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The kids in these remote places are always happier than the little shits in our country's.
I could go one of those pasties right now.
 

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Discussion Starter #185
A few facts about Mongolia.




Imagine riding Lands End to John O Groats and indeed an awful lot more without touching tarmac. That’s Mongolia.

At 1,564,116 square kilometres (603,909 sq mi), Mongolia is the 19th largest and the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with a population of around 2.9 million people, of which 45% live in the capital Ulaanbaatar. It is also the world’s second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by steppe, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Approximately 30% of the population are nomadic or semi-nomadic.

Because of being limited to 2 months we only crossed the border from Russia in the west and took a direct route to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia which is roughly in the middle of the country so we didn't really have time to explore this vast country. Two months may seem like a long time but one of the regrets had been the lack of time to explore a lot more en route during the course of the 10,500 miles.

However we hadn't taken a direct route and had spent a lot more time genuinely off road than all of the other bikes we met along the way. The sights and experiences we'd seen over the duration of the trip were everything we'd hoped for and more.

We were in for yet another dimension of the trip reaching our goal of Ullaanbaatar, although with a little unexpected twist.

We knew we were getting close to the capital as things changed dramatically, there was tarmac and a lot more cars. If I was to make a generalisation I'd say that the Mongolians are still get used to the concept of tarmac and roads. Out in the country people just drive wherever they want and the same principle applies on tarmac. It's a bit like wacky races.

The tarmac road would just end with no warning reverting back to a 20 lane wide dirt track with no concept of everyone driving in one direction sticking to the same side of the road. Trucks, cars bikes would come at you from all directions out of the dust cloud and whatever vehicle is the biggest has right of way. Shit, no wonder this lot terrified and ruled such a large empire flying round on their horses 800 years ago. In fact Ghengis Khan is still their big hero.

So we rolled into Ulaanbaatar heading for The Oasis Guest House which is the place where the majority of 2 and 4 wheeled travelers plot up. The city itself has expanded very rapidly over the last decade with a lot of Chinese investment and the demand for the minerals that Mongolia can provide. The traffic is crazy, the edge of the city has a lot of slums and tent/ger/yurt encampments, whereas the city centre is very impressive with all of the big new buildings you'd expect of a capital city. A stark contrast to the rest of the country.

The Oasis was great, clean rooms, hot water, edible food and cold beer, along with a great mixture of bikers and 4WD guys all on trips and all with stories to tell. It was here that Ian met Uwe and Zimi who had just shipped their bikes in and were off to spend a month riding to Magadan via the infamous Road of Bones.

We were jealous, but the twist was Ian wasn't jealous for long, he was taking another month and joining them. Bastard, it was now just me that was jealous. No way I could do it as just prior to leaving I'd found a house, had an offer accepted but had managed to stall an impatient seller who had been hassling me for the last 2 months by email.

Ian carried on for an unexpected 3rd month and had a great time but that's another story.

It was very sad to be at the end of the trip, 2 months, 10,500 miles and 21 countries. Ian had as always been great to travel with and we'd shared so much. He's a top guy and is exactly the sort of guy who wouldn't let you down if the shit hits the fan. We partied in town with Geoff from Kudu Expeditions who had just had all of his money and passport stolen!

I stripped the bike and crated it for shipping back home and got ready for the 3 flights home via Moscow, then Amsterdam whilst Ian serviced the bike for it's next leg.

I'll post my tips for anyone who may fancy doing a similar trip along with a few political observations at a later stage.

Thanks for reading and many thanks for the great comments. All I'll add at this point is, if you've ever fancied doing something similar, then look for reasons to do it, rather than reasons not to do it.

Oasis Guest House










We got the best room in the place




The surrounding area





Down town Ulaanbaatar



Geoff from Kudu and Alex from Poland





Ian, Uwe and Zimi plotting escaping from me. Uwe and Zimi were on KTM 640 Adventures.


My bike ready for shipping home


 

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Discussion Starter #186
POLITICS AND RELIGION

Two very contenious areas. OK here we have my view of both on the trip.

Politics. Russia is often cast as the big bad bear in the Western media, and also Islam/Muslims get a lot of bad press in certain quarters. Once we left Bulgaria we travelled through predominently Muslim countries and spent a significant time in Russia or ex Soviet states.

