Unfortunately, the trip starts off on the wrong foot as we find out that luggage is missing for several members of the group, so the first day on the road is a little disjointed as Michael is out buying replacement clothing! We ride 250km along easy tarmac roads and find a quiet spot for lunch. Mahendra has a chat with a bull en route, but thankfully he’s fine. A cloud of rain produces a spectacular rainbow and after a slow start followed by a long day we turn off the road and end up at a Gher Camp in a beautiful setting, below some rocky mountain hills. An alcohol fueled dinner produces some sore heads in the morning.
Into the sand traps we head. Almost immediately we see dunes in the distance and the ground beneath becomes softer. We have a few people hit the deck but onto soft sand and slowly. After 20km or so of this through some idyllic desert mountains the ground hardens to green with superb tracks running through them. The scenery here changes completely within just one day so you really could be in an array of different countries. This is Mongolia on a grand scale. We camp near to an ancient fortress by a river. During the night the missing bags are delivered by Narra.
Driving Fairways… The next day find us riding past wishing trees up a wooded valley a spot revered by the shaman. After reaching a pass we ride down the other side slicing where possible to the grass as the mud is very slippery. We reach the bottom after a few tumbles, but everyone is in good shape and we head through the valley which widens into the most perfect fairway of endless flat grasslands stretching into the distance. What a drive! You can ride anywhere off the path. After a long stretch we get to a nomadic camp and stop in for some fermented mare’s milk – the traditional drink. Here we pick up a goat for our meat supply on route and they dispatch it in a very unique way. They almost put the animal in a trance, slit it’s stomach then reach inside it to break the spinal cord almost like an operation. A final drive takes us to a riverside camp. We try a bit off fishing but to no avail and Michael is on a mission to build a huge and very welcome fire… The night brings horses outside the tent and cranes endlessly flying by…
Horses were munching grass through the night. We rise, pack up and head down a gravel road to the town. The cracked frame gets welded and the front tyre changed – not perfect but the best we can do. We refuel and head on past the town where we then turn off, cross a large area of steppe and head up a beautiful wooded valley with the colors of autumn all around. Over the pass and down into another valley with a yellow streak of silver birch trees. The valley is short before we hit another wide open space with horses in abundance. After lunch Michael has a tumble but is fine. Heading to the Selenge river, we pass through streams, some of which are pretty deep! As we head towards the river we find wild grass growing everywhere. Eventually we end up at a hunters camp a little wet from a dose of rain and stay for the night in log cabins.
Along the Selenge today the weather is fine after the mist lifts. We follow the river going straight through it at the start. The paths are dry and nice to ride on. The colors are amazing with silver birch forests, small passes and cliffs along the river. This is one of the most beautiful days on tour so far and what would be incredibly hard riding is fine due to the weather. The valley is cultivated and we pass people who work on the fields. A few river crossings towards the end of the day bring us to the tarmac. We have 40km before finding where to pitch camp. It is a lovely evening but by the morning there is ice on the bikes and below zero for the first time.
We’re blessed with good weather again as the next day dawns completely clear – not even a wisp of cloud interrupts the endless blue. Back to the road for a quick 40km and then off towards the lake, off road. The scenery today is nature at it’s finest – a string of autumnal colours. Cyprus forests with the yellow of the silver birch trees. Mongolia at it’s wildest and most beautiful. We make 190km today including a lot off road and camp in a stunning valley. As soon as the sun goes in the temperature falls. It’s going to be a cold night.
Another beautiful day dawns with a good distance to go over the mountains. Small wooded passes give way to open valleys. Today is the day of river crossings – many of them. One so deep we had to push the bikes with all hands to get them through. After a long ride of around 150km we see the lake bordered by rugged mountains and pine forests. It is a picture perfect, amazing sign and very welcome as the rigors of the last few days starts to weigh on us. We ride around the lake until we find a spot with uninterrupted views – an incredible place to camp for the night. Michael sets about his usual task of collecting wood for the fire and we have a quick dip in the freezing waters. A few beers round the fire ends an epic day.
The last day arrives with the sun coming over the mountain. We have a relaxed start as we are going to have a short hop to Murren where we finish our ride and load the bikes onto the truck. A short stint off road through pine forests takes us to a main road. We change the tires and cruise down the road. Lunch is in a pine forest with vast views. Finally we pull into our Gher camp near the airport for a well deserved rest and a hot shower but that blows up before we get a chance…
The next day we fly back to Ulaan Bataar.