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Georgia to New Zealand - My Journey Home (page 7)

The first 50k were stunning.  I hit a milestone on my bike of clicking 1500hrs and stopped to take a photo of the spot it hit it at and I took a few minutes to sit and think about some of the highlights that got me here.  Sitting there alone all of a sudden Mongolia seemed a whole lot bigger and quieter than before and I felt a tad vulnerable if truth be told.

I got into a small town and got some fuel but looking at the map I had two choices. Either carry on this route which technically the A18 (Northern route) finishes in another 100k then it’s straight to UB or hang a right and do a huge 1500k diagonal across Mongolia towards Gobi Gurvan Saikhan.

I sat there for probably 15 mins trying to decide then finally thought screw it let's do the big diagonal and see what the middle of Mongolia is all about.

What a difference riding alone is and I pulled a 300k day off road pretty easily.  There was a big chunk that was 5th  6th gear through open plains and the track was in great condition.  I stopped in a town called Tosontsengel and I had been hoping to get a room with a shower and proper toilet but after seeing my options I got a couple beers and some noodles and took off to find a place to camp.

The next day was a shorter day as I rolled into Tsetserleg early afternoon and since there wasn’t going to be any town after that for a while I decided 4 days was long enough without a shower so I got a room with a proper loo and found some decent food for the first time in a long time.

The first 120k the next day was a decent paved road but then Mapsme sent me onto a dirt road from the sealed road.  This is where Mongolia can get a bit tricky. You can’t type in get from A to B in Google maps because it won’t work.  MapsMe is a little better but sometimes you just have to piece it together yourself especially when doing what I was trying to do and go on a diagonal.

The next 100k was a dirt road but I saw another person often enough where it didn’t worry me much. I came into a decent sized city, grabbed a bite to eat, fueled up and hit the road again.

Right as I left, Mapsme sent me back into the middle of nowhere with the next okay sized city 340k away.  I wasn’t making it that day for sure.  I set off with the intentions of just stopping when I got tired and camping.  After a hour I hadn’t seen anyone and the dirt track was looking less used along with it going through a few dry riverbeds it was slow going with a lot of 3rd gear stuff.  I stopped a couple times just to recheck I was on the right track but at this point there wasn’t much choice but to continue forward.  About 5pm I came into a tiny town but with the wind howling I was having doubts about camping.  I couldn’t find anyone that spoke English and there wasn’t a hotel but with some sign language I ended up getting a place to sleep in a building that looked like an administrative office of sorts.

Another dinner consisting of peanuts and a snickers bar and it was an early night.

The next day I had a 100k gap until the next town and I wanted to cross early because it looked like it was going to be open plains and the temps had been getting higher the further south I had been going. I was glad I did because there wasn’t shade anywhere and I only say one person on the way. There was nothing around and it’s often a mind game of trying to get those thoughts out of your head of What would you do if you broke down now? It’s too far to walk to anywhere. What if you crashed here that would suck… maybe a spot tracker isn’t such a bad idea? I really try to push these thoughts out of my head which isn’t always easy but replace them with what are the odds you would break down and when did you crash last? I also try and soak in the beauty of my surroundings and appreciate how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing.

I often look at me speedo if I do see a Ger (Yurt) so I have an ideal how far back it is If something did happen. There just weren’t any around on this section.

I got to that next town and found some gas then took off hoping to get to Dalanzaadgad before the end of the day which is the closest town to Gobi Gurvan Sarikhan.

That afternoon was one of the better days I’ve had on my bike as it was all fast and flowing tracks with a mixture of sand, dirt some fun gravel sections. I felt like I couldn’t crash and a few times for some reason I would slow down more than I thought I needed to and come around to see a washout but could avoid it. The bike often got squirrelly through mud or sand sections doing 110 plus but never felt out of control it was like the bike was on autopilot and I was just hanging in for the ride.

I rode into Dalanzaadgad in a heavy thunderstorm but I couldn’t of cared less as I had just spent the last four days doing 1500k with about 200 of that paved through some of the most remote area’s I have been through alone and it felt pretty damn good to have completed it.

It was mentally the toughest four days in a row I’ve had on my bike due to the remoteness, terrain and navigation.

