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Old 01-18-2014, 09:53 PM   #541
mrwwwhite OP
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Originally Posted by Seedywee View Post
It was the Arctic explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson who said "Adventure is a sign of incompetence," and no less than Roald Amundsen who said "Adventure is just bad planning." All of which describes, in the best possible way, your utterly fantastic Adventure.

Your RR, stories and photos, leave me speechless and my small donation to your funds is dwarfed by the pleasure your RR has given me and the admiration I have for you both.
Cheers man, we've been wondering who has suddenly credited our PayPal!
Excellent quotes, made our day, and so true! We learned to look back to our misadventures as The seed of adventure and some of the worst days in the trenches have sedimented as some of the best. It just says that for us the amateur adventurers, preparing for years and postponing your big adv until you're ready is not gonna improve your experience.
Speaking of which, we have been shuffling our pics and thinking how we have transitioned to lighter set-up and I uncovered - exactly 2 years from the very day - proof that my present partner "in motorcycling crime" was in the cards for me. I encountered it in the least probable place of them all. We have been sharing these memories on fb so it may be of interest to share them here as well. Look how we left from Romania in June 2011: over 250kg of bike and bulky luggage, which made my first contact with the Sahara neither easy, nor fun.



Next lesson was getting stuck on one of the most difficult stretches of Africa: Cameroon's dreaded Ekok to Mamfe. Again, the huge load and the cotton mud took their toll.



In December 2011 I was catching an up-close glimpse of her, but she belonged to another… Crossing back trails of Congo together with Alper made me inevitably dream that one day I'd be riding my own 690.



This next souvenir is from the crossing of the DRC, from December 2011 to January 2012. The fact that for the following weeks we teamed up with Jacques & Delphine@aux4vents.eu allowed me to keep stripping the weight off the bike, to experiment and even fully enjoy riding on long stretches of rough terrain.



This is another key moment: close to the end of a gruesome but nevertheless exciting 2500 km stretch of DR Congo, we met these Belgian guys. By this time my bike was already lighter (thanks to Jacques & co.) and often I was having great fun riding through deep sand, mud and all the stuff the dark heart of Africa is made of. But these guys were riding on the most advanced adventure motorcycles available, that any connoisseur lusts for.



What do we have here? In the middle is the same bike used by Colebatch in his Sibirsky Extreme series. This XChallenge is nowhere near as adventurised as Walter's and is fitted with the bulky Touratech front tank. On the right is the sexy rally-raid-ready 690 Enduro which appears to be 'wearing' an early development of the ORYX Adventure kit by KTM Cape Town (note the differences in the shape of the front tanks between these ones and the production model).



After being teased with the sight of the aforementioned bikes, and after roughing it in the trenches of Africa for 55K, by the time we arrived in Sudan's Nubian desert (circa early July 2012) I was a changed man. From then on I was looking to un-load and up-power. Riding those dunes made me empirically realise that on sand a steering damper should make a huge difference.



After the journey around Africa eventually ended full circle where we had left from, it was natural that we both put our improved skills to use and evolve. So it was that by the time we hit the salt flats of Russia on our way to Central Asia, Ana was on her own bike and I was rocking this baby.






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Originally Posted by RideN View Post
Long time lurker here. I have been lurking on these ride reports for about 2 years now and I am just inspired to register today and say awesome. Awesome pics, awesome writing, awesome adventure. Your writing blows me away. You should seriously consider writing a book. My wife is from Romania & I have visited 3X's. We now live in Virginia near skyline drive. On your next leg around the world stop in...
Glad you're following, and thank you for the high five. Next time you're in Romania please consider being our guest in Bucharest or in Doftana Valley. We have been fiddling with a book since long time, it's just that we did not stay put long enough to be able to focus our cauldron of ideas, romanticises memories and bleeding longing for Africa into something cohesive. Last winter spent in Romania was not inducing to inspiration, then in spring we managed to be ready for Central Asia and we could not wait to start. So we drafted a 'teaser' for what could be a book in the future, you can download it for free here (iPad, Kindle and pdf), and any thoughts on it are appreciated. It's been a good idea, since the reviews of readers are both right and useful. We are not pleased with that draft but it's a good reference for what writing a book may do to us. Can we do it, can we cope with the language issues? It's evident that the teaser did not benefit from an editor, which is an absolute must. We are also still debating between us if we should develop it from the blog, or take it to small stories wired into the big story and uncover some characters that never made it online and remained in our notebook.
On the other hand, I think it's good that we allowed the time to mature our memories. A raw account can be great, but so can be something written on the bigger picture, if we manage not to make it preachy or boring
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Old 01-20-2014, 06:09 AM   #542
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The Girl From Jupiter And The Boys From The Land of Houyhnhnms