The average Russians we met were incredibly friendly, generous and helpful. Proud of their country but aren't we all. The same goes for the Muslim countries. Bear in mind that we are the strangers in another country and don't speak the language. As we went further east the countries and the population become much poorer and we were probably perceived as rich foreigners to people who have an awful lot less. Yet friendliness and willingness to help were the overiding features, along with curiosity. On a couple of occasions we needed welding doing and some broken wiring sorting. Both times this work was done and payment refused because we were guests in their respective countries (Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan). In Uzbekistan we were given food, drink and a bed for the night and the owner refused to take anything. I can't imagine this happening in England when a foreigner turns up who doesn't speak the language.

Over the course of 2 months, 10,500 miles and 21 countries we came across a small handful of unsavory characters, but the same would happen if you toured the UK.

My advice is treat people with respect, smile and offer a hand shake (especially if they've got a gun). Even if you can't speak the language, take the initiative and be open and friendly and people will generally respond in a similar fashion.

Countries quite often distrust their neigbours in these areas. Frequently Country A would warn you that Country B were all robbers and murderers. Country B would be as good as Country A but they would ask how you survived getting through Country A without being robbed!

Places such as Dagestan and Chechnya are listed high on the Foreign Office list of countries to avoid. Kidnapping and violence is still pretty common there so we were cautious where we went and what we did in those countries. When crossing into Chechnya the Russian border guards thought we were crazy going on holiday there. However once in Chechnya the locals were brilliant once they realised we weren't Russian. We were cautious, especially at night and didn't flash wads of cash. Being dirty off road bikers, we didn't look affulent.

Overall I'd say don't believe all the bad press regarding politics and religion, the vast majoirty of people were great, but keep your wits about you for the odd dodgy geezer.
 

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Discussion Starter #187
KIT THAT WORKED.

KTM 690 RFR's superb. I think a 650/690 single is the best size bike for adventure travel off the beaten track yet still capable of doing the long road miles.

Adventure Spec Magadan panniers and in Ian's case Kreiga Overland 60 panniers were both superb, tough and waterproof and withstood numerous crashes. My Magadans have now been round Europe several times, various UK trips, to Mongolia and the USA and taken lots of off road abuse.

Golden Tyre Adventure Tyres got us half way there then the Golden Tyre 723 rally tyre for the second part of the trip. Superb except for mud.

Klim Rally jacket and pants, expensive but very crash resistant, waterproof, well vented but still too hot in the high 30's and low 40's. Expensive but worth it. I got an ex demo prototype show suit so it was a lot cheaper but now use the Badlands jacket and trousers which are brilliant.

Vango Mirage 300 tent and in Coleman Phad 3 (now called Tatra3) tent. Both superb. Both technically 3 man tents but small and light. A one man tent tends to be just that. My tent would be comfortable for 2 but without much gear. When you're on the large size and you want to get all your gear in then these were the perfect tents without taking up too much room on the bike.

Exped synmat UL7 airbed, packs very small, very light and incredibly comfortable. I've tried cheap air beds but for me they are just not worth it. This is insulated so not only do you stay warmer on cold nights (more heat is lost through convection to the ground than the air) but also when I've slept on hot sand the insulation keeps you a bit cooler. I once slept on hot sand on a cheap air bed and felt like I was frying.

Decent down sleeping bag which compressed and again packs down really small. I used to use an Alpkit bag, great value but like a straight jacket for tall fat bastards like me. North Face do a bag which doesn't make me feel claustraphobic.

Bulk and weight are the enemies of off road adventure travel, get the lightest, most compact stuff possible. We left with too much crap and sent a box home from Georgia.

Garmin Montana 600 GPS great piece of kit when it works. It had been subjected to 3 years of everything from commuting to work and loads of off road trips so it had had a hard life. Mine packed up en route which was a real pain. The Garmin GPSMAP 78 has a reputation for being more robust but has a much smaller screen. Last year in the USA I doubled up and used both.

We both used gas stoves rather than petrol and were ok getting gas. A jet boil is great for boil in the bags type emergency food or boiling water but not great for cooking on, so we had a jet boil and an MSR whisperlite. Two small light pans between us.

