Ulaanbaatar - July 22, 2015
Sorry for the long time between dispatches but not a lot has happened in the past few days. Ken, Carol and I have been hanging out at the apartment trying to get Ken's bike to work. Still problems. Also, I've been in recovery mode with back spasm, the bang on my hip I got back in Ulan-Ude suddenly exploded with swelling and a giant bruise, and now I'm on meds from one of my recurring bouts of strep throat. Miserable guy.
But we did get out once and went out to the Ghengis Khan statue which was pretty impressive. Its about 70 km east of the city. Went out with Brigid and her husband. Took the elevator up the horse's tail then out on the top of the horse head. Great view. Other than that, I only just did my first bit of sightseeing today and went to the National Museum this morning. Pretty nice. Great display of traditional clothing... of which you see a lot on the street anyway. I like it.
UB is quite the surprise to me. Maybe travelers just want to subtly imply that they've been to a really tough place but I was told that if you weren't careful you could ride or walk into giant potholes and that the place was dirty and disgusting. Not the case at all. Quite the modern city. It's really quite enjoyable. And yesterday, someone that Ken found through Facebook picked us up and took us to a very modern motorcycle shop back up in one of the residential areas of town. Roads up there were just dirt and were rutted, but even though there is a lot of poorer housing up there, new house construction is booming... and they had the views!
So after talking to someone at the traveler hangout/guesthouse place down the road, Ken is all hepped up to tackle the southern route, exiting into the Altai region of Russia, at the far western corner of Mongolia. It's about 2000 km from here to the border, mostly sand and gravel. It would be an interesting ride, but I'm a bit behind the 8-ball from the get go physically. Also, there are some 60+cm river crossings that the bike would have to be walked through and dried out on the other side. On the plus side, though, the weather that way looks clear and dry for a while so maybe the rivers will fall a bit.
But Ken's bike is still unreliable, the spark dying at random times. He's been on the internet literally for days getting advice from innumerable folks, all of which reflects permutations and combinations of the same thing. We understand the system and where the failures can occur. But being intermittent, it is hard to put a finger on the cause. I would have preferred to see him try something and ride, and if that fails, try something else. Eventually, he'd fix it. There's only so many people that can tell you the same thing and talk doesn't fix the bike.
So we were planning on leaving Saturday morning, but Carol has checked and we can stay a bit longer. Sharing the cost of the place makes it quite reasonable and the internet connection is good. Even have satellite connection with BBC news. A day or two more might give me a change to get more on my feet and for Ken to get his bike issues sorted.
Did meet a nice old man on the street today outside the museum. He was probably 70 (hard to tell) and said he was a graduate of the fine arts school here in UB. Had several oils on canvas that he had done. I told him I was on a motorcycle but he convinced me that I could roll one up and take it with me. So I bought a small landscape from him. $6. I'm hardly going to haggle over that. Said that he paints during the winter, then sells to tourists during the summer. He was quite straightforward. Nice guy. Hope he has a good summer.
Sorry for the boring news... now you see why I haven't written.