Friday, May 31, 2013

The Experience

Location: Gobi-Altai
Counter: 1027 kms

Mamma mia ! Mongolia is pushing hard my limits.

I was looking for that, of course, but I wasn't expected this intensity. Mongolia found my limits quickly and is since then playing hard with them. Wind, dirt roads, sun, river crossing, animals, heat, cold, rain, sand (how many dust evils I saw or had to endure...)

Fortunately and for my biggest pleasure, landscapes are really nice, and people in the countryside and on the road are absolutely marvelous.


What about the choice of the road? I chose the south road, for some reasons:

1/ My only exit door is Bulgan/Takeshiken, on the west side of the country (other possibility: back to Ulaanbaatar and fly somewhere.)

2/ In Kharkhorin, the north-west road was my first choice: with tourists, nice changing nature, lakes, forests, mountains... But the wind was extreme, against me, and weather prognose was quite bad, with lots of cold rain and also snow. And it is more kilometers as the south's variant.

3/ Crossing west just after Tsetserleg would have been nice and shorter, but the two mongol guides I talked to, said to me that I will get lost without GPS, and that the wolves would eat me (a mongolian obsession.)

So I took the south road, warmer, a bit shorter but also semi-desertic. Landscapes here are mineral: dry, sandy and rocky. Kind of mountains and lots of rocks have now replaced grass and animals. Vegetation is mainly composed of sparsed small yellow grass-like tufts. No bush. No tree.


In those first 1000 kms, I had just one morning of tailwind. It was so great, I just let it do the job. I faced it the rest of my trip, forcing me to do things I would have never expected to do:

- I woke up one night at 3 o'clock, with the moon, to cover 125 kms of road / dirt-road, before the strong wind went on.

- An other day I had to retreat 15 kms after Arvaikheer, once again because of a massive wind, but also a sand storm. The way back, I was literally flying on the road, thanks to my friend the wind in the back.

- I left Bayankhongor fully charged with water, for a semi-desertic 400 kms section (I cycled only 170 kms of it, see after). I tried to suck pebbles to force me to breath with the nose and salivate, to save water. I don't know if it worked - I drank like a hole - but I was told to do it ;)

Cycling in those extremly dry places was for me a great moment of insight, in particular about how weak and frail our body is in such places. I was very very happy when two truckers stopped at my side after two days with the sand, and told me to come with them until the city of Gobi-Altai. Thank you guys, one hundred million times!

And: I was very very pleased to meet Peace Corps volunteers in Arvaikheer ;) I had nice people to talk with, couple of beers, a roof to sleep...  And it went on in Bayankhongor, where I had the contact of one voluteer, and met one GIZ worker (schön wars, Deutsch zu sprechen.) F*ck*ng great was it!

I'm now arrived in Gobi-Altai, and will try to find a lift to Khovd, 400kms north-west from here. I don't want this landscape anymore, and deserve now a bit of tailwind or sidewind ;) I heard that it is really nice there. I'm dreaming of riding along the Altai mountains and maybe swimming in lakes...

It will be the last part of my Mongolian experience. I'm already really excited to ride in China again. Everything is so easier there. And it is far enough adventure for me now, I need rest!

Unfortunately, my camera is giving up the fight. I think there is sand inside of the mechanic (there is sand everywhere: mouth, ears, nose, sleeping bag, food, water, soap... I wonder how it made its way there ;)) I will try to find someone to fix it.

Thank you sooOOooooOOOoooo much for all your mails and comments! It is a great motivation to read your words and your encouragements. It touches me very deep, and gives me energy to go further.

May that last long!

PS: A really nice story from Callie, an american girl riding her bike in Mongolia, a bit further north, in the other direction:
Callie, I'm really sorry that we didn't meet!

Friday, May 24, 2013

On the road again

Location: Kharkhorin
Counter: 438 km

I left Ulaanbaatar on a cold but sunny sunday morning. The city was quite, the road was mine! It snowed the whole night before, the mountains around the city were all white: it was really enjoyable.

After 20 kilometers, buildings and industry let place to the nature, the mighty mongolian nature... And the wind started to blow. With all my warmest clothes, and though the road was climbing a lot, I froze the whole morning.

