Saturday, August 13, 2011


More goodbyes, new friends
9/07/2011: Urumqi to Baojiadianzhen 109.58km
Another pretty crappy nights sleep partly thanks to the (as matt calls him) peasant of a china man in my room and the fact reception had put two people in the same bed and had to sort it out at 2am so when my planned early start came upon me and wasn’t in a massive rush then the fact the supermarket didn’t open till 10am and the main factor i really didn’t fancy cycling today. My stomach was still a little off and i had no energy, i had also become quite comfortable hanging around with Ian and Matt who both are good blokes, but Ian would be leaving today and Matt was meeting his Mum and Aunty so even if i did stay i would be on me lonesome.
After a much delayed start i said my finals goodbyes sad to leave my two new friends who i owe a lot for helping me out when i had my shocking dose of food poisoning. I joked to them about tonight when i would be most probably sat in my tent eating horrible noodles wondering ‘why the fcuk would anybody want to this,’ but the thought depressed me a bit.  I did finally bite the bullet and left and had very few problems finding my way out of Urumqi and getting myself onto the Motorway. I like travelling along the motorway stopping at the rest areas, its a lot less stressful so when it comes along i take advantage of it especially on down days like these but i did have a little party as my speedo ticked over 10,000km. As the day wore on i decided to get off the motorway if i was to find a suitable camping spot but even then there always seemed to be someone around or a house, it wouldn’t be impossible but it wasn’t as easy as it has been with the sun not dropping till 10pm.
I then caught sight of a group of 4 cyclists, could it be, yes they were fellow tourists, 3 were Chinese so naturally didn’t talk the other Ray was American who did talk and could speak Chinese. He had also just met them on the road and said they were on some crazy mission, they were riding very slow so me and ray left them behind and decided to share a hotel room. We rocked up to some out of the way ‘pointless’ town which homed a very upmarket hotel which was the same price as my 10 bed hell hole in Urumqi. It was handy and stress free having Ray around as he spoke very good Chinese, he is just cycling this way to meet a friend who lives out here but has done lots of tours around Tibet and lived in India and Beijing for a lot of years. We went out for food and i regained some appetite again and got yet a greater insight into China, mainly why such a swanky hotel is in a ‘pointless’ average place as this, the reason is somebody has a lot of money and a fancy hotel is a nice little earner for the relatives to run. For 4GBP it’s a bargain.
10/07/2011: Baojiadianzhen to Usu 157.62km
Despite Ray being a monster snorer i slept like a log, so well that i over slept and we weren’t on the road till 9am a little later than i had hoped as im pretty keen to put some kilometres down but its nice having somebody to cycle with again and take some attention off me. I wasn’t sure what Ray was doing, whether he was going to cycle with me to his friends house a few days down the road or take his route underneath the mountains. As we rode on ray uncovered some important information in regards to the weather, it was going to hit 35C today, 37C tomorrow and rise further through the week. I have a plan to avoid the heat, even though im over 3000km west of Beijing China still sees fit that the whole country should be in the same time zone, so now im 2 hours ahead of the sun, i.e. where the sun would be at midday normally is 2pm here strange and locals sometimes run on Beijing or local time, its confusing but it means less time cycling with the sun in my face burning my now red nose (i could apply for the role of Rudolf).
Rays plans became apparent when he told me his turnoff was coming up, we took a break and i headed down with him so i could rejoin the motorway, i don’t know why i like the motorway i guess its just the fact i have to past big signs saying no bikes allowed, but there is no shade and very little places to stop and its lined by a barbwire fence so i cant pull off to camp somewhere. Now alone i rode on, i was aiming to get to the end of the motorway which meant i still had 120km to ride which i think was a bit much, i wasn’t feeling my strongest thanks to my stomach and saddle sore was biting due to the heat. I wasn’t eating much but i was knocking back the fluids, i reckon i drank about 6 litres before i stopped.
My plan had been to camp but when 7pm my stopping time came round building were everywhere, industry all around and i didn’t feel like camping today so i headed into the town nearby where i was told there was a hotel. It was a rather bustling town and when i did find a hotel i got a bit grumpy with the crowd of hotel staff that gathered to watch me try get a room, eventually i shown to the 5th floor where for 10 Yuan more than my luxury room yesterday i had a grotty shit hole next to the communal dunny that you could smell in the room a little. I tried to haggle the price down seemed to have success before they changed their mind, i huffed and puffed. A policemen then showed up and took my passport and the crowd then had a good old laugh as i was told to leave with the man in blue. Ray had told me about this last night that he has been checked into a hotel that is not licensed (i.e  not expensive) to have foreigners and a policeman i has discovered him staying there and made him change to a more expensive hotel that i allowed foreigners. I was first taken to a Fullerton hotel which are bloody expensive and this was no different. I tried to explain to the policeman all i have is 120Yuan and couldn’t afford it, i still didn’t know what was going on as nobody spoke English but i decided i would be a stubborn bugger and not pay more than 40Yuan. I was then taken to another expensive looking hotel where they wanted a 100 Yuan, again i refused but i think there were no other places. The policeman seemed pretty determined to check me in here and my passport was already being processed and still i refused even in view of a beautiful girl who i guessed to be a hotel guest.
The policeman then ushered me to the big comfortable chairs in the lobby where i tried to look as pished off as possible, it seemed we were at a stalemate and i still didn’t really know what was fully going on until the beautiful girl who had been at the reception desk came over and asked if i needed any help in perfect English. She helped out amazingly well and when i asked if the policemen would let me go so i could find a place to camp i was told it wasn’t safe, what to they know. Two more policemen joined the fray but the original two left soon after. They left me and the girl alone and seemed to be making a lot of calls and running about making more photocopies of my passport. The beautiful girl who was interpreting told me she was Uiger and a student, this was also the first time she had been able to use her English. My anger seemed to go chatting to her and as i had been now going through this hotel business on for almost 2 hours i gave up and said i would stay here. I took another age as we had to wait for the other police officer to come back. The room was very nice but not as nice as where i stayed last night and double the money though i suspect the policemen added 200 Yuan to the 100 i paid. Everybody came to the room helping in some way by either carrying my bags or in the case of the beautiful girl interpreting. I was then offered to go to dinner with the two policemen which i accept now more relaxed and less angry, in fact i quite liked these two policemen and felt bad about the attitude i gave. The policemen paid for my diner then took me to the shop where they had a bag of shopping prepared for me, they told me to add more things which i did and they again paid. They really were sound guys and they took plenty of pictures of the strange cyclist who cycle through but this episode really sums up china i can hate it in one breath then the next be so touched by it, it sends me round the bend on a straight line.
Rage, Rage, Calm
11/07/11: Usu to Petrol Station 10km West Jinghe 173.38km
As far as days go for me this was a quiet one. I was tired getting up, i snoozed my alarm twice as i felt cream crackered and my planned early start never happened it was still 9am before i was on the road. Before leaving i needed to go to the bank as yesterdays happening had left me with 30 Yuan. Unfortunately neither of my cards worked in the one bank i could find and i quickly found the angry man grow a little giving the ATM a slap in displeasure. I had enough food for today at least so as long as i found one before the end of the day or early tomorrow i would be fine, if i didn’t well that is a bridge to be crossed when i come to it. I rode on and soon had a car pull out on me to which i let out a huge frustrated scream at the driver as i drew alongside, my angry man grew bigger still. Soon after this event a bus pulled alongside me then pulled in forcing me to brake before being squashed between the bus and kerb, i didn’t stop as i swerved round and while i did i punched the side of the bus as hard as i could scaring a few passengers then i again let out another scream of frustration at the driver who could give a toss.
The rest of the day was pleasant enough, it was a clear day and very hot, not as hot as Thailand but its getting there. I had as much of my face covered as possible so all that showed was my forehead to minimize the constant burning of my face before it falls off. I had a slight tailwind for the day also though as i neared Jinghe it seemed to be a headwind which after a day of solid riding was hard, my saddle sore is shaping up to be jolly sore with time and the bottoms of my feet was feeling the pinch. Getting to Jinghe i had done 160km and it was 630pm, the obvious thing would have been to find a hotel (after a bank as i still had no money) and stay here but i had no desire to after yesterdays episode with the rozzers. While in the bank i again had a whinge at somebody who seemed to push in while queuing for the atm but somebody who spoke English said she had been queuing but disappeared for 5 mins then came back, i just gave in even though the place was offered back. The ATM worked thankfully and the guy who translated for me in the back offered to help me do some shopping, he was a cool kid who was in his final year of High School. As promised he help me with my shopping, which i really didn’t need help with but he was interested in what i was doing and wanted to practice his English which i don’t mind as he seemed a pretty savvy lad.
I thank him and headed off again hoping i would find a good place to camp nothing seemed to fit the bill until i came to a petrol station just before a toll both. There was a few shops one had a clean concrete floor, a shelter and a girl who spoke English. I asked her if it was ok for me to sleep outside their shop and i got the ‘OK’ i think. There i a few trucks rolling in and out but i hope it will quieten down when its dark. I have about 220km to the border which i hope to make the day after tomorrow, and tomorrow’s plan is to reach the lake which is around 100km away and spend a few hours there, with any luck i will make it around midday, but now im tired!

Goodnight China
12/07/11: Petrol Station 10km West of Jinghe to Lake 100km from Kazakhstan border 123.70km
I slept awfully last night, the crickets kept jumping on my, other insects had a piece of me, the cars and trucks all seemed to shine their head lights on me, it was terrible, not to mention very uncomfortable. I wasn’t at my best getting up, my stove seemed reluctant to work so i had to search for the hot water to make my tea and so yet another planned early start went down the dunny.
It was just after 9am when i was on the road and the thing i noticed was the heat, i stopped at most opportunities for a drink, i made good time again but the road began to climb and i really struggled, i wa thankful however that the road was heavily used by trucks meaning i could certainly find a tow up what i knew to be a long climb. At around 2pm i stopped for lunch at an eatery mainly for the shade, had i known i was going to be ripped off i wouldn’t have but worse things have happened. While eating my very expensive unimpressive lunch i noticed i had a slow puncture but i had an even bigger problem the lever on my pump to engaged the nosel to the valve was broken and i couldn’t do it by hand. This i where i even impressed myself with my ingenuity, there is a pin in the lever so i removed the pin from this and my spare pump, with the lever of my spare pump i used a knife to make the pin hole bigger to perfection and zombiefied the lever to the pump, i was and still am quietly impressed with this little bodge of mine as the pump now works perfectly.
Back on the road i was going through a vast empty valley with mountains on both sides, there was a lake up ahead where i plan to camp and spend my last night in China but first  i had a pretty big climb which in the heat was not going to be fun. Fortunately the trucks were about to grab a tow off and i was towed up the hill almost ripping my arm off but i held on for dear life, even when the road levelled out and the truck was hitting 40kmph i held on and my arm is suffering now. I let go just before the lake came into view and my it was beautiful, so blue with snow spotted mountains all around, this would be the perfect place to spend my last night in China. I rode around the lake a bit hoping to find a shop then a suitable camping spot. The camping spot came first when i saw a tent with two bicycles parked aside already by the lake so i jumped off the road a trundled on down.
The bikes belonged to Stefan and Mel a swiss couple and unfortunate for Stefan   he was ill. It was a perfect little spot and much cooler now i had a bit more altitude. As i stopped early i had time for a swim and a spot of fishing, the fishing was a fruitless as ever but the swim freshened me up no end. Feeling relaxed i spent the night chatting to my new swiss friends who are both heading to Almaty also, the best bit is they even had beer somebody had left. I watched the sun set over China for the last time hopefully , tomorrow its a new country, new problems. So for China, its goodnight from me.

One last Chinese Hoorah
13/07/2011:  Lake 100km from Kazakhstan border to Chinese/Kazakhstan border 106.12km
Waking up i felt good, my first good night sleep for a few nights, i slept so well in fact i didn’t hear the dog barking next to my tent that woke Stefan and Mel. The morning was cool and i took my time packing waiting to see what my swiss friends were going to do, the answer was good so when they packed up at 1030 we hit the road. The pace was good, Stefan despite being ill was keeping pace and Mel was setting the pace. We stopped after a short while at a touristy spot which didn’t have many tourists and lots of people wanting us to ride their horses for a price. We stayed for a while getting some food before heading through the most amazing valley which was down hill for about 20km, if this was china’s send off it was a good one.
We made good time with a tailwind and took a break at a petrol station making use of the shade it provided. Riding on the heat of the day became strong, we stopped at any shady spot we could find and when the chance for ice cream came along we didn’t pass it up. We reached the border town too late to cross into Kazakhstan so went in search for a hotel. Mel went in to do the talking and the woman’s touch seemed to do the trick as we got a twin room for all three of us for 100Yuan. After showering we had food a sweated in the room as the air conditioner didn’t work which is why i don’t feel like writing too much now.
Kazakhstan, donkey transport
14/07/11: Chinese/Kazakhstan border town to 5km south of Koktal 60.41km
I felt crappy getting up today, the heat of yesterday and the night had got to me and it was still hot in the room, it was a slow start as we would gain two hours when we crossed the border. After searching for a supermarket that didn’t exist we back track to do some last minute shopping before leaving china for the last time. The border was the busiest i have been to, we were immediately hounded by money changers who weren’t impressed with my Mongolian money and soon got the message i was no good for business. The border guards were armed ready for world war three it seemed with everyone carrying a gun which makes one respect their authority a touch more.  We checked out of china no worries i headed over to the Kazak side to check in but unfortunately for me my Kazak visa sustained a spot of water damage and smudged the ink but it was still readable. This caused some concern for the immigration officer who then took off with my passport not telling me anything. I anxiously waited for what felt like an age before it was all sorted out and i was allowed into Kazakhstan after spending 2 hours crossing this mental border.
Straight away the differences were notable, first was the road was much poorer than in China, building work was left unfinished whereas in china its very much being built and the landscape seemed suddenly different, much more long grass and trees which sent my hay fever off after a three year absence. We rode on to the first major town where we withdrew some money and took our time to soak in our strange new world, one thing i do like is the seemingly very popular Lada motorcar, having owned a Lada Niva 4x4 in Australia many moons ago i was loving seeing so many around, second only to the donkey and cart which i believe is more likely to get you there than a Lada.   
We rode on a little further until we headed south towards Almaty just before Koktal and found a smashing place to camp as the day was getting on. My swiss friends did the main bulk of the cooking making me rice and vegetables as we took shelter from the rain under their tarp that was attached to the bikes to hold it over us though we did have problems when the wind got up. As it now gets dark at 830 instead of 1030 we went to bed early ready to see what Kazakhstan really has to offer.

