Someone shooting at us???

Friday 17 to sunday 20 of July – 154 miles – Staraya Russa

We left the holiday camp with no rush, as we are well ahead of schedule. We continued using the back   roads, riding north west and aiming for the southern border of Estonia. The roads were sometimes in a very bad state, or ended up as a sandy track, but nothing our little bikes could not handle.
Alistair’s bike was playing up more and more, going slower and slower. That was a big concern as we   cannot leave a bike in Russia. If we leave a bike behind we would get in big trouble with customs. The bikes only have a temporary import permit and must leave within 3 months!
With the difficulty of finding hotels or places to stay in this part of Russia, we decided to stop at Staraya Russa, as it is the main town around and had 2 or 3 hotels. We came across one that looked very nice and stopped to make enquiries. It had space for one night and was reasonably priced, so we   took a room.
As the town was pleasant we decided to stay another day, although we had to change hotel, and for the same price than our nice first hotel, use the old soviet block style hotel. Never mind.
We spent saturday exploring the huge park and the town.

Then the sunday morning, we loaded the bikes and rode out of town. We stopped at a fuel pump on the edge of town to get fuel, then rode off….. Suddenly, I heard three huge Bang! My simultaneous thoughts were:

– WTF!!!
– OMG, someone is shooting at us!!? No way!?
– OMG, my bike exploded!?
I stopped, looked around, no one with a gun (!) and stared at the front of my bike and at my engine…
Alistair had stopped too….. He asked me what the problem was. I told him “what was THAT?”
He told me his bike had died. Again!
Apparently I did look shaken….. But those three explosions were terrifying!
We decided to go back to the hotel and look for a motorcycle mechanic or find a solution.
So, as so many times before, Alistair pushed his bike out of sight, away from the main road, and we rode my bike two-up.
I explained our predicament at the reception desk of the hotel and the security guard draw a map to show me were I may find a workshop. While Alistair went to get his bike and push it back to the hotel ( a good three or four miles!) I walked to the location of the workshops. It was a row of few garages, on a back road, with no sign of life.
 When Alistair came back we decided to walk back to a shop we had noticed the previous day. We had walked in at the time, as it had a big Yamaha sign outside. Unfortunately, it was not a motorcycle shop but a boat and fishing shop, but it also had on show a quad bike for sale.
So our thinking was, if this shop sell quad bikes, they must know a mechanic! So we walked there and with my little bit of russian managed to explain what had happened and what we needed. They phoned someone and told us someone would come to our hotel an hour later. Result!
So we went back to our soviet style hotel and, true to word, reception called us very soon.
A mechanic was there, with his wife and 15 months old daughter in tow! His wife spoke a bit of english, so between her small english and my small russian we were able to talk.
After a while, between Alistair and the mechanic they managed to revive the bike. A short test ride showed that the bike would be able to continue, hopefully all the 300km to the border! As they were leaving, we asked how much we  owed, but the mechanic and his wife refused any money from us! How kind is that? The poor people, being disturbed on their sunday afternoon and the whole family came to help us !
Monday 21st July – about 150 miles…. Pskov (70km from Estonia!)
We finally managed to leave town! Riding slowly through the back roads, we decided to stop at Pskov, which is the administrative centre of the Pskovkaya region, so fairly big town! It also has a few hotels and a nice Kremlin. And motorcycle mechanics if we need!
We got there early afternoon, Alistair’s bike keeps going slowly and surely we should be able to make it into Estonia tomorrow! Surely! What could possibly go wrong?!
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where is Mr Spock when you need him?