Mongolian summers are short and brutal, like a day at Romaniacs. Since we've came, the road kept pushing us forward, the steppe unrolled its deceiving monotony, until we got lost in the guts of this endless and bottomless Mongolia. When your wheels and thoughts are stuck in mud, both me and Ana have discovered, one easily looses track of time. Similarly, when you sleep night after night with only a thin sheet of rain cover separating you from the universe, the boundaries between what's yours and the living substance from which you separated at birth become blurred. It's not always comfortable: it happens that rain drums all night, you may be cold or sun may turn your tent into a sauna. The pragmatism on which our day to day life depends makes you consider an abandon: after all, what sane person leaves home to sleep under the rain? But the process of resetting your destiny is a mischievous mechanism, that urges you to stay, and to endure. You reading this ride report, regardless if you've been in my skin hundreds of times before or if you are planning and saving towards some adventure, you know. The road between you of this particular moment and the one you aim to be goes through the Caudine Forks of those days when you are taken to your mental and physical limits, which in the end you will somehow remember as the best part of the entire thing. So it happens that the smelly damp socks, the tasteless morning porridge and the pruning bodily parts are counterbalanced by a fragrant field of wild thyme, by the crunchy carrot topping our lunch, and by the mild muscular fever that shots an electric impulse from the arms to the stern.



This sunny picnic for instance is exactly what I am talking about: we can forget about the grim morning if we've got an innocent river to pollute with our sconcsy socks mentioned before. Until the next rain, of course





Every time I'm on the road another question keeps popping into my head: why, when we are truly happy, we find it difficult to be aware of our happiness? Is it to protect our human neurones from an eventual implosion? Or is it to reveal us later, in the aftermath of the climax, when we are browsing our stills and writing our blogs, the scale of the change? Or perhaps it's just to put a satisfied smirk on our faces while people stuck together with us in rush hour traffic start wondering if we have lost it. Those people don't know that we are smirking to the memory of distant moments, when we wrestled the landscape, as one should, because you cannot make love to your motorcycle, can you, only within the hygiene of traffic rules and favourable weather.





Of course, to each their own "torture". Even if it looks like it, this is not exclusively a motorcycling report. We share our roads and trails with other travellers, who choose to ride without the aid of engine. Their fuel is food and their time takes different value. Helen Lloyd is one of those people. When we were readying to depart to Africa we followed the Brit's cycling journey across the Western half of the black continent and her Niger adventure. Since then all three of us passed the African test, she wrote her first book about Desert Snow, and we've become classmates on Jupiter. As we were not up to date with her latest adventures, we were not expecting to meet her in the middle of Mongolia!



The African route of this brave girl largely resembles our own and includes a good chunk of DRC. What we did in 9 months of riding took her over 2 years of cycling. This time around Helen is journeying our reverse route. She started on the Trans-Siberian, then crossed the scenic Tuva republic on her way to Mongolia, from where she is heading via the Altai towards the Pamir, only to return in January for an incredible winter ride in Siberia. The encounter is extremely meaningful to us. With so much to talk about, Ana forgets to take off her helmet and Helen to get off her bike. The girls encourage each other; Helen confesses that she has been longing to try a different vehicle for her trips and that she has recently passed her motorcycling license, and of course Ana urges her to try on the DRZ. Business cards and promises to keep in touch exchanged, we must go our separate ways.

Enter one of the most enjoyable stretches of Mongolia, where we all we do is ride, never stopping for photos or for talking, eyes only on the narrow dirt trails curved to vertigo. Two hours later we arrive dusty and happy on the bank of a river, not far from Jargaland. The impassable bridge is an omen. Sometime in the not so distant future, dozens of bare-boned bridges await me. As sketchy as the Jargaland structure may appear, compared to those yet to be uncovered, it's nothing but child's play.







The bridge is lit by a rainbow that almost tricks us into believing that the rain has already passed through here. Clouds rapidly advancing from where we've arrived suggest otherwise.