But cold was soon over, and in the  afternoon, I found a beautiful place to put the tent, just in the middle of nowhere, under a hot sun. Horses went around when I was cooking, and they were soon replaced with cows. They have just give birth, and it is really nice to see colts and veals learning life.

It feels good to be in the nature again. It feels good to move my body.

I'm on the road again!

I covered around 400 kilometers on my first five days here. And found four terrific places to put the tent and spend the evenings. I ride sometimes kilometers away from the road to find magic places for the evening: I slept between boulders at the foot of Khogno Khan, a prominent mountain for religious Mongols. I try not to see it as 20 more kilometers on my road. I'm here as a tourist, and will doubtless never be here again. Goal is not the destination, goal is for me the road and nice moments.

I try to take time to prepare the food, to relax, to read, to enjoy the nature. Landscapes are magnificents. Grandiose grasslands surrounded with mountains and cliffs. Portion of desert. Thousands of horses, cows, lambs, camels living their life. It's a real pleasure to ride and see them around. The sun is always there, and I enjoy a nice 25 - 30°C nearly all the time: the temperature I love for cycling.

But nothing is perfect, and I have to say that I suffer a lot against the wind. I'm riding West, it is coming from West. And it is strong, sometimes reeeeaaalllly strong. It sticks me on the road. I give all that I have, and can sometimes cover only 6 or 7 kilometers in one hour. Yesterday, I gave up after 40 km, and four hours of fight. It was way too strong for me. Squalls were playing with me and my bike like a feather; it began to be dangerous. I hope it will be better...

I'm now in Kharkhorin, and enjoy a day off by the riverside of Orghon river. The body needs to recover after those five days of riding.

PS: I wrote this note with my telephone, but have to do it in html, which I'm bad at. I don't have the possibility to caption the picture. I will fix it next time I'll have a computer. Hope lay out is not too bad.

Saturday, May 18, 2013


Location: Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Counter: 25 kms

'his/her character is like spring sky' say Mongols about inconstant and moody people, who change constantly their mind.

Or 'Mongolia may offer you the four sesaons in a day' (for free ;))

I couldn't believe it until my first day here in Ulaanbatar. Landing in the morning at the fifth try because of storm and wind. I then rode to the city under a big, warm sun. That was just before I found myself fighting in a snowy/rainy storm when I was looking for a guest house to sleep in the center. The evening was nice and quite, leaving us a nice setting sun, like those I love in Bavarian fall.

To cut a long story short: it promises to be exciting for my ride here in the country.

The center of Mongolia

A few facts, maybe, to visualize the country:
~ 1 500 000 km2 (about three times the area of France.)
~ 3 millions inhabitants, with half of it in Ulaanbaatar.
It means something like an average of 1 people/km2 in the countryside! They all say to me that I will go crazy, because I will be quite a lot of time alone with nature ;) Meditative I said!

Chingghis Khaans

Ulaanbaatar is a safe, dusty and multifaceted capital. In the center, mode is like in Europe this year: high (hiiigh) heals and mini-shorts for women, they are all walking like cats on stilts. Men are wearing suit coat and cravat. Smartphones and big four wheel drive everywhere. On its other side, the city is surrounded with hundreds of thousands of gers (the typical Mongolian habitation) and small multicolor houses made of wood.  People there are really poor.
The contrast is impressive.

Somewhere in the city

The traffic is a bit crazy and jammy. There is no respect for pedestrians, not so much for traffic lights, and not a bit for ears: blocked in traffic jam, they hoot all the time, quite a nihilistic behavior.
I was quite happy to use my parisian riding skills. Very important: catch the eyes of the conductor, and go for it ;) One is definitely quicker with bicycle. There is a big business opportunity here for the first who will introduce bicycle here, as it is an unknown engine.

It's now time to let you and get prepare for the ride. I will leave tomorrow morning. Unfortunately with a prognosis of one week of head-wind, the worst enemy of cyclists. But my will is soooo big, I'm prepared for this.
Mongols are proud horse rider and tough people

Sunday, May 12, 2013

I'm going for a ride

... and will begin with a meditative journey in Mongolia!

I will update this page with photos and texts as often as possible. I will be happy to receive messages, comments, news, advices or anything positive from you!

Prenez soin de vous et à très bientôt,