Wednesday 15 July – Moscow

At 9 am we were back to the depot to pick up our bikes. In the train , 5 others bikes had been travelling with ours, although the owners were not in the train. Some of their bikes were still in the wagon, waiting to be moved to the depot. The train wagons were just on the side of the depot, which was elevated to be level with the wagons.
The guys there took us to the wagon. One of the Finnish bike had fallen from its crate onto the next bike. The windshield was broken. As it had nothing to do with us we went back to our bikes. No one spoke english so there was no point explaining.
After some paper work in an office, Alistair got his screw driver out, in order to undo the crate.
A blond woman who seemed to boss people around shouted at us “Nyelza! Nyelza!” Which means not possible, forbidden. Then she said something about the street. So we could only remove the crate once the bikes were in the street. Okayyyy. How she planned to do that? When I asked, she said ” nye znayo” I don’t know.
I thought first she meant she did not understand me. So we sat round round and waited see how the bikes would be moved. The guys were working taking bags and boxes out of the trains and into the depot.
After a while, as the woman was round again, I asked again. Same answer. So we started getting the bike out of its crate, as  it was obvious  no one would help us. maybe she expected us to lift the bikes with our barehands and   get them out? Or some sort of teleportation? Shame i don’t have Mr Spock phone number, for some bit of teleportation, would be a  great trick!
The blond woman came back, shouting again, i shouted louder “how we get the bikes out? ” with same answer “i don’t know” so we ignored her and worked on the crate. No one stopped us. I decided that this woman was suffering from what we call in french the Complex of the under Manager. Someone who got promoted just above the bottom hierarchy level, and it goes to their head and they turn into unpleasant mini dictators!
Meanwhile the guys were getting the other bikes out. As Alistair wheeled his bike out to the street level, the fallen bike fell further as the guys were getting it out. One guy screamed in pain, maybe got a finger pinched….one worker came shouting at me and showing the bike.
I know, the temerity of paying to get my bike on a train. how dare I?
As it had nothing to do with me, i ignored him and continued with the screw driver! The crates are awful and unsafe but this has nothing to do with me!
After that we rode to the hotel and the manager got the bikes inside the hotel, in the service entrance.
So with this done, we went to visit a bit of town!

Thursday 16 July – 219 miles – holiday camp by a lake!

We left Moscow early. Getting out of town was the usual scary ride, trying to avoid crazy drivers.
After  few hours off on the motorway, riding west, which soon turns into a dual carriage way, we decided we could not continue on that road, as it was too dangerous. Alistair’s bike was still playing up and could not go beyond 40 or 45mph. Trucks with double trailers were overtaking us with just inches to spare! Way too close for comfort, and closing down on us before they had passed us completely. It was very dangerous. So we stopped and looked at the map. We decided to take the quite back roads west toward Estonia.
After further investigation while in Moscow, it seems there are very few ferries going from st Petersburg  to Stokholm…Looking at   various ferry options, Tallinn was the most convenient. So we  had decided to ride to Estonia. if only Alistair’s bike can make it!
The back roads were passing near rivers and lakes. As the day advanced, we  looked for hotels. We found only one in a  small town but it had no rooms for us. We continued and came across a holiday resort very soviet style, on the edge of a lake!
It had very shabby wood cabins , the showers were in a shower block only, the beds were sort  of interesting… But at least they had space for us. So we rode to our cabin and found the local store and bar. The locals stay there on full board but we were not sure how things worked so we only took the room and had dinner at the bar with some shashliks.

