Journal Gobi-Altai

12 Comments

The great Gobi Desert reaches up from China and sweeps into southern Mongolia where it eventually transitions into the Mongolian highlands to the north, the Russian Altai to the west, or the great plains of eastern Mongolia.  I rode for about a week in the Gobi Altai region, privileged with desert tracks and tasty options for exploring the valley walls up into the snowline.  This is a harsh and magnificent place.

Its a major transition from the rolling green valley’s and tree topped mountains of the highlands to the north.  The ger camps here are few and far between, requiring vast stretches of desert to support their herds.

Round one for Mongolia! :)

The windblown town of Altai drew me in for fuel and food.  Everything was pretty average,..kinda of an unappealing place limited to concrete soviet style apartments.  Mongolia’s beauty lies not in its cities, but in its captivating natural landscape.  Perhaps that why Ghengis khan never invested much in building cities or monuments.  How could he compete with the natural beauty of his homeland?   What few ancient cities existed in Mongolia were used as trade depots and congregations for foreigners, while the majority of the Mongolian preferred the autonomy and open space of the ger camps.

One thing I sometimes struggled with in regards to the locals was the hands on approach to curiosity over my motorcycle.  Typical of this end of the world, the sense of personal space doesn’t exist, so they crowd in on me as soon as I pull into town.  It’s a bit claustrophobic as hands go everywhere on the motorcycle and I can barely move to put the kickstand out.  A favorite place for them to grab is the throttle. There’s not the  slightest bit of hesitation in walking up and rolling the throttle regardless if my hands is on it or not.  This seriously pisses me off! At one point I was about to set off– left hand was just sliding off the clutch and right hand was gently pulling on the throttle, when a kid grabbed the throttle over my hand and rocked it back, mean-while two other kids stepped in front of the bike.  It was a hairs breath from me running over the two kids as the other kid rocked the throttle.  Fortunately I subconsciously pulled in the clutch, and nothing dramatic occurred.  I wanted to belt the kid. But what can you do,..nothing, its their culture, their country and I’m just a guest passing through.  I will add that frustrations in dealing with throngs of aggressive kids was only ever in issue in the Gobi Altai region.  In most places the Mongolian children were well behaved and under close supervision, especially in the ger camps off the beaten track.

It was perhaps 200 kilometers of well graded road followed by about 300 kilometers of great desert track.

There’s no such thing as too much good luck, so in hopes of upping my game I paid my respects to a desert Ovoo.

Ovoos are very cool.  A sort of portal to the spirits in the form of a rock cairn adorned with blue silk and located in far away windy places….any where in the middle of nowhere is suitable for an Ovoo.  You’ve got to put forth an offering and than circle the ovoo three times.  One shot of vodka for me and 4 for the ovoo, then it was a DD test to ride the bike around the rock cairn three times.YouTube Preview Image

As far as the Ovoo thing went, I might have screwed something up.  Reminds me of that scene in the movie “Army of Darkness” when he screws up the ritual.  Anyways, not five kilometers down the road I can see a massive storm building in the distance.

The wall of dust and dark clouds stretched across the entire valley and was approaching at an alarming rate.  I pulled over, snapped some photos and tried to figure out what to do.  I could make a run off road for the hills and try to shelter it out in a draw.  I could sit it out alongside the road and if it was a proper sand storm I could drop the bike and lay behind it under a tarp.  Or I could ride on into it and have go!  I could always stop if things got nasty.  Like most things, it wasn’t as bad as it looked.  The dust storm was only a 300meter thick wall of sand kicked up before the storm.  Once I got into the storm proper, it was high winds and rain.  I just put her in second gear, trudged forward.  This is one of those times when a big heavy BMW earns its pay as it muscles through the mud and high winds with out a care in the world. You might even say the bike and I enjoyed it!  An hour later I emerged on the other side to a magnificent sunset.  Sailors, mountaineers and pilots are privileged to know that mystical and beautiful vista that materializes in the aftermath of a big storm.



broken exhaust pipe mount...the toll of off good gobi vibrations

Bailing wire fixes all!

Cold clean air, bright blue skies, and infinite views…inspiration is everywhere out here.

12 Responses to “Gobi-Altai”

  1. Dan Moranz Says:

    Chris,
    I see on your spot site that you are through
    poland and on the Check boarder. Where are you headed next?

  2. Locky Says:

    Chris, see you still havnt killed those panniers. Locky.

  3. Laurence Pelletier Says:

    Hey Chris,
    Hope everything was ok with your bike in Munich! I hope you the best for your last days of travel! It was a pleasure to meet you and have a beer in the biggest bar of Munich!

    Have a nice life :)

    Laurence xoxo

  4. dkchan Says:

    Hi Chris, thanks for the very interesting post about Mongolia. How long you will stay in Mongolia still? As the sandstorm month is just starting, you may be interested to get this really innovative dust mask (http://totobobo.com/blog/tag/mongolia/) for the rest of your journey.

  5. Sir Lord Digby the Great Says:

    Hey Chris, stoked to be still catching up with you on your travels . You are certinally in a different world now dude.
    Those Ovoo’s are awesome . how old do you reakon those things are. Did it look like they were visited very often.
    It did remind me of the sence from Army’s of darkness. thats bloody classic mate.
    Life putts on here as usual. its bloody warming up….hooray . summer is on the way. It looks freezing where you are. That sheep skin seat cover looks bad ass. I’m sure there was a seat cover like that in Mad Max . If not there should have been….ha ha ha . I dont think the lady or the sheep are gonna want that back, with your no jocks arse sweating away on it….. Have you seen some of the cliffs tim is flying off at the moment. He is certinally racking up the time ready for Rainier.
    If you stay anywhere long enough for me to send you a small package let me know and i’ll post it off.
    Dont forget i still got those shocks if you ever need ‘em , although i couldn’t be any further away at the moment …..handy.
    Take care buddy…………….DIGBY

  6. bernhard Says:

    Hi Chris-long time no seen.I see you are in Europe-heading my way-if you come close (i live 60 km from German/Danish border) – drop by -and we could talk about Australia-have a few beers-and i could show you my part of the world-and take you for a spin in on of my ultralights(weather permits)
    Bernhard-dairyfarmer.
    +45 75437146
    +45 23960761 mobile
    B Brunsgaard
    Sommervej 5
    6760 Ribe
    look it up on Google Maps

  7. Paul Says:

    Hello Chris !
    This is Paul from Poland, I meet you on gas station near Cracow – you told me that you are going to Praha. I hope that you are ok. Hope your BMW runs great – you told me that BMW is little tired. Men I sow your pictures from all the world, i can’t imagine that – it is great. It was South Carolina – yes I think, I sow this on your plates and told you about that.
    Chris if you will need anything just call or wite email
    +48509024597 Paul

    Greetings
    Paul

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