More easy riding
15/07/11: 5km south of Koktal to 5km West of Shonzhy 90.66km
Having realised its not far to Almaty considering how much time i have before my Kyrgyzstan visa starts im not busting to put in the miles so now im taking easy with my swiss friends. Cycling wise i still like to ride fast or as fast as i can be bothered but the breaks are much longer, for example today we stopped at a rest stop for 2.5 hours missing a good bit of the midday heat, its all very leisurely. The down side is there isn’t much interesting to see, the land is flat and towns are few and far between, there is only so much a passing Lada can do to tingle ones excitement.
So it was just a smooth going day, the only stress i had was the struggle to get the tent pegs to hold in the soft sandy ground where we decided to camp and as i write its just about to start to rain so its not so smooth after all, i just hope the wind doesn’t get too strong that it pulls the pegs out the ground, sodden weather!  
5 better than 3
16/07/2011: 5km west of shonzhy 2km west of Kokpek 90.79km
The rain of the night never amounted to much so i slept very well but the swiss bikes seemingly did not. First Mels bike had the problem of the bolt coming loose which i decided to cure the same way as me and Loon had when his bike did the same back on the Laos/ China border and thus far the bodge seems successful. Stefans bike however proved a greater concern, first the hub sounded like it was ready to cease up but a good dollop of chain lube fixed that then i noticed the hub was loose which is not good and potentially a big problem. After a bit of humming and haring we decided to try and fix it which isn’t a big job but between us we didn’t have the tools, like magic an Australian couple who Mel and Stefan knew from Urumqi pulled up and between the 5 of us we still didn’t have th tools so it was a matter of hoping it didn’t get worse.
We hit the road a group of 5 with new additions of Aaron and Jackie who rode in the pedicabs i owed with Russell back in Sydney a few time. Its great cycling in a group and the camp was a lot of fun. We found a great location next to an irrigation canel which we could wash in and Aaron had bought a bottle of vodka with cost the equivalent to 1GBP which we drank while Mel and Aaron played the guitar, this truly is the life.
Melons, Big juicy Melons
17/07/2011: 2km West Kokpek to 30km East of Almaty 101.77km
We had 140km to go to get to Almaty which for me alone would be no problem but everyone goes at a different pace and when your in a big group you naturaly travel slower so we were up early and away earlier than i have been for a while. Our convoy of 5 made good progress and i felt good until i put a 7KG water melon onto the back of the bike which i could really feel so when we stopped at 1130 i made sure the dam thing was eatern, me and Aaron did the majority of the demolition job.
After our little break we headed off again, we had made good time and might make it to Almaty but we then had an extended lunch thanks to a Swiss couple who came by in their off roader camper van that has been to a few countries. Mel was the one who spotted it as it was about to drive on by and got up waving her arms and Stefan followed begging to be taken back to Switzerland.
The swiss couple were very energetic and full of life and gave us a lot of information for the road ahead in Kygzstan and for the others a lot more information about the Parmiere Highway which runs through Taijikistan near the Afgan border. By the time we had set off again it was now 4pm and the likelyhood of getting to Almaty was massively dimished so we stocked up of food and water for another night camping.
As with any major city the road was getting much busier but along this stretch as the road isn’t in the best condition it made the loud busy traffic unbareable at times and constantly swerving to avoid pot holes a bit dangerous. We eventually decided to stop around 30km to 40km from the city and took a dirt road which some children said was Ok to camp up. We pitch in farm field and we were approach by a couple of blokes, they were father and son, the son was called Becksham who i called Beckham and in return he called me James Bond. He was a really nice guy offered a game of football which i certainly didn’t have the energy for but he gave us a watermelon and a rock melon before leaving. We managed to get through the watermelon but the other would have to wait another day.
As for me i was left wondering what to do, i need to obtain an Uzbec visa but i have heard from many people Almaty is very expensive but i guess i will have to find out for myself how expensive, i really have no plan and at the moment just enjoying the company of the others which will most sadly come to an end tomorrow.

Get your stress on
18/07/2011: 30km East of Almaty to Almaty 60.77km
Riding into Almaty was truly crazy, the roads don’t seem adequate for such a busy city and the heat made it all the more uncomfortable. I had no real idea of what I was going to do in Almaty, with any luck there would be some cheap accommodation as from the information I had been getting I seems like I would have to stay for a while waiting for visas but for now I went with the flow, Aaron and Stefan were navigating us through the city to the immigration centre so we could get a registration stamp which has to be done within 5 days of entering Kazakhstan else you cop a $150 fine or more. There is no real need for the registration; it’s just a way to waste my time. As we rode around Alamty I really got a feel for the Russian influence here, there is a very former communist western feel, it’s in a void that doesn’t really fit in with Asia, and it makes Europe feel much closer than it really is. Another thing that kept me entertained riding around was the amount of beautiful women that seemed to be around, I have never seen such a high concentration in one city.
The search for the immigration office wasn’t going well until met a couple of Swiss guys who pointed us in the direction of the office where we began the pointless beaucratuic procedure of giving our passports away for the day, they did want to hold onto them for an extra day but I still had not formulated a plan as to what to do so I asked for t back sooner which did not seem a problem. We then sat around before deciding to look for somewhere to stay, things seemed to come to a dead end until we got an insight to just how expensive Alamty is courteous of a very lovely English couple from Somerset. They told us that the cheapest they could find was 2000tenge which is my whole budget for a day but that’s for them sharing, but they had been staying somewhere for 2600 tenge, they then raised my hopes by telling us of a campsite at the top of a chair lift, my hopes were soon squashed as further investigation to a campsite proved fruitless so instead we ended up in a very expensive pub using the internet to decide what to do.
This is where I got really stressed out, everybody seemed to be able to formulate a plan and as visas were not issues for them right now they were all prepared to leave Almaty tomorrow, I was not so fortunate as I would have to spend a week here but I was not keen to be spending so much money to stay here and I didn’t want to be left on my lonesome so briskly again, which sounds very sad.  Aaron and Jackie seemed to have come up with a plan of action first so they headed off planning to leave tomorrow, Stefan and Mel were coming up with something they just needed to iron out a few things and I was frustrated not knowing what to do.
I decided to head over to the Uzbek embassy to find out what I needed to apply for a visa, I found the embassy pretty easy but getting information was not as easy as I couldn’t find anyone who spoke English and all the information except costs was in Cyrillic. I did eventually managed to find out you have to fill out a form on the internet and print it off as for having a letter of invitation etc I had no idea. Riding back to where I had left Mel and Stefan was all up hill and in my frustration I rode it as hard as I could, I got back just as they were checking into a hotel next door which at 2600tenge seemed the cheapest option and despite my pleas for a discount they would not budge on the price, I was being a bit erratic with my thinking and I really didn’t know what to do so I went outside for a little cry and figure out what I should do. Every time I have been in a sticky spot something seems to come along and give me a solution in this case it came in the form of two Italian motorcyclists. I got chatting to them and they told me that they met lots of people waiting on Uzbek visas in Bishkek a place I was told was not possible to get and Uzbek visa but I still had the problem of my Kyrgyzstan visa not starting for another week at which point Stefan came along and suggested I go to the embassy here tomorrow and ask about changing the dates, it should not be a problem one would think.
Feeling much better about things now I checked into the hotel to along with the two Italian motor cyclists and sorted my head out about a much needed shower. Myself and the Swiss went over to the immigration office to pick up our passports where we met Aaron and Jackie who had a fruitless time with the hotels and were still bed less, to make things worse for them the immigration office couldn’t find their passports. Lucky for me I got mine no worries and soon after so did Jackie and Aaron. There seemed to be a bit of a gathering emerge here, the Swiss guys we met earlier had come to pick up their passports, we bumped into the English couple who were about to register and the Italians motor cyclists came along to register though it turned out for them they did not get an entry stamp for Kazakhstan so technically on paper they were nowhere. We all arranged to meet up for a beer in a pub near the hotel we were staying in though the English couple from somerset who were so sweet did decline in favour of an alcohol free night. I had already spent way more than my budget allows so now I didn’t care I had a beer or two and a pub meal to burst my budget bubble. It was great being with so many who have all just come together each on our own wild adventures and talk about what may lie ahead. It was late by the time we finished in the pub and as I had not eatern for most the day I searched for some food before bed feeling much better about my situation which if things don’t go my way tomorrow im still stuck in this money sucking vortex in central asia.
Where there’s a will there’s a way (I have the will)
19/07/2011: Almaty to 15km West of Almaty 41.74km
Today I had a lot to get done if I was to leave with Mel and Stefan my bestest best friends of this part of the world. After breakfast first on the list of to do’s was the Kyrgyzstan embassy to bring the dates of my visa forward. The embassy was close to where I was staying and I didn’t think there would be a problem to change the dates but my optimism was soon smashed when I was given a blunt no and when I persisted I was ignored to my frustration but I wasn’t giving up that easy. I kept on with my pleas until a lady from the embassy who spoke excellent English came out of the doors and again told me no. I was told by someone about a German guy who entered on a Kazak visa so I posed this proposition to her and to my complete surprise the rumour of the German seemed to be true, she told me I could enter only if it is a tourist visa, which I believe it is, and can only stay within 3 regions until my Kyrgyz visa is valid. Being persistent is worth its weight sometimes but then I got a bit of a bonus, I then met a French couple in the embassy who said they got their Uzbek visa back within a day this goes against all the horror stories I have heard but these are the first people I have spoken to firsthand about their own dealing in my excitement I headed to a internet cafe to fill out the Uzbek form which must be done over the internet as it makes life more difficult. Mel and Stefan said they were not planning to leave till 4 ish so it would give me time to find out how quick I could get an Uzbek visa back. Upon telling Mel and Stefan the news they also decided to lodge an application before leaving to see how quick we could get the visa.
I had a few bits to get done before the Uzbekistan embassy opened so arranged to meet Mel and Stefan later. We all headed down to the embassy not really knowing what information to bring, it was an anxious wait for our names to be called out when the guards would open the gates to let us into the embassy office to lodge an application. Mel and Stefan went first and were told the earliest they could get it back was the 22nd, much too long to be waiting in Almaty as it would be cheaper to wait a week in Bishkek. There may not seem much point for me asking the same without expecting the same answer but there seemed to be a magic around me today and things were going right so I tried. I was given the same answer but I tried to dig a bit deeper for a solution (I was resigning myself to staying in alamty till the 22nd which would be expensive) when I was told I could make the application here and pick up the visa in Bishkek as they did not need to keep the passport, GREAT SUCCESS. So Mel and Stefan put in an application after all.
It was getting late so we raced back to pack our things and get the hell out of the money vortex that is Almaty though in all fairness I think it would be a great place to live and work for a spell. In summer time there would be some mountain biking to be done, winter time snowboarding not to mention the football pitches I saw around and even a bit of rugby, plus the women here look stunning. I’d say Alamty is a bit of the Monte Carlo of Central Asia but is even more extravagant and out of place. Another thing to note is the change in driving style, cars don’t try push their luck at the lights, and they stop at zebra crossing and don’t beep their horns nonstop which is taking some getting use to.
We didn’t rush about leaving the city as we just needed to cycle far enough to find a camping spot but we couldn’t resist leaving without putting a donar Kebab in our bellies. While we ate the French cyclists from the Kyrgyzstan embassy came walking past and we got chatting. It turns out they had been cycling Mongolia around the same time as me with a couple of Belgium cyclists and were told they could not cross the Bulgan border (this is the border I crossed) into china. It kind of was a little cherry ontop of my day not because they didn’t cross but because I found a way over the border, well I rolled up and was let across but I did send plenty of emails out and one went to the right person who told me what it wanted to hear.
It really was time for us to leave the city and find a camping place before dark, the traffic however was crazy and the air very polluted, but after a time it did thin out enough and 15km to 20km from the city we found a camping spot. From our camp we were able to look back over Almaty and the first thing that struck me was the thick grey pollution cloud hanging over the city, it’s awful to think that people breathe this air for years and decades at a time, this isn’t the dirtiest city in the world either. I was over joyed that things went my way but they could still falter, I still fear crossing the border on a Kazak visa will be tricky and the Uzbek visa may not come through but for now I feel triumphant.