Into Siberia

Tuesday 8th of July – 206 miles – sukhbataar

The weather was less wild and we decided to finally leave Ulaanbataar! I was sick of pot noddles and could not wait to get back into Russia for a decent meal.
Two nights before, we tried a local restaurant, not far from our hotel, chinese food, so it would be easy  to order as each meal had a picture.  It looked popular with the locals. It was vile! Trust me, it was. Even the chicken had that texture of chicken that has been standing around for a very long time. Like all meat in Mongolia, it was well past its sell buy date.
So we  went back to pot noodles and sardines to survive. To be fair the russian sardines in tomato sauce were actually very tasty.
Anyhow, we  packed and rode to the border. The road was paved all the way, sort off, unless it was closed and we would end up in random tracks, trying to figure out which way to go, as usual.
By late afternoon we arrived at the border town of sukhbataar. We spent the night there, as the border is not 24/7. They rarely are in these regions.
For dinner as you may guess we had more sardines with bread!
Wednesday 9th of July – Ulan Ude – 171 miles
The border was only 25 km away, so we  got there on good time. There was already a queue. Getting out of Mongolia was a muddled affaire as it looked like they could not find my motorbike number plate in their computer records! Alistair blamed my very bad writing! I blamed incompetent officials!
After that we rode to the russian side. It took nearly 2 & 1/2 hours as they were thoroughly searching every car and minibus! I was expecting the same when it was our turn, but except the usual question “do you carry narcotics or weapons?” Which we always said no ( does anyone ever say  yes for the fun of it???) they waved us through. Mind you, with our minimalist luggage I really don’t know where we could hide any smuggling!
By then it was lunchtime so we  munched on ozone peanuts and apples. We pressed on to Ulan Ude through storms and hail, as it was quite a  long way. When we  got there, we found out we had lost another hour! I made a mistake in a previous post, in UB we were 7 hours ahead of the Uk, now we were 8h ahead!
After turning a bit we finally found a hotel. They even did a registration for two days, although we  were only staying one night! So registration was now out of the way! In Russia, foreigners must register with the authorities within 7 days. Some hotels can do it, else it is complicated. And no registration means problems at the border when leaving!
Then we went for a meal. We found some chinese / Japanese restaurant ( lots of those around!) and we had a great meal! Food that was tasty, edible and no dodgy meat! Result!
Thursday 10th of July – 206 miles – Utulik , by lake Baikal.
Alistair had found a nice guesthouse on airbnb.com and booked a room. Unfortunately, they could only give us a room for one night only! The weather was better, the road beautiful, up and down big hills, twisty roads, nice views of the lake…. Utulik was a holiday resort with lots of chalets for tourist. Ours was already fully booked. It was nice as we had full use of the kitchen and a huge bedroom and bathroom.
The owners told us that Utulik was a ski resort in the winter, and we   could take the ski lift for nice views of the lake. The added bonus was that the bottom of the ski lift was being taken over by bikers for a large international bikers meeting that weekend.
So we rode there and were greeted by the bikers meeting organisers. It was not busy yet as it was only thursday and most people would come Friday evening only. The greetings entailed a small plastic glass containing a tiny bit of Russian brandy, that we had to drink with our helmets on ( not easy!) and eating a  small piece of pickle! Again with gloves on, not an easy task!
We managed then to get up the ski lift, although it was closed already, but with the help of the chalet owner who appeared suddenly there, we  got in and up! Russia is a bit like Brazil… There is always a way!
So we got on the ski lift but had to stay on  and down immediately as we were not allowed out at the top. Had few pictures though!
Greetings committee!
Lake Baikal:
After that we rode back to the chalet and had a walk to the edge of the lake.

We then got back to the chalet for a simple dinner of … Sardines and bread, as there was nowhere to have food!

