Bikepacking Mongolia - A couple of Morons go off the beaten track

Over the last week of riding Tom and I have hit the off the beaten track after deciding that it would be more interesting. From Bulgan we reached the end of the asphault which was a token gesture as we left the settlement. Soon we were back on the dirt tracks which have made Mongolian cycle touring much more fun. We soon decided that we would take a detour from the work in progress 'main' road to the interestingly named Moron (next biggest settlement on our route) and head to a small settlement called Bayan Agt.

We cycled back-country open steppe and climbed a number of stunning passes. On one night we camped on the edge of a wide area of pine forest which clutched the hillside beside the pass. The sun set cast a rich glow through the trees and over our campsite giving mainy photo opportunities.

It is quite possible for epic steppe to become boring especially after five hours cycling in brain-boiling heat. There was a lot of time to think and mind wandered between various often banal trains of thought.

We have met people en route as per usual. A typical situation is that a motorbike will stop  and we will have a short chat with the rider. Maybe it's my vast experiences of these types of meetings or whether it's just the Mongolian way but I often find it frustrating being unable to communicate and having rather repetitive interactions.

However, there is still a lot of be gained from even these simple interactions which can serve to brighten an afternoon's riding. I was about to reach a pass on the way to a town called Rashaant when a small boy cantered over to me on his horse and stopped to watch me. He came over to look at my bike. The look of sheer awe and excitement in his eyes was incredible as he fiddled with various bits of the bike, twisting the grips and prodding the gears like it was the first time he has seen such a thing.

We have stopped a few times to drink tea in gers and my impression of the ger lifestyle is one of a simplicity that appears to want for nothing. A home, a family, a small collection of possessions and a herd of animals to provide food, milk and a means of exchange for other commodities. It looks to be a hard but satisfying lifestyle. I am particularly fond of the ger and it is my intention to at some point in the future either build on or import one in England to use.

 

The ger is a round temporary dwelling designed in Mongolia and used by the traditional nomadic people. It is constructed from a wooden frame with a felt covering and is suitable for living through the harsh winter in Mongolia. The ger's circular shape affords a certain calm atmosphere. The dwelling is unique in that it feels more permanent and homely than a tent but less overbearing and constrictive than a bricks and mortar space.

We are staying in a ger in 'Baigal's Guesthouse' here in the town of Moron. There is not much to report other than we have taken a good rest and we met some French motorcyclists; Ann and Louie who are making a world trip on their 25 year old French bikes. Tom and I found we had more in common with the motorcyclists that some other tourists we met here who were travelling by less adventurous means. Ann and Louie have many unique stories from their travels and tales of fixing their often unreliable bikes in less than ideal conditions. They were friendly and sympathetique and we shares some beers and food.

Tom and I are heading off this afternoon to the Hovsgul lake which is the second deepest lake in the world. Apparently it's still covered in ice and the temperature at the lake is a lot lower so I am glad I brought my warm sleeping bag. It's a 100km climb to the lake and we intend to take another off-the-beaten-track route and possibly spend some time investigating the mountains to the west of the lake. Regarding our future plans it is likely we will skip out a section in the west of mongolia and leave early July back into Russia but nothing is as yet set in stone.

 

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