Free Apples
20/07/2011: 15km West of Almaty to 125km West of Almaty 111.03km
It wouldn’t be till tomorrow before we would make it to Kyrgyzstan where I would withdraw more money but this meant I only had 800Tenge (less than 4GBP) to get me through , Mel and Stefan had about 2000Tenge between them so we decided to pull our resources together so we didn’t have to withdraw more money.
As we rode along with our dwindling funds the sight of an apple tree by the road brought me to a stop and not having much in the way of fresh fruit in my possession I filled a sock with as many apples as I could so they would be secure on the back of the bike, the Swiss couple did the same. Stefan was the first to try and as I guessed they were very bitter but we formulated a plan to make some sort of dessert out of them tonight.
The weather today was not as unpredictable as we could see the rain and thunder storms approach but it was very changeable. Luck for us we hit a petrol station at just the right time to escape the weather, as Stefan sat down to read I relaxed on a window sill where the tiredness caught up with me and I slept for a short time. I had been feeling pretty lethargic today on the bike, I had no energy to get going, all I wanted to do was sleep, whether this is my body begging for a rest or my rationing is not sufficient I’m not sure but when the day neared an end the Swiss were keen to keep going for 30minutes more and asking me what I wanted to do I opted to stop as I didn’t feel too great. We took a side road and amongst the long grass we found some shorter flat areas which were perfect to set up camp. We then made a huge pasta dish which I ate with no problems and then the experiment with the apples was put into action. We sliced them, added lemon, water, ginger, raisins and lots of sugar and simmered for about 10minutes to which left us with the most sensational dessert ever, restaurant quality is the term I would use. As the light faded the evening entertainment was the flashes of lightening coming from two separate storms a few kilometres from our camp, luckily they passed us without giving us too much of a soaking.
21/07/2011: 125km West of Almaty to Bishkek (Kyrgzstan) 113.26km
It was a slow start to the day, i had very little energy and 200 tenge (1GBP) till i get into Bishkek where i will withdraw some money but luckily Stefan and Mel were looking after me with a n ice cream every now and again. At lunch time i was about done but we still had a lot of kms to go before we made it into Kyrgzstan. For lunch i got some noodles on the go and as we sat in our shady spot we were given the most beautiful gift of all in the shape of a cold bottle of coke which between the three of us went down very well.
After lunch we thought we would be pushing time to make the border before it shut but with a full belly i was as good as new and was a man on a mission. When i hit the border town much soon than i expected stopped to let the swiss catch up and spend the rest of my money which went much further here. I bought a round of ice cream, a big bottle of ice tea and fruit juice and i even left an 8 tenge tip which left me empty of Kazak money. Now i had the worry of crossing the border, as my visa is not valid for another week i was relying on information that my Kazak visa would be sufficient to cross into Kyrgzstan. I need not have worried as it was the quickest border crossing to date i wasn’t even question or told about the conditions of being in on the Kazak visa or asked where i would be staying.
Riding into Bishkek was trouble free though when we stopped to have a kebab (after we had withdrawn some money out) we realised we had no clue as to where the guesthouse was. We ask where there was a hotel and pointed down towards the Hyatt which is massively over budget . Coming out of the Hyatt a passerby asked if we were looking for somewhere to stay, it turned out he was staying at the very place we were looking for. His name was victor, he was from holland and was also cycling. As we walk with him he told us some of his stories one was quite interesting about being robbed by three men in iran while sleeping in the dead of the night, this thing that impressed me most was he confronted them landed a punch onto one of them and got most his things back, its a situation i don’t want to be in and don’t really know how i would act. As we got to the hostel there was so many bikes already there, even Arron and Jackies bikes were there so at least there would be a few people to chat to.
22/07/2011 to 28/07/2011
Being in the hostel was great for the time i was here, at first with all the cyclists (there was a group of 11 crazy Spanish cyclists at one point of a day) around was great to share stories about the road and there was plenty bicycle mechanics going on it could have been a working bicycle shop.
The reasoning for my longevity in Bishkek was due to vias problems, the Uzbekistan visa should have been there and ready for us the day after we arrived but nothing turned up so we waited and was told to come in on the Wednesday, which then turned into the thrusday which then turned into a joke as they claimed not to have any visa or even evidence of an application, Mel kicked up a stink about this then apparently a cry which got us somewhere with the visa officer telling us to make a new application and we could have it that day which was splendid considering, i also got a Irainan visa application in the works and a backup plan if it falls through.
Waiting around the hostel (of which i spent most the time living in the tent) the majority of cyclists left though there was a core group of us who for various reasons were stuck in Bishkek for longer than we planned. But then as all good things come to an end the time drew near to leave to much relief and sadness as i would have to say goodbye to Mel and Stefan though as we were chasing the same Uzbekistan visa we would leave the same day.
Bishkek as a city is rather charming with plenty of green areas, impressive stautes around, beautiful women on the street and the impressive snowcapped mountain range that over shawdows the city. Its also the same mountain range that i would be cycling towards as would most the cyclist heading to Europe would pass through.
As the final full day came the Belguim couple who had been waiting for their landrover to be repaired left and it dawned on me, for the time i have been here waiting i could have cycled across a whole country! But it also dawned on me how much i have to cycle to be in Italy  for November, sunddelny i feel very close yet still far away to home and even Europe which is my next big mile stone.
29/07/11: Bishkek to Sosnovka 84.81km
Going to keep it short as its late and i really want to sleep. I was late leaving Bishkek, first my plan didn’t materialise to get up early then i opted for an easy morning. Before leaving i managed to sneak a heavy bag of rocks into mel and stefans bags but then i said my good byes and rode off.
As i rode i tried to block out my loniness again, i have been lucky to meet so many good people and where i really miss them is when i stop for a break and at camp, when im cycling im happy alone but the not cycling alone bit takes some getting use to. I rode 25km when i got some new friends in the shape of two polish cyclists, one spoke good English the other spoke good Russian. I don’t know much about Poland or polish language so i asked a few questions and got some interesting responses. They were both cycling to Osh same as me but i wasn’t sure about sticking with them a part of me was missing and i knew what it was, the firends i had made in Bishkek but they were all gone, i was really missing riding along with Mel and Stefan though i think it was time to go our own ways before we began to get on each others nerves and spoil a good thing. I wasn’t sure about sticking with my two ppolish friends but the more i thought the more i really couldn’t bare the thought of camping alone and decided to stick with them at least for tonight.
They were both carrying rosemary beads and it was later i found the Russian speaker of the two was a Decon and they normally stayed at churches, i haven’t camped at a church yet so this could be a new one to tick off. As we got to the last town before the mountains really hit us we went in search of a church and after sometime waiting we were allowed in. Nobody really spoke any English really so it was left to the English speaking pole to interpet but i was left not understanding most of what was going one. As it was warm we opted to sleep under the stars which i rather like and now there is millions of them filling the sky. We were fed by the priest and his family and sat and talked in Russian but going to bed almost falling asleep writing this...tomorrow i have a 3500m pass t get over which i was going to give some comparisions about but am to sleepy to now.
Guilty Conscience
30/07/2011: Sosnovka to 15km south of Too Ashuu Pass 72.46km
Before breakfast this morning we were all whisked away in the car, why I don’t know nobody told me in a language I could understand, the reason became clear at a freezing cold stream, to take a dip. I dont think any of us really wanted to fully immerse ourselves but the priest insisted we did. We all did this and I would say it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting and to my surprise I made least fuss after my dip. We then had a tour of the church which the two Polish guys prolonged significantly then had the most wonderful breakfast with the best jam I have had in a long time. We eventually got pack but the two poles although they have to cover a lot of kilometres each day (from what I gathered) to make a flight didn’t seem in a big rush. We said or thanks and goodbyes to the priest and his family, his son was an absolute gem, before what I thought would be a quick stop in the shop then attack this mountain.
It was 1030 by the time the poles had finished eating and drinking yet more coffee and we finally got going. I decided I would cycle on ahead and have a long lunch and if they didn’t catch up I would go. As I cycled I came across two Kyrgyz guys riding unladen bikes the same way, I chased them down (this is a game to me) and tried to see how long it would take them to catch me at lunch.
At lunch I was a bit disappointed with this monster pass, the road wasn’t as steep as I thought but I hoped it was all to come. I took voltek (the younger of the poles) 45minutes to catch me in my break and the Kyrgyz guys were close behind. I decided to wait for the other pole and he was 1 hour 15 behind and he didn’t stop, just kept going.
I gave him a 15minute head start then tried to see how long it would take me to catch him, I guessed I had him in my sights after 20minutes but then I grabbed onto a truck and blitz them both. I could have held on to the top and indeed the road was now steep with hairpin bend after hairpin going straight up but I felt my conscience telling me to let go as this is the biggest pass I would cycle and to do it hanging on a truck is not the way. I let go which wasn’t easy considering I could see the road going straight up but I really enjoyed the ride.
When I got to the tunnel which almost signals the top it began to rain and I felt hungry so stopped and it gave the chance for the Polish guys to catch up. I put a jacket on as it was freezing switch all my lights on as I heard a few horror stories about the tunnel but before I left the two Kyrgyz guys came rolling out of the tunnel, how they got ahead I have no idea. I also spoke to a Russian guy who I thought was American at first such was his accent, he also gave me reliable information about the border I want to cross, I hope its reliable.
I then went through the tunnel and although it was rather narrow, bumpy and full of carbon monoxide it was ok, reaching the other side I was rather disappointed as instead of a fantastic view there was a toilet which people decided to Sh!t and p!ss around instead of in but heading down wards the view was spectacular. I overtook a few of the trucks that had passed me up the hill and I hit a new record speed of 79kmph, I would have hit over 80 but with the sight of an oncoming car I lost my nerve.
I set up camp a little early so the two Poles may catch me but 2 hours after I had set up when I was getting dark they plodded on by seemingly unable to see me or just ignoring me I don’t know, still I want to cycle my way, my pace for a while so I doesn’t bother me.

Pass number deux
31/07/2011:  15km South of Too Ashuu Pass to 5km East of Toktogul 137.64km
My stomach felt as unpredictable as the weather today but unlike the weather my stmach held. It was a chilly morning as a result of being at altitude and setting off i didn’t ride far before i met the two Polish guys who had camped a few kilometres down the road from where i did, apparently they didn’t see me when the cycled past. It was 930 and they looked a long way off being ready so after a chat i bid them farewell and rode off all by my lonesome rather eagar to get to Uzbekistan.
 Had anoter pass of over 3000m to get myself over today but i was rather looking to it. The landscape was beautiful,a clear mountain river running alongside where i cycled , horses were the dominant in the valley which had snowcapped mountains just behind. The horse popuarlity confused me somewhat as there were few of any other animals such as sheep or cattle which are normally kept in which to survive on. In my disturb mind a possible answer came to pass, there were lots of stalls selling a white liquid in bottles and while having lunch when i saw a lady  doing what i thought to be playing with the horses private parts i decided not to drink the white liquid.
The weather looked gloomy and i narrowly escaped a thunder storm which sprung up behind me. Dogs were also plentiful and i lost count of how many chased me as well as the amount of times i had to wave to my adoring public but i refused to wave if i was being chased by a dog.
Once i had hit the top of the pass i spent the last few hours of the day going downhill, to start it was very cold and a little wet, any bare skin stung with the chill of the air but when i got lower and the warm air soaked through me i began to really sting as there were lots of bee farms and i bumped into numerous bees flying over the road, eventually one of the little buggers stung me on the cheek so i slowed down before i swallowed one, i then got a puncture, grrrrrrrr.
The day was getting on so grabbed some supplies at a town then found a caredully hand picked camp spot on top of an ants nest, smashing end of the day.
Undulating Mountains
01/08/2011: 5km East of Toktogul to ?????? 120.82km
As I sat eating breakfast I noticed how much this part of Kyrgyzstan reminded me of central otago in New Zealand where I spent some time earlier in my trip but here the mountains were much higher and much more impressive. Riding on it didn’t take long to get to the lake which looked perfect for a swim in the clarity of the day.  I rode around a bit to pick up some supplies and a few cold drinks as the temperature was up. The road was either going up up up or down down down which in the heat was a bit of hard work, at least the up was. I found a spot by the lake and to my surprise the water was warm so I jumped straight in. After my swim I did some washing and had lunch before I head off into the hills again. The hills seemed a bit extreme they went up forever and the biggest of the day which tried to kill me rewarded me with cold drinks at the top which made it worth it (sort of). I was even more relieved when the road set off on a long downhill.
Such was the heat I was stopping at almost every shop to buy a drink; I’m not in a big hurry due to waiting for a response on the Iranian visa so I was enjoying the views that in Kyrgyzstan are something worth savouring. After the last town and nearing the end of the day I entered a rather spectacular gorge which had a beautiful river running through it. However it’s not ideal for someone looking for a camping spot but eventually I found one that even came with fresh ice cool running water from the mountains and for the second time of the day I was able to have a wash, happy days. I had hope to camp by the river but there was no easy way back up once I was down and no guarantee that it would be good ground for camping but this spot would do splendidly.
Hot, it’s hot, harden up boy
2/08/2011:  ?????? to Near BazorKorgan Reservoir 150.05km
The plan was for a short day today as I was close to the first border crossing point with Uzbekistan and I felt unwell which I’m guessing is a result of too much sun. Plans change quickly, I gradually felt better as rode through the day but it was a very tentative start and after meeting two French cyclists who had just crossed the border from Uzbekistan I decided to go full hog to Osh for two reasons, the first being it wasn’t that far to Tashkent and it made no sense sitting there a week waiting for the possibility of an Iranian visa, the second reason and main one is they told me its relatively expensive there.
The day had become one of the hottest days I have known, not since Thailand I have felt the heat this strong (speaking to an American cyclists a few days later he told me it was 50C few hundred kilometres in Uzbekistan!) and like in Thailand between 12 and 4 the heat is almost unbearable though I did solider on through it and as a result I reckon I drank 9 litres of fluids half of which were sugary drinks.
Finding a camp spot took much patience which I really didn’t have thanks to the deterioration of the road and driving standards along with it. As I searched for a place I seemed to encounter endless farmland with people everywhere either working the fields or selling watermelons but persevering I found a spot on top of a hill overlooking a reservoir. I have had enough of Kyrgyzstan now but I think the heat has brought out the road rage of the drivers and my grumpy side but I should make it to Osh tomorrow and hopefully find myself a guesthouse.
3/08/2011: Near BazarKorgon res to Osh 118.05km
I decided today that a watermelon would be the cure for the heat so for lunch my plan to buy a watermelon. I was stirred out of bed at 6am when a flock of sheep were being herded past my tent and as a result was on the road by 8am but even then it was already hot and straight away I was stopping at every shop to get an ice tea. I also had a conflict in my maps today and when I was waved down by a policeman and told I would have to cycle around the lake to get to Osh I was a little gutted to find that Google maps was correct! By about midday I stopped by one of the many watermelon stalls to purchase my watermelon. I had a bit of a chat with the sellers who asked me how do I pay for the trip, they then asked if I get money from ‘mamma and papa’ I said ‘ no money from mamma papa’ but I not sure if they misunderstood but either way they took sympathy on me and gave me the watermelon for free. I had asked for the smallest but still for one person I managed to eat half of it before falling asleep under a tree. Waking I ate a bit more watermelon before packing up and cycling onto Osh which was pretty close but I still needed one more stop to get an ice cream.
Getting to Osh it was a busy town under some construction, but as always I had no clue of where to go but spotting some traveller types they took me to a cheap guesthouse where I got a dorm for 300com (5GBP). I did the normal things, food bit of washing, shower etc but I made a decision to take a day off as I only had 400km to Tashkent and I was a bit saddle sore and needed to give it a break. After dinner returning to my room it was full with fellow travellers mosquitoes and another cyclist.  