Friday 11th of July – about 100 miles – Irkutsk
We left early. We had found a home stay in Irkutsk, via airbnb.com. It was a retired lady, who was also ready to help us to organise the transport of the bikes on the train to Moscow, i.e. Do some translation for us!
When we got there early afternoon, in intense heat, we  found the street, the block of flats, the entry 6D, flat 7. Easy enough. Except that no one answered our calls at the street door. Strange, she knew we would be there early afternoon.
 I tried other flats in that block asking if they know Tamara Home stay? Nope, neighbours said no one of that name was at 6D. Alistair went off trying to find wifi to send an email… And failed . I went to all other stairs trying all flats 7 with no luck… We gave up. Alistair went toward the station to look for a hotel and found one in front of the station.
So we rode there and walked straight away to the station. By then it was 4pm . We knew, through Tamara, that there was a train the next day ( the Saturday 12th) that could take the bikes. The next train would be the 18th only! We did not fancy spending a full week either in Irkutsk or Moscow waiting for the bikes!
I had details of Irkutsk station by a fellow biker, who transported his bike to Novosibirk the year before, and his instructions were spot on. We found the correct desk and organised the bikes quickly. We were told to bring them at 5pm to get them crated and they would be boarding the train the next day with us! So we  brought the bikes. There were  already 3 huge Finnish motorbikes being “crated”… Well sort of, some sort of nasty frame that would be useless as we would find out later on!
Anyhow, we were told to go back to the office the next day at 8 am to do the paper work, so we left the bikes and went back to the hotel.
As for Tamara? She lived at block 6G, flat 1! Not block 6D, flat 7 as she emailed us! Go figure!
Saturday 12th July  to Tuesday 15th –  transiberian
At 8am we were at the office and all paper work and tickets were done quickly.
The bikes were … Encased rather than crated…
Then the guy in the warehouse told us we had to drain the fuel tank as there was too much fuel left! We did both bikes! We had half fuel tank and had to remove a lot….
As we left the office, two german guys on two bikes turned up! It seems the train is an established route for motorcycle travellers now!
The train was leaving at 4pm… We asked the hotel if we could stay until two pm, but they asked another 1000 roubles for it, so we just went to a local restaurant, with air conditioning (it was very hot) and spent a long time there.
We then got on the train at 4pm. The train was scheduled at 11am… Moscow time! All trains are set to Moscow time, very strange  at first but it makes sense when you realise that Russia spans across 11 time zones!
We  saw no trace of either the three Finnish guys and the Germans, although we saw all 7 bikes being loaded into the train.
As the train was full, we had the two top bunk beds, not convenient as in this case you can not sit on the lower bed/ seat! So if you want to sit, you must go up to your bunk bed all the time. Not great!
That was our world for 3 1/2 days! And the usual views for that period!
Then we found the restaurant! No one seemed to use it so we spent a lot of time sitting there!
They even had beer, until they ran out. Mind you they ran out of lots of stuff over the three days! They do not seems to reload on stuff!
But at least the blond girl, Marina, working there was friendly and had a lovely smile (  on the right). And she even let us charge our iPads on the plugs behind the bar!

The train would stop every so often, and people would get off and some other would get on. On Monday evening, three guys got on next to our cabin. They were already a bit drunk. They joined us at the restaurant for a beer, then at the next stop got off to buy drinks and insisted on giving us vodka. I did not drink as I was not too well and don’t like spirits. Anyway, we spent few  entertaining hours with those guys.

Apparently they drive buses that go from Moscow to Vladivostok! 9000 km of it! They don’t go all the way but part of it, two drivers/ mechanics per coach, doing 12 hours each! Tough job. And who would travel in a  coach? Insane! But if you fancy it… More adventurous than the train! I think it takes 15 days but not sure!

On Tuesday,after 78 hours on the train, we arrived at Moscow early afternoon.

We had planned to stay at a guesthouse but when we turned up it was full. After a lot of search, involving finding wifi to find local hotels, we found a hotel after 5pm.
After a quick change, as  we were on our motorcycle gears and carrying bags etc…we  got to the station. Finding the warehouse where the bikes were was a bit of a treasure hunt. Anyway, found it, but we were told to come back the next day!

i

the ride to Ulaanbaatar

Thursday 3rd July – Tsetserleg, 127miles

We woke up very early in  our Gers! Mainly because it was so cold! Alistair got the wooden  stove going, which involved using some fuel to start the fire!

