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Mongolia & our last border crossing into Russia
We entered Mongolia full of anticipation and excitement, knowing that this land provides some of the finest off road riding on earth and we weren’t disappointed.
Our first nights camp was at an impossibly scenic spot on the bend of a river surrounded by utter wilderness. A small but constant flow of curios Mongolians trotted by on their horses to drink tea with us and look at the bikes. With dinner completed a full moon rose illuminating the countryside in a bright silver light, wild horses grazed nearby and the silence was profound, it was an magnificent introduction to Mongolia.
A local Ger dwelling family invited us in for Kymys (salted mares milk) and cheese the following morning, an experience that was enjoyed by all.
Turning off the main road we pounded our way for 2 hours through spectacular scenery to Mongolia’s most important monastery, Amayasgalant. Our first river crossing saw the R 1200 go down to the axle ensuring a very wet me. The days of spectacular riding continued struggling at times to pick the correct track to ride on as there are so many choices, rule of thumb was to follow the power lines and keep riding west. We eventually reached the spectacular Khovsguul Nuur, a stunning alpine lake surrounded by lofty peaks. Two nights were spent sleeping inside traditional Gers and relaxing lakeside as the ¾ moon reflected off the lake.
We retraced our tracks back to Moron and rode south bound for Tsgaan Nuur, another stunning lake. We made it to within 15 minutes of the lake when disaster struck; at the time it seemed like a disaster. The axle snapped on the trailer with a wheel and axle stud rolling into the nearby river. It was certainly a sorry sight to see the end of the axle buried in the dirt in a very remote part of what is already a very remote country, Mongolia. With the axle removed and a local who knew a welder both Micks drove off into the Mongolian night (only to get hopelessly bogged for two hours) before arriving at our destination, (the welder), at midnight. An early start the following day and a welding job to reattach the axle stud to the axle (inspiring zero confidence in me that it would last ten minutes) we drove back to our impromptu campsite.
We hadn’t quite made our Tsgaan Nuur destination the previous night so a quick revamp of our itinerary saw us ride for two hours to an absolutely spectacular spot on the shores of the lake staying once again in a luxury Ger camp; it was a welcome treat for all as were the beers and great meal.
With the axle holding (to my complete surprise) we continued on past ancient volcanoes and spent the day again riding the vast empty spaces of Mongolia, being spurred on by the promise of great cinnamon rolls and a wonderful feed at the Fairfield Hotel, a hotel run by and Australian couple in Tserterleg, it didn’t disappoint.
We rode back onto paved roads and into the chaos of Ulaan Bataar, Mongolia’s capital, all of us could have quite easily turned around and gone back out into the wonderful countryside, although the excellent Hotel Continental was a nice taste of luxury after a few weeks of roughing it.
A New Zealand gold mining company was found and the axle was again welded and machined with the hope that it will last to Magadan, I am still doubtful!
We rode north to the Mongol/Russian border and camped for our last night in the magnificent Mongolia. If wide open spaces, huge blue skies, friendly people and boundless off road riding is your thing then Mongolia has to be your destination. It was agreed that Mongolia was high on everyone’s favourite places visited list thus far, what a great experience.
Entering Russia and the usual five hour border crossing we spent the next two days riding the Trans Siberian Highway through vast stands of Taiga and impossibly big wheat fields to Chita.
We continued on the Trans Siberian highway until the turnoff for the legendary M56/Lena Highway; otherwise know as the “Highway to Hell”. The sign informed us that we had over 1200kms of dirt to ride until we reached Yakust, in the north of Siberia.
The track proved to be hard on the bikes but thankfully there was very little mud. Again the riding was inspiring as we are late in the season and the wonderful colours of autumn are out turning the landscape a shade of yellow and red.
We were looking for a camping spot when a couple of reindeer hunters stopped us and invited us to camp with them on the banks of a river, we quickly accepted. The spot was idyllic with a small log cabin being home for six people and a Sable Cat being cooked in the pot. The boiling eyeball did make my stomach turn a little.
A wonderful night of Yakut hospitality ensued and we chatted, (or more truthfully charades) around the campfire getting a brief insight into their culture and their way of life.
Eventually we rode into Yakutsk or more correctly caught a ferry across the Lena River as there are no bridges, yet.