While we toy with our camera and lens, the promise of rain is fulfilled. Within minutes the sun dies into a dense blanket of cloud, and even if it's still daytime, it turns dark. the road is mushy, our front wheel groping in the blind, through puddles sometimes half a meter deep. The day is spent, we'll never make it across the river ahead, so I figure we should better start searching for a bivouac. I ask for some sort of direction to the hazy silhouette that I take for a woman busying around her yurt. The silhouette steps forward. Now I can see the smile lighting up her wide face, the slanted eyes and the black braids under a colourful scarf. A siren to guide us voyagers through the storm, I think. I follow her sign, but a few meters away I stop again, and Ana knows why. Have you seen the yaks and the kefir cloth, I say, I think we should go back and ask them to let us camp there. The woman cannot look happier that we've returned, and she is joined by others, waving and clapping. We throw our tent on the floor and step into the yurt to warm ourselves by the fire and socialise with our accidental friends.
Inside the nomads' home scarves fall, new wood is burnt and dinner is laid. Only now we notice that our host is pregnant. Ertin Jaaral is home alone with her two daughters, while the husband is away to the grasslands.







The yurt ceiling is decorated with drying cheese, and on the fire there's a pot with bubbling fatty liquid that Ertin turns daily into kefir, cheese, butter and other manifestations of milk.





We sample everything on two thick slices of homemade bread. After a snack of sweetened cheese crackers Ertin pulls the last trick down her sleeve. She takes a yak thigh and chops the aged meat into small pieces that are quickly sautéed; a couple of handfuls of rice, a piece of lard and a ladle of water and the food is ready. It tastes and smells incredible. Meanwhile a stream of rainwater and mud is flowing from our feet to the entrance door.





Fed and dry, we sleep like babies. We are awaken by the yaks. A cheeky beast is licking our tent; chased away, the furry creature retreats close to the dripping kefir bag and waits for the commotion to die off, so he can feed on his colleagues' milk. During the night Ertin's husband has returned home, so we are invited again to eat with the family.







A second round of yak meat with rice and fatty kefir ensues. To our dismay, Ertin pours milk directly on top of the meat. They do this to milk in Mongolia. In her book “Hearing Birds Fly – A Nomadic Year in Mongolia”, Louisa Waugh gives more insight into this culinary habit. She explains that according to nomad custom, most cattle is sacrificed when summer ends. The animals spared for breeding are taken to the winter cabins, up in the highlands. Milk therefore is only available during the brief Mongolian summer, perhaps less than three months per year. Milk is used to make butter, cheese and alcohol, and the Mongols consider it an almost sacred source of nutrition. Milk is always preferred to drinking water, but water is added to the mixture, for economy. Such concoctions are called tea, but actual brew is seldom included, and drinking black tea is almost frowned upon, as a sign of poverty that must be endured only until the next season of milk begins.
Ertin's yurt suddenly feels a little too small for the crowd of neighbours and friends gathered to enjoy a breakfast with the strangers. They all wonder why we don't drink more milk.





Before we say our good-byes the kids want us to take some photos of them and their horses. Again, we are profoundly touched by how they talk and behave to their animals. Ertin's daughters, Amar Tupsin (9) and Amar Jargal (18) gently clean yak cows. A young boy, Altin-Olzii (9) says that his horse is like family.







Semi-nomadic children, brown-skinned from sunny days on the steppe: Altin-Olzii, Altin-Ondrah (15) and Atumbaatar (14). And me, the white man, on top of Altin-Olzii's houyhnhnm.





Altin-Olzii accompanies us for a while, then the boy and his horse disappear in the background. Our eyes have become a little wet, but we are surrounded by such beauty that we cannot be sad for too long. Cranes roam the steppe, a bold eagle searches for carrion and there's a whole herd of disoriented sheep by the river we've been anticipating since a day before.



I search for the shallowest way across.





While we push our motorbikes, on the other bank an eclectic audience has gathered. A man arrived on horse has joined the sheep, and he is savouring the show. After we're done, we try to mitigate the 'situation' as best as we can. Ana has stripped down earlier to spare her boots from getting wet, and now she recovers her dignity by fixing everybody tea and a snack of cheese. Whatever got wet is left to dry in the sun. And the sheep encouraged at their own crossing of the river, to where a couple of thankful lady-herders await.





Soon after we get rolling again, we encounter another broken bridge.



This time we cross without undressing: Ana climbs the bridge, I take it to the water. D







Our days on the moutain are numbered: as soon as we hit stretches of road that are under construction my eyes are on the Garmin, where altitude keeps dropping.