After a breakfast of coffee bread and spread, we went for a walk. Across the river, there were some herders’ gers. They had motorbikes and I had observed that they were crossing the river at a different spot that the one used by cars, and us, the previous day. For crossing rivers in Mongolia, it is useful to observe where the locals on their little chinese bikes do the crossing. It is rarely the spot used by trucks and cars.
The previous day we used the crossing for cars and trucks, and it was rather deep. This morning I was not keen on getting water inside my goretex boots! We found a much shallower crossing.
So we  packed up and  used that crossing. It had big round river bed peddles but it was no worries with our little bikes.
This time we were seriously expecting the road to get better. Tsetserleg,our destination for the day , is a very touristy town!
We got back to Tariat, and found the correct direction toward Tsetserleg. We followed the usual nasty trails, across steppes  and more steppes. The valleys were littered with garbage, a very  depressing sight, as  the locals seem to discard about anything on the ground, anywhere. Picnic? Just leave the tins and empty cans and bottles! Drinking vodka? Just smash them. There are smashed bottles of vodka and beer littered all over, as well as plastic bottles, not only along the tracks, but all over the steppes. The amount of empty vodka bottles is worrying! Drink driving seems to be a big problem here. Once the roads are paved and they can  drive fast, the fatality rate of road accidents will rocket I guess.
After a while we stopped. We met a biker on a rented chinese bike, from Ulaanbaatar. He told us the road would get better… And it did! Tarmac at last!
We finally got to Tsetserleg by mid afternoon. Obviously, as you may suspect, not all the way was nice smooth tarmac. We crossed plenty of road works. Now in Mongolia,  Roadworks mean that trucks and cars randomly create tracks in the sand, by the side of the road. You end  up with deep sand tracks as a result!
We finally got a place with hot shower!
Friday 4th of July – Tsetserleg, 0 miles
We decided to spend a day rest in town. We were incredibly tired and I felt all my muscles ached from the intense riding involved in the last few days. We did not do any visiting, but we found a place owned by a British guy, which served really decent food, although the meat still  tasted disgusting.
The problem with meat here is that they don’t seem to use fridges. We crossed the local market, which was next to the meat market / abattoir, but in a separate building. The smell of rotting meat was overpowering! It was vile. So we try to avoid meat in Mongolia…..
Saturday 5th of July – Ulaanbaatar (UB) –  300 miles
We left town mid morning, due to late serving of breakfast. People don’t seem to work early in this country. Ever!
We were told the road was paved all the way. It was, except when it wasn’t, usually due to the tarmac being so  damaged that it was impossible to ride through, or the many road works!
We finally got to UB rather late and found a hotel in the west part of town. The traffic was insane, aggressive, dangerous, and we did not fancy to cross all the town, so we picked  a  place near our arrival into the town. As we need to use  the same way to pick up the northern road, it avoids too much riding around UB.
Sunday 6th of July – UB
We took a taxi to take us to the colossal statue of Ghengis ( Chiinggis as they spell it here!) Khan.
It took almost two hours to get there. We crossed plenty of road works. As usual the traffic was diverted to the sides. As the traffic was very dense, with many trucks, the tracks got deeper and deeper Into sand. As a result we  saw several trucks completely stuck in the sand, the drivers using shovels and tools to dig the wheels off the sand! Insane. We were glad not to be on the bikes!
In the evening we quiet fancied some food. Alistair founda  chinese restaurant around. We thought food would be ok in the capital city, but it was vile.a nd the chicken was anything there!urgh. I think I will stick to  poot noodles and tins of sardines until Russia!
Monday 7th of July – UB
We were planning to leave town and ride to the border with Russia, but huge overnight storms and rain and continuous rain over the morning made us reconsider. We don’t mind rain, but there was a lot of flooding. Now, road works, sand, deep sand, horrible tracks and flooding, are never a  good combination on two wheels. Add intense traffic and crazy drivers, and we decided to  stay put for the day!
For those interest on this sort of things, we completed nearly 10,000 miles with our bikes, since London, not including ferry rides and miles done on the back of a truck!
Now we will not ride as much to get back home, as we plan to take the trans-Siberian train, with the bikes, from Irkutsk to Moscow! Keep reading to see how we get on!

