A small steppe for Mongolia, a big step for us!
We had left after Beijing. We are now in Mongolia where the days on the bike are fairly intense. Back on our adventures in recent weeks...
Part 1 of 2 : we cut this article into two parts to make it not too long!
And again by bus!
We leave Beijing Friday, may 8. The direct train to Ulan Bator being off-budget, cutting the journey twice: bus to the border mongol, then train.
The bus to go to Mongolia (Muxiyuan station) station is far enough, 10 km south of the city centre of Beijing. Our friends cyclos Breton are past 48 h before us then it is easy, it has all necessary info. Next to the bus station, one falls into this kind of place that I love: shops of tissues and haberdasheries on several blocks. We buy stuff that was sought for a long time for the millings but especially... fabric, blue, white and red for restore flag (is is done fly, Remember) ! After that, one proceeds to the bus station, a little stressed about what home will be right this time, we and our bikes. We arrive early, at the time we charge our business first. The bunkers are huge, they don't even ask baksheesh; great! The Interior of the bus is much more comfortable (and own) than the bus bunk to get to Beijing. In short, everything is too well, and we spend a good night!
Mongolia! It is gone for a month!
In the morning, you wake up under of beautiful lights of Sunrise, in the middle of the Gobi desert. And two hours later, we at Erlian, frontier town on the side of Mongolian. With 2 other Westerners in the bus we go to the border, but it is not yet open. and it is forbidden to pass on foot: we must take special taxis, some kind of professional smugglers: awesome. Our 2 hour waiting arrive from other Western; We meet at 9 people: french, Canadian, Polish, Singapore, Argentina, it is multicultural!
Then we can finally cross the border. It is a bit long but everything is happening without any addict. Arrived at the train station of Zamin Uud, the Mongolian border town, once the new currency in the portfolio, a SIM Internet and our train tickets for the evening in his pocket, it is noon (we discover that he is here 1 h more than in China). Leave our bikes in a cargo car for € 5 in all. Don't rest more to wait until 7 p.m., the departure of the train; waiting our pleasantly warm in the restaurant in the station.
End of the day, a sandstorm comes up. Impressive! It is under this sandstorm that we climb on the train: it is a bit old fashionsuper nice. We spend the evening to discuss between Westerners and also with a Mongolian papi very happy to exchange a few gestures - unable to speak the same language - with us.
After a restful night, you wake up in the middle of the Mongolian steppes. Superb!
Yet a capital... but very different this time
In Ulaanbaatar, our host Warmshower, cold, just pick us up at train station. There's his house in the centre of Ulan Bator. There is not common but ingenious water toilets. We stay 3 nights in cold, this Dutch colourful, passionate history of the Mongolia, creator of yurts for export in Europe. We learn much about the Mongolia: with him we discover that it is a country really insecure and corrupt, which survives as the assistance provided by other countries, the Russia and especially China... He visit the city with lots of anecdotes, gives us lots of tips for our journey in the country. And then he tells us to decipher Cyrillic, which will prove very handy later! In short, an exciting and awesome host!
Ulan Bator, there is also demand for our Russian visas with the Legend Tour agency, and visit the Gandantegchinlen monastery. The city is neither exciting nor really pretty, she does not want to stay there too long and we don't have the impression of being in a capital.
A few things that have marked us however:
-coming out of China, there are super easy traffic. The people we pass and roll gently; and they honk little, it's nice!
-in Ulaanbaatar, as we will also see in the rest of the country, at least 80% of the cars have steering wheel right: it's cheaper, but especially much more dangerous! The State obviously does not regulate.
Wednesday, May 13, en route to the bus station: we go now to Secretariat, (very) small town in the West of the country.
After 11 h bus, we arrive... under the snow! We who thought camper, it we cooled... and found a small hotel room. There is no running water in the city, as everywhere in Mongolia finally. We learn to do with!
Two days around Lake Therkhiin
In the morning, it starts with the sun pointing his nose behind the mountains. Landscapes bleached by the snow from the previous day are beautiful, it is amazed... The Therkhiin Lake is formed after an eruption of the Khorgo volcano which the lava flow has prevented the proper flow of the river. Suddenly, we drive next to the volcanic rocks - or even top. On view at the crossing Mongolian tracks: track mode "corrugated sheet", pebbles, sand, everything passes; It may push the bike into the sides. Let's roll 35kms so far, but it is well worth the double given the State of the track.
