Counter: 1027 kms
Mamma mia ! Mongolia is pushing hard my limits.
I was looking for that, of course, but I wasn't expected this intensity. Mongolia found my limits quickly and is since then playing hard with them. Wind, dirt roads, sun, river crossing, animals, heat, cold, rain, sand (how many dust evils I saw or had to endure...)
Fortunately and for my biggest pleasure, landscapes are really nice, and people in the countryside and on the road are absolutely marvelous.
What about the choice of the road? I chose the south road, for some reasons:
1/ My only exit door is Bulgan/Takeshiken, on the west side of the country (other possibility: back to Ulaanbaatar and fly somewhere.)
2/ In Kharkhorin, the north-west road was my first choice: with tourists, nice changing nature, lakes, forests, mountains... But the wind was extreme, against me, and weather prognose was quite bad, with lots of cold rain and also snow. And it is more kilometers as the south's variant.
3/ Crossing west just after Tsetserleg would have been nice and shorter, but the two mongol guides I talked to, said to me that I will get lost without GPS, and that the wolves would eat me (a mongolian obsession.)
So I took the south road, warmer, a bit shorter but also semi-desertic. Landscapes here are mineral: dry, sandy and rocky. Kind of mountains and lots of rocks have now replaced grass and animals. Vegetation is mainly composed of sparsed small yellow grass-like tufts. No bush. No tree.
In those first 1000 kms, I had just one morning of tailwind. It was so great, I just let it do the job. I faced it the rest of my trip, forcing me to do things I would have never expected to do:
- I woke up one night at 3 o'clock, with the moon, to cover 125 kms of road / dirt-road, before the strong wind went on.
- An other day I had to retreat 15 kms after Arvaikheer, once again because of a massive wind, but also a sand storm. The way back, I was literally flying on the road, thanks to my friend the wind in the back.
- I left Bayankhongor fully charged with water, for a semi-desertic 400 kms section (I cycled only 170 kms of it, see after). I tried to suck pebbles to force me to breath with the nose and salivate, to save water. I don't know if it worked - I drank like a hole - but I was told to do it ;)
Cycling in those extremly dry places was for me a great moment of insight, in particular about how weak and frail our body is in such places. I was very very happy when two truckers stopped at my side after two days with the sand, and told me to come with them until the city of Gobi-Altai. Thank you guys, one hundred million times!
And: I was very very pleased to meet Peace Corps volunteers in Arvaikheer ;) I had nice people to talk with, couple of beers, a roof to sleep... And it went on in Bayankhongor, where I had the contact of one voluteer, and met one GIZ worker (schön wars, Deutsch zu sprechen.) F*ck*ng great was it!
I'm now arrived in Gobi-Altai, and will try to find a lift to Khovd, 400kms north-west from here. I don't want this landscape anymore, and deserve now a bit of tailwind or sidewind ;) I heard that it is really nice there. I'm dreaming of riding along the Altai mountains and maybe swimming in lakes...
It will be the last part of my Mongolian experience. I'm already really excited to ride in China again. Everything is so easier there. And it is far enough adventure for me now, I need rest!
Unfortunately, my camera is giving up the fight. I think there is sand inside of the mechanic (there is sand everywhere: mouth, ears, nose, sleeping bag, food, water, soap... I wonder how it made its way there ;)) I will try to find someone to fix it.
Thank you sooOOooooOOOoooo much for all your mails and comments! It is a great motivation to read your words and your encouragements. It touches me very deep, and gives me energy to go further.
May that last long!
PS: A really nice story from Callie, an american girl riding her bike in Mongolia, a bit further north, in the other direction:
Callie, I'm really sorry that we didn't meet!