into the wilderness: western Mongolia – Part 2

Tuesday 1st of July – Tosontsergel – 70 miles

After a good night sleep we visited the dreadful pit (!) before trying to get some breakfast. We asked if we could get some eggs but the landlady said no! So we drank some fruit juice from the supermarket, and some bread with our mixed chocolate spread. We abandoned the rest of the bread…rock hard.
We left Nomrog soon after 9 am. From there we were really expecting to see some improvements with the road, after all, in our map, this section is now a ” major road”! It had been raining heavily during the night. I was hoping the sand would be compacted, making riding easier. Let’s just say it took us 5 hours to do 70 miles!
This below is actually a good section of road! Really!
The road went from bad to worse, rivers, mud, sand, holes the size of a truck…. It was very had and very tiring! I don’t have any pictures of the hard parts, as I was too busy riding those and trying not to lose the will to live!
We got to Tosontsergel by 2:30 / 3pm…. Although…we  must have crossed some invisible portal as we lost another hour …. We were now 8 hours ahead of the UK, same time zone than Singapore and Beijin apparently!
This time we found two hotels in town. We had high hope of a hot shower and flushable toilet, after all this town is quite important… It even had an airport, according to my map!
Unfortunately, there was still no running water in town…. Only drafted from a  pump and brought home in containers…. So facilities were the same… No shower and the dreaded pit toilet!  We picked the less dodgy looking hotel. Downstairs they had a restaurant, and they even served food there! We managed to get fried eggs and rice! That was quite a nice change from our usual diet!
After that we went to look for the local “supermarket” ( well, that would be the village shop for you and me!).
We met two bikers, a couple from Poland, riding two up on a massive BMW 1200 GS with tons of luggage and stuff ( that is a very big motorbike for those non biker reading this! )
And they looked so clean! My riding suit was covered in mud and sand, my bike the same, my panniers almost invisible through the dust and sand and mud…. They came from a different part of the country…. South. We told them it took us most of the day to do 70 miles…. They said they were doing 250 km a day. My jaw dropped to the floor! And they were not going to stop in town but continue. Not tired  at all! They were going the same way than us from here, East to Tariat and then Tsetselerg.
I thought the guy must be some sort of semi God of the off road, we did look rather amateurs and useless with our slow progress! And they were so clean! Not a speckle of mud in their trousers! Anyway, they left and we went back to the hotel after buying some water.
We did not sleep well. The hotel was busy with locals, each room filled with full extended family. Very noisy. On top of that the sheet over the mattress was so ridiculously small, they always are here, it did not cover half the mattress… Which was not clean! Stressful!
Wednesday 2d July – 135 miles, near Tariat
Considering that Tosontergel is actually a biggish town ( Mongol style) we really expected this time there must be a road! Well, there will be one day, as there are massive roadworks, but for us it got worse!
We left after a solid breakfast of fried eggs and rice (!). The road leaving town was like riding in the Sahara, sand dunes and all! Where is all that sand coming from? It was horrendous and  it took us an hour to do only 9 miles. My bike got stuck trying to ride up a steep sand dune. A truck was already stuck in the sand  no far. My back wheel digging a hole half way up. Alistair had to come to the rescue and get the bike out of the hole and up the end of the bloody dune!
Few hours later the tracks came across a deep large river. We saw a 4X4 going through, it was waist deep, it would submerge most of the bike… Not passable for us. We stopped another 4 wheel drive car, they pointed further down a trail. We followed them. A mile later, the car went through the river. We had to get through, but this passage was almost as  deep!
Then, big luck, another 4X4 came behind us, saw us stuck and passed the river, doing a big swerve to the right! It was shallower on the far right side. We “thumbed up” the car as a thank and Alistair went first. It was deep but doable. I followed, without style and wobbly but I did it and was really pleased with myself. I wondered how our polish friends managed  with their huge heavy bike? Maybe semi God just levitated?
Later, again, another bloody river. How can this be a “major road”? Again we  saw a  car passing, it was deep enough but no more than before. We got through again.
We came across yaks. They look so funny!
We pressed on through the day. We wanted to get to Tariat and check out if the hotel there had a shower. If not, few miles further north, inside the national Park, there was a Gers camp with hot showers and flushing toilets! According to our guidebook! By then we deserved that! Worse case scenario we would camp by the lake and  bath there!
Near 7pm we eventually got to Tariat. We checked out the local hotel, which was the same dreadfulplace  than the others! We decided to ride to the national park, few  miles further away.
On the way we saw the big BMW of our polish friends. They did not go far today… Less mileage  than us… They found the road very tough and went very slow…. So… No semi God of the Off Road then! They just rode much easier trails before meeting us, coming from the south! I felt much better about my riding skills after that…. And they even looked a bit less sparkly clean in their riding suits!
Then we came across a board pointing toward Khorgo Gers camp. I checked the Lonely Planet. It was the one mentioned as having flush toilets and  hot showers. To get there, we had to cross another river, that was fairly deep and I got water inside my boot riding through. Never mind… Showers, real toilets…. I would have gone through an ocean!
So we went there, they confirmed what the guidebook said. We took a  ger! We got the ger’s wood stove going and using it to cook our dinner of…. Noodles again.. But with added onion and pepper!
We were told there would be hot water at 9 pm. I went into the shower. Cold water. Then a tiny big less cold water… I was not happy… The lady in charge of the shower block was around…, I complained… Where is the bloody hot water? Now, you must know that this place is rather high up and it was quite cold, the water was icy. The woman just opened the curtain of my shower to check the water! The fact I was stark naked there, trying to wash my hair, did not mater apparently! Anyhow, we had a coldish shower… But at least the toilets were real toilets… With a flush! And clean! And with toilet paper! Civilisation at last! Of sort anyway! 
 