As we are in no rush to arrive in the city, we linger for picnics and every time I see a stream I jump on Ana's DRZ and go fetch fresh water. Even if it's severely modified to accommodate an unusually small rider like Ana, this bike is quite fun - a solid option for any off-road adventure. The interesting analysis of Colebatch grants this frisky machine its righteous place among the three bikes that have proven the strongest competitors in the light adventure class. An important and much needed shift in adventure motorcycling is intricately linked to these bikes. Walter puts it better than me: since the pioneering expeditions of the past century, the journey taken by Ewan and Charlie and onward to the Terra Circa/ Mondo Enduro collectives (not to mention Walter's own infamous rides to the depths of Siberia), things have changed quite a bit. Roads were paved, and the "grey" spots on the map are no longer tackled with a compass in hand. Cruise boats have become available for the travellers who can work their tan and snorkel while them and their vehicle are being carried across. Many 2013 adventurers appear more concerned to keep their Touratech gizmos unscratched than to allow themselves to be reshaped by the adventure. This isn't necessary a bad thing, but let's not forget that this is the art of propaganda and marketing, it severs the connection between public policy and the individual consciousness, it cancels the instinct for what's right. The proliferation of mass media and the development of infrastructure brings people closed to what they desire: the poor to the consumer goods (and only later to medical services and information), and the rich to the few places left untapped. We are contemporary with the democratisation of access: anybody to be able to go anywhere they want to go. Consequently adventure motorcycling, already a controversial concept seldom confused to touring, requires a new paradigm. I guess I'll be returning to this in a future rant…





For now I'm busy advancing together with my girl to the place where the enduro playground Mongolia is famous for relinquish power to the tarmac. Where a panorama will no longer look like this:



or like this:



It will pretty much look like this:



We are advancing to the kingdom of concrete, where Coca Cola has replaced milk. Speaking of that, I'd mention that the Mongols' passion for dairy adds to their already excessively protein-based regimen, rendering them quite vulnerable to diseases. But of course these people are crazy about yak milk, I cry a day later, if their yaks feed on edelweiss! Indeed, the hills where we bivouac are covered in flowers.



It's the first rainless day. The grass is heavy with dew, the field reverberates with yaks hoofing about. Besides frog frogging and mysterious squeezels, well, squeezeling, we also had trucks horning for lullaby. Since yesterday we are on their battleground. An enormous operation is well underway to cover Mongolia's untamed steppe under layers of sand, gravel and asphalt. But because of its seemingly intangible quietness and sheer size, the vulnerability of this mongolian landscape is hard to grasp.



The gentle tract of the road hides patches of washboard corrugations. The southern route is predominately this, and riders who choose to follow it end up hating it. In the background mountains rise to barren summits, with the White Lake a silent mirror of the sky. Mongolia's lakes and rivers reveal strange new colours, the kind that seem to exist only here, under this cold light, and if I blink or turn my eyes away, they're gone.
On the border of Terkhiin Tsagaan lake we stop to watch yak fighting for a partner, or to kill boredom.







A few adults are galloping or riding their mopeds in circles to keep the herds compact. They pay no attention to us. On the contrary, their kids run over to feature in my reportage. Here they are: Bolyn-uu (14), her brother Baah-baaatar (13) and Namuu-naah (6).







This paradise is only going to last for another day. As we are soon to be repeatedly disappointed: by the outcrops of Taikhar Chuluu, where Neolithic inscriptions have long disappeared under contemporary graffiti and where offerings to ancestors lay alongside piles of discarded packaging.







A bizarre sight: the so-called “penis rock”, another omen of a certain breed of Chinese tourists we will meet a few months from now. Taking a bow in front of the penis rock some say equals to a shamanic benediction. We both refrain from following the lead of Mongol tourists, but we at least take some photos. It was not enough for the magic to work. On exiting the trail back to the main hard-packed, Ana takes the first tumble in days, and the fist to end with consequences. She hurts her right thumb tendon.







Out of tourist sites we are in search for a place where we could attempt to resuscitate our cooker. As it becomes evident that the gear must be retired, we return to our friendly spats with non-tourist Mongols. We must have gotten accustomed to their irreverence, to their lack of social skill or respect for personal propriety, because we are no longer bothered to be almost kicked off the bikes with vigorous enthusiasm. We are now worried about the citizens of the capital who have been recently our constant 'companions', their opulent cars driven carelessly across the steppe, their beer bellies proudly exposed and their newly acquired consumerist habits leaving behind a changed Mongolia.





We see from afar the first group of foreigners dumped by their tour bus in the saddle of the houyhnhnms that carry them to the temple.