I slept awful last night thanks to the swarm of mozzies that buzzed all night in the room. I got up and went for breakfast with Lala a French girl i had been chatting to, i was most intrigued when she guessed my age to be 31! She was on her way to Tashkent so after breakfast she packed up and left and i caught up on my dirary before going to an internet cafe where i got some rather bad news.
It was the type of news i had been dreding aout Jess (my dog) is not it the best of health and my mum was waiting on test results from the vet to find out how serious. I instantly feared the worse and even though my mother had said don’t panic i was instantly looking at flights from Tashkent back to London and spending e-mails. It may sound daft to many to get upset about a dog but this dog is a very close family member and i miss her as much as i miss anybody else. Finishing the trip doesn’t really matter much to me anymore.
When i returned to the guesthouse i spoke to an American cyclists who when i told about my plight asked me what is more important, finishing the trip which culd be done another time or seeing Jess before its too late and spending what remaining time i had being there. He also said that don’t try and think you have anything to prove to anyone as it you who has to live with whatever descision you make.
These were good words but first i needed to hear from mum what the vetetanrian results are before i act, in the meantime i need to cycle to Tashkent where a descision would be made. Most of the day was spent chating and hanging around with the other number of cyclists who had come to the guesthouse but my mind was else where pondering over otions and trying to think rationally.
A French couple in the hostel gave me an uzbekitstan sim card which was no longer any good to them so at least i can now be in touch and find out any information while im on the road. I have realised though what is really dear to my heart, possessions the trip, i would give them all up for Jess to be OK.
Uzbekistan, final decision
5/08/2011: Osh to Sahnhan 85.7km
Yet another sleepless night, mosquitoes and a heavy mind were the main reasons so once again it was a late get away. I spoke to Almar who is in fact from Holland not America and i thanked him for his support then i was off and i would make a final decision when i found out more about Jess’ health.
The Kygz/Uzbek border was strangely quiet and on the Uzbek side rather slow and frustrating and it wasn’t till 3pm before i was through. As i cycled i thought about Jess and broke down in tears but never stopped cycling. Everything i was doing felt absolutely pointless, again i just wanted to be able to see Jess and i don’t want to lose her but i was hoping things were not as bad as i feared.
Changing money was difficult in the end i had to change $20 as there appeared to be a lack of ATM’s. I rode on till 730 before just past an eatery i found what i thought were two abandoned houses, apparently they weren’t and being discovered i was taken back to the eatery and told i could sleep on one of te outside tables. I then was invited to eat with some very interested locals and we ate and drank beer before i changed to green tea.
I called home before bed to find out any updates on jess, i spoke to my mother who was rather tearful and the news did not sound good, i made a decision to be on the next possible flight to England i could get and i even kidded myself that i would ride the 320km needed to get to Tashkent (it was actually a lot more but the road signs said thats what it was).
Again i didn’t sleep well i maybe only got 2 or 3 hours sleep.
The End
6/08/2011:  Sahnhan to Tashkent (hitched) 77.56km
I was up and away what i thought was 620am but as the is a change of time from crossing the border it was only 520am. I left without having any food (i didn’t feel like anything) but i kept some in my handlebar bag which i ate as i powered through the morning and after 2 hours on a flat road i had cycled just over 50km which i promise you is decent time on a bike that weighs over 50KG and i was stopped frustratingly by every police stop but i was no longer entertaing them instead i made it very clear i just wanted to leave.
After 2 hours riding i stopped for a drink and waved down a passing van, they could not take me to Tashkent but could take me 70km further down to a big town where i might be able to pay somebody to drive me and bike to Tashkent. As it happens the driver i had met yesterday and luckily i had been friendly so he was very kind to me. At the town of Quqon i was let out and carried on cycling till i found a mini van station found a mini van and i was on my way to Tashkent or so i thought. It cost me $40 and i did this with little attempt to haggle as it didn’t matter to me anymore.
It was very hot outside but i didn’t seem to notice, nor did i make any effort to speak to the driver. 100km from Tashkent we stopped for lunch and then things really did turn to ARSE! I was  told i had to cycle from here to which i refused and told the slimy little toad to drive me as that what he had been paid for, i yelled why would anyone who whats to go to Tashkent want to be dropped off 100km away and cycle it in 55C heat (i only found it was 55C later).
Both sat in the front somebody else had come to assist before he said he wanted another $20 to go the rest of the way, in the blindness of anger i began to slap my thighs and yell (no it was not the Hakka). It seemed to send some message that he was a total wanker and he droped the price to $15. I again made the point i gave $40 to Tashkent and he is a slimy little toad whose legs i will feed to a French person. In the end i gave aproximatly $4 but it was in their own curreny.
He still didn’t drive me right into the city but instead i was maybe 15km away so without any pleasenttries to the toad of a driver i took my bike and cycled off not before i had given him a torrent of abuse which i don’t think he understood but made me feel better.
I didn’t have too much trouble finding the airport but did have trouble getting a flight. At first i was told there is no flight to London until one of the few people who spoke English in an international airport said they could not do the booking here but said he would drive me down town to a booking office. I waited in the restraunt, had a cup of tea before the very kind English speaking man came back, said the flight was $500 (much chaper than i had seen on the internet) and it leaves on Tuesday which is the next available, i guess it will have to do. Leaving my bike unattended at the airport we first went and i withdrew some money $50 at a time as Uzbekistan doesn’t believe in ATMs then went to the booking office which was so quick im not sure its a really ticket. I spent the night in the hotel reflecting and what i had done and what i have missed out on but there is no shred of regret inside of me. I have course would have liked to have returned as planned but in the time away i have learned new skills, made new friends, learned more about the world than anyone can ever do in a libary or from TV, i have found out about my own character and most of all i have had an amazing adventure which is now a closed chapter in my life but will live with me forever. To those i have met on the way and those who have been supportive from back home i thank you endlessly as i would never have been able to keep going for 3 years without the support i have been given.
The Tasmaninan Tiger will ride again somewhere.
THE END (for now)

Thursday, July 28, 2011

CHINA chapter 3 part I

Headwinds; ‘i have a cunning plan’
29/06/11:  Takeshikenzhen to 144km West of Takesshikenzhen 144.28km
The night’s sleep was awful till about 2am, i had some very noisy neighbours and despite my abusive requests to shut up they didn’t, so when i woke up i decided no rush and it wasn’t till 1030am by the time i was on the road after the hotel owners had kindly given me a red bull for the days cycling.

The wind had died down at least but through the day it did gradually build up but i found a jolly good solution to this problem which i explain later. For lunch i took refuge in a culvert under the road where i had some shade and i began to grow a taste for the Chinese food in air tight bags, such as chicken legs and eggs. As i was about to set off a slow moving agricultural vehicle was making its way by and with the undulations and head wind i made better time to either sit in their slip stream or grab a tow and when they pulled over for a rest i was given a bottle of water for my trouble before i carried on again.
It wasn’t long after i left them that i was pulled over by the police, after being given the army salute they wanted to see my passport taking pictures of my visa, entry stamp and information page. They made quite a few calls and asked me where i was going and which hotels i was staying at. I couldn’t answer the latter of those questions but they seemed satisfied (so i thought). A few more pictures were taken and i was released just in time for the big vehicles to come by in time for me to sit in their slip stream once more. Looking back the police car was now following me, i found this odd and obviously they were not finished with me. At the next set of shops i stopped to buy a bit more food and i was joined by the two policemen again this time i was handed a phone to speak to someone. I didn’t really hear much of what he said but this time they were happy and after buying me an ice tea they left me for good.
I carried on riding enjoying the day but the wind was now really getting up, i passed the big vehicles once again, we were now all old friends, and after a final break where i ate much of my remaining food  i carried on hoping to find a shop where i could buy a bit more for camping as all i have now is 4 packs of noodles and some nuts! I was really struggling into the wind but once again the big vehicles came by and this time i held on for over an hour almost falling asleep. By 730pm the signs to the next town appeared and i was 44km! It looks like the noodles will have to cover me so i found yet another culvert under the road to use as a camping spot, it’s a touch windy so i will set the tent up anyways.
The lazy fox
30/06/2011:  144km West of Takeshikenzhen to The Middle of nowhere 148.82km
As i am writing this a week after i had actually done the ride i don’t really remember much about the day other than i had tail winds for part the day, ate lots of food and was given a watermelon which made my stomach bloat to that of a women who is 8 months down the line. In the tent i felt pretty groggy after eating so much which i why i didn’t do this diary till now. Lazy Bugger.  
Cheating will be punished
1/07/2011:  The middles of nowhere to 130km North East of Urumqi 152.31km
Not a massively interesting day today though the temperature was significantly hotter than it has been, its the slow build up to the middles east where i am expecting the hottest weather of the whole trip. By the afternoon it was looking like being a big big day, i grabbed on to a fairly brisk moving truck which didn’t drop below 30kmph and i was on a undulating road. The down hills when the speed built up i let go and sat in the slipstream and played a game to keep up then grab hold again as the road began to go up hill slowing us both, hitting speeds of 50+kmph was never so easy. The progress was good and at this rate i was easy on for a 170km+ day but then the bike gods put a stop to my effortless progress by giving me a flat tyre on the front. As i have no spare tubes left and just cheap Chinese patches it took 2 failed attempts i got a bit hacked off and put the tube with the slow puncture back on. Getting moving again i lost all momentum, the bike felt slow and sluggish as i did and about 10km before i hit the next town i called it a day. The saddle sore was getting to me, drivers everything. The place i chose to camp was a dry ground that looks as if its very boggy and marshy when it rains but lucky for me it doesn’t look like its rained for a while though there was a showery looking cloud coming over but at worst it looked as though it would pass without too many troubles.
RedBull Gives You Wings
2/07/2011: 130km North East of Urumqi to Urumqi 134.34km

The morning was not a good omen for the day, it was raining as it had for much of the night and the dry firm ground around was now soft, wet sticky mud that i sank up to my ankles in and the bike clogged itself with mud as it sank in not allowing the wheels to roll. It took me 2 hours to get out of that field and you may wonder as i did why i didn’t simple carry the bike instead of going through the struggle of dragging it through. The answer is as easy as the solution, i wasn’t all that far from the road and the old saying the grass is always greener seemed to keep entering my head but it never was. When i had enough and removed my panniers the mud was so thickly coated to the bike i was unable to carry it without getting stuck myself but it did make it easier to drag. I then spent 30 minutes removing the mud just so the wheels turned freely and the brakes worked in which time i was approached but a couple of policemen who seemed unable to understand why half the field was on my bike.
As i was finally moving i felt like i had already cycled the whole day, i had little energy and no water. It took me an hour to cover around 13km when i stopped at a rest area (i was now on a motorway) to eat some food and rest a little to gain some strength. There was a sign that indicated i had about 115km to Urumqi, it was now 2pm and i decided i would go for it. As Popeye would down a can of spinach i did the same with a redbull and i was off. With the aid of a tailwind i rode flat out for 2 hours rarely dropping below 25kmph and i stopped for a quick break at another rest area where i pumped my front tyre up as it still had a slow puncture, had a little food another rebull and i was off like a rocket. I made the time up i needed so i got to the city at a reasonable time.
As i got to within a few kilometres the traffic really picked up until i blindly (i had no map) found my way to the city centre. I spent a while riding around looking for a backpackers to no avail so i decided to try a new strategy. I went into the most expensive hotel i could find (next to the Sheraton) asked for a map and the use of the internet, despite my appearance they were super helpful and i found a hostel to which they marked out on the map and gave me step by step directions. As i walked out i tried to pretend i didn’t realise i had left muddy footprints on the immaculate marble floor.
I found the hostel easy enough and before entering got chatting to an Australian and English guy who both live in China. Their names were Mike and Ian and mike was going to cycle from Urumqi to Beijing so we had a bit to talk about including the brooks leather seat. They said they were going to grab some food so after i showered i joined them. After a hearty feed we decided to go to a bar, while waiting for a taxi some crazy Chinese girl (though pretty) began to ask for our phone, we didn’t give her a phone as she seemed very dodgy. She began to have a rant at me not realising that Mike and Ian both speak and understand Chinese. Apparently she was saying ‘how am i meant to call you without a phone,’ which makes no sense what so ever. We found a taxi and the driver made us all sit in the back, very unusual but things got stranger when the crazy Chinese girl then jumped into the front seat. Mike and ian both were tracking the route of the taxi to make sure we weren’t about to be taken off somewhere else in case we were all now caught up in some scam.  The crazy girl kept yapping apparently saying ‘why come to china without speaking Chinese.’  Oh how little she knew. The taxi driver then missed our turning after an order from the crazy Chinese girl, we were in the midst of a scam and this is where it gets fun. To the shock of the crazy Chinese girl Ian began to speak his fluent Chinese telling the taxi driver who we guessed to be part of the scam to stop and let us out. The crazy Chinese girl then (with the look of a deer caught in the headlights) told us to leave which me and mike were already doing. We left without paying. Eventually we made it to the bar where after the first round of beers decided to go buy them from the bottle shop as instead of paying 30RMB a bottle we were now paying 3RMB. It was 5am by the time we left incredibly drunk, we witnessed a bit of a barny with the locals and a taxi driver, the old Uiger and Han feud still a sensitive one. We were invited in for a lock in by the Irish owner which was kind on ironic as we spent the bare minimum in his bar.
Getting a taxi back such was my drunken state i could not find my hostel even though i was stood outside of it, getting in i crashed out instantly on my bed.