Into the wilderness: western Mongolia – Part 1

Saturday 28th of June – 154 miles
( apologies to my readers about the constant bad typing, very hard on an iPad, the blogger app gives me a tiny window and it would be so much easier with a real keyboard! )

And so we  left Ulaangom early, with no breakfast. We were aiming to camp by a lake. We were then in the district of Uvs. It means grass in Mongolia. Why? No clue as it is really only desert. The good news was that the exit of town and for about 80 miles was paved more or less.

We wanted to find a specific trail and spot on the edge of the lake, called Khetsuu Khad,  where apparently there was a gers camp and   wonderful views.
We never found the junction or any trail going in the  right direction.
We rode that road back and forth several times, asked some road builders, could not make sense of the response ( pointing in all directions!). In the end we decided to ride cross country. The soil was not too bad, no ravines or high rocks, it was doable. By the time we reached the southern side of the lake, we realised that we would not have enough fuel to reach that gers camp and come back. So we  picked a spot by the lake and set camp.
The place was like a desert, with funny looking lizards that had like a big sting on the tail, and raising them like a scorpion! I did not fancy one of those coming close to me!
Sunday  29th of June – 185 miles
Concerned with fuel, we  consulted the map. It showed a village off a small trail. Our GPS did not show any road there. Once again we rode back and forth, asking for that village and fuel. Once again, we could not make sense of the answer, involving pointing in lots of different directions. If we  continued,  the next town on the main “road” was too far. So we decided to turn back on the paved road and ride back  about 55 miles to the last fuel pump.
At the same time we stop at the village shop to buy water and some food.
We filled also the fuel bladder, that gives us an extra 8 litres of fuel, as we were going to cross a very desolated area. It is called the Great depression. It deserved that name! By the time we got out of it few days later we were ourselves very depressed!
Anyway, at the village we were surrounded by two idiots touching everything on the bikes!
I kept saying in english ” yes it’ s a motorbike, it has two wheels, just like yours!” To no avail!
We then rode to the fuel pump and same circus again! We had a quick bite of bread with some spread, that looks like Nutella but comes in a swirl of neatly separated white and brown spread. By the end of the day the whole spread had mixed into chocolate colour, due to the tremendous vibrations and corrugation of the trails.
Then we rode the same road again, passing the end of the lake, running out of tarmac into horrendous tracks. They went from bad to worse. We looked for a side trail going north but once again never found it or any evidence of a track. We were glad not to insist as a sudden electric storm started, with massive lightenings coming down on the valley we had planned to cross. Those lightenings were frightening, especially as it is flat desert and the only thing sticking out is us on our bikes!
The tracks were going in all directions, many criss crossing, some running parallel, all bad, either very bad corrugation or sand. It was stressful and exhausting! In top of that the scenery was just desert, with nothinga round, not a gers camp, not a camel or a goat, nothing
We continued slowly for a long time until we got too tired.
We then rode away from the road to set camp. The next village was very far away.
