Day 143 588 days to go. Distance: today 0 yesterday 32km total 8091km. Its 6.30pm Saturday 21/4/2012 Ulaanbaatar. Hi there fine folk. I’m currently sitting in the pub lounge of the guesthouse I’m staying waiting for my dinner date to arrive. I’ve forgotten her name and can’t find where I wrote it down bugga not a good start to a social evening. She’s late so I may yet be stood up and won’t have to worry about it. She’s a Russian woman I met yesterday when she was checking out the guesthouse and also traveling solo. I hope she shows it’ll be nice to have some company but if not I’ll head out for the evening by my little lonesome 🙂 I’ve been pawing over maps today getting my head round some route options and generally trying not to panic. It’s a big tough Mongolian world out there and a tricky time between seasons with unpredictable weather. On a positive it means Russia and Kazakh will be peak season but Mongolia’s first on the itinerary and needing some extra thought. I went shopping last night for maps and found a couple of awesome current maps that show the major roads and Tourist Ger camps across the country. These are felt tents catering for tour groups something like a camp site and are good to know where they are for planning. Theres an international road that runs east-west through most major destinations which is where I’m leaning. Mongolia is divided into central, western, eastern, gobi, and northern regions. Each region is made up of provines called aimegs. Ulaanbaatar is in Tov aimeg in the central region. This is where I start my journey west to the russian border of Tsagaannuur (M) and Tashanta (R). The road map I have is great. It was published in 2011 and shows the roads (paved and unpaved). There are state roads and an international road marked amongst the other minor roads. It’s the international road that I’m leaning towards for quality and accessibility plus it also goes through some keys places of interest which is great. Heading west the AH32 passes Lun and Erdenesant in Tov. It then briefly cuts across Bulgan aimeg through Rashaant and into Arkhangai aimeg through Tsetserleg, Tariat and Tsahir. Then it heads into Zavkhan aimeg to Inuul, Tosontsengel, Telmen and down to Uliastay. The countryside west from here where the road travels turns desert as all other routes through this part of the country. My thought is to arrange transport from here to Hovd in Khovd aimeg. From Hovd the international route picks up AH4 into Bayern-Olgii aimeg through Olgiy and to the border. So that’s the first draft plan and seems the best so far. I have made email contact with a local cycle group I just found on the internet this arv that have a shop here in UB. They also offer cycle tours and have a cycle group so are potentially an awesome source of info. I hope to hear from them over the next days but regardless Ill find their shop next week and pay them a visit. I need some spare tubes anyway. Rube and I headed out on the airport road yesterday and eventually found the immigration office to register our visa. All stays in Mongolia over 30 days require you to register. The ride was as beautiful as the day after the snow on Monday. I got some great pics. The scenery was postcard Mongolia with open plains and snow capped rolling hills. There were shepherds moving their herds of goats and cows through the airport grounds which was totally bazar and looked wonderful. Beef, goat and sheep are the staple from what Ive read along with wheat based bread, dumplings and potato. Milk products from the animals are the base for most dishes and drinks. The food seems very basic and distinct. I hope to have lots of experiences ahead eating with the rural nomadic folk that live in yurts along the way. They are apparently very welcoming and generous hosts. Rube ended up getting a flat yesterday and I didn’t think to grab my levers and pump before heading out so I walked her to the airport to catch a cab back to UB. I had spare tubes still in the seatbag but theyre not much chop without the other. The taxi man took us instead to a local mechanic place where we changed the tyre and got her good to go again. I paid him for his efforts and we enjoyed the fresh cycle back into town. Last night I found a cool map place and spread myself across the floor sorting out the crap from the good and settled on the most recent road and tourist maps. When I got back to the guesthouse there were three students staying in the room. They were doing their English homework and bailed me up for some tips. Actually they pretty much wanted me to do their homework so we worked through their exercises and it was good fun. Immigration wanted information that I didn’t have with me so I paid for the forms and will fill them out and attach the rest of the paperwork to submit Monday. It’s forecast snow again on Monday and Tuesday so it may be a cab ride out there after all. We’ll see. Yesterday afternoon I had some time to fill in before a Skype date with my partner so thought it a good idea to try find the Kazakh embassy so I know where I’m going Mon/Tues. Good that I did because I eventually was told the office had moved and have basic directions where it is nowadays. Finding stuff here and access to info continues to be tricky but that’s part of the everyday experiences. Like being in the cab with Rube in the back seat with her flat tire, me in the front seat with the cabby’s 3 year old son sitting my lap us playing with his matchbox cars. All unplanned very cool stuff that makes every bit of challenge worth it. I feel I have to supplement my cycling gear to better handle the weather ahead. The extra warm stuff I have wasnt meant for cycling and is bulky. Allot of the locals here and in China wear a lightweight padded zip up coat that’s water and wind proof. I found one last night for $130 Aus and it seems a good option to be able to rug up better in what will be tough conditions ahead. You can probably hear my anx re the weather but I think that’s a good thing to be vigilant about-What do you reckon? 🙂 So it looks like Ive been stood up. i know she was trying to arrange a shared jeep for her travels so something may have come up. Plan B for me to do some shopping and find an internet cafe to download photos from yesterday and attach to this post. It’s so great to have access again to the blog so Ill upload this and get on with my Saturday night in downtown Ulaanbaatar 🙂 It’s 8pm and the night is early even for this nana after my relaxing day. Talk soon x
PS It’s not even 20 minutes later and Ive found a games cafe and uploaded the photos. These cafes are the best. The computers are so fast. Yay x
PPS It’s such a balmy night early 20s and crazy to think that it can be so changeable. I hear my family talk about this in Germany but it’s different being in it. Makes me appreciate our SE Qld weather that’s for sure!! 🙂 Nice thoughts of home – I’m a bit home sick tonight and need to give Rube a cuddle when I get back to the guest house. She’s so my buddy. Tomorrow’s forecast a nice day so Rube and I are going to check out a rural area I read in the book earlier today. It’s about 15km east of town that’s apparently quite beautiful. Sounds perfect !!!!