After Karakorin, the former capital of Mongolia, and all the way to Ulaanbaatar the road is poorly sealed, making us curse between crunched teeth and Ana to sprinkle her right thumb. We bivouac a few kilometres shy off the highway, next to a deserted mountain cabin.







The following day is as bleak as they come; we spend it navigating through an ever dense flow of vehicles, stopping only 50 km from Ulaanbaatar, quite pissed that our Mongolian adventure is coming to its inevitable end. In less than 24 hours we will have every reason to congratulate ourselves:





We are about to discover in the capital of this extraordinary Mongolia an unexciting place of gluttony and polluting industries, with accidental urbanism and an urbanity very hard to like. But beyond all this we will also find the solution to continue our pursuit to the Far East and an unexpected resolution to a personal challenge that has been haunting me since Uzbekistan.

mrwwwhite screwed with this post 01-20-2014 at 06:31 AM
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Old 01-20-2014, 09:37 AM   #543
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Awesome thread... continuously amazing photos and narrative.
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Old 01-20-2014, 09:39 AM   #544
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This, in my opinion, is one of the best ride reports ever posted on Adv. The photography, the storyline, the ride itself... all amazing!

Thank you both for all of the work you have done to share your journey with the Adv. community.

Cheers,

.
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Old 01-20-2014, 06:56 PM   #545
mrwwwhite OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TwilightZone View Post
Awesome thread... continuously amazing photos and narrative.
Quote:
Originally Posted by poolman View Post
This, in my opinion, is one of the best ride reports ever posted on Adv. The photography, the storyline, the ride itself... all amazing!

Thank you both for all of the work you have done to share your journey with the Adv. community.

Cheers,

.
Thanks a lot guys. We are privileged to have the stories to share, and as reluctant as we were in the beginning to pen something down about the rides (like everybody who starts a new blog I guess, and struggles in front of the blank screen, wondering what to say :loll), RRs help putting thoughts in order. Besides, we enjoy going back in time and reliving the moments. Phew!

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Old 01-21-2014, 09:47 PM   #546
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respect

There must be guys out there who have taken longer journeys and tougher rides.
There are photographs and photographers that really, really blow your mind.
Surely there are superior writers, authors, reporters…

Combining the three, you John and you Ana... you simply rock.
Keep it real


Respect!
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Old 01-22-2014, 12:26 AM   #547
mrwwwhite OP
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Originally Posted by Beks View Post
There must be guys out there who have taken longer journeys and tougher rides.
There are photographs and photographers that really, really blow your mind.
Surely there are superior writers, authors, reporters…

Combining the three, you John and you Ana... you simply rock.
Keep it real
Cheers man!
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Old 01-22-2014, 12:39 AM   #548
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Ulaanbaatar

Ulaanbaatar


After advancing for 3 months across deserts, mountains and swollen rivers, the first thing we do in Ulaanbataar is to get stuck in traffic. Except for the steady flow of the pedestrian crowd which gives me a nauseating illusion of slowly rolling backwards, nothing on the street really moves. Busses clogged with everyday people occupy every inch left available by cars with their respective solitary drivers laying trapped inside. There are resigned expressions on faces, shirts rolled over sweaty bellies, newspapers spread over steering wheels, music blasting fizzy techno tunes, hands poked out of windows drumming to the beat with the longer nail of the little finger. It’s definitely not an evident scene one would anticipate to encounter in world’s least populous country.
Ulaanbataar looks nothing like the city of yurts glossy magazines romanticise. And no, contrary to what the participants in the Mongol Rally proclaim in their fundraising YouTube clips, before ever stepping foot into the country, camels are not used for ambulances. The only two double lane streets of the capital are clogged with the latest Infinity and Mercedes 4×4 models, and Ulaanbaatar’s rather un-beautiful answer to a modern downtown is riddled with high-risers.





But this is just glitter on the face of what could go down in history as one of the worst cases of mismanagement and disinterest for the ecological footprint of a boomtown. Luxury condominiums are being built before any access road. All laws of sustainable design and liveability (natural lighting, alignment, how more cars will be absorbed by the traffic and where could these cars be parked – to name a few) are being ignored. The construction sites invade every urban space, up to the gas stations. If anything, chucking more cars into the rudimentary infrastructure of the mongol capital and allowing the urbanism to adapt organically will only make things worse. City planners should gather here from all over the world to solve the mess.
The limited charm of what tourist ads incorrectly proclaim to be “more like sophisticated European city than Asian city” is not enhanced by grey skies and smog, but by its dwellers. In the main square of the capital people gather to pose in front of the national hero. Children and mothers enjoy the only open space in town; brides, grooms and guests strut in elegant deel (silken robes) and gutal (leather boots).









