Ulaanbaatar - July 18, 2015
I can't believe I finally made it here. Coming through the border, when I saw that first customs agent and his Mongolian badge, I about hugged and kissed him. What a thrill and what a long time in coming. Getting here with the bike was one of my big get-off-the-couch motivators for the past several years. I am just so grateful for all the help and effort of everyone to get me here. I'll do my acknowledgements at some future date, but a real heart-felt thanks to so many of you who helped get me and the bike here. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
The border crossing was the game that it usually is, and I rather enjoyed it. Take this paper here, now go back there, pay this little fee, look for this office, this person.... it's like a big treasure hunt. And the timing couldn't have been more perfect. The forecast was for a huge downpour, and though while we escaped the rain while waiting for the border to open (closed from noon to 2PM for lunch), we saw it building quite rapidly. Anyway, it was only after the bikes were in the customs area under a roof overhang that it just opened up on us. But the bikes were dry and we were in the building doing our paper shuffling, and by the time we were done, the rain had stopped.
So we had a quick ride to Darkhan where we tracked down a hotel. I was surprised that so few here speak any Russian at all, so I'm afraid I wasn't much help in getting rooms. Luckily they had a picture book of rooms and we could pick and choose that way. All four of us were bagged after the border and ride, but we went out to dinner around the corner in a restaurant that was in a yurt. It was associated with a hotel and was quite fancy with carved posts and all that. Anyway, the place stunk like wet manure and animal skins hanging around the place, but I suggested that our noses would soon give up and we wouldn't smell it anymore. I guess that's what happened as I don't remember the stench as much of an issue. Nice food, but Carol had ordered tea with milk and I had ordered a coffee with milk (only because they would not sell us the beer that was clearly visible in the fridge in the corner). The waiter comes back and tells Carol that there is no milk. OK. So I guess I'm not getting any either. No biggie. But I get my coffee and a nice cup of warm milk on the side. Great! Carol gets nothing. So obviously they have milk. Call the waiter over and ordered tea with milk again for her. Sorry madam, we do not have that. OK, how about black tea. OK. So I only used a bit of my milk anyway, and gave the rest to Carol. In the end, it all worked out, although we're not sure exactly what happened.
So we are now in rest mode. The Irish lady met her husband, they are off doing something else, and I am here in the apartment that Ken and Carol have rented for a week. I'm sure we'll get to the yurts and camping later... like after the daily downpours end. Nice rest period for everyone as Ken's ignition failed again coming into town, and I can stand to take a health day or two. My hip bash has swollen to duck-egg size (nicely colored with Easter-egg coloring!) and I've had a minor back attack. So a few days to fix bikes and recoup is welcomed.
The traffic flow here is very much like Istanbul. Corpuscular is the word that comes to mind. Traffic just flows, and lanes and signal mean very little to nothing. Most signals are off anyway. Yesterday, on arriving in UB, I was trying to follow Ken quite closely as he knew where we were headed but I did not. Despite my best efforts, he lost me at a left turn and that was it. So I went to a biker hangout for travelers called the Oasis and tried to call but realized that I did not have their number and they did not have mine. Eventually tracked down a number and called Carol. Ken was giving me his coordinates over the phone. Unfortunately, all I got was the latitude, the call being dropped before he could give me the longitude. No success in reconnecting. So all I knew was that they were somewhere in UB at N47 54.973. I didn't really consider that to be enough. Anyway, Carol was eventually able to reestablish the call though the owner of the camp and gave me the coordinates. What a ride to get here!
The GPS took me a very good and direct route back through town but unfortunately did not account for the sidewalk market that was in progress. As traffic crept along, folks were just stopping their cars in the street (any lane will do) and running over to buy eggs, veggies, drinks, whatever. Needless to say getting caught in that, my progress was clocked at 1.8 km/hr. But I did eventually make it and Carol was waiting on the street for me. Nice digs here.
Ken and I went over his wiring diagram and we think that we have something else to try. I'm suggesting that he take his electronic tachometer out of the circuit as the wire that triggers the spark is also used by the tach to count pulses. If there is something wrong with the tach, then that trigger signal could just be taken to ground and never trigger the spark. He's done that now and the bike runs fine, but whether it will continue to run is another thing. We'll just have to see.
Haven't done any sightseeing yet in town, but may wander out tomorrow if body parts allow. Can only really wander around in the morning as it has been building each afternoon and really dumping. We're trying to avoid riding in town to avoid the traffic. One of the ironic things is that we may get killed by kindness here. Everyone is so friendly and interested in the bikes that they crowd very close to you in their cars to get a closer view. And with big wide smiles and thumbs up, they'll happily push you into someone else or cut you off.
Anyway, no plans yet for what we'll do. I'm thinking that we'll probably opt for several out-and-backs as even those can take us quite far away and will get us into some beautiful areas. Probably best that we stick together for a while. The rather unusual rain pattern doesn't look like it will end any time soon, and while the dirt doesn't need to dry completely, it would help if the mud dried a bit.
So I'll write again in a couple of days after having a look around, and send some pix. Oops... the rumbling outside has started again. Should be a nasty one again.