather expensive ones (Lexus 4-wheel drive), a campaigning politician’s loudspeaker car for the second time, even a police car with lights flickering …. Mandgovi rush-hour, well I prefer this to UB even if this IS the arse-end of Mongolia!
For me it will be an early night and an early rise. Tomorrow I should complete my trip to Dalandzadgad early afternoon and the Gobi is waiting to be explored.
Wish me luck to find a little better hotel or hostel, even a Ger-camp will be preferable .. yes, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t he spoilt …… I am!!