LUXURY item is a camp chair. I lost £10 folding chair off the back of the bike in Austria, but it was a bit bulky. Helinox do a great but damn expensive compact chair, though I've got a cheeap Chinese copy for less than half the price, or even the £10 3 legged stool is better than nowt but lacks a back rest.

Rok straps, best invention yet for securing luggage especially when bouncing around off road.

Anything else that springs to mind I'll add in due course.
 

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Discussion Starter #188
TIPS FOR ANYBODY CONSIDERING A SIMILAR KIND OF TRIP.

Start planning well in advance to allow for getting all of the required visa's and if in doubt get "over" visa'd. It's safer to opt for longer periods and multiple entry visa's as you never know when you may have problems and are either stuck somewhere for longer than expected or even go back to a country. Over staying your visa in places like Russia is a serious offence!

Border guards tend to have guns and look menacing in a lot of places. As do police check points. If you don't speak Russian or the local lingo like us, don't appear timid or cocky. Smile, say hello and offer a hand shake. Body language transcends the language barriers. Apart from a Russian phrase book, I also took a small picture book with pictures of chicken, lamb, or light bulbs etc so if all else fails you can point at a picture.

Be prepared for lengthy delays at border crossings, our longest was 8 hours in 40c heat so always have some food and water. Make sure you keep all the paperwork when entering a country as you will need it all on exit.

When on the road always stock up with food, water and petrol when you get the chance in remote area's as the next petrol station could be dry.

Respect local customs, you're the foreigner.

Check out requirements beforehand. i.e. we were warned in advance to itemise every single electrial and valuable item, amount of cash etc on your entry forms in Uzbekistan, because if you don't list the item it can be confiscated on exit from the country. The guards will also check the photo's on your phone and or camera.

Excuse me if I'm stating the obvious but cash is king in certain places, take plenty, preferably US dollars first and to a lesser extent euro's as you will get US dollars changed almost anywhere and ATM's can be hard to find in some places. Split your wad of cash up and hide it in various places just in case.

Pack as light and as compact as possible, don't carry the kitchen sink.

I'm sure there are many other things, but I'll add then as and when I remember.
 

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The leaky rad



















Peolpe just stop by the side of the road and want pictures


Ian's hand a few days later when the swelling had gone down


Bishkek biker bar




Sergei, our saviour, second from the right


Great use of old tyres


Proper kebabs...shashlick


Note where the Kyrgyz all put their number plates, can't imagine British coppers being too pleased.


Local loony


Ali the mechanic and ex Moto X champion


Sergei, many thanks for the help mate.


Wes from the UK off to Tajakistan


Ali's workshop, again many thanks guys


Jamie, Ian and Tom
Those landscape pictures up there are fookin stunning!
 

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So few of us get to live our dreams, sad but true, it always great to see others do it though. This thread makes me smile and sigh, I wish.... totally amazing experience thank you so much for sharing. Awesome!


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter #195
Hell, I’m bored sat at home with lock down and social distancing though I appreciate it’s necessary. 2020’s plans for carrying on from Mongolia and riding the Road of Bones are well and truly screwed now with the Covid 19 virus. If anyone else is bored, here’s a re post of the old thread for a bit of escapism. Stay safe and virus free folks.
 

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Sounds like an epic follow on, Shaun... Hopefully it's just a postponement. What's the timescale and weather window to get a trip like that done?

Sent from my moto g(7) power using Tapatalk
 

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Discussion Starter #197
Sounds like an epic follow on, Shaun... Hopefully it's just a postponement. What's the timescale and weather window to get a trip like that done?

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Hi Andy, yea hopefully only postponed till next year. From Ullaanbaatar in Mongolia to Magadan via the Western BAM, Road of Bones and Old Summer Road between 4 and 5,000 miles and a month minimum. Very limited season in Siberia, ideally July or August. Having said that, it’s still very weather dependent as too much rain stops play with water levels too high. The permafrost a couple of feet down never melts so the water doesn’t soak in
 

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Hi Shaun. I left a message for you [at the office]. Would appreciate your call back. Thanks Jimmy.
 
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