Friday, August 22, 2008

Mongolia and beyond

The departure of Russia was even more painful than the entry, made the border at 9am, as I rode up to the mongol side of the border I glanced at my clock on the dash, was after 4pm, all that time just to pass through the Russian side, the Mongolian side went smooth. Finally here I found myself in Mongolia, to me its always been in the back of my mind since leaving South Africa, the furthest country away before heading south again toward Oz. I was here, the last great remote wilderness. And that's exactly what it is, they call it the country with no fences, with its wild open treeless plains surrounded by mountains carpeted in green grass it sure gives a feeling of the last frontier and of course if the scenery doesn't the roads sure do, well there lack of, without GPS I think it would be tough, well a lot of driving in the wrong direction might happen. The country is just like one big paddock with tracks just going everywhere in all directions, as long as I pointed the mother ship in the right direction I'd get to where you needed to go. It would be 2500 k's of dirt track to the Capital.

Double hump Camels, called Bactrain camels

The roads payed the price on the Steed, the mount on my dash snapping in half, the same happened on the old bike in Angola. So we managed to find a welding machine in a small town, it was at the Mongolian Army post, with a few cows walking around the compound and the gates hanging of the hinges we cranked up the diesel motor and armed with a welding rode as think as my finger we tried welding it up, well more like throw bits of metal at it. Well it held for about three days until snapping again about 300 k's out of Ulaan Bataar, this time I just held it up with my left hand all the way to the capital.

A local checking out the mother ship.

Also my rectifier blew one evening toward sunset and therefor overcharged my battery resulting in a then blown battery. So going to a Ger near by I asked the locals if they could take my bike to the next town about 45 k's away, we negotiated a price and set off with the bike loaded in the back of a small truck. Stuff it, the first time in 75 000 k's that I have transported my bike, damn it, oh well might be a sign of whats to come with the problems of China. And beleive it or not but I found a new battery in the town, not exactley the right one but it will do the job, sometimes luck is on my side.

These mounds are everywhere, the blue ribbons are tired on praying for a safe journey.

A monestry on the flat plain.

Local man in local dress.

With yaks, the two humped Bactrain camel, sheep, horseman grazing their heards on the steppes of Mongolia, really gave a sense that these people still live how they did hundreds of years ago. Every afternoon it was not a matter of where to camp it was a matter of when to camp and when you did just simply turn off the track and pick the nicest grassy spot, one huge camp ground.

One morning I woke with Yaks walking through the camp.

Taking a break.

After 6 days and a Mongol thieving Dirks goggles we made it to Ulaan Bataar, more modern than expected and a vast contrast to rural Mongolia, but still pleasant. So on Monday it was off to the Chinese Embassy, for the third time since leaving Dubai, this time we went prepared with a fake booking for an airline ticket and a deposit put down for two weeks accommodation in a hotel, this is our last chance to get a visa, we cant fail. After lining up for an age we spoke with the man behind the window, it looked good, until I discovered I forgot my photo!!! But alas this was not all we did not have, they wanted copies of everything and proof of enough money, come back Wednesday, its only open Monday, Wednesday, Friday. So Two days later we rock up again, this time early to get in the front of the cue, an hour and a half early saw us 4th in line, then it started to rain, by time the embassy opened we where soaked from head to toe, not willing to loose our spot in the line, this time it went with great success, we ere told we can have visa and will be ready Friday, fantastic, if they only new we really want to ride our bikes into their country!

Arriving in the capital, Ulaan Bataar.

Now that is still a huge drama, it is the worst time in the past century to try and get a bike into China, and no body has a positive thing to say, but that is the way it is. We even have met some great expat chaps who have put us in touch with freight forwarders on both sides to try and at least get the bikes over the border but today I received news from a Chinese man called Roger that we will not be able to even do that, so its back to plan A of simply riding the 700 k's to the border, finding a local guy with a truck, taking our bikes over as transit goods, driving down the road and off loading them for us to ride into the huge country of China, my thoughts are maybe in the past was possible but now well I just am not sure. I can see us riding the 700 k's back here to UB and flying the bikes via Seoul to Bangkok. So today we picked up our passport with a Chinese visa in it, that's step one of four conquered. Steps two is getting the bikes into China, step three is riding across China and step four is exiting China to Laos. Anything is possible but this time I think its beyond me, completely out of my control, the feeling is not good. So the plan is to leave here in a few days for the border, if I have not updated my blog with in a week, it will mean one thing, we are in China, because if we get in it will be south 4500 k's to Laos as quick as we can, or it could mean we are stuck in no mans land trying to get back into Mongolia with out a visa because our bikes never got into China, actually it could mean a load of things if I have not updated my blog in a week or so, but I will make sure I keep you all posted, exciting but daunting!