Contrasting to the restraint stance of the locals, Chinese tourists do their regular victory signs and quirky poses.



The luckiest of these beautifully clad people inhabit decaying apartment buildings from the soviet era, to the north of the city. But most residents of Ulaanbaatar are still living at the fringes of empty neighbourhoods of luxury flats, in fenced yurts, with limited access to running water, no sewage and no garbage disposal system. It’s a confronting image of caged steppe sitting in its own refuse, the agony of nomadism. After laying dormant for eight centuries, Mongolia is waking from reverie and the economy is expanding at an astonishing rate. Recent finds suggest that one of the largest gold mines could soon open in the Gobi desert. Never in history a discovery of such scale proved just a blessing. There is undeniable danger in taking prosperity for granted. As elsewhere, the poorest strata of this society – that happens to have been until recently one of the most isolated nations – is vulnerable to corporate neocolonialism. Few of the promises of jobs, health care and education for local communities will ever materialise and before they can be instigated to mass consumption, people need to be eased into what it means to squeeze your country dry.

Such is the heresy that torments the thoughts of Romanian motorcyclists navigating Ulaanbataar’s motorized extravaganza. Clutch pulled, teeth clenched, we ride past the closed gates of the Russian embassy where we had planned to apply for a visa. As Begzuren, our Couchsurfing host is living at the city outskirts and he has no electricity and no running water in his yurt, we have resigned to seeking accommodation in a well known traveller’s ‘oasis’. It takes us the better half of the day to drive there.



The inevitable pit stop of those to overland in Central Asia needs little introduction. Orderly, yet somehow lacking character, well-appointed, yet somehow freedom-restrictive, furnished with yurts and staffed by Mongols, yet somehow disconnected from local realities – it’s an universe folded into itself, pretty much like the Mongolian yurt. Many have arrived at its gates for a couple of days only to be swallowed for weeks into its gut. Those whom the experience awaits in the future must have already had their fair share of warnings. What the place masters is also what we came for: it connects travellers and allows them a place for exchange and vehicle rejuvenation. We wonder how this place will change in the future, as the people who have run it for 13 years have just sold it to another couple. We meet many people, each with their own unique story: the spaniard Teo aka Mr. Hicks46 who has been filming his entire journey while addressing his viewers from inside his helmet…



Tom the American, who has been living in Moscow for 10 years…



The Corsicans Jean-Cri, Aure si Emilie who are on their Piu Luntanu RTW by 950 Adventure and who surprise us with the fact that they have been following our blog since Africa…





Many others are crammed into a small yard with communal washing facilities where poor locals come to take their weekly shower. Travellers separate according to vehicle: trucks and cars keep it to their own, so do motorcyclists, with the odd cyclist trying to fit in-between. On the evening of our arrival I hear someone speaking in Romanian into a phone. Emigrated to Germany over two decades ago, Karl has arrived in Ulaanbaatar at the end of a ride across Europe, Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia. He is with a rat-pack of four – his son Daniel (an architect in Vienna), his son in law and his father, all on Super Tenere. As Karl is medic, he takes care of Ana’s injured thumb with fatherly love.

Pics below courtesy of Daniel & Karl



Ana seeks at breakfast the advice of Dimitri, a real life explorer, a brilliant, funny and larger than life Frenchman who has been on a quest to circumnavigate the world by human power. He is one of the two people to have crossed the Bering on and through ice, on foot, swimming and pushing a sledge.

Pic below courtesy of Nexus Expeditions



If we arrived in the city hyped that we had managed to accomplish what we had set out to do, in Ulaanbaatar we are failing at everything. Leading a rookie rider across challenging tracks was a child’s play compared to the task of shipping two motorbikes from Mongolia to Romania. Our initial plan was to do Central Asia, then follow the Silk Road by bicycles into China towards South-East Asia. That required sending the bikes by plane back to Bucharest and buying bicycles in Ulaanbaatar. Well, it does not prove straightforward. The black market offers no second hand bicycles, but it beats going to a museum.





After Ana returns from an attempt at jogging with the cough of a chain smoker, we decide to take a break from everything and do a museum after all. In Sukhbaatar square there is a pavilion exhibiting Mongolia’s recently returned son, the T. bataar, that was the object of an unusual smuggling.