3/07/2011 to 8/07/2011

With Ian and Matt who looked after me when
I was ill
I spent my first full day in Urumqi with an epic hangover one of which i was proud of as it has been a long time since alcohol induced pain was inflicted on myself, but the gash on my head remained a mystery to all. Matt (who i may have referred to as Mike before) had much worse luck, in his alcohol  induced state, he managed to part ways with 500Yuan and lose his i-phone in the taxi an act i repeated later in the day when we went for diner and leaving the taxi my phone fell out my pocket, realising quickly was to no avail as the driver was gone sharpish maybe realising his bonus. I was a bit gutted about this mainly because i have all my maps for the rest of the journey downloaded to that phone, but i bought the same phone a couple of days later though being china it had a few differences.
I applied for a Kyrgyzstan visa and had planned to leave on a Thursday the day after i was set to receive the visa but on the day of collection i had a pretty awful dose of food poisoning, thanks to some cream filed pastries i believe, which caused me to be violently sick twice and feel pretty dam awful with no one to look after me though when matt and ian discovered my plight they did answer my request of oranges and offered any assistance i may need. I spent the whole day laying down on the same chair, i watched the back to the future trilogy and did some research on what sort of food poisoning i may have, for those who want to know it was (i guess) Staphylococcus aureus but even now my stomach is still not right and i have been to the dunny 6 times today with ‘water stools.’
I didn’t do any sightseeing in Urumqi, i spent most the time hanging out with Ian and Matt who have been great company to have around and given me some great insights like why facebook is banned in China, its to do with the Uigers. . I successfully obtained a Kyrgyz visa so that leaves three more to get before i have free crossing borders, i hope, to England.
I had planned to get an early start tomorrow for the ride but as i still need to do some shopping i might take my time or put my clock back as a cheat as im still in Beijing time, which makes no sense here. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Beijing to Ulaanbatar Train
31/05/2011 to 1/06/2011
It was an early start but as it turned out not early enough, i was one of the last to the train station but still had time to have my final argument with a Chinese train worker about my bicycle. The first thing i noticed in the waiting room after i had skipped security because the effort of putting my belonging through the x-ray machines would kill the Chinese workers was another cyclist. He had got to the train station much earlier than me so was able to tell me how things work. I had to dissemble my bike then frustratingly take two trips to get all my luggage onto what wasn’t a very busy train.
In my compartment i shared with a French girl called Celine. Chris (the other cyclist who was from Germany) came over to visit so i wasn’t short of people to chat to which made the whole experience just delightfully pleasant. The journey went by fairly quickly, before long (13 hours) we had reached the border town where the wheels of the train have to be change as the Chinese and Russians use different wheel widths just because its fun to make life difficult.
This took three hours, Chris had left as he was cycling up to UlaanBaatar from here but getting back on the train, it was now mid night i decided maybe it was time to sleep but not before our passports were given back by a laughing Mongolian immigration officer.
The morning came and looking out the window everything was different, gone were houses or much in the way of life, it was replaced with first desert (we were passing through the Gobi desert) then just vast rolling green hills, everything one expects of Mongolia. Life did eventually begin to show in the form of Gers (what the Nomadic people live in) herds of horses, sheep, goats and what looked like gazzels. It was everything i had dreamed but was now worrying on the vastness of it all. Will i be able to carry enough food and water to get from place to place? Will the border i plan to cross actually exist? Will i be able to get a Chinese Visa? Also i have gone almost 6 weeks with doing much cycling so my fitness is not at its best but i will find out if i survive on the other side and if i don’t that is something i will have to think about then.
Life became more evident, the road that ran near the railway line was plentiful with cars and sure enough UlaanBaatar was insight. I began to get a little nervous as i was now in a new city which i knew nothing about and as the kind person who gave me the guide book had ripped the Ulaanbaatar city map out i didn’t have the faintest idea of where i was going.
Docking into the railway station i lugged my bike and bags onto the platform, Celine who was meant to be picked up by a tour operator stayed with me just to make sure i’d be ok before she then headed off. There were people from hostels fishing for business and one of these cards given had a little map which showed a department store nearby and a major government square i just had to work out whether or i needed to go north, east, south or west!
Ready to go i went to the front of the station where Celine was still waiting to be picked up so i stood there for a while my plan that i would ask her tour guide where i should go. He didn’t show but a taxi driver had given me a general idea of which way i should go, so leaving Celine who said she had a plan of her own i set off and sure enough i found a hostel where there were lots of people from the train journey already getting cosy. There was space but not for my bike so then the wild goose chase began where to my horror everywhere was full and the final place saying ‘everywhere is full.’
I had a think and decided to head back to the first one i had gone to (golden gobi) and plead with them but something i did not spot before was another hostel next door so asking for a safe place for me and my bike to stay i was told no problem. The hostel was new and virtually empty, so i got settled in.
My hunt for food was successful and a beer was needed but because it was ‘children’s day’ they were not selling alcohol but by some miracle i managed to purchase some. I was joined by Tim an American who was on my train and we sat in the park till late drinking our liquid gold.

2/06/2011 to
The first full day in Ulaanbaatar and after getting a map it was time for a failed attempt at applying for a Chinese visa largely as the embassy was closed but another problem had occurred, the day i would expect to collect my passport is a Chinese holiday so it would mean being stuck in Ulaanbaatar a week.
I also discovered that the ‘Black Market’ would be closed this week so if i do manage to get away i will miss it on a plus side the weather was clear skies but got a bit chilly on the night. I went for a walk around Ulaanbaatar not being very big at all and largely uninspiring i was not looking forward to the prospect of being stuck here for a week. I decided to head over to a food market while on the way i bumped into Celine the French girl from the train journey. She had a terrible day as in some confusion her agency didn’t pick her up till late and her hotel was in a pretty bad area. We chatted had look around the food market then arranged to meet up later. On the way back to my hostel i careful chose two different maps, so along with the map on my phone and what is in my lonely planet i shouldn’t get lost but as someone famous once said ‘only two things are infinite,  the universe and mans stupidity.’
The evening involved beer food then when i was back at my hostel Tim came round claiming to have found a place that sells cheap beer which where under the influence of alcohol we hatched a plan to have a night out in town tomorrow night as it was Friday.
More time was wasted obtaining visas but i was delighted for a large fee they will allow you to pick up your passport the same day and this went by without a hitch, i had heard stories it would be difficult but it wasn’t. I now though had to think seriously about what i needed to prepare for the ride across Mongolia. I spent some hours studying maps organising a plan of attack i figured out how many days of food i would need till i can restock, water is also a concern and where i can withdraw money.
For dinner me and Celine opted for western food, ashamedly we went to an American burger restaurant but as luck would have it everyone from the neighbouring hostel and who we were on the train with had just arrived so we joined them. After a burger that did not sit happily in my belly the discussion of drinking beer was up but in some confusion i forgot where everybody went so missed out which in all honesty i wasn’t massively keen on.
Final day, i hope and it was stock up on food which im still to pack, organise final bits and bobs but discovering the black market maybe open myself and Pierre the only other person in my hostel went for a walk to find where getting badly sunburn discovered it was closed but at a nearby shopping centre we did manage to buy some bits, Pierre getting the most unique item of a bayonet for an AK-47 for the price of 4GBP!
Back at the hostel time to pack but before i could Celine who though had started her trip was still in Ulaanbaatar came round and instead on packing the three of us (Celine, myself and Pierre) drank yet more beer, the night that followed was with little sleep due to an invasion of mosquitoes.
Go West
05/06/2011: Ulaanbaatar to Just east of Argalant 76.75km
After an awful night i was in a great deal of conflict whether or not to leave today, i had no reason not to other than i had got settled with having people around and didn’t want to be alone again. Sounds silly and you’d probably think i need to man up a bit but i wasn’t feeling it. After laying awake in bed till 10am i decided i should leave but was in no certain mind i would but i organised myself that if i grew some balls i would be ready to go. I was in no hurry, i took my time over breakfast i had a chat with Pierre and finally decided i should just go, the only way i will feel any better is to just put some kilometres through the legs.
I wasn’t eating much i tend to get like this when im a bit down but i forced some fruit down me as i think it was all my stomach would tolerate then i set about loading the bike up, finally this was it, d-day. Due to the extra food i had loaded onto the bike (5-7 days worth) and extra 5 litre water bottle the bike weighed a lot and made the whole balance wrong.
Road out of UB

I faced my demon and restarted my journey alone but now for the fisrt time its west till home. Things didn’t quite go to plan however, the 5L water bottle i had strapped to the back fell off and broke the bottle but not to worry i feared something like this may happen so i carried a spare empty bottle i found on the street, it was a better shape and thicker plastic. With the help of a curious child i was back on the road again but it wasn’t as easy to follow and i ended up on a dirt road (sign of things to come) before rejoining the smooth tarmac road. From here on it was easy going if you exclude the fierce headwind and uphill gradient. I wasn’t making good progress, i had targeted to do around 70km but having only achieved 35km in 3 hours this was going to be a slog much like Australia was but here in Mongolia the smooth tarmac road im on will soon disappear. As the day wore on i was given a boost via a tow from a bus, then the wind seemed to ease and even turn into a tailwind and thanks to this turn of good fortune my speed improved and i made up time.
Fully Loaded
I have heard many things about the warmth and curiosity of Mongolians and i could feel it as i cycled, people waved said hello and would even stop me for a chat which as neither of us speak the same language is tricky. My expectation of no shops was ended when i spotted a little wooden shack where a few trucks seemed to stop at, there wasn’t a whole lot to buy but a sugary drink was all that was required as i still didn’t think i could stomach any food. Just after this stop i found a place to camp (this really isn’t a difficult thing in Mongolia) where my loneliness was only amplified. It just felt so empty not being able to share this experience with somebody or have someone to pick my spirits up. I gave my best shot at eating some pasta but struggled to eat much but at least now i have breakfast prepared, every cloud....init.

Arms of fire
6/06/2011: Just east of Argalant to about 20km west of Erdenesant 170.63km
The day started with leftovers from last nights dinner then just before i set off a few specks of rain threatened but after a short shower soon gave way to the relentless sun that is so punishing at altitude. I had for the most part of today a good tail wind and i tried to make good use of it even so with my bike carrying such a load the hills are a slog.
I just rode today soaked up the scenery and watched animals be herded by Mongolian horsemen, i pass by large groups of horses and its really a sight to see animals that back home are normally fenced in to be so free.  The only issues i am having is finding anywhere to shelter from the forceful wind and killer sun, for lunch i had a choice, shelter from the wind or shade from the sun, i chose shelter from the wind. I did my best to cover up from the sun and im using factor 90 sun cream but still my arms have suffered badly. They are both red from the burn and the heat being emitted from them is not like i have had before from any form of sunburn.
I was feeling much better today on the bike until it came to looking for a place to camp where suddenly i felt all alone again. Cycling alone is not something that has ever bothered me in the past but now for whatever reason im missing having someone around especially at the end of the day, i don’t know why this is.

07/06/2011: about 20km west of Erdnesent to Karkhorin 135.82km
This was a tough day, unfavourable winds and unfavourable hills though this was something i had expected of Mongolia but my goal of reaching Karkhorin today looked in a bit of doubt. I dug in and had my first highlight of the day where by the side of the road were a group of blokes were sat with a group of Camels. I stopped and asked to take a picture but better one of the boys got up and brought the camel over and took some pictures for me. He then said i could ride the camel for 3000 turkic then dropped down to 2000 turkic (less than 1GBP). For reasons i don’t understand myself i declined and as i rode away couldn’t understand why i did, you cant ride a donkey on the beach for less than 1GBP. I cursed myself calling myself a ‘ No man’ and said that any opportunities that come up i will say yes, a bit like the movie ‘yes man.’
I carried on the road seemingly never endingly going uphill, the wind extremely unfavourable and the road seemed to be steadily worsening but after Tsterleg i know tarmac will just be a dream. My speed was struggling to get up to 15kmph but i stuck at it, the landscape for a while though still green was very sandy which if i ever come across a sand road, im walking because the bike wont work in sand. With no place for shade not even a tree i stopped at the top of a hill and made a little shade with my bike and a jacket while i ate then i continued to battle everything, i was putting a lot of effort in to keep going.
Finally at around 630pm i reached Karkhorin which i was surprised looked so dreary as it was a former capital and is a potential new capital. I bought some water as i was running low i needed a little more to get me to Tsterleg but i was in a bit of conflict as whether to do the unthinkable and stay at a tourist camp. I thought about it and pondered then decided i would but as i headed towards such camps i changed my mind and decided to camp.

I planned to cycle a bit away from the city just to get away from the people but as i was riding out i got chatting to a boy who was herding his goats, then a few others turned up. I didn’t really understand what was being said despite having a translation book but there was the smell of alcohol on their breathes and a few calls of vodka. I got the impression i was being invited to sleep at their Ger and remembering the promise i made earlier about being a Yes man i went along with it even though i was keen on staying with a group of drunks. No matter where you go in the world drunks are always a nuisance and with blokes they tend to want to show they have the biggest ego. I got the impression i was to cycle up the road so i did but they caught up and this is where things got uncomfortable. There was just one guy at first pointing to the 90km reading on his bike, not sure what this meant and tired to tell him. Another caught up and was asking for food, money ( i think) and alcohol , he even suggested we should all go back to the town and i buy them meat dumpling. One guy was asking for my watch then they wanted my water bottle. I acted dumb as if i didn’t understand but i did in general, i think i frustrated them with my stupidness as the was a lot of raising of the little figure which i later find out to be a sign of disproval.
One guy had obviously had enough more than  me as out load in English he shouted goodbye, sign that i should leave but the others were still talking to me not that i understood. Eventually i made my escape i headed back to town to one of the Ger tourist sites where i decided for peace of mind as i didn’t feel comfortable camping with these guys about that 5GBP was worth the safety. It was 830 by the time i got somewhere!

