Stories

Bayantes to Altan Els

Once again, another great night’s sleep hidden up behind a hill. It still felt bizarre just being able to camp anywhere. Paul ate more of his baby sick food I can’t be too hard though as I broke my trusty plastic spork and had to bribe him with hot water for his coffee so that I could borrow his spoon for my dinner.

We got underway in the morning and in a relative short time we made it to the town of Bayantes. When we got to towns and it was still in school time it was a slightly different feel as there were often no kids around. I guess it has its advantages and disadvantages. Advantages being that you’re left alone and can just relax, disadvantages are that kids are just great and always full of smiles.

Paul and I once again stocked up on water and had a rest for a bit. Another scorching day.

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While we were there we watched the Eagles circulate in the thermal updraft, once again, the picture does it no justice but there were about a dozen of them just floating around and around, amazing!

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We got underway and realised we had quite some distance to do before the next town. We got off to a great start, not 100 yards out of the town Paul decided to get his daily fall over and done with.

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In Paul’s defense, the road was horribly off camber, on a slow section and a moment’s hesitation to put his left foot down and there was just no ground there. We had a laugh and picked it up and if I remember it was bloody hard work due to the ridge of the road.

I mentioned earlier about the horses and there really are quite a lot of them. This herd of horses were protecting their young foals and trying to get some shade at the same time.

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The riding conditions yet again were brilliant. A bit of a breeze to keep you cool and not too many technical sessions at the time so no more offs … for a while Spot Paul, he’s there somewhere.

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This photo I was really proud of and illustrates so much. The vastness of space with nothing. You’ve got Paul making his way towards us, a Yurt out there and then there are the telegraph poles. The poles are a great way of keeping your bearings due to the amount of parallel tracks. They always went to the next town and so if they were in view then you were kind of on the right track.

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I need a yurt in my life.

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Through a series of random events, we never actually ended up going into a yurt although I did read up on it one evening while we chilled and cooked dinner. You should not step on the yurt threshold when entering, always walk into it clockwise and men sit on the west side and women on the east side. Or at least it was something like that, I would have probably got it wrong and ended up a dead man!

As the day went on the surface became harder … or you could say it became softer really as we found more and more sand on the trails. We hate sand, in fact I hate sand more than I hate Russian bureaucracy, and that’s saying a lot.

We tried all sorts to get out of the sand and were often swapping from one set of tracks to another to try and get a nicer surface.

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Some sections were just awful and we both ended up waddling through. In the heat, getting no wind through your clothing it was hard work.

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We were rewarded with awesome views though every now and again to keep us sweet. Spot the tree!

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Speaking of trees, when we did come to parts of Mongolia that had trees they would often only be on one side of the hill or in a ravine of a hill or mountain. I assume down to the wind which at times is pretty damn ferocious.

Just as we were getting fed up of the sand and slow progress, we came across washboard too, argh!

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You can ride over it at about 50mph and it was kind of bearable, but the bike was floating at that speed and coming off would have been nasty. Any slower though and the bike just rattled itself to buggery. My bike was bad enough but I often just closed my eyes and hammered through it at 50mph and was stopping every 10 miles or so and waited for Paul to catch up. I felt really bad for him though and his bike, the metal panniers were shaking like mad and everything inside too which made a right racket. It was probably not much worse than my soft pannier setup but it sounded horrific. It’s the same as anything though, you learn to deal with it and adapt accordingly, but they went on, and on, and on ….

After a while we passed these chaps and they waved us over to have a chat (Or charades!). I was fed up and contemplated a swap of bikes.

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We made our way into the town on Tes shortly after and walked into this cafe that was 2 tables in an otherwise empty room. We didn’t have a clue what to expect but a flask of the worlds best tea was brought out for us and we hear some cooking going on the kitchen. Up until this point I hadn’t eaten too much local food in the hope of keeping my digestive system in order. Don’t think we had a choice here though.

We were brought out these fried things with meat in them. For those of you who have met Paul or I. I’m 10 stone 2 and Paul is a bit more (Sorry Paul) but Paul couldn’t eat his and I wallaped through all three, they were delicious. Although Paul may have filled himself up on the tea, he must have had half a dozen cups.

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We paid for our meal which was a ludicrously low amount and headed next door for water, chocolates and I was even tempted to buy a spare tyre that you can see in the corner here.

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Kids are awesome, this little girl started off being horribly shy but after 2 mins of playing peekaboo she was quite happy to have her photo taken.

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We came outside to find the local kids enjoying our bikes again. It actually suits him I think!

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We said our goodbyes and headed out of town, back onto the awful washboard which seemed to be at its worse 10km either side of towns where all the tracks come together. I did my usual thing now of whacking it up to 50mph to make it bearable and headed off.

Just as I stopped after 10 miles to wait for Paul I pulled the clutch in and there was no resistance on the lever at all. I was still moving and was just kicking it down the gears as I slowed down, but I was annoyed. If my clutch cable had snapped it would be a pain in the arse. I had a cable repair kit but I’d never tested it. Annoyingly I had even lubed and checked all my cables prior to the trip so I was annoyed at myself for this. All this went through my mind before I had even stopped.

After all that it was a simple case of the adjuster on my adjustable lever having fallen out with all the vibrations! Happy days.

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So a quick bolt later and it was ready to roll. I didn’t have a nut so 3 strategically placed tie wraps and that was it. It held for the rest of the trip fine. Phew.

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We’d barely got going again on the sandy washboard road when we met a couple of riders coming the other way. Jan, a Belgian(?) and an Austrian guy. Jan was on a F800GS and the Austrian on a Africa Twin.

Jan had been held up for a few days as he’d blown the seals on his newish F800GS front forks. He, like Paul had the Hyperpro progressive springs in too. Goes to show how nasty the washboard can be.

They also gave us some tips. The main one being that the direct road, that they had done and that we were planning to take, to Ulaangom was hard work. Fifteen river crossing and high ones. Reports of a guy drowning his bike too. This wasn’t the news we would have liked. Paul and I were a bit worn out after a hard days riding and we hadn’t done a great distance despite hoping to.

We waved our new friends off and wished them well.

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It was about 6pm and Paul and I were hoping to have done more, but we’d had enough for the day and decided to call it a day. We headed over to some hills just a few hundred meters away and set up camp hidden from the road.

I’d realised that I’d soaked all my spare money due to the cap on my water bladder leaking, so I laid it out to dry. I like to tell people it was payment from all the women who visited me in the tent during the night, but we weren’t visited by anyone.

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It wasn’t completely flat though and we both ended up rolling off our mats during the night Paul posed for Mr. July for the Mongolian version of Sports Illustrated.

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So, what should we do … 15 river crossing in a few days sounded like fun, but it also sounded risky. We had a couple of days to decide until we came to that section.

Map Location

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