While we easily find an excellent TREK dealer, ridiculous quotes, erratic client service and dubious conditions render useless all our attempts to contract a forwarder. After a week it becomes evident that riding our motorbikes back is the sanest and most reasonable option. And also the cheapest, even if we include in the alternate costs the price of plane tickets in order to return to Asia and continue our journey as planned. In the meantime travellers keep coming and going. Every bike engine revved on departure stirs our sentiment that we are stuck in UB forever. At night, Ana confesses that Tom’s exhaust reverberated across the yard like a bass guitar in a empty concert hall. That the sound made her stomach ache. That her DRZ abandoned by a tree in the garden makes her think of a chained beast, a friend condemned to oblivion after they said ‘I love you’.

We are both struggling with a burning desire to go. Ana has just warmed up to biking and has itchy feet. Me, I am haunted by an idea. The idea of a place almost mythically remote. Magadan. As far away as it is, now I’ve gotten so much closer that I succumb to the temptation of riding there. I pitch to Ana my plan of doing a solo loop and reunite with her either in UB or in Irkutsk. Coming back from Magadan I would also have the opportunity to tackle the BAM. To me this plan feels a proper resolution to our journey so far, the right step in pushing the envelope a millimetre further. But the feeling is not mutual. I don’t want to sit on my ass in UB waiting for you to come back, says Ana, and I am not keen to ride alone to Irkutsk. One afternoon, in an attempt to calm after another heated debate, I decide to ride up one hill so steep that I commemorate the 690′s safe ascent with a lap around a Buddhist cairn. From the top I gaze upon the Urga that once lured mongol hordes and Chinese worriers. Somewhere in the background the coal thermal plant spits poisoned clouds, the clouds of progress.







A love relationship put under the pressure of adventure is as competitive as it is loving; as punitive as it is accepting. In the end, Ana transitions to her normal self. I know how hard it was for you to support me through this journey, she says, and I am grateful. She knows that I need to enjoy true freedom, unencumbered by the speed of a rookie. She knows how tormented I was to watch her grow out of her own mistakes, that as she was riding on steep mountain faces and on the edge of the abyss, I was consumed by the fear that a disaster was waiting to happen. Joy was hard to distinct from relief. This is my time and I deserve it; it’s the chance I must take. And while we reconcile to this decision, the arrival in UB of a French guy on a 250 TTR provides Ana with a companion for the ride up to Russia.
This brief separation will be getting both our instincts going again. For the past few years we’ve been spending almost every waking hour together, and for the past few months our limits have been pushed to new extremes. Ana needs this break as much as I do. Without me there for her to give a push and a shoulder to lean on, she will find the resources to push herself and to stop leaning. I know some have and will judge me for ‘abandoning’ my girlfriend in UB while I go chase a unicorn. Yeah, but if we are true to ourselves and take into account that Ana has shown great potential to grow from being tested, I think it’s the right step forward. It’s been our game to jack in everything in order to evolve, why should we concede to fear of unknown at this very moment? I say nay to the haters, we’ll do what we need to be doing. This thread could have been called: “Can a rookie make it to Mongolia via the Wakhan Corridor?” The answer is clearly yes, with the right support and the right attitude they can. In our case, the rookie loved the ride just as much as the leader, if not more.

I want to share one more thing on this topic. Two months ago while sipping beers with Phil, Andrew and Jon in Uzbekistan’s Bukhara, I was asked if I was really not dreaming of the BAM and Magadan. I said no, but realise today that I was. Jon’s question rolled the snowball into the valley. We each have our own little reasons for braking loose from the logical, the convenient, the reasonable. It may be our biological clock, chocking in its unstopability, or perhaps the taken-for-granted slowly wearing down all that should be passionate, like a cancer. Some of us are simply harbouring something as frail as a longing, a dry hunger for a version of ourselves that was supposed to be, and yet never happened. Thrusting yourself out into the world cannot resolve such agenda. It may however equip you with the courage required to attempt a change within. A long journey allows tapping into dormant resources. Though slow changes and accruing you become aware of the infinite potency of hours and days. As a side bonus, a journey over land simulates demiurgic creation: it gives substance to the imagined, a materiality to the unknown. We depart from our cultural islands to be constantly adrift on a sea of alien and incomprehensible cultures. But even if we cannot find our way, we are not lost.

