Saturday, August 29, 2009

August 25-30 - Moron to Bulgan City

Mike here again! As we are soon going to be entering China, Jen is spending most of her non-biking time buried in Chinese books, so making this blog post falls to me. This suits me fine, as we are growing tired in Mongolia of not being able to communicate with anyone!

We left Moron 6 days ago and arrived in Bulgan City last night, which was the first big town (11,000 people) we had seen since leaving Moron. This meant a hotel and a shower (which was seriously needed) after five days cycling through the country side. We set a goal of doing this leg in five days, and after five long days (about 70-80km each day with 7-8 hours actually pedalling , and 12 hours or so between camp sites) we rolled into Bulgan happy to be able to wash up and eat something different (a.k.a. ice cream!).

For this post I am going to take a bit of a different approach and insert a bunch of photos with a caption before each photo explaining it. So here goes!

Wrestling is the big thing here. We still haven't seen any matches, but in many cities there are statues and stadiums.

The farther east we move, the larger the markers at the top of passes become. Out west they were simply a pile of rocks and now they are often monuments such as this one.

This was one of the only vehicles we saw this day and it moved so slow that we kept pace with it much of the morning. It is a huge semi trailer FULL of wool! Wool is one of the major exports from Mongolia.

The "roads" in this leg were much nicer than the last leg which allowed us to make up to 80km a day rather than the 40-50 we managed in the last section

Mongolian country side is weird. It is so open and wide that at first it feels empty and alone but after a while you realize that it is very busy. There are always a number of gers in sight no matter where you are, and without exception there are herds of sheep, cows, camels and horses everywhere.

The weather was generally not too bad, but there were rainy times each day which forced us to get creative for shelter for lunch.

One of our campsites. Privacy is impossible in Mongolia.

More horses. Livestock here wander where they want and there are never any fences. I am sure all the horses we see have owners, but we rarely see the within sight of the herds.

Typical scenery for the ride.... Mongolia is amazing, like one huge campground with hundreds of double-track mountain bike trails in every direction.

Over this leg of the trip we passed through 3 small villages of about this size that gave us a chance to refill on water and supplies (albeit limited supplies as the shops had little stock)

Every time we set camp, the local people would all wander to us curious as to who we were. This generally resulted in them trying out our bikes and us joining them for tea. (Or in this case, a very weak sweet-tasting vodka made out of goat's milk.)

A note from Jen on the outfit - though it looks very traditional, about half of the male population in the rural areas seems to wear something like this, young and old. We have noticed that lots of teenage guys add their own style to it with a tilted ballcap and wearing the sash alot lower on their waist.... the Mongolian equivalent to baggy jeans, I guess.

Another camp site. Because of the large number of gers inhabiting any area suitable for camping, we were almost always near a family of gers. This was a mixed blessing. Although it is fun to hang out with the Mongolian nomads, we also are used to much more privacy in North America!

A kitty was very interested in our bikes and spent much of the night playing with them.

Mongolia has put our bikes to the test and so far we have had only a few minor problems. This bracket snapped and needed to be replaced. Hopefully the pavement we will soon get to will be easier on them as we only had one spare bracket along!

Sunsets here have been amazing, but not nearly as amazing as the stars at night. The milky way is as bright as I have ever seen it. I would take some photos to try to show this except for (1) I have no idea how to take photos of stars and I threw out my photography book in Russia as it was too heavy, and (2) at night I am always far too sleepy to even consider pulling out the camera.

This is the only real river we passed by. Because of the lack of water the shower in Bulgan was far overdue!!

Everyday the temperature was 10C-15C. This was generally a great temperature to bike in, except for the rain that would come out once or twice a day. It got uncomfortable when the rain came and the temperature fell, Jen was amazing throughout everything. She has this odd ability to not let anything stop her from enjoying herself. I have spent a lot of time in pain/discomfort with people who could ignore it or push though, but Jen actually still manages to enjoy herself. It would be cold, rainy and windy and she would be biking along listening to her music seemingly oblivious to what would make most people miserable.

Again in every little settlement the kids would come out and curiously look us over.

There was one time where there was a big group of about 30 horses on the road and just as we entered the herd they started galloping away from us, and along with us. I was tempted to pull out the camera then but decided to just enjoy the moment as we cycled along inside a pack of galloping horses. Instead this photo which I took later on will have to suffice!

Again setting up camp, and people came out curious and helped us put together our tent. They also hung around and watched us cook supper amazed at our little stove.

He seemed to enjoy my bike and once he got the hang of it took it out for pretty long ride.

I may look really high in this photo, but am not. This was taken after the fourth day, and was starting to come down with a cold making the idea of a hotel the following day even more attractive.

This is the same family as the guy riding the bike above. After the tent set up, they pulled us into their ger and kept of convincing us to drink bowl after bowl of "airag". This is fermented mare's milk and is very popular drink in Mongolia which has about 1-2% alcohol. After many glasses of the stuff we still have not developed a taste for it and makes my stomach turn with every cup but it is very hard to turn down and feels impolite.

Now it is a time for a rant about the food in Mongolia. Coming here we were repeatedly warned about the food and it was all true. In every restaurant you have at most three options and they all have the same "gamy beef/mutton"flavor which essentially reduces them to all the same option. It has gotten to the point where even our clothes smell like the food, meaning even in our sleep we can't escape the monotony. Cooking for yourself is no easier as the stores have less stock than your typical 7-11. While cycling we have generally been on a non stop diet of dry biscuits (no idea why they feel the need to color them bright pink as in the picture below) with jam, chocolate bars, and gummy candies (when we can find them) and in the evenings we stop at a guanz for a dose of "Tsuivan" which is a tasty Mongolian noodle dish, but after a number of weeks of it, is starting to lose its appeal.

When there is no pavement rain means mud and mud means slow going!

After over 20 days in Mongolia we run into our first stretch of pavement. After getting onto the gloriously smooth surface Jen promptly gets of her bike and proceeds to hug the road with what appeared to be more love than any hug she has given me. This turned out to be premature though as after 2-3km the pavement ended and we were back on dirt!

Jen riding on the short lived blacktop!

Bulgan City. This city has noticeably more wood home and fewer gers in the city. Possibly a trend as we continue to move closer to the capital?

I guess if you travel long enough eventually weird things start to occur, but this one still blew us both away. We checked into our tiny 6 bedroom hotel, in the small city of Bulgan, Mongolia with a population of 11,000. This tiny city is about as far away from Saskatchewan as you can get on the earth without starting to come back to it. After picking our room the hotel owner hands us our key with a Saskatchewan key chain! We tried to explain to her this amazing coincidence , but our Mongolian proved insufficient for the task so we have no idea where it came from.

Jen doing the laundry outside our hotel this morning. We hear there are laundromats in Ulaanbaatar which we are excited to use!

And that's all for now as I am going back to our hotel to watch some TV. For the first time on our trip we have an english channel that isn't "Fashion TV" and I am excited to watch the news and make sure the rest of the world hasn't gone to hell in the past two months! If you are especially bored and didn't get enough photos above (which does seem unlikely, I did put quite a few) you can see other photos from this leg of our ride by clicking here:

Tomorrow we continue west towards the capital city. We are very excited because from here on it is almost entirely pavement. As well we will only be 1-2 days between large-ish cities which will make for a luxurious week or so ride into Ulaanbataar. Hope everyone is doing well and drop us an email to let us know how you are doing!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Impressive - you guys are brave/bonkers. But I love it! Sending you good fortune, health and happiness!