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Europe & The Near East 2007 Films Middle East & Africa 2009 Mongolia 2010 The Caucasus & Iran 2008

Video: 3½ Years Into 3 Minutes

A super-short blast through my time away from the UK, from bolshy beginnings in 2007 to humble homecomings a few weeks ago.

[vimeo]http://www.vimeo.com/18113861[/vimeo]

 

Look out for more video coming very soon. Merry Christmas!

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Mongolia 2010

Four Spectacular Moments From Mongolia

These composite shots are from moments during my time in Mongolia when I made a special effort to capture the essence of the landscape and the atmosphere.

You can be the judge of how successful I was!

Camping under the stormclouds in Mongolia
We pitched our tents under a clear blue sky. By the time we’d washed in the river and cooked dinner, storm clouds were rolling in…
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Mongolia 2010

The Long Road Back To Yerevan

Coming home meant two things: a very long journey by public transport, and lugging an unwieldy collection of funny-shaped bags and bits of metal through a variety of cities in the summer heat.

Sunset From Trabzon-Sochi Ferry
One of the ferries from Trabzon to Sochi

Choosing to travel exclusively by land meant that the excursion was really much more than just a bike ride in Mongolia. It was also an opportunity to spend a few days watching the world go by, and to experience one of the world’s great train journeys — the Trans-Mongolian from Moscow to Ulaan Baatar (and back). There was also the logistical challenge of it all — anyone who’s been to the Caucasus will know that the borders are in something of a pickle.

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Mongolia 2010

Mongolia: The Cream Of Adventure Cycle-Touring

In 2006, Andy and I took our mountain-bikes up to Inverness and spent a week riding an off-road route to Fort William, which we had put together from detailed Ordinance Survey maps. We made a lot of mistakes — carrying all of our kit in heavy backpacks, relying for a good night’s sleep on a £10 tent from Lidl, and being rather optimistic about our daily distances cycling on hiking trails.

This, my first ever bike trip, was about trial-and-error, climbing the steep learning curve of our inexperience. It was the most fun I’d ever had on a bike, or ever have since.

Until, that is, I took my bike to Mongolia.

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Mongolia 2010

Off The Map In Northern Mongolia — Another Photo Essay

After I’d recovered from a sudden illness, we hit the road again with fresh enthusiasm. We set out from Hatgal at the southern tip of Lake Khovsgol, knowing nothing about the state of the route other than that two Finns and an Aussie told us on returning from a mountain-biking trip that it wouldn’t be possible to get through the first 25km with luggage on the bike. That sounded like an excellent way to keep things interesting.

It was 10 days before we reached the next settlement. During that time, we rode swooping forest singletrack and dragged our bikes up impossibly-steep scree slopes. We pushed through axle-deep swampland and camped by the most pristine lakeside I’ve ever set eyes on. We found Mongolians on horseback and others who had driven huge ancient Russian off-road trucks cross-country, carrying numerous families to a natural hot spring for a few days’ camping. We spent two full days hiking along a valley floor of dry gravel and wading across channels of meltwater from the mountains above. My feet started to disintegrate from several days spent in permanently wet boots. We got completely lost and finally found our way out onto the vast, pock-marked, marshy plain to the west of the Khovsgol basin. This had been some of the most interesting and challenging adventuring of my life.

We planned to visit another settlement at the far end of the plain, but instead we spent two days lost amongst the hillocks and small lakes, unable to find a way through the tangle of rivers and sand pits and marshes in this rapidly-changing landscape in which nothing corresponded to anything we’d seen on a map. Faint tracks disappeared over newly-eroded riverbanks and into spontaneously-appearing patches of desert. We trudged through the worst of it and otherwise ground the gears between gers and timber-built dwellings, asking in quiet desperation for the way out of the labyrinth and accepting invitations to drink milky tea (without salt in this region) and eat bread and freshly-churned butter.

We spent the evening attending a family gathering quite literally in the middle of nowhere, where vodka combined with a cyclist’s metabolism and a severe lack of resistance to the effects of alcohol to produce a variety of interesting effects. This dip into Mongolian society, sparse as it is, was for me the final piece of the picture of Mongolia that I had been looking for in order to go home satisfied with the experience I’d had here.

Since the last photo essay proved so popular, here’s another! I’ll be writing the trip up in more detail over the next few weeks.

Leaving home
We left our guesthouse in Moron and headed north for Khovsgol. Tourist season hadn’t started and things were still very quiet. And cold.