Friday, May 31, 2013

The Experience

Location: Gobi-Altai
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!


  1. Quelle aventure! Les photos sont magnifiques; La traversée de la Mongolie est difficile en 4/4 (d’après des récits de voyageurs ...qui tout comme toi n'ont jamais rencontré de loups) , alors j'imagine la difficulté en vélo!
    Bon repos à govi-altai...dans quelques jours tu pourras te gaver de fruits et légumes. As tu goûté un buzz. Je t'embrasse fort et à bientôt. maman

    1. Salut Loulou !
      J'ai goûté les Boss, c'est pas mal, mais trop gras à mon goût. Mes préférés sont les XOOWOOP (à prononcer à l'allemande "~choochior"), à la viande ou végétarien. Je m'en suis fait 9 aujourd'hui, 2 au petit-déj, 4 à midi et 3 ce soir, délicieux ;)
      Gros bisoux à vous et merci pour vos encouragements !

  2. Hi everybody!

    Small update: no Khovd for the following. The guys I found wanted 250€ for the bike and me! And the mini-bus driver said to me ok for like 40€, but he wanted that I let my bicycle here, and told that it would take two days ;)

    So I'm heading west from here now, and will take the shortest way to Bulgan: I will cross the Sharga depression, head to Tonkhin, Tsetseg (it means 'flower' if I understood well), and cross the south of Altai-mountains to Üyench and Bulgan.

    Cross the fingers for me, it wil be wild!

    Take care and see you in 5-7 days in Bulgan!

  3. Courage Maxime !

    On pense a toi, ça a l'air d'être plus métal que douceur comme trajet ! Mais tache de profiter :-)

    Thomas et Manue

    1. Merci à vous!
      Un peu de métal fait toujours du bien, on apprécie d'autant plus les moments de douceurs qui viennent!
      La fin de la Mongolie était grandiose, la traversée de l'Altai incroyable, chaque cols offrant des paysages complétement différents.... Dur dur de quitter la Mongolie!
      Bises à vous deux

  4. Servus Maxime!

    Ich liebe es, deine Erlebnisse zu lesen und Hut ab vor deiner Leistung! Manchmal bin ich etwas neidisch auf dich, wenn man diese Bilder betrachtet und alleine durch die Welt radeln kann. Wenn ich aber dann von den Gefahren und "Feinde" (= Wind) lese, bin ich froh hier zu sein. Und so schlecht ist es ja in Bayern auch nicht ;-)

    Ich wünsche dir noch eine schöne Zeit und freue mich auf neue Geschichten aus China.

    Gruß Bettina

    1. Bonjour Bettina !

      Ich freue mich von den lieben Kollegen zu lesen und an Euch zu denken.

      Ich verstehe was Du meinst, das Gefühl bzw. die Lust für diese Reise hatte ich jahrelang. Aber los von dem lieben Bayern ist sehr schwer. So viele gute Sachen in einem Platz, es ist doch ein Schatz, gell?

      Die Gefahren sind nichts, das lerne ich gerade. Es war aber sehr schwer vor der Reise, da jeder seine Ängste auf mich gebracht hat. Einfach nicht zuhören. Ein paar Ausnahme haben mir sehr positiven Sachen gesagt, ich habe Sie schön zugehört!

      Die "Feinde", nämlich der Wind z.B., haben mir Kraft gegeben. Was gibt als besseres Training? Und es konnte nur besser werden. So ist es jetzt und ich geniesse Power ohne Ende in den Beinen!

      Ich freue mich Euch wieder zu sehen, und würde für einen 'Speciale' von Mauri, ein paar Helles und einen schönen Schafkopfabend nach einem guten Tag Arbeit, gern eine Pause hier machen ;)

      Alles liebe an Euch,

  5. Maxime!! I am almost glad to hear that you caught a ride as well! Because it makes me feel not as guilty... Mongolia is amazing, and I think with a partner I would have kept going... but after a really bad experience with a drunk man, I also caught a ride from outside Ulaangom, all the way to Tsetserleg. Just wheeled into UB. ENJOY THE RIDE!

    1. Hi Callie! You are in UB, good job! Where are you heading now?

      I arrived today in Bulgan ;) I made it! I still have 4 more days on my visa and will take some rest before China.

      Mongolia was so great, I will never forget. Beautiful nature without fences. Best camping ever every evening. And those two last weeks in the desert brought me quite a lot. But how violent are those dirt-roads here, incredible!

      I'm sorry for you that you had a bad experience. I know you're strong, and you have surely scared the man too. Vodka is polluting Mongolia! I was really sorry to see all those men totally destroyed.

      Maybe we will meet one day! It was not for the Karakorum Highway, not in Mongolia, who knows?

      Have fun la Gipsycleta! ;)

  6. Salut Maxl!
    Hört sich toll an deine Erlebnisse - und wunderbare Bilder! Freu mich auf weitere Geschichten von dir, wünsche dir viel Rückenwind, einen tollen Badesee und weiterhin eine tolle Zeit!
    Liebe Grüße,

    1. Oh ja, toll ist es hier, so toll ;) Ein traumhaftes Abenteuer, das ich nie vergessen werde. So intensiv! Es ist bis jetzt 'nur' 26 Tage, aber es fühlt sich wie....

      Ich habe keinen See gesehen, und sogar gar kein fliessende Wasser seit Anfang Juni! Ich bin jetzt in Bulgan (Khovd), letzter Dorf vor der Grenze, und hatte mich soooo auf eine Dusche gefreut, aber es gibt hier auch kein Wasser ;)

      Eine schöne Woche in Großhelfendorf und liebe Grüße aus Mongolien ;)