Erdenet - August 9, 2015
Although I am back in Erdenet, I will not be able to send this off until at least Darkhan tomorrow... or perhaps from Ulan-Ude. But this is all after a most excellent diversion over to Khovsgol Nuur as you probably saw from the spot. Spectacular ride through Montana-like Big Sky country over an excellent, and as-yet unmapped new road... well all except for the last 20 kilometers of pretty crappy chuck-holed and washboard gravel. No real damage incurred either to bike or to me and so all is good... although it was a back and wrist killer. I am SO glad I did not go with Ken and Carol. I think I really would have been the weakest link in that team.
So starting with the latest news, I had a little bit of trouble here in Erdenet. As it is Saturday night, the hotel I stayed at last week when I came through was all booked up as was the one down the street. Finally found this bit of a dive with no real secure parking.... only the promise that if I parked it in front of a certain window that the desk lady would watch it. Well, that sounded OK to me as that's worked perfectly well in the past. But I did notice a strange acting kid on the street. He had a rag in his mouth and absolutely freaked when a small puppy walked past him. He started screaming and throwing rocks at the dog. That just caught my eye as all a little weird. He also picked up a small ball from a mud puddle and put that in his mouth. ??? So I watched him from the window of my room for a while after I got up here. Anyway, I have the bike covered and usually that means out of sight out of mind.... no one ever bothers it when it is like that. But this kid walks over and ducks under the cover... so I start yelling at him as did some other guy on the street and he moved off. But about 10 minutes later, he's back again. Ducking under the cover, messing with something. This time he doesn't move off and is pretty defiant until someone from the hotel runs him off. Then he goes to a truck parked next door and tries to get the gas cap open. Then back to the bike. By this time, the lady from the hotel is knocking at my door asking me to come downstairs. So with the help of some guys, she wants me to carry the bike up about 8 steep steps and put it in the enclosed porch to the lobby. Well, we need to do something, but I was kind of thinking about just looking for a bit more secure parking, not necessarily the lobby. No, there are about 6 guys there and they insist on lifting it up the steps. OK... whatever. Have to do something. So we wrestle it up the steps and it is safe for now. Not sure how we'll get it down tomorrow though as those guys will melt away and no one gets up in the mornings here.
So the story is that this kid is known to all of them them. I guess he is addicted to gasoline and that's what he was after. Hence the rag in his mouth. It's soaked in the stuff. I was told that not only does he sniff it, he drinks it. I kind of doubt that, but he probably does swish it in his mouth to absorb all the nasties and spit it out. But that's crazy. I did notice that he was carrying around an empty plastic water bottle so I was thinking at one point that maybe he was thirsty and was looking to steal something off the bike to buy water. So the thought crossed my mind of just going down and either giving him some money for water or giving him my bottle. Well I did see someone on the street give him some money, but he did nothing with it. I think he wanted only the gas. I'm sure the gas stations around here will not sell him any and so he is looking to pilfer some. All pretty sad. And he certainly could get some from the bike. That's what he was trying to do under the cover... yank a fuel line and bleed some gasoline off into his bottle. In fact, the bike did smell of gas as we were moving it... I'd better check the fuel lines it in the morning. All a bit disturbing. No wonder the kid is freaking at puppies. His brain must be mush.
Not sure what will happen in the morning. Need to round up a team to move the bike down to the street and I really need to do a little work on it. It wasn't running great yesterday afternoon, and I have a few ideas to try. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to work anywhere her without attracting a touchy-feely crowd. And that's how tools and parts go missing. It's even hard to stop by the side of the road to take a pee without attracting a crowd. Really. Sometimes, I just have to get back on the bike and blast off and try again later. Yesterday, I had a van behind me on the road and I pulled off to take a whiz. Well, the van pulls off behind me. That's nice because maybe I was in trouble but when I tell them everything is OK, they don't move on, but rather 10 of them pile out and crowd around. No intention of leaving apparently. So we chat for a while, then I just have to get back on the bike and leave... full bladder and all.
