Tsugaan Suvarga, Mandalgovi, Zuunmod – ~600km
After deciding to stay on tarmac for the last few days – it took 80km of that to get bored, and find an excuse for one last little bit of dirt/gravel/corrugations.
From Dalandzadgad – headed north, and then off into the wilderness one last time… to the “White Stupa”. Which is actually white with violet stripes, and rather striking (the photos don’t do it justice). After the disappointment of Bayanzag, it was quite cool. First rode up to the top, for a few photos, and then down to the bottom – where the terrain is just heaps of little rocky mounds, with tracks all over/around them. Would be amazing fun on a proper dirt bike – with the Shineray, it was still a bit of fun, albeit getting stuck several times on very steep slopes by stalling, or the chain coming off. Not a great experience with practically zero brakes to call upon.
Spent the night in a ger/yurt near the stupa, Tsugaan Suvaraga – and had some dodgy soup and fermented camel milk supplied by the lady owning the ger. Also saw a camel being milked for the first time… a slightly more manual approach than the herringbone sheds back home. Catch/tie up the baby camels, wait for the mother to come running, and then milk one side of the mother while the baby camel is suckling the other.
Next morning – I’d been convinced by the locals that the best route to where I was going was via a road not on my maps… so gave that a go. And thankfully – yeah, all easy. Then, started getting worried about fuel… both small towns I stopped at to get topped up – refused to sell me any petrol. I finally figured out that the power was out all the way south of UlaanBaatar. Procrastinated for an hour or two at the second place, having some food, before becoming convinced I could probably make it to the next major town. I’d already been paranoid about the 35km from first little-town to second… the next 50km was nerve-wracking, with the fuel meter sitting on “E” right from the outset. But – made it to Mandalgovi – where I found a gas station with a generator going – and cars queued up for petrol. I was more than happy to queue up behind them all.
Checked in to a basic hotel – and visited the local museum. No power, of course, so wandering around in a deserted museum, with a torch. Rather an odd experience, especially when there are full skeletons of dinosaurs and woolly rhinos appearing unexpectedly. Like something out of a bad movie.
And then – bought some beers, and went to sit in the park to drink them – with a couple of local drunks doing the same (with vodka). Got “chatting” with them… and remembered how annoying drunks can be when it comes to the language barrier. Just a constant refusal to understand/remember that them saying the same thing over and over wasn’t going to be understood. Eventually let them fleece me of a bit of money – I don’t know if they were charging me for the vodka I drank, or what – and deliberately not understanding their requests I come with them to their next stop.
Oh – and in the wee hours of the morning, another local drunk entered my hotel room, confused at finding me there, standing and staring at me for quite some time before figuring out he needed to find another room to crash in (and I suspect, this was a regular occurrence… get drunk, go to the open-doored hotel, find an empty room, sleep). And as I’m ready to leave in the morning, a lady was absolutely smashed, jabbering away at me constantly… throwing her hair-clip at a passing car which she must have taken a disliking to… very, very drunk – at 10am. The Mongolians, they love a drink, but they cannae handle it.
Today – almost nothing but tarmac… just a boring 220km or so stint to get fairly close to UB, with an eye to visiting that ridiculous giant aluminium statue tomorrow. The road was all sealed, barring the occasional and sudden massive pothole (which sneak up on me, as I’m unwilling to stand up on the pegs, not trusting how they’re attached currently), and a couple of times leaving the road to find a relatively secluded spot for a wee break.
So – arrived in Zuunmod – with an eye to finishing this extended leg of the trip.
On the to-do list… clean the bike (the lady who gave it to me made me promise to return it “as is”, as it was her brand-new pride-and-joy. It is not currently “as-is”… I count 6 pieces which have fallen off, and it looks as dirty/dusty as a 15-year-old farm-bike. I’m hoping that if it is at least as shiny as it was when I started, she might overlook the various bits missing.