As we set the tent and our inflatable mattresses,we  found out that one particular plant was very spiky! It pierced the tent floor in a couple of places! We had to empty the tent. We defined a square zone with my boots, and started a weeding job to remove all these herbs! Eventually it was done and we set the tent there. It was incredibly hot!
After our usual dinner of pot noodles, we set to rest, just to realise that my mattress was losing air fast! Big puncture. Some roots were going through the floor and punctured my mattress! After repairing the puncture, we used the plastic chopping board and my motorcycle winter gloves to isolate from those.
We finally set to sleep, although my mattress must have had another tiny puncture as  it lost air slowly and  I had tore inflate a couple of times overnight!
Monday 30th of June – 98 miles – Nomrog
We got up at 6 am as the sun was high already and it was too hot. By 7:30 we were back riding. We eventually crossed some valleys with some sign of life, few animals grazing, few rare gers.
We came across, in the middle of nowher, of a gers selling some drinks and providing food. We declined the food but had a couple of sodas, warm as they had no fridge!
As we sat in the Ger, on what was the unique  massive family bed, the family sat in front of us, on a sofa and two armchairs; the mother, the father, the teenage daughter and younger son, and another bloke, all staring at us, as if we were from outer space! Maybe for them we were! We were happy to be away from the sun in the shade for a while, but it was very uncomfortable having this group of people just staring at us! So we left. They all came out to stare at us!
The tracks unfortunately got worse. With long sections of deep sand, and badly deformed tracks with huge deep holes and bumps all over the place.
We observed more storms and electrical storms once again! The views are so far away in these open spaces,  that you can observe several storms at the same time!
Through the day I dropped my bike three times in sand. It was exhausting.
By mid afternoon we got to Nomrog, the first town since we last bought fuel! Town is a big name for what is only a single street!
Nomrog had a hotel, of sort. With no running water in town, there was no showers, bathroom and the toilet was outside, the usual wooden but, with a wooden platform, with one plank missing and a big hole! Using was filled me with dread but no choice!
We were too tired to continue so we decided to stay. At least we would be out of the sun. We cleaned ourselves with some Wetones, hoping for a shower the next day !
The hotel had a big kitchen and dining room, set like a restaurant, although it was completely deserted during our stay. Then upstairs there were several bedrooms. The owner showed us several rooms and we   picked one. The beds were made, usually guesthouses and hotels since Georgia, beds are unmade, maybe to show the bedding is clean? In this case I doubt it was.
 As evidence, the next morning, the entire family emerged from one single bedroom, the son, two daughters, the mum and another lady, all sleeping in one bedroom! That was one of the bedroom the woman showed us. Then she made the beds there again and  I suppose the next traveller can sleep in there again! oh well, considering how dusty I was I just felt sorry for whoever sleep in my bed sheets next!
 We observed that too later on in other guesthouses, where a full extended family, children various men and women will share a bedroom! I suppose in gers that is how family life is, everyone sleep in the same gers, sometimes in the same huge bed…..
Part two to follow later today….