But on a bit lighter note... the lake was quite beautiful, very clear and in a tame but beautiful mountain setting. Not wild mountains, but forest covered... a rarity here it seems. I just camped in my tent at a ger camp managed by some Mongolian lady named Oriana who had only worked there a week. Her English was excellent and so we had several nice long talks. They had a restaurant on site and she would come and sit with me whenever I was there. She was pretty disappointed with the place as she felt that they did not have high enough standards and were working over the tourists. I told her about the very first hotel I stopped at on my first visit to Erdenet. At that place, although the prices were clearly posted, the desk clerk pulled out a "special" price list where the rates were four times as high. I told her that I walked out of that place. That just drove her nuts. That and the fact that Mongolians litter like crazy. And she's right. Mongolia has a serious problem with trash. It's everywhere along the roadside. Absolutely everywhere. They just don't get it. As I walked around town today, trash just came flying out of an apartment window three floors up. Just fell to the ground below. There seems to be no such thing as trash pickup. It's not visitors doing it... it's the Mongolians themselves. At least in the cities, there seem to be street cleaning crews.... but in the countryside, well that's just a trash can. Anyway, this woman has much higher standards and she wants to start her own place. A place where people will come and experience the traditional Mongolian life.... in winter mind you! Actually it could be cool (no pun intended). She figures she could start with 3 or 4 gers... even good quality ones are only $3-4,000. Anyway, I'm sure she will make it happen. Lots of energy. She was a real bright spot and Mongolia could use a lot more like her.
But it was nice to be camping again. I was just out in a field away from everyone else. Woke up to some very loud snoring noises though, and so figured that someone else had come in and camped next to me in the middle of the night. But also heard chewing sounds and so had a peek outside. Face to face with a yak. The snoring was just contented grunts. The yaks here are much smaller than the Himalayan yaks. Think they are not beasts of burden here, just used for milk and probably meat. Anyway, they are not supposed to be in the camp and so all through the day there was a kid whose job it was to run them all off... which he did quite effectively with yelling and stone throwing. But as soon as he was out of sight, they would slowly saunter back into camp. Guess the grass was greener on this side of the fence. Anyway, when the kid was off playing I would shoo them out myself. No stone throwing. They really were quite docile and would just mosey on out the gate when they saw me coming their way. But I'd turn around and they would be back. So they still got their grass.
So my plan is to leave Erdenet today, and go back to Darkhan with the stinky restaurant. They have secure parking there, although it is not a good place to work on the bike. And it is a long way to make the bike limp along. The first good place is back in Ulan-Ude... at least two days away. I'll see if someone here can keep the onlookers at bay while I work on it this morning before I leave. It just seems to lose a bit of power on and off. I feel it in the seat of my pants... like someone is tapping the brake. I've felt it before, last time on I-5 in Florida. I changed the condenser at a rest-stop there and that fixed it then. I'll check the points and swap out condensers here. Also, I would like to check the carb bowl vents as they could be plugged from all the dust on the gravel roads. There is a lot of fuel staining on both of them. So I'm not sure if it's fuel or ignition. All quick jobs if I can get a little quiet time. But that's a hard thing to find here. I'm anxious in a way to get back to Russia where things are a bit more sane. Hard to believe I just said that.
Anyway, I'll send some pix when I get a connection.
Take care and stay happy...
Gung-Ho, the yak herder.
So it looks like I'll be trapped in the hotel until at least noon as that's when the lady said that the guys would come to help take the bike down. This is all in Russian as she speaks no English so I hope I've gotten it correct. Unfortunately, I don't have access to the front of the bike to do any repairs here. Too bad. That would be ideal. Anyway, the kid was back again. Revisiting the truck next door about every 10 minutes. Not sure if he can get the gas cap off, but he was soaking up the fumes with his rag and taking sniffs. He probably spent the entire night nearby. What a mess. The puppy is back too. If I was smart, I would have just tied the puppy to the bike for the night with a bowl of water and some food. The puppy really is cute. Some sort of German Shepherd mix. Really friendly to passersby and plays with all kinds of things he finds on the street. Too bad the kid doesn't like dogs. I'm sure they could both use a friend.