Stories

Altan Els to Uvs Nuur

Apart from rolling out of bed a couple of times due to the slope, I had a good nights sleep. Paul wasn’t watched by an Eagle again as he performed his morning routine so the day was off to a good start.

We got back on the tracks and headed towards Ulaangom. The surface varied a bit from hard pack tracks to sand again and everything in between, but at least we were fresh and full of enthusiasm.

Who needs satnav, just follow the signs:

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It was flat, really flat as in nothing to see for miles around, then bizarrely we came across this crop field. I still need to look it up on Google Maps and see what it is or what they were growing, it was odd to see.

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We soldiered on though, towards the town of Baruuntaruun, which despite being a humorous name, was not a fun town. I think Paul summed it up very well

“Unfortunately, despite being before 11:00 in the morning, the local town drunk decided that I should provide him with the means for his next fix. Mongolians, in our experience, are a warm and friendly people but steer well clear of a drunk Mongolian; he was highly persistent and, when it became clear that I was in no mood to subsidise his habit, he became aggressive, kicking the motorcycle and me. I fended off the first kick but I regret to admit, I placed a well aimed motorcycle boot as I rode off.”

So, as you can see, we rode off and this actually worked out quite well as we rode 500m to the town edge and there was a glorious stream (and more eagles) which was quite picturesque, so we enjoyed our water and snacks there in lovely sunshine and scenery. 30 mins later again we exited the town proper.

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Off we went, and a few km later we came to a small water crossing where a herd of horses had gathered again to keep cool.

Paul tried to stare down a horse again and this time he won, so the horse fell over instead

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Then we rode through, we had earned right of passage, even if the herd didn’t give us much room.

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We stayed on the tracks and they got progressively sandier the closer we got to Uvs Lake and Ulaangom. It wasn’t too much fun and hard work in the heat as I’ve said previously. Paul was being extremely cautious, his confidence was dented due to his couple of off’s, however it needn’t have been as when he put his mind to it then he was fine, but still, slow and steady does it.

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Lots of rests were called for. Wrists were sore, shoulders were sore and concentration was taking it out of us. Can anyone spot Paul’s new addition to his bike here and my new headwear?

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We were hoping to make Zuunguv shortly in order to get some water and snacks. We needed a rest, this sand was ridiculously hard work for the two of us given our skill level and attitude to risk.

Zuungov was another one horse (and 2 motorbike) town. However if I were to be a believer in fate then it was fate that we ended up here with these people. One of whom would be a Guardian Angel soon.

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Paul and I had rolled into Zuungov for a food stop. A few bottles of water, coke, Fanta Grape, Mars bars etc and a well deserved rest. It had been hard going all morning and we were suffering. Paul found a bit of shade in the corner and plonked himself down. I don’t know what he does or how he manages it, but 2 minutes later a young girl brought a stool over for him to sit on. He certainly has a way with the ladies.

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I took a modern (But old fashioned?) Polaroid camera with me along with my digital camera. The Polaroid was the type that prints photos in a few seconds. I’d taken 90 sheets of paper with me and by the end of the holiday had almost used them all. The kids, and even adults, loved having their own photos in print. It did mean however that stops with kids could turn into hour long affairs but it was a pleasure.

Here is a photo of my Polaroid camera printing more photos out of the children.

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If anyone goes on a holiday to a place like this I would recommend this over almost anything else. The children were super fun.

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As we were relaxing we met this Mongolian called Dam. Dam was a Mongolian but lived in Moscow and was back in order to attend the festival in Ulaangom. We had a nice chat and photos taken with him and he was obviously quite important, this chance encounter was amazing as you’ll see later. Here are Dam, Paul and I.

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We relaxed for a bit longer and then decided to push on after bidding farewell to the kids and their Mum. What a lovely bunch of people as always.

Along the way there was yet another fork in the track. Paul and I had our GPS’ loaded with OSM maps and although we weren’t reliant on them it was nice to glance at them occasionally to make sure we were still on a main track as sometimes it wasn’t obvious. This time however I think we took a minor track off the main one although in 30km or so it would meet back up so we weren’t too bothered. The main track was only a mile or two south of us and running parallel.

We started seeing camels. I think they had the hump!

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It was ridiculously sandy on the track. Often about 15cm deep, probably more and no fun at all. We were about 5km from the “fork” but didn’t really realise at the time. As I stopped to get my breath I noticed Paul have a tumble behind me about 100 yards away. He was stuck under his bike. The sand where my bike and I were was just too much to turn around and get back to Paul quickly, so I jumped off and started to jog towards him. A few seconds later a big 4×4 came past me (The first vehicle in hours) and sped towards Paul. A few chaps jumped out and helped get the bike off Paul’s foot but it wasn’t looking good. Paul was in noticeable pain and his foot had been facing the wrong way under the bike.

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Paul had explained that as he was ‘paddling’ in the deep sand his calf had caught the rear pannier and his toes then dug into the sand and twisted his knee in a bad way as he went down. Thankfully nothing was broken we didn’t think even though Paul decided to keep his boots on, just in case. He couldn’t walk and things were looking grim. It’s awful seeing your mate in pain (Even though he was quite manly about it) and not knowing what to do. It wasn’t bad enough to hit his SPOT’s SOS button thankfully but it was about 4pm and we were on a rarely used track.

We decided to call it a day, rest, relax, regroup and have a think of what to do. Even getting the bikes off the road, up a small lip on the road was a chore. Everywhere was sandy.

After setting up camp at the side of the road and waiting for the sun to go down so it’d be cooler, we had some dinner. I even made a sign for help.

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My sign for help must have worked even though it was pitch black when these chaps decided to join us for some coffee and biscuits. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Small bikes and local knowledge along with riding techniques and they were fine on the surface that was really hurting us.

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Paul and I were going to see how he felt in the morning and decide what to do. There were options of turning around to go back to the fork, the Mongolia biker lads had said it was a better route. There was also the option of me riding to Ulaangom and getting a truck to come back or even flagging a truck down. Also of course there the chance Paul would be able to ride, albeit slowly.

We stayed up until way past midnight, the sky was amazing clear and you’ve never seen stars like it. No light pollution and we spent ages enjoying it.

Map Location

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