Tuesday, September 1, 2009
No breakfast at the ‘hotel’ in the depopulating but still proud town of Sainshand (pop. 19,500) . While the team regrouped, I stuffed my face with nuts, Gummi Bears, a warm yogurt and an apple, and headed out of town.
The mountain bike got so battered yesterday that I had to go back to the touring bike. Its small tires promised more challenging riding in the sand.
Lisa, Uka and Dimbee stayed in town to wait for some shops to open so they could find some tubes (over 15 patches in the three I was using yesterday). Lisa took a couple pictures in town.
The two guys are carrying a lamb (goat?). But the main thing was the first day of school in rural Mongolia. They have close to 100% literacy rates here, again thanks to the Russians. The kids all wear black and white uniforms. The girls wear what look like aprons over black dresses. The parents dress up too, and walk their kids to school. Everyone is proud and happy.
For me it was a different story. Mongolia A-3 south of Sainshand is almost a road for about 46 miles, and with only two days of riding left, I took off as fast as I could. (Cars can not drive on the almost road due to hundreds of dirt barriers, but a MTB can handle it.) A heard of horses was heading north while I was heading south, but I’ve learned that I too am a herder. Loud voice and gestures clear the road.
Not the great quality of the road surface! Here’s the elevation/distance chart from my Garmin 705 GPS for today.
It was pretty much 4 to 8 mile up-hills and down-hills all day. Because of the smooth surface and favorable winds I was able to average about 15mph/24kph during the morning. The support team didn’t leave until 9:45a, and I was much faster and further along than they thought. They stopped and looked for my tracks to try to find me.
This is Dimbee pointing out my tracks. Note the pile of dirt behind him. They place these dirt barriers every few hundred feet apart to keep cars off the road. Some of them, like this one, I as able to ride across. Others I had to ride around or carry my bike over. Anyway, they caught me about 46 miles into the day and we did out little lunch thing at about mile 54.
The smoother surface (pre-paved road) ended right after lunch, and I was back in the desert track. Here’s me again in the middle of nowhere, a lost camel, and a forlorn mileage marker on a rough climb indicating only 118k to Zamin Uud/the end of the trip.
That’s me riding in the first photo. I have been so fried by 10 hours a day in the sun for the last 4+ days that I decided to leave on my windbreaker, unzipped, no matter how hot it got.
Since they got the MTB fixed, Lisa was able to ride along periodically in the afternoon in her Gobi garb.
The highlight of the day was likely the dung beetle.
Lisa’s keen eyes caught movement on the road, and we stopped. The team watched the little guy push this hunk of dung with his back legs (head down) across the road and into the desert for maybe 30 feet/5 minutes. We have a 2-minute video if you want to see him in action.
Other than that it was nothing but sandy, rutted, corrugated, rocky track for the rest of the afternoon. Here’s the track, and an official, posed, Lisa/Bob photo.
We didn’t stop until about 5:30, and spent a half hour searching for decent ground to set up camp. The choices were sharp rocks or dirty pasture. We picked pasture.
Finally, I’ve talked about my end of day shower routine. This little bit of dribbled water and soap really refreshes after 9 hours of dust, sun and sweat. Here it is in progress and an ‘after’ shot.
Tomorrow is the last day of riding. Then we adventure back on the Trans-Mongolian RR to Ulan Bator.