Going to Ulaanbaatar anyway…

Well, I must say that my view of the Mongolian people has changed a bit to the better, but it still is my least favourite country until now (this is personal because a lot of people we met truly love Mongolia)! Now that I have had some days of rest and now that I can react a bit more calmly to other (pushy) people, I can appreciate the bluntness and closeness of the Mongolians. People are who they are and they are how their parents and grandparents have raised them and it is a cultural thing.

We were in the bank in Tsetserleg and I saw a group of 15 people standing really close to each other, waiting for their turn. Some of them were even standing next to the person whose turn it was, leaning in so close that they could see how many nose hairs the other person had! At first I thought it was a huge family, but after a few minutes, I realised that it were all strangers and that this was the way to go. As ‘normal’ Belgians, we left the minimum distance between us and the people in front of us, being 40 cm, but by that time, we were the strange ones because we left such a huge gap that other people were trying to cut the line apparently… There is no such thing here in Mongolia as personal space and you have to learn to appreciate that before anything else! Otherwise you go nuts just like I did the first few days I was here!

From our Guesthouse in Tsetserleg we went to the gas station to fill up the bike before we would go to the hot springs. Fortunately we noticed that the front tyre was flat, so we re-inflated it and waited a bit to see if it was loosing air. It turned out that the tyre looked ok, so off we went.

The ride to the hot springs was some good nice off road track and it didn’t take us very long although we had a lot of cool water crossings on the way there. We even had one crossing that had a lot of slippery big rocks in the water, so Seb had to push both bikes through while I took pictures (ha, who is the smart one!).

We noticed that they had turned the hot springs into one tourist trap where they could ask you a lot of money for a small pool of hot water and since we just had a hot shower at the guesthouse we decided to skip this.

This is where the tricky part comes in… Seb had seen a waterfall on the map and he saw some pictures on the internet that looked really cool and he wanted to drive from the hot spring to the waterfall. There was a road/track on the map that went to the waterfall, but then that meant that we had to turn around, drive in a huge circle around and this was something Seb didn’t want to do! He looked at the map and pointed to the shortest route, except there was no route, not even a track… Seb said: “oh well, there will be a track somewhere to connect the two, we just have to find it…” If someone does the route from the hot springs below Tsetserleg to the waterfall and if they end up finding the track, would they please contact us, because we did not find it at all!! We ended up driving straight over the mountains, through the fields, through some parts of the forest that had been burnt to the ground, through soggy wet field, mud, sand, over rocks,…well you get the idea!

I have to admit that the scenery was nice, but it was some hugely technical driving and on top of that, Seb had another flat tyre in the middle of nowhere! It was the front one this time, so it was real easy to change it, but we had to use the new inner tube because the hole in the old one looked to big!

We passed some type of warning signs along the way, but because they were all in Mongol we couldn’t understand what they were saying. I think one of them said: “Watch out! If you take this track you are stupid. This is no short cut to the waterfall even if Seb thinks it is!”

Just before we got to the waterfall, we passed a small town where there was a gas station. The way to get there was a bit tricky so you had to be really desperate to want some fuel to risk getting on the access road!

By the time it was 7 o’clock we finally reached the famous waterfall and it was even more beautiful than on the pictures we saw! It was enormous and made such a deafening sound that you just sat there in awe, staring at the water that just kept on coming and falling down, disappearing into the earth!

On the way to the bikes we heard this rustling sound in the bushes. When we turned around, we were face to face with a wild boar. We wanted to run away screaming, but it turned out that you could actually pet this one…because it was a stuffed example!

By the time we took all the pictures and we wanted to leave again, Seb saw that his front tyre was flat again and that there was a nail in it! We could just make it to some yurts not far away and we  started to change the tyre again immediately. In the meanwhile the local children were all giving their advice on how to change the tyre and after a while, even the adults came to help. The children were all riding around on their small bicycles making motorcycle sounds. We gave them each a sticker and they put them on their bicycles.

The adults did actually help a lot, because by that time we noticed that the new inner tube was broken at the valve and we could not repair this anymore… Luckily Seb had kept the old one with the huge hole in it and the Mongolians took it out of his hands and started repairing it as if they did nothing else all day! They even preformed some type of dance on the wheel to get it back on the rim…must be some sort of ritual?! 😉

The yurt was real nice, big and spacious and this time it had a wood burning stove in it, so the temperature inside the yurt was comfortable because the temperature outside dropped to 6 degrees.

In the morning we were very lucky because the front tyre was still ok so we were able to leave, holding our breath that it would last until Ulaanbaatar because at this point, we were driving without a spare front tube.

We drove towards the old capital of Mongolia (Kharakorin) first to see the old temple of Erdene Zuu. The main part of the route was on very nice tracks through the mountains. The temple was nice and free…imagine that! We saw some Belgians at the entrance that were on an organised tour across Mongolia and who frowned when we told them that we came all the way from Belgium on the bike.

Somewhere on the way, we saw some running people on the track… Hhhmmm, strange, so we stopped one of them and it turned out to be an organised running tour across Mongolia. They would do 10 stages in 15 days and they would run between 20 and 43 km’s a day… We reckon it is more interesting running around here than in a big city in Europe…

After the old capital, almost the whole route to Ulaanbaatar was paved! Something unseen in Mongolia until now! It was even fairly good tarmac for most of the way. Just before the city, we saw that they were installing ticket booths for in the future so they could get some more money out of you for driving on their super highways! We also saw some strange customers at the local petrol station, I wonder what type of fuel they were after…

Forget what they have ever told you about Ulaanbaatar, it is worse than that! It truly looks like a different country inside Mongolia. The first thing you notice is the factories and the smog and filth that hangs over the city. It just smells the whole time. It is big, dirty and so weird to imagine that it is a part of the same Mongolia that we have been driving through these last few days! I can not describe Ulaanbaatar, I just drove around, trying to get as much of an impression as I could, without being run over by the ‘city’ Mongolians! We drove through a huge traffic jam and felt at ‘home’ for just an instance, but that feeling disappeared very quickly!

We are now in ‘the’ biker guesthouse in UB, Oasis. This morning I was woken by some weird feeling at my legs (no not in them)…it turned out to be the local cat that placed itself at my feet and fell asleep on my bed!

It seems like all the bikes that are here are broken down and the only two that don’t need any special attention or work are ours! They are probably among the cheapest ones here but at least we can leave whenever we want without having to wait here for spare parts… Seb got a new spare inner tube today so we are set to go again.

We will leave probably tomorrow to go up and out of Mongolia and back into Russia. It is weird to be here, not only for the city itself, but for the fact that this is the furthest, most Eastern part of our trip and from this point on, it will be West again and somehow this feels like we are driving home again already…


Jul 22 2013

  1. zoals altijd zaten wij weer op het puntje van onze stoel om de avonturen verder te volgen !
    ze zijn weer super beschreven en knappe foto’s
    mooie kindjes wel ginder
    dikke kus x 2

    07-22-2013, 4:41 pm Reply
  2. Geniet van elk moment.
    Ik zou zeggen pakt zoveel mogelijk foto, s maar ja hahahaha

    07-28-2013, 3:10 pm Reply

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