We spend our first passages to Ford but Thomas playing the engineer points and pavement (stones, twigs...), keeps the feet (almost) dry! The Lake is still frozen 3/4, and all white with the layer of fallen snow: Lake Therkhiin is also called white Lake as it is frozen for the month of September in May. That day, the name makes perfect sense!
Asked the tent about end of the Lake. Thomas concocts us a small good fire with yak dung dried (Yes, Yes, it burns really well!). The Sun disappears behind the mountains around 9:30... the night is cold despite the cover of survival on we...
The next morning, we try to find the passage to the other side of the Lake, but a big river ended block us the road and cannot find a shallow crossing area. It seeks, it looks... in vain. It was decided to make the reverse-path of the previous day, after a lunch at the corner of the fire still smoking our camp for the night.
There is the small town of Secretariat in the late afternoon, bad legs and especially on the back after these two days of tracks and the cold night.
During these two days, the fauna around the Lake was exceptional. Very many raptors, wild ducks and other various birds; small dogs of prairie everywhere who fled to our arrival; huge herds of yaks of long hair and cubs born recently (very curious young yaks elsewhere: still to come and see us more closely); horses and their foals. In short, superb! The camera was well heated!
5 days of brand new road
It was thought that in Mongolia, it would essentially tracks. But no, what (good) surprise! We spent 5 days and 300 kms, of Secretariat to (shortly after) Karkhorin on a beautiful road paved, and only crossing that some rare cars.
The first day, we have a strong wind back that pushes us well in the climbs, and a great descent of at least 20 km in late afternoon! It crosses Tava, a Canadian cycling at the very beginning of his trip. After a moment to exchange it again face the headwind. Hard!
The next two days, the wind is from the front or side, but less strong, it will. It really is the land of the blue sky, and the few times where the sky is overcast, it emerges quickly enough to make room for a big blue sky and clear and pure air.
The road swings between 1800 m and 2000 m of altitude, in large enough green Plains separated by small collars. Large flocks of sheep, goats, yaks, cows, horses are in freedom everywhere. There is sometimes a jumper or a motorcycle which monitored.
The dodos night spots are always with superb views. But still it's pretty cold night and it develops different schemes to combat the cold. You eventually buy a cover to Kharkhorin, what will solve the problem!
Twice asked the tent near the yurts of nomads, but there is little contact with the locals. The first time, a good deal of fun anyway, the return of goats: small kids have a sacred grain of madness, run in all directions, climb on the pile of wood and... play trampoline on our tent.
In the Plains, it takes usually cross carcasses of animals, more or less recent, or of the bones of animals: these are the beasts that have not withstood the winter (even 15 days earlier, there was a severe snowstorm). For example, a friend of our Warmshower Froit host lost 200 animals on a herd of 1000 animals this winter... These carcasses are the delight of the very many raptors can be seen everywhere. There is a very big (vultures, Eagles) and smaller (kites, hawks...). We see them hover round in the updrafts, sometimes posed in their nests on electric towers; It has also crossed a 'cloud' of milans, a migration can be?
Two Mongolian cities
We pass in two Mongolian cities: Tsetserleg, after a fairly hard 5kms pass where the bitumen disappears just pass time, go find out why; and Kharkhorin, formerly called Karakorum, which is the capital history of the mongol empire, but which in has not kept. In short, one as the other do not have lots of charm... Is this the case for all Mongolian cities?
Karakorum is a guest house yurts by a very nice English Mongolian family. a place very calm at the exit of the city, where it is good to rest half a day.
We visit in this city the Buddhist monastery, where a guide explains (in English but with a strong accent Mongolian... not always understandable) the history of the monastery and the particularities of Mongolian Buddhism. It is still different, with a few different characters; Buddhism is definitely a complicated religion!
At the exit of the monastery, is seen at the far two babypriestley, bicycle helmet on his head and a bib shorts MOM! Cyclos! In addition they are french! We had lunch together and we spend a great time with this lovely family that starts just his journey. Déjà on se trouve plein de points communs, et on connaît les mêmes blogs (ils connaissaient notre site ! La classe ! 😉 ). Pendant qu’on discute passent par hasard 2 belges qu’ils avaient croisé à Ulan-Bator ; ils sont aussi anciens cyclos mais finissent en ce moment leur périple en moto.
Bref on quitte la ville à 17h après ces belles rencontres ! On roule un peu avant de se poser pour la nuit.