Bogd, Bayanzag, Khongoryn-Els, Dalandzadgad – ~680km
Left the luxury of a “proper” hotel room, heading into the wilderness. A little bit scary on one’s own, with very very little other traffic (if any), and a bike one doesn’t entirely trust… being constantly rattled and battered by the “road”.
I was hoping to put in a fairly big riding day, but that plan was scuttled when I had to stop to investigate a horrible noise from the back wheel… turned out the lower half of the chainguard had become detached, and rather mangled. Beyond road-side panelbeating, so I took that off, and tied to the bike… considering whether to bother carrying it all the way back to UlaanBaatar.
In the end – managed to get a couple of hundred kilometres done, helped by time being freed up by no breakfast and no lunch… and then – no real dinner.
Got to the town of Bogd, half-hoping it would be heavy rain overnight, so I could make the terrible joke that I was “bogged down in Bogd”. Instead, finally found a “hotel” – which was a family with a spare room, and a sofa-bed in their lounge. I was installed into the lounge, and a couple of guys in the spare room. I’d ended up chatting a fair bit (as much as possible with language barrier) with the driver of the other car – nice guy, I gathered that he used to be a rather senior officer in the army, but now seemed to be driver/bodyguard for what he called his “director” – a professor/doctor… drunk/asleep in the passenger seat.
Ended up having several beers, and a bit of fermented horse milk (proudly pulled out of the car in a 20 litre container)… and some of his pot-o-noodles for dinner.
Next day – off towards the recommended Bayanzag… which I’d forgotten was also known as the “Flaming Cliffs”. Got there in the afternoon, and rode around the area marked on the map as being this attraction – not really finding anything remarkable. Some reasonably interesting variants in scrublands – which I believe is what gave the area the name… but nothing spectacular. Some fairly small orange rock formations, that’s about it.
I checked into one of the several ger camps nearby (demonstrating that I was indeed in the area of a reasonably major “attraction” – and gave one more shot at riding around, nearing sunset – to see if something jumped out at this time of evening. Still… nothing really. I could see some reddish cliffs, but… that was about it. So, rather than get stuck riding around in the wilderness, in the dark, with practically zero protective clothing (I was wearing the helmet, everything else would be highly discouraged as appropriate riding kit) – it was back to the ger camp, and quickly convince the owners that I was trustworthy enough to just grab beers from the fridge when I wanted, and would definitely settle up at the end.
Looking up Bayanzag today, once I had internet available – it seems that I did indeed miss the main attraction, although I think I glimpsed it at one point, from a bit of a distance… and wasn’t too intrigued at the time.
From the disappointing/misunderstood Bayanzag – it was South, towards the desert proper… again, intending to put as many km on the (non-functional) “clock” as possible. And again, stopped in the middle of nowhere to investigate some nasty noise… and discovered the top half of the chainguard had come loose, and was even more mangled than the bottom half I was still carrying. So again – that was removed, and this time – it being in such a bad state – thrown away.
And then – an hour or two later… the left foot peg suddenly felt like it really didn’t want to be there, or support my weight at least. Looking into that – on that side of the bike, one bolt had shaken loose, and the frame holding the other bolt on that side… had snapped off. I couldn’t initially replace the missing bolt, so spent quite some time with the peg (and side-stand, being of a piece) – zip-tied to the frame, and not putting any weight on either foot-peg… terrified the whole thing would come off. After 20 or 30km of that – riding with no foot-pegs (on very rough roads… not fun) – I had another go, with the help of some locals, and managed to get a bolt into the left-side of the structure. So – felt a bit more comfortable riding, but still avoiding putting any significant weight on the pegs… so significant bumps were still rather hairy.
Eventually crested a hill, and saw sand. A lot of sand… the Khongoryn Dunes. Rather large, impressive. Checked into a small ger camp/camel-hire joint – where the owner/operator was very friendly – invited me into his ger for some greasy lamb ribs being shared around, and then some freshly made local-style soup. All of which looked extremely greasy, and rather unhygienic – but was rather welcome after surviving on chocolate and water for a couple of days.
And today – headed towards asphalt roads… the last few days having convinced me that “boring sealed roads” were underappreciated sometimes. And – meeting a few other bikers today – including some on “proper” bikes, such as a couple who’d ridden their Dakars from Germany, and another couple with a pair of GSs from Belgium… I didn’t feel so bad about being sick of these roads. They all felt the same… even the German couple who’d been riding for the last 10 months were keen to see the end of Mongolian roads/tracks. I enjoy the offroad stuff, even on a crappy little 150cc bike, but the corrugations. So, so many corrugations… just vibrating one until my vision became so blurry I couldn’t even see to pick the smoothest line. Oh – and when I’m opting to ride in sand rather than the corrugations… you know something’s wrong.
Anyway – finally did reach some asphalt – and did get thoroughly bored of it very quickly… but it led me to the reasonably sized city of Dalandzadgad – and therefore a reasonably sized hotel, with a nearly-hot shower.