As we prepare for the North East tour of Mongolia, the weather is sunny, but also wet. The bikes have been reassembled and revamped by Danushka and Hashan with the help of Souhaine – the advance party who arrived to prepare for the start date of 17th August. Ogi and the team from Black Shaman prepare the logistics for 10 days in the wilds.
We meet the guys at the Chinngis Khaan hotel bar at 7pm that evening for a brief of the tour ahead which is kept brief as this is our first outing on this particular route. Dinner at a local restaurant with a cultural song and dance sets the scene over a few drinks. It’s not looking good for the vegetarians among us!!
On the morning of our first riding day we meet in the lobby. The rain is falling outside as we set the bikes up to everyone’s different shapes and sizes – moving gear levers, brake levers and adjusting mirrors. Geoff and Mark seem very confident with the riding; Sue and Don a little less so. We move out for a little test ride into the carpark where we can familiarize ourselves with the bikes and prepare for the ride out of Ulsan Bataar into the wilderness. In Mongolia, they drive on the right hand side of the road! The first session takes us through the city, with it’s communist style of architecture mixed in with more modern traffic. We leave the city behind and visit the statue of Chinngiss Khaan, where there’s also a museum to get a sense of local culture and marvel at the expanse of the Mongolian empire in days gone by.
This first day pushing out into the wilderness sees us driving a fair amount of road which allows people to get a feel for their bikes before camping next to a river in a stunning valley of endless green. Sheep and cattle are everywhere in this ultimate grazing land.
Nomad camps appear around us, filled with cattle and horses all around. This is grazing on a vast scale as the valleys sweep into the distance. We camp next to a small river and Mark takes a trip into the local village to get some beer. We try a bit of fishing to feed the vegetarian, but with no luck!! The light lingers late here and we set up camp fighting with the cows over toilet paper.
In the morning the river is raging as it threw it down with rain overnight and we were worried it might overflow!! However, it was a clear, sunny start as we make our way up the valley. The usual hazards of the previous day are around with what we call Marmot holes hidden in the grass – big dips to avoid. After reaching a pass the rain ahead becomes visible in the vast expanse of green ahead it keeps edging closer as we drive before we finally hit a wall of water. Just half an hour of drenching before we are out the other side into the sunshine.
We cross another pass with trees and wild flowers everywhere – the scenery changing completely in no space of time. Then on to the rivers… We have had Don and Sue off in minor incidents. This is a testing route for those not used to being off road, but everyone’s confidence is rising. We reach a beautiful monastery far up in the hills which is stunning and completely different to anything we have seen yet. The next road is deemed too bad to travel on by the local people so our distance has grown and we are all tired as we roll into camp. It’s in a beautiful forest setting high over the valley, dry and sunny with plenty of wood for the fire that night. A big, beautiful day and we’re all in one piece after Mark had a slight tussle with a Marmot hole.
Dawn brings no dew being high on the mountain. We wake early and pack down the camp, leaving at 8.30am. A short day lies ahead with some easy riding. Our support vehicles cruise through the nomadic valley, we cross rivers, slide on mud and weave through sand. There are a few drops but all still ok. The wall of a 3rd century fortress passed. Around lunchtime we visit a nomadic family who take us in for a taste of cream yoghurt, lamb on the bone and a special tea made from milk.
After a little lunch we arrive at Binder, a small town of orange and green roofs. We take on fuel before making our way to a river crossing – the biggest of the day – before getting a boat over a large river to the camp ground for the night. Riding down the gangplank provides some interesting support. Another great day on the road with a magic setting for camping. The wind drops as it does most nights and the clouds clear, leaving a clear blue sky. Dinner is a very tasty stew and a wood burner is set up to give us warmth. As we eat the temperature is dropping.
Passing through country side with lots of wild flowers and even a field of rapeseed, is a change of colour for the senses. Horses and cattle are everywhere and Souhaine does his fair share of herding as we press on through this beautiful land.
Nomadic children race us on their horses. Finally we drop down to camp by a river but not before taking on some deep sand and stones of the river bed. It’s tricky riding on sand! Finally we decide on a campsite covered by wild flowers.
The rain starts as we sleep and continues for the night. Very luckily it always seems to stop as we awake and after packing down the camp after the usual hot porridge, we get the wet weathers on because every time we do the rain doesn’t come – a little superstition. The rain has made the mud into an ice skating rink and we fight through it towards Dadal. What took us 1 hour the day before takes us at least 3 using the grass at the side of the road as much as possible. Dadal is the birth place of Chinngis Khaan and we visit the sites of hi
s birth including a spring and a holy mound. We have the option of riding through Dadal and on to a camp site further on. The area is heavily wooded and we find budding wild cannabis plants. We choose to stay in Dadal at a Ger camp run by a family from Ulsan Bataar. Tonight we all let our hair down, the disco comes out, the beers run dry and we party hard!
The next day (with sore heads) we move on from Dadal. The weather seems to be holding somewhere between sunny and cloudy. What took an endless amount of time yesterday, we covered 39km very quickly on the dried road. Early on, Sue tries to run over the mechanic and has a small tussle with a post but otherwise the day is an easy one as we pass Norovlin and the road becomes wider and straighter. The scenery is endless stretches of rolling green as far as the eye can see and the wind has a bite to it that signifies a drop in the temperature as autumn sets in. There are nomads around when we arrive at camp and we get to ride one of their horses. An early night ensues for a well needed rest.
It was a cold night with a biting wind on the side of the hill. Riding is relatively easy today through long expanses of steppe, mountains always in the distance. Long stints finally reveal a town in the distance Underhan. We lunch in a restaurant before changing to all terrain types as from here to Ulsan Bataar we are on asphalt the first in a long while. After refueling we ride towards Ulsan Bataar looking for a campsite. We drive a few km off the road and find a beautiful spot with little wind and amazing views. Somehow the weather has warmed in the last couple of hours so we sit out and soak up the rays of the sun after a few days of cold. A wolf appears in the distance making it’s way off over the hills – we were so lucky to see this sight. The last night out in the wilderness tomorrow – 300km on the road to Ulsan Bataar.
A beautiful morning follows and a cloudless sky ushers in the final day of the tour. It’s a long ride into Ulsan Bataar along straight roads with the odd diversion to be had after getting to the statue of Chinngis Khaan where we lunch before heading into town. All safely in a great ride through unbeatable scenery.