Happy days. We were all set to leave when we woke up. We checked the bikes over and they seemed ok. Some young lad and his Dad spotted us in the hotel car park and came over for a chat and photos. He had an old Nokia phone, you know, the very first ones with a camera. So another happy recipient of a physical Polaroid print of him and his lad 🙂
and for some reason they wanted their photos taken with 2 scruffy Englishmen.
We packed our bikes up, thanked the lady and her husband at the hotel for putting up with us for the last couple of days, fueled up our bikes and headed south to Khovd. We were blessed as even though we had paper maps and OSM maps, none of them showed the pristine tarmac road that we found ourselves on.
We got carried away unfortunately and it ended up not going to where we wanted to, so we needed to turn around. Paul flagged me down almost immediately, his bike was not behaving. The past few days he’d told me about a clunk from the front and I’d assumed he was just using it as an excuse for falling off 😉 However I took it for a 50 meter ride and it was truly awful. Paul had new steering head bearings fitted before we went away and they were not installed correctly or had worked loose. Either way we knew how to do them up properly and did it at the side of the road.
You may ask why we took the right hand panel off. Simple … because I, being a dick, dropped the socket down into the radiator/engine area and we had to strip half the panels to find the bloody thing!
While we were doing this, about 200m up the road a car was stranded and some guys were working on it too. One of the lads walked over to us and kind of gestured if we had any webbing or rope for his friend to tow his car. As luck would have it I had 20m of webbing I had bought to tie the bike down or tow etc and I gave that to him. The look of surprise when we were actually able to help 🙂 This meant though that if either Paul or I broke down now then we’d have to leave the other there. Sorry 🙂
Anyhow, bike fixed we headed back up and stopped in the village of Nuranbulag. The young girl in the shop was lovely and soon her brother and we assume boyfriend and his friend were all joining us and giving us tips for a shortcut.
Follow the telegraph poles for about 40km I think they said. They even escorted us out of the village and waved us on our way.
Off Paul and I went. It was ok to start with and arrow straight. Unfortunately it was our arch nemesis… sand! Paul and I battled through for about 5km.
Once again it was ridiculously hot. Also this track had no cars on it at all, normally we’d see one an hour or so, but this had nothing. After ages I sped ahead to see if it got better. As I crested the ridge I saw that in fact it got worse. I headed back to Paul who was slogging through at about 5mph. We decided to turn around and head back and find another way, this was impossible for us. It was too hot and I was suffering, Paul also couldn’t risk his knee.
We turned around …
I hate sand this is what it was like!
Now, just so you know. Every time Paul had fallen off his bike a few things would race through my mind in the following seconds. “Is he ok” “Is the bike ok” “I need a photo of this” “Help him pick it up”
So, there I was, about 50 yards instead of Paul and heading back along the track to Naranbulag and I came off the bike. Nothing bad fortunately and I was standing up by the time Paul came past. Did he stop? Did he bollocks! All I got as he came past at about 15mph was “Photooooooo” What an arse! It did make me laugh though 🙂 Thankfully too, being on the superior and lighter bike I can lift it myself, even with Pauls heavy Ortlieb bag on my bike. We had swapped bags a few days previous as I don’t mind carrying the extra weight, as Paul very wisely said “because that’s what mates do”
On a serious note, you can see that the surface was rubbish for us here
The only good thing to come out of that trip was the awesome cap I found. I’d been saying to Paul for days that I needed a cap!
We got back to the little shop/cafe about 2.5 hours after had left it. The girl behind the counter was pleased to see us again. I think she was more pleased to see Paul actually… I’m not bitter or jealous at all. We had a couple of cokes, some snacks and regained our energy. We had the map out again and the girl and lads showed us an alternative route.
While all this was going on the girl was really enjoying reading Paul’s lonely planet Mongolian/English dictionary and kept amusing us with some of the random sayings “Is there a barbershop nearby” and similar. As we went to leave she brought the book back to Paul. Paul told her to keep it, she was clearly enjoying it and a lovely girl. I swear she was almost in tears she was so happy. It’s the little things …
Anyhow, we were on the road again. Back north for about 20km, the turn left at some random town and off we went. This track was much better surface and we made nice time.
At one point we came across a village. It was a very eerie place with a half built or knocked down factory. We didn’t see any people around but did see the occasional motorbike. I really had an unpleasant feeling about the whole place and asked Paul if we could just ride through without stopping. Thankfully he agreed.
It was getting late and it was a bit of a shame as although we’d ridden about 200 miles today, we had only covered about 70 miles from Ulaangom due to our detours and zig zags. The riding was nice though.
More camels, but thankfully no accompanying sand!
Just before we decided to call it a day we bumped into a 4×4 on Dutch plates. 3 guys obviously on a bit of a boys trip stopped to talk. They were heading to Ulaangom for the festival. They’d only been on dirt for a few hundred km and were hating it. Paul broke it to them that the tarmac was about 20 km away and they were ecstatic. We wished them farewell and found somewhere to camp. I had to be nice to Paul again as I needed cutlery to replace my broken spork!
We had yet another lovely spot just out of view, setup camp, enjoyed the sunset and went to bed. We were both knackered and slept really well!