Thunder bolt of lightning very very frightening
8/06/2011: Kharkhorin to Tsetserleg 122.19km

The most memorable days while travelling tend to be the hardest and although i reckon i have had harder days today was tough but luckily your mental state tends to play a big part, mine was good today. I had around 120km to Tsetserleg where i would check-in at a guesthouse, i have first shower since Ulaanbaatar and rest up and stock up the bike again. It was another fine day with another fine headwind that slowed my progress which meant i would have to battle all the way to Tsetserleg.
Thing were going well until at the top of another hill i noticed ahead the sky was most defiantly rain, not light rain or a brief shower but heavy stuff, i could even feel the air temperature gradually drop until there was a bit of a chill in the air. Im no expert on the weather but when hot air bumps into cold air the weather can go a little mental a bit like putting a fire to petrol, depending on the state and amount of petrol and strength of the fire will depend on eventual outcome of an explosion (possibly) or a gentle lick of a flame. I rode on but had my rain jacket ready but then i was hit with another obstacle that i had forgotten about, the road had not been finished so traffic was forced off onto the dirt. I went round the barrier and cycled along the brand new tarmac road but not ar ahead i came across workmen and a couple of steam rollers until the dirt road became the better option but before i jumped off the road the rain hit and it came down hard.
With no shelter around say for a single ger a few hundred metres away i pulled up next to a well and attempted to pull the plank of wood over the edge to give some relief from the rain. As i struggled a boy on a motor bike came over and pointed me towards the ger, i didn’t need a second invitation and pedalled over with the boy alongside on his motorbike hurrying me along seemingly having a goodtime which to be honest i was a little bit. Stepping into the Ger i was greeted by the whole family which set me a back a bit. I tend not to make the biggest effort to try and communicate with people, it may sound arrogant of me but i get frustrated when i cant speak the same language, i have no idea what to say and it takes a lot of effort. I got my maps and showed them where i was going and where i’d cycled from, in the mean time i was given some milk and a flat bread to eat. The children spoke a little English which was really nice to hear. After the rain eased off it was time for the inspection of my bike, Mongolians are very curious and like to have a good look through what you carry. I had planned to give them some money for the bread and hot milk but this changed when i got the impression i should give them some food. So i showed them my oranges which i didn’t think much of and all of them were handed out. I didn’t mind they had got me out the rain and give me a taste of Mongol hospitality. I then decided to give them one of the big bars of chocolate i carry but the next bit p!ssed me off a bit. The father then saw where i kept my food and went through everything i had almost looking to see what he fancied, then my tin of fish seemed to take his fancy which he took, i couldn’t really say no he then went through my handle bar bag and upon finding my sweets handed them out to the kids, its not a big thing but this is stuff i need to survive and had i not planned on getting to Tsetserleg where i could re-stock ‘d be in a bit of bother. Maybe its the Mongol way and in just don’t understand it yet but i was grateful for their help and the food and i don’t mind giving some food back but i feel they took advantage a bit, 6 oranges, a big bar of chocolate, tin of fish and handful of sweets was a lot for me to give away and its the way of taking what they fancy. Perhaps i am being very petty but i felt a little hacked off thus i became very keen to get going despite the weather up ahead looking worse and a few drops of raining falling.
I was now on a dirt road and with a wee tail wind i pedalled hard and was rather enjoying myself, the new challenge of a dirt road and i kept trying to see how hard i could go before i would hit a soft spot and the bike would side about. My fun was stopped when up ahead i noticed a bolt of lightning coming down to earth and the land being pretty featureless i was one of the highest tings around or so it seemed. I was again stopped in my tracks when two boys came galloping up to me on their horses and these boys were wild, they were demanding sweets pulling at my bike and quickly got on my nerves but one of them placed his horse in front of my way. He eventually moved when a car was coming and it was then i made my escape towards the bolts of lightning and certain death, in all seriousness i was very worried about the lightning. There was a few cars coming through and i entertained myself by racing them, i gave them a good run as they slowed for the dips in the road while i was able cruise round them.
After a few rumbles of thunder i had got through the lightning without being killed and for a brief time the road came back before disappearing again. I then hit a village which meant according to my maps (all agreed for once) that i was only 25km away from my final destination and the road would reappear. I was cold wet and pretty tired and was still fighting the wind at times. When i hit the edge of the town i pulled into a little shelter as it was raining to study my guide book of where to stay, while doing this a 4x4 had pulled up behind me and an Australian accent asked if i needed any help. Indeed it was an Aussie who had being living here for a year and had set up a guesthouse, it was a bit over my budget but i wanted somewhere to relax and somewhere now he gave my directions to his guesthouse which i checked in to.
Indeed it was very nice, the beds were amazing and i felt the extra expense was worth it. It was around 9pm by the time i had showered and organised my things so i ate some of the food i had been carrying and laid in my well earned bed, luxury!
I needed the day off, my legs were feeling a little tight and the hungry monster inside of me which has been a little docile recent is beginning to wake up and turn into the hungry bugger i know. I had a look around Tsetserleg, checked out a local market and visited an old temple at the top of the town. Behind the temple was a rocky outcrop that went up a fair bit and i was torn whether to climb up it or not. I didn’t (NO MAN NO MAN NO MAN) as i needed to rest my body which felt tired along with trying to keep out of the sun as my face was pretty sore after being exposed constantly to it for the past few days.
I got a few supplies but as the electricity seems to only work after 8pm walking round a dark supermarket was a challenge. Im trying to go a little lighter on the bike but still i want to be sure i have enough food even though i now know the small villages marked on the map are source of food although limited.  I spent the rest of the day checking over the bike and getting ready for tomorrow where i’ll hit the Mongolia i have been expecting, no roads and not much in between just amazing scenery.
Puppy love, river crossing, stoned and broken rack
10/06/2011: Tsetserleg to 100.99km west of Tsetserleg 100.99km
Today in terms of cycle touring was a bit of a rollercoaster day. It was crazy, i loved Mongolia and decided i would come back and then in an instant decided i wouldn’t come here again. I’ll explain.
The day started late as i was in no big rush, my target was 100km but i’d be happy with 70km + as i knew today after the 20km or so till the next village the sealed road would disappear and i would be off roading.  At the village it was almost lunch and there were a few eateries so i stopped at on to get a proper lunch as it was almost lunch time. While waiting i stood outside where there were some puppies. One of these puppies was a fair bit smaller than the others, the reason became apparent when the bottom of his leg had almost been ripped off and the bone was clearly sticking out. No one seemed to care about the little fella who every time he moved would let out a little yelp of pain, i gave him a little love and the look on his little puppy dog face was worth it. I saved some meat for him for when i left but before i did leave a brother or sister of the wounded pup was licking the gaping wound in an attempt to stop infection, i rode away hoping for the best for that little dog.
I had expect the road from now to turn into an unsealed road but it didn’t, for another 15km the road was perfect and newly laid but the time did come to go off road, but i wasn’t done yet. The rest of the road was still being built but the foundations had been laid and it was still smooth to ride along so i did and to make sure i didn’t lose the dirt road i kept an eye on the number of cars using it as due to blockages were unable to get on the unfinished road. My luck did run out as the two roads went of in different directions but i didn’t mind.
After a few kilometres of riding the dirt road i came to a river, i waited to watch where the cars and trucks crossed as there was no bridge. Discovering the crossing point i took my shoes off and had planned on putting sandals on but at some point during the day i’d lost one so i waded in bare foot pushing the bike across. The water went deep enough to make me worry, it didn’t quite reach my panniers but came within a whisker. My panniers were fully water proof when i bought them almost 3 years ago but 3 years of punishment now means they are not immune to a dip in the water.  Thinking my river crossing was over i put my shoes back on only to cycle another 10m to discover another one. Watching a truck go through i thought i’d be ok so i attempted to cycle through, this ended in epic failure. It was deeper than it had looked when the truck passed through and pretty quickly the bike ground to a halt in the middle. My shoes were now wet as i stepped off to stop the bike tipping and the bottom of my front panniers were brushing with the flowing river, as long as the back panniers stay out i don’t mind as i keep my laptop and all my cloths in them.
With wet feet i plodded on rather enjoying the whole thing, passing by a group of workmen who weren’t doing much work to the road they were meant to be working on, one came over and flagged me down. For a chat maybe? Curious to see what im doing? Almost like a few Mongolians i have come across he was curious as to what he could get out of me.  He did the whole pointing up and down the throat then started pointing at some food i had hanging out. The cheeky b@stard didn’t need it but as im white im there to be fleeced and taken advantage of. I said abruptly ‘no’ as i need the food myself in which to survive but this guy probably thought me being white man i’d have a helicopter fly more food to me if i need it, i wish. He then started pointing at my big water bottle on my bike i said he could have a drink of the smaller one at the front. So i gave him the bottle and he was going to walk off with the whole thing until i told him i wanted it back as again i myself need it. At this he took a quick swig then handed it back to me. I set off on my way when one of his fat topless co-workers then began to shout me over, i knew why, they just wanted to fleece me out of my food. I indicated i was carrying on and at this he picked a sizeable rock and threw it toward me, luckily i was out of range and i didn’t think to much of it but it highlights a point, Mongolia is the first place i have travelled where i feel threatened by the people and don’t trust any of them. I find myself trying to avoid crossing paths with the Mongols as to date most of the ones i have crossed paths with are after whatever i have.
I carried on making slow progress on the rocky road until as if somebody was smiling down at me the rocky road ended ad was replaced with a new super smooth tarmac road, but my jubilation was soon ended when i noticed in my front rack a bolt was very loose. On closer inspection i noticed the front rack on the right side had snapped which is a bit of a bugger as when in Japan i had planned on getting a super strong front rack for Mongolia as i knew it would take a beating, figures crossed it will hold for another 1500km till china.
I then picked a pretty awful place to camp on a slight gradient but the view was good and a herd of passing yaks entertained me somewhat. I hope tomorrow is a bit more relaxing, 60km till i reach the white lake where i will take a day off and swap the bike for a horse if i can find one.

The White lake, or not
11/06/2011: 100.99km west of Tsetserleg to Tariet  64.14km
After some patching up work on the bike i was off and the super smooth road went on for almost 30km which i covered in less than an hour and half. The next 30km to Tariet took much longer, as the front rack had a support bracket already broken i attempted to take it easy something i soon got bored of doing but still my progress was slow and largely up hill and against a very strong head wind.
The vicious looking clouds over the snow spotted mountains didn’t give me much hope of a rain free day which i was hoping for. Upon making it to Tariet i had no clue where to go but i found a place to get a meal as i can always use some food. I asked about ‘Tungas guesthouse’ before i left as i had met the lady who runs it on the road and she had given me her card. I set off with a general direction but it began to rain hard, to go with it it was windy and cold. Not able to find the place i was getting into a bit of a pickle until a 4x4 pull up and hey it was ‘tunga herself.
She invited round to her house which they would vacate and it would become the guesthouse. I had planned to camp by the White lake but the rain and terrible looking skies put an end to this idea.  Instead i sat wondering what the hell was going on not sure what to do while everybody seemed to be busying around. As Tunga is an English teacher one of her young students came round to practice her English on me and as Tunga left on some business with everybody she became my guide, at least she showed me to the shops then left.
I was then given a pleasant surprise when i was joined by a French couple of whom i stayed at the same place in Tsetserleg and they were also as baffled as to what was going on as me, but at least now i wasn’t the only one.
White Lake
12/06/2011 to 13/06/2011: Tariet to White Lake 13.37km
The day started slow, i was meant to go horse riding on the white lake and its where i would move to spend a couple of days to just relax. Neither I nor the French couple really knew what was going on but eventually it was all figured out. Tunga the owner said they would bring my bags up to the camping spot when they brought the French couple up.
Off i went rather thrilled not to be cycling with a full load and the bumps were a little easier to take but still made me cringe and some.  The only way i knew where i was going was to look for a group of three gers about 12km away. Coming up to this point right on queue there was three gers as Tunga had described. Before i headed down i got chatting to a couple of guys who were on motor cycles and to my surprise one spoke good English. He gave me a shot of vodka which as i expected it to be water came as a shock. I parted with my drink drivers to head down to the Ger camp where i was greeted by three energetic and rather friendly kids who showed me where to put my bicycle.

I then was taken off to do my horse ride which is something i felt i must do in Mongolia. The horses in Mongolia are a little wilder than what i have known elsewhere. My sister has always been involved in horses so i have some clue as to how they work but im not a horse person myself. I went off riding with my guide who had rounded up a herd of horses then chose one out for me, i hoped a well behaved one but a horse that is well behaved in Mongolia may not but put in the same circles as back in England. All was going well until we stopped and i decided to take my rain jacket off (it had been raining) but while attempting to jump off my foot had got trapped in the stirrup, the horse did not like this and decided to run and kick leaving me to drag behind still stuck in the stirrup. The first thought was to keep my head off the ground as they were lots of rocks and i wasn’t to keen to bang it against one of them, but lifting my head to horse was kicking quite violently and that i certainly didn’t want connecting with my head. I was dragged, at speed, for about 30m before my shoe came off thus releasing me from my torture but the only part of my body that felt in any pain was my ankle which i guess had twisted quite badly. My leg was grazed and cut and it was only later i noticed the humongous bruise that came up with the swelling, i can only guess the horse did manage to land a blow on me if not just a glancing one. Upon retrieving the horse he didn’t seem to pleased to see me but i jumped back on all the same and carried on without a hitch.
Getting back to the ger camp the French couple had arrived and was able to tell them all about my tale of near death which as they were going to do the same thing in a few days had them interested.
The next day my ankle though still swollen was a lot more comfortable to walk on and i tested out a theory to keep the blood flowing around it so first it doesn’t seize up and secondly will make recovery faster. Through the course of the day this appears to have helped. The white lake which is the English name for where i am, is the perfect place to have a couple of days off, normally i would get a little bored but i seemed to be able to relax by finally using the fishing rod i have carried for the past 3 years, its only the 4th time i have used it and still not caught a single thing with it yet. The nights here are pretty chilly and as my sleeping bag has seen better days for me its very chilly but the sun set behind the mountains is something special. The white lake is easily the highlight s far.
Head winds and Uphill (DOH!)
14/06/2011: White Lake to 30km North West of Tsahir 85.53km
It was cold, very cold when i woke up so cold that i went back to sleep, i was in no rush to get going and the cold only reiterated the point of taking it easy. It was almost 930am when i was ready to leave and i felt sad to say goodbye to Vincent and Fanny the French couple who had also been camping at the lake with me. They were really nice to have around and were there when i needed some people to hang around with and talk to. They gave me a leaving present in the form of a blue scarf, it may not sound much but it was such a lovely gesture and i really like my blue scarf and it has a special meaning to me.
When i did get going i was faced with a strong head wind and for the most part of the day uphills. As the battery in my phone ad died i had no GPS so i was relying on the maps i had by selecting landmarks and then seeing the trip distance on my speedo  matched up with the distance on the map, this worked a treat. My mood through the day started good but then around half way through i felt really lonely again and i tried my best to think about things that could put a smile on my face and this worked, but then strangely enough i began to think about getting back into china, how nice it will be to be somewhere where i know how things work, i almost feel comfortable there with considering i couldn’t wait to get out of china im glad i will be going back there.
I then met a Chinese person on the road travelling in a bus with a bunch of Mongolians, he seemed young and educated and spoke English, i was so glad to meet a Chinese person i have no idea why and again this lifted my mood. They then gave me news that anther cyclists had just passed by but going the other direction which meant i must have passed him which is impossible as i didn’t see anyone. I don’t believe i was so wrapped up in my own thoughts that i just rolled on passed a fellow cyclist, i sincerely hope not.
The road then really began to climb and the dots of snow that had seemed so high up were now at the same level as me or below, i could also feel a chill in the air that came with the altitude so decided i would roll on down the other side to camp. I found a magic spot, maybe a little exposed to the road but the sort of flowers you expect from spring time in Europe were everywhere, it was paradise except for the incredible number of mosquitoes which seemed hungry. Also another paranoid feeling is bears, there are bears in Mongolia but few and far between, nobody has warned me that there are bears it this area but it looks to me the sort of place a bear might like to hangout, i just really hope there isn’t any but i have kept my knife close by in case it comes down to it. Me or bear!
How to make a road difficult
15/06/2011: 30km North West of Tsahir to Tosontsengel 107.82km
Before i start i realised last night when calculating the distance i had to cycle to reach Tosontsental i had made a grave error, i thought i only had 60km approximately to cover but checking again i have more like 90km to 100km! This would mean today i would rely on decent roads and a bit of gritting of the teeth. I had just enough food to last me the day but i was keen to get a hotel so i could shower and charge my electrical things up and i love a race, it gives the day some purpose.

