Mongolia is a far more accessible place for a mountain-biking expedition than I’d imagined. Navigation has been a mixture of old techniques and new technology. Our GPS unit didn’t help us to choose a route through the maze of tangled tyre tracks, but it did provide a bearing and an approximate distance to the next small provincial town – which would always provide supplies, electricity, a meal and a mobile phone connection. In terms of facilities, everything we’ve needed has rarely been more than a day or two away.
After Bulgan we headed for the back-country. Riding the main route, though relatively easy going, quickly became a monotonous undertaking. Away from this, our sheet-map of the country provided us with the name of the next settlement, and armed with this knowledge we proceeded through the silent vastness of the countryside, pedalling along the streak of bare earth that best corresponded to the gestures of passing motorcyclists and horsemen, out herding for the day, and our combined common sense and experience.
We found ourselves covering more distance than we’d expected – our plan was to average somewhere around 35km per day, but 55km has been more common. The conditions have been challenging, but not overpoweringly so. It really helps to have benchmarks like Sudan and Ethiopia when tackling unpaved routes like this!
We’ve spent several days off in Moron, a relatively large regional capital in north-central Mongolia, in order to rest and to let an unexpected cold/cough to work its way through my system before continuing. There’s plenty more to say, but just for a change I’ll let the pictures do the talking. It’s been a fantastic ride so far.