Saturday, 7 March 2015

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Goodbye iPad; Today: 100 km;Total: 4225 km

July 17, 2014

We woke up early, had breakfast, and prepared to experience our first day in Mongolia. A flat tire was the first thing I noticed when I finished loading my bike. I got a little anxious then: This is just the beginning of Mongolia; can my tires withstand the rough routes in Mongolia?

The road was smooth, the air fresh, and the scenery beautiful, but not for long. Gradually, the greenery gave way to arid land, and the sun turned into a scorching fire ball. With no trees in sight, we kept looking for some shade to make lunch in. To our surprise, we found a roofed bench with a make-shift table on the side of the roadwhy was it there? No clue. That was our dining/kitchen table, like manna from heaven.  After an hour of rest, we left, but the road turned into sand, and controlling the bike became a constant challenge. After going through deep sands, we were pleased to have met asphalt againso rewarding, but it was the end of our day anyway.

At about 6 pm, we arrived in a small town where we bought some water and groceries. And when I say town, dont expect even a small village. Town in Mongolia means a group of houses sporadically placed in an area. But according to our map, it IS a town.  We rode our bikes for another five km where we found a perfect spot for camping: by the river, under old trees, beside a tall cliff with an eagle nest on top.

We pitched up our tents, bathed in the river, washed our clothes, and relaxed for a while. It had been a rough day. After dinner, when I wanted to write my journal, I realized that my iPad was not in its place in the bag! In disbelief, I checked the bag again and again and again. No iPad! I had left it 100 km of hot sand back, in the hotel room!

I shared the news with Fausto. Then, I kept thinking what to do. I thought I would go to the last town, which was 5 km back, and get a Jeep to Bulgan. Fausto could go ahead, and I would catch up with him on the road or in the next town. The idea came to me rather late, so I couldn't wake Fausto up to tell him. With this thought in mind, and with a lot of hope, I went to sleep.  

Camp for the Night

Our Dinning/Kitchen Table

Cycling through Clouds in Central Asia: Goodbye Chilly China, Hello Adventurous Mongolia; Today: 60 km; Total: 4125 km

July, 16, 2014

At 9 am, I went downstairs to see if it were my cyber lucky dayno Sir. But I could sense some hustle and bustle in the hotel unlike other days. Rumor had it that the Mongolian border was open. In half hour, we were ready to evacuate China avec plaisir.

At the Chinese border control, we had no hassle. Thrilled, we entered the Mongolian border control. No one went through our bags. No questions asked either. Some officers doubtfully looked at us as we talked about our route to Ulaanbaatar, the capital.  

Outside the border station, everything suddenly changed: bunch of people outside the gate clinging on to the vertical bars, overloaded old jeeps and SUVs, and a sense of emptiness in the air that filled us with both relief and uneasinessrelief from leaving polluted China behind, and unease with the unknown Mongolia. A Mongolian elderly woman tried to sell us some sort of fried food in a plastic bag, a young student warned us of Muslim terrorists in the area, and a man gave us some tips on banks and ATMs.

We had an easy ride to Bulgan, the first town thanks to the tail wind. In Bulgan, we used an ATM and changed some money in the bank as we didnt know when we would see another ATM.  

When we were at the bank today, we met a German scientist who was researching on water quality in agriculture in Mongolia and China. He invited us to have a drink in the evening. We accepted but only I met them at seven thirty in the only restaurant open at that hour to grab a bite and have a drink. We had a great time and some joyful conversation about traveling, and culture.

Toward Mongolian Border Control

The German Scientist and his Girlfriend in Bulgan