To start i made excellent time considering i was on a dirt road, the only thing that held me up was everybody stopping me for an inspection that im not alien a test i which i think i fail. At one of these testing grounds there were some children, i gave them each a sweet but a few more of the little monsters turned up an before i knew it i had given away my only sugary snack, bugger!
I rode on until i came to the only settlement before Tosontsental, unfortunately there wasn’t any shop to speak of or any eateries i could get lunch so i carried on but this is where life gets difficult. From this point life was to become a whole lot more difficult, the road which had been manageable turned to deep soft sand something i remember from watching ‘the long way round’ made life very difficult for a couple of big beefy motorbikes, me and my bicycle don’t stand a chance. Also another foe of the road is the ripples in the road, why these are in the road i do not know but they come and go a bit like the sand and shake the bike to bits if you don’t slow down enough before you hit them.
Lunch time i had a paddle in the river and had something close to a quick wash but battling the road once more and the unrelenting sun which as the sun doesn’t set till very late and rises very early im being slowly cooked through the day.
As i plodded along i got something of a pleasant surprise in the form of another cyclist but luck would have it we are going opposite directions but it was nice to know i wasn’t the only one out here on a bicycle. We spoke for an hour having very similar opinions on Mongolia, in that the landscape is amazing but the people aren’t as we expected, we’ve herd stories of them being super friendly where as we both have found them to be very uneasy to be around as you never know who is just stopping for a chat and who is trying to see what the tourist has for them.
Eventually i made it very late to Tosontsengel, i was very hungry and tired and i found a hotel which ripped me off at 15000 turkic but i didn’t want to argue, just shower (which i had to go somewhere else for) and feed my belly.

I loved it so much here i decided to stay an extra day, this was not the case, when i woke up it was raining and now as i am about to go to bed it is still raining, it didn’t stop all day but in a planning sense the day has been productive. After i paid for an extra day (which i haggled down to 10,000) i spent hours looking at maps. It doesn’t like very promising that i will be able to make it to the border before my visa runs out without hitching a lift at some point. I came to the conclusion i should hitch a lift from Altai but to where is the question. My options are:
·         Get a lift to Darvi where one of my maps has a very small remote road that crosses over the mountains, on the plus side it means i only miss 200km (of what i have consistently heard is a sandy rippled road)  but on the down side a the road very remote and largely unsure i imagine may be very hard to follow which could leave me in a spot of bother,
·         The second option is to get a lift to Mankhan where i would ride 400km and have a longer ride to get to the border, the plus side is the road is a more commonly used so i shouldn’t get lost and die in the Mongol mountains, the downsides are its further to ride and its the easier option but safer.
I’d like to take the remote road but not having a reliable GPS it would be pretty risky and the road condition could be terrible, if there is a treacle of traffic coming through i would be able to ask if im on the right track but i cannot know if it’s used or indeed exists. It’s something i have a few days to figure out.
The rest of the was spent eating and tracking down internet which i did find and after using the internet was feeling much more positive speaking to a few friends and receiving a few e-mails making me feel an idiot for constantly feeling lonely when i have made so many good friends on my travels and have so many back home that still take the time to be in touch when i myself haven’t been, its something i try hard to do. I then came across the typical Mongolian who at first seems friendly but then his true motive comes through, for being friendly i am meant to buy this guy alcohol, not the cheap stuff either he wanted the expensive beer, at least in China people are straight forward and very proud, you know your place where as with Mongolians you’re never sure therefore wary and standoffish of everybody.
For now im going sacrifice as many goats (and maybe a few yaks) as possible so the bicycle gods may give me a good day tomorrow, tailwinds, no rain and not too much sun as my face is pretty sore despite using very strong (factor 90) sun cream.

Solution to rain: VODKA!
17/06/2011: Tosontsengel to 15km North East of Telman 55.32km
As i forgot to sacrifice a hundred goats yesterday the bike gods cannot have been impressed as upon checking the window it was still raining, gentle rain that will soak you to the bone if you’re out in it for a number of hours like i am. I decided to put plenty of water proofing on but this soon turned out to be a mistake because i was now sweating harder than it was raining.
The road seemed to improve
with vodka

My plan was slow and steady, with the conditions of the road being so wet my progress would be slow so there was no point in busting a gut and if the offer of a lift did come up i would give it some thought.  My slow and steady plan was a bit to slow but i persevered with it but all this changed at the top of a hill where there was a large gathering of Mongolians. Everyone was very curious and i stopped for a chat before being presented with a hefty bowl of vodka, before i drank it there was the indication i would have to drink three of these, so i did keeping with tradition of downing it in one go. After what i guess to have been around 300ml of vodka i was feeling the effects and became a little hyper and my slow and steady plan went out the window and i began to make ok time considering the state of the roads. In fact i had a great time the vodka really made my worries go away. 
I pretty much rode for 4 hours without stopping say fo the vodka stop so when i saw some big tents that would offer shelter from the rain i headed straight over for a break and to work out where i was. As i was, i had made it to the turn off but this didn’t appear massively obvious to me with tracks going off in all different directions so not in any rush i took my time to see if anybody would come over that i could ask. This plan worked a treat and i was joined but a group of guys in their 20’s, there were laugh and jokey and i got on with them pretty well. ‘Jake’ called himself for my sake i guess seemed to be the leader and said i could camp underneath the big tent and invited me over to have some food. There was a big bowl of offal from a sheep and they offered me some thinking of course this was no string attached but this being Mongolia nobody helps you out for nothing. The laughs kept coming and out popped a bottle of vodka which we all shared, i wasn’t to keen on having any but they insisted. The calm atmosphere seemed to take a turn when he asked if i could show him some American money, i keep a $20 in my wallet to keep any would be robbers satisfied. ‘Jake’ then seemed keen to swap it for a 1000 Turkic which nowhere near matches. When i grabbed the $20 off him before he decided not to give it up things got a bit sour, he and another who had been so friendly then demanded i pay 10,000turkic for the food and vodka, i realised this was it so i give them 5000 turkic still way to much and decided to leave as i had obviously offended them (i cant see how, every time someone appears to be friendly 9 times out of 10 they want way over the odds in return) or the vodka had twisted their knickers in some way. ‘Jake’ then grabbed my sun glasses which as im cycling into the sun really need so i asked for them back and stood my ground. He got up in turn and took a swing a guess to show off or to see if i would flinch and go, to my surprise i didn’t move a muscle, with my sunglasses returned i headed on back down the road again a bit tipsy but also confused about what just happened.
With it being 6pm i needed a camping spot but want to put some distance between myself and the hosts i just escaped from which give me chance to think about what to do about Mongolia. No one seems to help without a heavy price which either leaves me to avoid talking to the Mongols or get to China and bail out. The incident that just happened i felt could have got well out of hand and i don’t like being put into these situations but at the same time i should finish the job off as best i can, its less than two weeks before Mongolia is a memory and something i will be able to tell (or warn) other travellers about.  Mongolia has quickly turned into a bit off a hell hole never knowing how to take people.  

Smooth running
18/06/2011:  15km north east of Telmen to 30km North of Uliastay 102.13km
The weather was clearing as i looked outside the tent, blue skies were visible and overall the day went as smoothly as i could of, no dramas, no worries. I had a 2500m pass to navigate over where there was still some snow remaining and a few spots of rain threatened to spoil the day but they never amounted to anything.
My plan was to get within 30km of Uliastay so that i could arrive late morning or early afternoon and therefore only require a guesthouse for one night. I found a great spot to camp almost hidden from the road in an impressive valley with a small river running through. I went for a wash but the water was so cold my feet went numb but i have a hot shower to look forward to tomorrow, i hope. 

Tourists of the motorbike
19/06/11: 30km North of Uliastay to Uliastay 41.84km
No dramas today, had very little food left but the plan to get to Uliastay by midday worked a treat although i was a little further away than i had expected. Upon entering the town i was over joyed to find it had a smooth sealed road, there aint much better. I spent some time looking for a hotel and i ended up back at the first one i came to. I gave my clothes a much needed hand wash before heading into town to find some food supplies to stock up on.
Arriving back there were two motorbikes parked up, one a KTM the other a BMW like the one used in the long way round, excited there maybe some people to talk to (the number plates were from western Australia) i went inside and got chatting to a trio of Australians who had motor cycled from Korea. I also managed to grab a bit of chain lube from them as i had ran out and my bike was making all sorts of squeaks and creaks.
I spent much of the day relaxing, i headed up to the top of a hill which looked over the town, which as most towns here looks pretty from a far but at street level is pretty grim and uninspiring. Back at the hotel after dinner i spent most of the evening chatting to my new Australian friends, and as we are heading the same way no doubt they will pass me on the road tomorrow which gives me something to look forward to.
Aint no sunshine without rain
20/06/11: Uliastay to 75km South of Uliastay 75.65km
Upon waking up i felt shattered so my plans went out the window for a super early start as i went back to sleep a little longer which is just as well as Michael and Julie two of the motorcycle tourists were waiting for Ben (the third and final motorcyclist) where i was loading my bike, as i was almost ready to go they told me we get breakfast included, can’t believe i almost missed out.
The breakfast wasn’t up to much along with the weather which decided to lightly rain so it was on with the ineffective waterproofs. Riding out i was greet with a pretty big climb up to almost 2500m from 1700m and with the rain and headwind this was not to pleasant. On the way down i was caught up by the three ausies on bikes where we exchanged details as they are motor biking over to Europe also and took a few pictures. This seemed to have reminded me why i like travelling, meeting new people who also are on some crazy adventure and for that moment your paths happen to cross you are the best of friends.
As they motored off i battled my way into the headwind, rain and yet another endless hill only with the ground so muddy and wet i struggled to keep going as the back wheel desperately searched for grip. Reaching the top it was very cold so with a big downhill to come i put on a jumped underneath my soaked rain coat and headed down the hill. The ground was still wet and muddy and it was great fun seeing how far i could push my luck before the bike slid about due to the lack of traction, its great fun but probably not if i had fallen off. The wind seemed to suddenly change direction and blue skies were up ahead, i was pretty chuffed i was out the rain and found a nice spot to have lunch while things dried out.
I rode on until the road spilt with no signs, i used a map and compass to get a guess but to be certain i thought about asking at a nearby ger. There was no need as a couple of kids who had spotted me came charging over and told me, i rode another 100m only to come across a river crossing, it was fast flowing, i wasn’t sure how deep it was and wasn’t keen to get my shoes wet. As i laughed to myself a minivan came by so i decided to watch it cross so i could gauge how deep it was, instead he offered to carry me across, so i threw the bike on top of about six willing passengers and crossed the river, no problems, and the guy didn’t even try to get any money out of me for the trouble. As the minivan pulled off i was approached by a man riding his horse and he was happy to just walk his horse alongside as i pedalled, again he was just pleasant and didn’t ask for anything from me, people aren’t so bad (not everyone).
I rolled on climbing yet another hill before hitting yet another big decent by which time it was time to set up camp. I found a smashing spot up from the road ext to a pylon so i had somewhere to rest my bike, this seemed like a good idea until a few rumbles of thunder and bolts of lightening started a few moments ago, here i am next to the tallest thing in the entire valley say for the other pylons, cue the rain!
Plain sailing
21/06/11:  75km South of Uliastay to 30km North of Altay 98.99km
An average day today, not a lot going on, the weather was good and provided a good tail wind for the most part. There were very few cars on the road, i could count the number that went past on one hand and the most memorable was at 10am when two guys in a van were drinking huge bottles of beer, wonder if they made it home.
The landscape  changed dramatically also instead of cycling through stunning valleys i was greet with wide open plains with not a sole (except for a lone cyclist (me)) in sight. The air has also turned very dry a good sign the gobi desert is not far away, i drank almost all my supply of drinkable water but lucky for me with a few drops left i came to the only village en route and was able to by a bottle which should see me to Altay where from which i plan to get a lift for a few kilometres for the last push to the border.
By the time came to set up camp i was toasted, i can feel the tiredness in my whole body that has been fighting hard against the poor roads and endless hills, i may not be putting in big miles here but every inch is a battle against sand, ripple roads, wet mud, basically awful roads but it makes it fantastic fun.
Hitch Hikers guide to Mongolia
22/06/2011:  30km North of Altay to Family Ger 80km West of Altay 37.93km
Looking out of the tent late last night i got sight of the stars like i have never seen stars before, even without the moon the landscape was lit up with the combination of so many.