I got a room in one of the nicest places to find out the shower hardly works ughh.
The town has been out of power for 3 days. Most shops are dark and running on generators for the cashier only.
Okay, bummed about the shower but the hotel had a nice restaurant so since I've only had a handful of peanuts and 2 snickers bar in the last 24 hrs I went down to order and first things first I ordered a beer.


She said no. Thinking they might be out of that beer I pointed to a different beer then she said no and went and got a sign. You aren't going to believe this but this town has a no alcohol Wednesday policy.

F&@k worrying about snapping a chain in the middle of nowhere now I'm freaking out. I got up and walked out and briskly to the store in a panic and grabbed a couple beers from the warm fridge.

A guy pointed to a sign that I couldn't read but it looked familiar and I knew what it said then he motioned me to put them back. Well, I've never thought of shoplifting until now but it was starting to cross my mind. I thought about just putting money on the counter and walking out but I’ve been sitting on my bike for a while so I’m not backing myself at out-running a mad Mongolian.

My turn at the register came money in my hand trying to hand it quickly to her and she said something but maybe the look of desperation on my face swayed her and she let me buy them. Relief and then I thought shit, why didn't I get three.🙂

Photo 6 of Georgia to NZ - My Journey Home (page 7)

I took a day off the bike in Dalanzadgad and the next day I went to check out the dunes in Gobi Gurvansarikhan.  I mean you can’t come to Mongolia and not head to a Gobi now can ya?

On the way I went to a narrow canyon for a little bit of a hike to give the legs a bit of a work out. They needed it after all the seat time of late.

I have to admit the dunes were a tad disappointing as I think you really need to go to the other side of the national park but it was a little far and It was already going to be a 300k day.

I stopped at the only gas station after the dunes to find out that there wasn’t any electricity for the pumps and the generator that was sitting there they had let run out of gas. Tad Ironic.

I sat there for about 20 mins wondering whether to wait as I kept looking at my tank working out if I had enough to make the 90k back to town and finally decided it would be all good so I left doing what I hate doing which is leaving a gas station with not much fuel and having to worry about it all the way to the next town.

The next day I woke up to howling wind but luckily it was a decent tailwind the whole way to UB.

Before I left I ran into a guy from Canada (Mark)who had been following my travels for a while and also on a 500. He was heading the way I had come from and it was going to be his first day on his own so hopefully I gave him a little reassurance about the route.

In UB I went out to the Riverpoint known by Overlanders a little way out of town because Holger, Janet and Ronnie whom I had met and traveled with earlier were staying there before they flew out.

It turned into a pretty big night on the Vodka catching up. Ouch.

I had been in contact with the KTM dealer in UB before I got here as I needed some work done on my bike.  I needed tyres, chain, sprockets, guides, battery also a new fork seal as it had started leaking and I wanted to make sure they had a shim kit for my valves.

I had been told by a few different people not to try ship anything into Mongolia as it’s really hard to get stuff cleared through customs.

Hats off to Dave and the boys at Adventure Spec as they were willing to try and send me the tyres, chain and a couple other little items.

I got an tracking update saying the package had arrived at DHL so I went there the next morning.  The manager called customs and by the afternoon it was cleared and waiting for me to pick up.

Luckily it was only a couple K from the KTM dealer as I left my bike there so I walked and not only was I stoked to see it had all cleared and was waiting for me they even got a driver to give me a ride back with the package to the KTM dealer.

I had a couple days waiting on my bike so I went and played tourist seeing the sights and Museum in UB.

It also gave me time to sort out my Carnet De Passage (CDP).

I haven’t needed one yet but I will need it for Malaysia, Indonesia and Aussie. Paperwork is not my favorite thing to deal with and I had been putting it off but it had to be done so it was nice to get it taken care of.

It isn’t cheap but compared to some countries the AA in N .Z isn’t that bad but it’s still 1450 kiwi.  The guy I dealt with was fantastic to deal with and he got it taken care of really quickly.

I would have to say I was pretty happy with the service they did on my bike for the cost at the KTM dealer in UB but I had messaged them quite a few times weeks in advance about the shim kit and they didn’t reply to my messages and the hadn’t ordered them or have any so there wasn’t much point even checking the valves they were just going to have to be right for the rest of Mongolia and Siberia.

