Gobi Desert 2
Sunday, August 30, 2009
Riding in Russia a week ago, I’d wake up to 45f temperatures and ride through the morning as the temperature rose to about 70f. Now we wake up to 70f, and the sun beats down until it goes up to 85-90f. It’s much more comfortable in the morning, but really oppressive when your riding for 7-8 hours under the Gobi sun.
The morning starts out with organized chaos. Before they do anything else Lisa/Uka/Dimbee team cranks out the hot tea and coffee, eggs and fruit, and they breakfast. I take down our tent and gear, eat a bit, wave by and ride off.
This is the last bit of green of the trip. Leaving here Mongolia A-3 is a great, smooth road to Choyr, about 40 miles south of the campsite. The road is only 5 years old, built by the Japanese under contract to Mongolia. They really did a great job.
Lisa joins for part of the ride, and experiences one of the ever less frequent nomadic herding obstacles. This is the first one where the herder was not on foot or horseback, but rather on a motorbike.
Outside of Choyr, we take a break at a shrine. I stop and spin the prayer wheels.
Lisa + Boojum Team (Boojum is the company that put together the entire custom support in both Russia and Mongolia for my ride – http://www.boojum.com/ . Highly recommended. More on them later.) Head into Choyr for supplies while I ride on. Lisa gets Mongolian yogurt ladled from a plastic pail into a plastic bag (I tasted it, it’s really quite good) while Uka and Dimbee get meat.
Meanwhile, just south of Choyr, the paved portion of Mongolia Route A-3 comes to an abrupt end, and everyone just heads off on a myriad of tracks heading about the same direction south.
For the next 400+ kilometers, 240 miles, all the way to China, no more paved road. These tracks are rock, sand, gravel, corrugated car paths. People (and me) try to find the most passable route – the one with the least amount of sinking in sand, jarring of your body and vehicle, and ripping of you tires apart with sharp rocks.
It takes the team a while to catch up with me, but when they do, I requisition the MTB we rented for Lisa. It’s amazing and extremely lucky that we rented the mountain bike. This is the last shot of me on bike #2, then the mechanics team exchanging some components, and me riding off on the MTB.
The blue cloth on the handlebar is a shaman symbol of respect and good luck. They are on cars, ovoo (roadside shrines), sometimes around animal necks, and elsewhere around Mongolia and eastern Russia. I got it for Lisa, but now it is supporting me.
Not much else to see here, but I point out the Trans-Mongolian RR (which sparks a great idea), and then some while later, we set up for lunch, laying out some of the gear to dry off some of the condensation from the prior night.
We always look for a nice spot for meals and camping, but there’s nothing but raw desert all around. For my purposes, riding the MTB on the road, or simply across the desert as I decide to do when leaving lunch, makes little difference.
The sun just bakes you, unless of course you get the comfy shade of the van.
Uka and Lisa both take turn trying out the mountain bike riding across the Gobi.
After Choyr, we ride through two small villages along the “road” and TMRR, Dalanjargalan and Ayrag. Here’s the approach shot to one of them.
Then support group breaks off at this point to find water (hand pump attached to a pipe coming out of a building) and refill our bulk containers, while I ride on and experience the first of what will be many flat tires on both the bike and van.
Unfortunately, on this MTB I don’t have my rack bag with tubes and other support stuff, so the bike has to take a break while we wait for the team to catch up.
Various piles of rocks mark the “road”, which is on both sides of the bike, stretching out for maybe 1/4 mile. We see maybe only 10 other vehicles all day on the road. This truck heading north out of China, has tire problems too.
There was a good tail wind all afternoon, and road seemed mostly flat to downhill (see elevation below – only 2,534 feet of climbing today), so I still covered a good distance under otherwise bad conditions. At the end of the day, Dimbee fixes one of the flat tires on the van, Uka starts getting dinner ready, I get to take a break in the middle of nowhere, and Lisa then joins me to contemplate this magnificent, vast empty desert.
9/4 12:52p UB Bob