I also want to allow a few final notes about how this country impacted us. Coming after 14 months of Africa and 9 months of struggle to get back to ‘normal’ life, Mongolia felt like a place where everything exists within the realm of the archetype. If you ride across with that in mind, what you see takes on cosmic significance. The denizens of the lonesome yurts aren’t poor drunks at the mercy of weather; they are the People of the world they inhabit, ecvestrian Heroes, almighty Mothers, resilient Angels, all masters of their domain.









The world outside their foetus of felt is something Mongols don’t care much about. A sole eye opens from the inside of the home to the stars – the tunduk, and the smoke that escapes from it is the vertical of a faithfully horizontal landscape. There are rules, but they are never actually spoken because, you see, that would diminish their magical character. Only a handful of people have managed to claim their place in history. The Italians and the Spanish took the 16th century, the French and the Dutch took the 17th, the English are yet to relinquish power to the Chinese. Romanians combed by waves of nomadic, Ottoman or Russian invasions never emerged from mediocrity. In spite of the isolation of their homeland and the extremely testing weather, the Mongols made the 12th century shiver. As tamed as they’ve grown since then, they are no ordinary people. They have been treating us with affable hospitality, like an aristocrat who cannot let a stranger suffer outside, but who does not take interest in learning about the accidental guest. They have briefly engaged us, usually with the vodka as mediator. Out of all the countries we have visited, Mongolia remains one of the most provocative, that would require at least a second visit to understand.

mrwwwhite screwed with this post 01-22-2014 at 12:55 AM
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Old 01-22-2014, 04:12 AM   #549
legasea
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"A siren to guide us voyagers through the storm, I think. I follow her sign."

Had you a traditional navigators culture and would think differently.

"...were dangerous and beautiful creatures, portrayed as femme fatales who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island."

Happily, it didn't happen.
Guess don't need to say why appretiate and read your RR with so much pleasure.
Seems the laguiolle is perhaps lying in african soil but la Opinel keeps the job.
Thanks for showing us your world.
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Old 01-22-2014, 10:14 AM   #550
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Wow!

Quote:
a long journey allows tapping into dormant resources. Though slow changes and accruing you become aware of the infinite potency of hours and days. As a side bonus, a journey over land simulates demiurgic creation: It gives substance to the imagined, a materiality to the unknown. We depart from our cultural islands to be constantly adrift on a sea of alien and incomprehensible cultures. But even if we cannot find our way, we are not lost.
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Old 01-22-2014, 12:49 PM   #551
Vinbowie
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I've been catching up with this report for days.
Just plain awesome!
Thank you for the time you've spent
to share this with us.
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They just stand back and let it all be." Springsteen
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Old 01-23-2014, 12:20 AM   #552
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This is really a beautiful report!

Thank you!
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Old 01-23-2014, 01:34 AM   #553
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Oasis Cafe is a good place. When you are there is very hard to do anything.. you only want to lay down and drink beer.

Regards,
Cristian / Bob
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Old 01-23-2014, 01:58 AM   #554
mrwwwhite OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by legasea View Post
"A siren to guide us voyagers through the storm, I think. I follow her sign."

Had you a traditional navigators culture and would think differently.

"...were dangerous and beautiful creatures, portrayed as femme fatales who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island."

Happily, it didn't happen.
Guess don't need to say why appretiate and read your RR with so much pleasure.
Seems the laguiolle is perhaps lying in african soil but la Opinel keeps the job.
Thanks for showing us your world.

Hehe, glad you ve brought this up; the image of the siren was to convey how inebriated I was with exhaustion cold and yes hunger. But indeed she proved to be a simple mortal like us, who took us in her felt womb and fed us her milk and calmed our spirits.
The laguiolle is way to precious for us as it was a gift from our French companions- so we left it at home in a box together with a leather necklace covered in the red clay that used to rub against the chest of a beautiful himba. The opinel does the job while providing countless reasons to bring our friends from Lagos (now happily relocated to Togo) into conversation. Cheers for the kind words.
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Old 01-23-2014, 02:06 AM   #555
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vinbowie View Post
I've been catching up with this report for days.
Just plain awesome!
Thank you for the time you've spent
to share this with us.

Thanks for reading, your feedback makes it worthwhile

Quote:
Originally Posted by cristiano View Post
This is really a beautiful report!

Thank you!

Cheers Cristiano!

Quote:
Originally Posted by bob66 View Post
Oasis Cafe is a good place. When you are there is very hard to do anything.. you only want to lay down and drink beer.



Regards,

Cristian / Bob

Oasis has the unusual potential of becoming whatever u want it to be; taking on some of the traveler's mindset and feeding it back with increased energy. Cheers Bob!
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