Even though the Mongolians are working hard at connecting all the regional capitals by paved roads, this is still an ongoing process. So, with our bikes cleaned up and new knobbly tyres fitted, we left Ulgii in the very west of Mongolia for our first real stretch of off-roading. From Ulgii to Ulaangom, less than 250km.
The beauty of the Mongolian country side is hard to describe, the space, vast planes and rocky mountains, slowly changing in to green hills only to become flat again afterwards, it is stunning.
I’ve been riding for well over a decade, but never off-road and it was physically hard and exhausting for me. But, the biggest muscle ache came from the huge grin on my face that day. Slowly I’ve been learning how much these wonderful bikes can do. Uphill, downhill, washboard, gravel, river crossings, snow, ice, mud, rocks with the new Shinko tyres the bike mastered it all, my skill being the limiting factor.
Two numbers were chasing each other throughout the day. The number of kilometres left to go to Ulaangom and number of hours of daylight left. Riding in darkness in these conditions is pure madness, so, even though we had come to within 40km of Ulaangom, at around eight in the evening we pulled the plug and found beautiful spot to pitch our tents.
From there on, most of the days took us over perfect asphalt roads, smooth easy riding and, because we don’t need to go any farther than Ulaanbaatar, we had plenty of time to enjoy.
A few days later we repeated the off-roading adventure on very different terrain, flatter and much drier. The deep sand was very hard for me, I constantly felt I had no control. My proud statistic of not having fallen of my bike this entire trip ended that day. Up to this point I had dropped the bike a few times, but always managed to land on my feet myself. This time I took a dive and hit the sand, nothing serious luckily, only a few small bruises, mostly on my ego.
To repeat the first day off-roading, we almost made it to the road before dark, but again had to find a place to camp, I doubt I’ll ever find a spot with such a view again.