 I also found a couple bolts missing but they surprisingly had a rear pivot bushing which I should have had done a long time ago. All in all I was just happy to be loaded back up with oils and looking at new tyres along with brand new chain and sprockets ready to take on Siberia.

The next day I was heading to the town of Darkhan which is about 280k north of Ulaanbaatar and set myself up for the border into Russia for the third and final time the next day.

 Easy or so I thought but Mongolia wasn't going to let me leave that easy.

The main road was closed and for the life of me I couldn't see where the detour was. I followed cars west and didn't see any turn offs.

I went back east 30k and still couldn't see where you were supposed to go. I went back west and after a 100k it was either do a big loop on the road I was on or head inland and do a diagonal and meet the road north halfway up.

I saw a couple towns on the map and knew there would be some type of road linking them but also knew it was going to be a bit crappy after the last few days of rain.

I wasn't entirely wrong. It was pretty muddy in places with some big puddles and slick in other spots and I had a couple close calls but it was awesome to be back on the bike after some days off it.

It was also great to get one last taste the Mongolian remoteness.

After about 150k of it I ended up back on the road north about 3k short of where the road works finished so it actually worked out perfectly and I got to sample some more of Mongolian great remoteness but it did turn into a 450k day so not exactly the cake walk I was thinking it was going to be.

In Darkhan I stayed at the Kiwi hotel which has no link to N.Z and was a dive but the price was right.

The next day I woke up to rain at 6am but it stopped once I got on the road around 8am.

Border crossings aren't always my favorite days but this felt almost sentimental as it's my last one on this continent. It went really smooth and I’m still running in stealth mode since my number plate broke off a couple weeks ago but they didn’t even notice it missing.

It was like a little weight had been lifted off my shoulders after the border crossing. I knew I had a big push through Siberia to coming up but not having another crossing is one less thing to worry about and It was a great time to reflect as I rode the 240k to Ulan-Ude.

 I had a stiff wind with showers the whole way. It was the coldest day I’ve had since Georgia so it’s made me think I can’t mess around too much from here on in as the weather is starting to change and I don’t want to get caught in Siberia with winter on the way.

I headed off to Lake Baikal on a pretty gloomy day the next day with a stiff head wind and I ended up in a lake resort type place. Resort might be a pretty big stretch of the word.

It may have been okay on a summer’s day but with a bit of drizzle and a strong wing it was a pretty miserable little place. The one place I found to stay you couldn't see the lake and it was more than I wanted to pay for a room along with no wifi and no cell phone service in the area.

The couple shops and cafe were also closed so I decided to leave and head back towards Ulan-Ude.

About 30k down the road I stopped at another lakeside village.

There wasn’t much going on here either and some places were closed but I found a place to stay and a bonus was I could see the lake from my room.

With the howling winds it looked more like a rough sea at this stage.

I had really been looking forward to seeing Lake Baikal and months ago I had visions of camping next to it, waking up with the sunrise over the clear blue water and going for a cold swim.

It was anything but that and there was no way I thought about putting my tent up in that wind. I made the right call because it started to rain about 6pm and it absolutely poured down all night.

It stopped about 7am and by 10am I was on the bike heading back to Ulan-Ude. It was another dark gloomy day but at least the wind was in my favour this time right up my kuta.

To be honest I'm a bit over the weather. I've had 7 or 8 days in a row of shit. Every time I look at the weather app it says fine in 2 days then it changes the next couple days to more rain.

Tomorrow will be the start of the big push to Magadan no matter what the weather is so roll on Siberia.

From Ulan-Ude my goal was to get to Yakutsk 2800k away in 5 days. Yakutsk is the last city that sits on the river Lena at the start of the R504 Kolyma hwy aka Road of bones.

It looked like there were little towns about 550-600 k apart so 5 days seemed like a good plan.

That’s pretty long back to back days on my bike but there really isn’t much option as there isn’t anywhere else to stop and I don’t see the point of stopping early to camp and then just sit around.

As I was about to find out not everything goes to plan.

Aaron_Steinmann
Author of this article: Aaron_Steinmann
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