Getting up the wind had become unfavourable and pretty strong making the sort ride to Altay hard work though a spot of sealed road made life a touch easier.  In Altay i went through the now normal hassle of looking for a hotel but this time i wasn’t going to pay more than 10,000 Turkic. I had very little luck and one hotel had the cheek to put two prices up, one in Mongolian currency and the other valued much higher in USD for the foreigners, i don’t play these rich white man games so walked out in disgust. I decided to give up on looking for a hotel and decided i would camp outside the town but first i decided to do some investigations about getting a lift to Dariu.
I headed over to a minivan area to see about a lift which didn’t go well, i could only seem to get quotes on a van for just me, so instead i stocked up on food and water and had a final brief check on the internet to let people know im still alive.
I returned to the minivan area feeling a bit stressed, there was still little help until a Mongol who spoke good English said i would be better off hitch hiking, something i then reluctantly did.  I cycled a few Kilometres from the town and waited, i didn’t wait long before i was picked up by a truck and 4 of us squeezed into a place made for 3. I had never realised how fast Mongolians drive on their battered rutted roads and it gave me a great insight as to i see so many people fixing their vehicles. My three hosts appeared to be very nice as they offered me beer, fruit juice but such is my experience of Mongolia i declined. They then asked if i would like to stay at their Ger for the night and they would take me the rest of the way tomorrow, i didn’t mind so accepted their invitation.    
We stopped for a while at a ‘rest area’ in which time a flat tyre was repaired and beers drank (camel’s milk for me) before rolling on. The number 80 was brought up and i began to get a bit worried they wanted 80,000 to take me to Dariu, it was only later i figured out i was being told we were 80km from Altay.
Arriving at the Ger it was lots of fun, there were a lot of kids running free as free-range chickens but i was puzzled as to where they came from as only 3 belonged to my hosts. I soon noticed this was a very fun loving bunch, joking, laughing and playing around. After food i was soon the sleeping area which was the floor of a ger where i slept very comfortably with everybody else except for getting up at 2am to pee as it was the only time when i wasn’t going to be followed and observed.
Thanks for the lifffffffft
23/06/2011: family Ger 80km West of Altay to 160km West of Altay (i geuss) 84.57km
I woke up late after an excellent nights sleep, a few others were also still sleeping but upon getting up i was directed to the other Ger where i was given breakfast or bread, dry cheese and what seems to me the skin that sits on the top of cream or milk. I was itching to get going but was soon told that they had to go somewhere else today and would take me to Darvi tomorrow. This was a bit of a stink as i didn’t fancy staying another day where i would be unsure of what to do with myself.  I gave them some money for everything they had done which was something i don’t think they expected (bugger i should have kept hold of it) and in return i was given some bread, dry cheese to last a life time (but did turn out to be a saviour) fresh bottle of water (again turned out to be a saviour) and a ride to the main road where i planned to complete my hitch hike to Darvi.
Taking pictures was the final act before the goodbyes and i was so pleased to have found some genuinely nice people in Mongolia at last.  The hitch hiking didn’t go to plan, i decided to cycle till i saw a car, my plan was sound in theory but nothing came my way for 5 hours and when it did it was in the shape of a German motorcycle tourist. We chatted in which time he jinxed me by asking if i had any problems, i told him non and considering my tyres were 5GBP each they have done an admiral job on such harsh roads. The German and his motorbike left and before he had even gone out of sight i got a puncture which by the time i had fixed my sand ravaged pump and pished about with patches took almost hour to fix, i hate crappy patches. I which time i was joined by a group in a van, one who was too touchy and nosey with all my things so after initially accepting a lift to Darvi i changed my mind even though it meant i would have to ration my low water supplies.
By the time it came to camp I felt shattered and had developed a slow puncture in the front tyre. After i had set up the wind then changed direction so it was blowing side on with the tent and it was intermittently strong, i then did something i have yet to do and knocked my cooking pot over wasting precious water, i was more upset about this than golem was at losing the ring. Things were not looking good for me, i thought i had another 70km to reach Darvi with very little water, on awful roads and knowing my luck into a headwind but i was then given some most splendid and welcome news, checking my GPS and comparing with my maps i guessed i only had 45km to go, good news at last though im not sure how it happened.
 Flat for the hatrick
24/06/2011: 160km (i guess) West of Altay to 40km west of Darvi 69.11km
This morning started as bad as the finish to yesterday, i was unable to find the puncture in the tube so decided to use a new one but as the valve is different it wouldn’t fit through the valve hole in the wheel so i sat making the hole bigger with my knife.  It was 10am by the time i was on the road with little more than a litre of water which i would only allow myself one mouthful per hour till i could load up on water again.

Within 10 minutes of riding i got yet another puncture this time in the rear wheel. While repairing my new curse an expensive looking 4x4 pulled up and to my pleasurable surprise they spoke English and told me Darvi was only 10km away, when folk in their effortless cars tell me of distances i do my best not to get excited as they are usually wrong, if i double or triple the figure i normally get a more accurate answer and if it is what they say well it could be just my day.
25km further along the road i bumped into two more german motorcycle tourists, bump is the correct term as the first to pull up dropped his bike knocking into mine, no damage done though but i finally understand how heavy those big BMW touring bikes weigh. They told me they had bumped into the motorcyclist i met yesterday who in turn told them to keep an eye out for me but the best news was to come, they reliably told me Darvi was only a few kilometres away and soon after we had parted ways Darvi was in sight. As the heat built up so did my craving for the sugary drinks so making use of the shops i downed a bottle of fanta, orange juice and an ice tea which all seeped through my body instantly bringing me back to life. I then re-stocked on food and most importantly water which due to almost running out i squeezed a bit extra onto the already heavily laden bike so i was now carrying 12litres as now i would be really into the back and beyond, so i thought.  Only one of my maps indicated there was an roads to speak of, though there is a couple of settlements where i hoped to gather extra food but for directions i was hoping on enough people to pass this way to ask.
I headed off the bike now fully loaded once again, i felt a bit more vulnerable, my GPS wouldn’t be any use as to pin point which road i am on as it didn’t show any of the roads i would need till the border, i was relying on the accuracy of the map and my compass skills neither of which i trust. I was off the main road and now certain to be on one of the quietest roads in Mongolia but a few minutes down the road i was passed by a truck fully load with kids at the back. The truck stopped up ahead so i took the opportunity to ask for directions to which i was given confirmation i was going the correct way and was rewarded with a few gulps of sweet tasting golden beer, it tasted so good i considered heading back to Darvi and getting a bottle. I continued using a snow peaked mountain as a general direction until i came to a stream or river, unfortunately there were lots of streams, some dried and some not, these were to be my reference points as to when i should begin to head more southerly. I came to a small mound which would be high enough to get a good view of the entire plain and it proved a successful idea as i could see the dust trail of cars going up through a pass in the mountains not the one my map suggested i should be heading for but i decided it would be better to ask, and there were a few cars going this way.  I picked a reference point and ditched the dirt road which didn’t seem to go where i wanted and cycled towards my reference point which was a Ger at the bottom of this road cars were heading up.  The closer  i got i could see road works happening and just before i reached the road workers i got yet another flat tyre. I decided to check the tyres over and realised i had gone through a thorny field so set about pulling the thorns out before they dug in. Pulling out of these thorns out of the back tyre resulted in the unmistakeable sound of a tyre hissing air out, my 3rd puncture for the day, and two in on go and the 4th i have had to repair, great stuff.  I asked some of the curious workmen to confirm which way i should go and they did, straight up the hill the way i had seen cars going. By the time i had fixed both punctures i headed up the hill as it was now late i stopped somewhere to where i thought was near the top and set up camp.
I gave myself a wash of sorts using the same cup i drink out of as a bath, i then relaxed watching the sun go down. I was greeted by a herder herding his camels past my home for the night, i laughed to myself thinking where else in the world would that happen, a bunch of camels trotting by while you have dinner.
This way to China?
25/06/2011:  40km from Darvi to 240km from Bulgan
The day was spent 15% going downill and 85% going uphill and the downhill was seemingly always followed by a more punishing uphill. My first goal of the day was to get to Tseteg which i accomplished with no dramas; in fact i was given 2.5litres of drinking water and greeted by a beautiful smooth lushious kissable sealed road. I was so sucduced by its beauty and smoothness i carried along it even though my map, compass and GPS indicated i was going the wrong direction.  I was a bit worrid abot this and got a little stressed so resorted to stopping almost every car that passed by if this was the way to Bulgan/ China, the answer was always ‘yes.’
beautiful beautiful road
My progress was not that good given that i was on a very good road as it just went up and up and up and up together with a stiff head wind it made it a hard fought slog. Even of the brief downhills i struggled to build any speed up such was the ferocity of the wind.
Nearing the end of the day i came down to an open plain where there was a working quarry, a group of kids saw me struggling against the wind and sat by the road to watch me struggle. As i got near i stopped to ask if this road went to Bulgan, how far it was and if the road stayed sealed. The answers were ‘yes, 240km, yes.’  Armed with this information i guessed i could be in China the day after tomorrow provided the wind eased off.
Setting up camp was hard, i had fought hard all day against the wind, hills and sun, in total i drank 5 litres of water which is starting to run low and i will be in a spot of trouble if i don’t find a source tomorrow as i have no idea where this road leads as non of my maps show it.
26/06/ 2011: 240km from Bulgan to Near Altay 102.94km
Late up again, the strain is being felt on mind and body i think. I was running low on water and without the promise of any towns i used a little stream which was freezing cold to fill up my bottles. By 1230 i decided to stop for lunch by the stream again but being further down it was much warmer, i spent a couple of hours relaxing, had a wash etc. (as i write this i feel numb tired)
After my extended lunch stop the wind wind picked up and again i was head down cycling straight into it. At 630 i stopped as i got a puncture but finding a suitable camping spot was tough due to the sand being so deep that first the bicycle would not happily roll and then the tent did not want to stay down, also feeling so tired made life a little bit more difficult.
FOOD: who needs it
27/06/2011: Near Altay to Bulgan 94.91km  
Not a great nights sleep, i woke up first with an unbearable itch on both my legs below the knee then at 4am i heard the unmistakeable patter of rain against the tent so i brought my bags inside. At 730 when i woke up it was still dripping with rain and feeling pretty tired i attempted to organise myself to leave. The wind was still blowing hard which wasn’t a good omen for the day and the sand (i hate sand) had got everywhere. It was 1030 by the time i had stressfully (screaming with the frustration at times) packed up the sandy dirty gear before carrying it to the road, then i was fighting with the powerful wind. I had very little food left, a few sweets which i ate straight away, some rye bread, dry cheese, pasta and a pack of noodles. I decided to pin my hopes on reaching Bulgan which is 30km from the border to get more food but the wind was making life very difficult, i struggled to get over 10kmph and again as with the whole of Mongolia i had to fight for every inch i cycled.
Bulgan came into sight just after 6pm having spent the whole day eating nothing but the little rye bread i had and rationing the noodles and pasta for the night if needed. I was again tired from riding into the wind which never let up all day but i rejoiced when the twon came into sight but it took another hour and half to reach the town along a dirt road to which i ended up by the very quiet airport, from where i was the town looked empty so i asked a group of guys sat in a car drinking vodka if there was a shop. They gave me some vodka before i was given directions but then they drove a head of me and i followed them, all i wanted was to get to an eatery and order food then find a hotel and shower. To my joy the centre had plenty of shops and eating joints plus as a bonus a couple of hotels.

There seemed to be a spot of confusion from now, we stopped outside one of the hotels yet my hosts would not leave me. I was then told to stay put while two buggered off and one stayed with me keeping gurad. In the mean time i was still not understanding what was going on so i got some food from a little shop, i felt instantly better from the sugar, i asked about the hotel then the others came back armed with a man who spoke English. From what the English speaking man said they worked on the border and he told me it wasn’t open  to forginers to cross. I was then invited to stay at someones house and that his wife was already cooking me food. I didn’t really want to go to someones house and be awarkward i just wanted to shower, eat food and relax but the fact his wife was already preparing food was emphasised a lot so i agreed based on the fact she some trouble had already been made on my behalf.  Getting to his house nobody was preparing food, and i was put into a room where i was told i could sleep, they told me they would go out to get food and asked what i would like. It was almost midnight when the host of the house who spoke no English came back drunk on vodka and foodless. I felt a bit pissed off at the situation. It was 1am by the time i got to sleep in my dirty cycling clothes and to my horror my host got into the same bed naked say for some underpants.
New country, new man, same wind
28/06/11: Bulgan to Takeshikenzhen 67.63km
The morning was a bit strange waking up with an all but naked bloke i don’t know and doesn’t speak a word of English next to me. I decided balls to politeness as he wouldn’t understand so like a dirty one night stand i tried to leave without waking the fella next to me. As soon as i sat up he was up so i organised myself and to my dismay he seemed like he was going to follow me so i put an end to it (like you would if you weren’t going to call) shook his hand and without a word pedalled off. My mission was breakfast but i bumped into another one of my non English speaking captives, he followed me as i searched for a place for breakfast, i wanted peace and didn’t want to feel as if i had to share and buy him food mainly because i was starving having not eaten properly night before. I rudely ignored him as i waited for my breakfast to come and filled out my diary, he left eventually without a word.
In my excitement to get to china i didn’t stock up on food say for a couple of apples, i didn’t even get any drinking water i just had the river water i had collect but put a purifying tablet so i at least had a litre. For lunch i went for broke using all my food, the pasta, tinned fish, noodles and apples were all devoured as i battled against the unrelenting headwind to the border which i was now pondering my next plan of action if i cannot persuade them to let me through.
view back to Mongolia, CHINA part three
I made it to the border point after 50km when my map said it was just 27km, at first nothing happened, everyone was sat outside the gates and i couldn’t get an English word from anyone. The English speaking guy from yesterday then turned up, asked if i needed anything then said to ask if i do as he walked on in. Things then began to move and after chatting to a few officials most i guess don’t see many foreigners come through this way, one of which said i needed a stamp in my passport so took me away to wait for an immigration officer. I was then invited into his office where chatting to the man who seemed very tough turned out to have a lot of brains and had travelled a lot. As i waited i wondered what i could get out of being made to wait, so i asked if there was anywhere to get food or a drink, the answer was negative but it was worth a try.
The immigration officer did show up and two stamps later i was no longer in Mongolia. On the Chinese side things were just as pleasant with people not seeing westerners pass this way very often. They were all very polite and even posed for pictures and upon a request to fill me water bottle i was given a big 4litre bottle of spring water. Now i was in china after 2.5 hours crossing the border and i was so happy to be back here. I had 10km, 15km or 19km to the next town depending on who i ask, it was 16km into a fierce headwind.
The first thing that amazed me was the roads had lines on them, then the use of road signs, all the little things you don’t think about until suddenly they a brought back after a month of no appearance. As i rode along i thought of the camping holidays i use to go on with my dad at Whitby when i was a child, we did the same every year and still remain the best holidays ever even though sometimes i moaned and said they were the worst. I soon made it to the town hungry for sugar i went into the first shop i found where i drank and entire fruit juice, yogurt and pack of nuts before leaving. Outside i bumped into the English speaking Mongolian man and we went for beer in the shop next door. I really wanted a hotel and food and after a couple of beers i got the impression this guy was swindling me a bit insisting i buy my dinner from the place for first 30 Yuan then 20Yuan. Time was getting on and there was a hotel out the back, i was first told it was 20yuan but this is the Mongolian price, the westerner price is 50yuan and with no shower i went over to another hotel that looked new. I was first told it was 100yuan but managed to get a room for 50yuan just not as fancy. I then had my first hot shower for about 12days and i felt superb before going down to fill up on sugar. You truly live when you go without, without food whenever you want or need it, to go without a shower for days not because you don’t want one but because there isn’t one available, when you are then given these luxuries its heaven.

I then spent the evening catching up with the diary on my flat laptop and cleaning things up a bit before i enjoy the splendour of my own double bed that i have all to myself, joy.