Fresh hair, washed clothes, new shoes (for me and Yogi) and we were ready to grab a quick visa and be on our way to the wilds of Mongolia. First though, we had to make it to the town of Ulan-Ude to get said visa.
The night before leaving Irkutsk I realised I didn’t know where Yogi was. A few google translate messages to the mechanic and I was able to track him down on Monday morning, ready to hit the road once more. It felt like forever since I had ridden after being a passenger over to the Island with the Russians and a couple of days off. It was great to be back on the road with my best buddy, I really had missed him.
Having played catch for over 1,000kms at the end of last week before Yogi decided he wanted more spa time, it was nice to be able to set out our pace for the day and enjoy the spectacular views around the lake.
With the water temperature of Lake Baikal being only 10c, the air coming off it was fresh. I stopped twice to layer up even though the sun was out and very little breeze. We cruised through the rolling hills and water vistas before turning south for the first time in almost 3 weeks, towards Mongolia!
Even though I had been off for two days, I was exhausted. The lack of quality food during the riding days coupled with big km’s have started to take its toll and I have really felt fatigued this week. The concentration alone requires so much energy, chips and chocolate bars really don’t cut it.
For the second time on this trip, I could actually feel myself nodding off as I rode along, not good. Unlike Europe, the availability of safe places to pull over in Russia are few and far between so I slowed down and as soon as I spotted a bus stop we pulled in. A quick 15-minute power nap and the last 70km’s or so were much nicer being fully alert.
As already mentioned the plan was to get new tyres and a visa in Ulan-Ude, neither of those things went exactly as planned. I had ordered my tyres through ‘Denis’ the mysterious Russian tyre man. He delivers tyres all over Russia and I knew they were here, just no clue where. With the delivery man not speaking a word of English and not answering my Russian written emails, I had to call in some help.
Alex and the guys were already on the road, so I went to my other surrogate gang, the Canadian Adventure Riderz. As you might remember, Andrei is a native Russian and came to the rescue, communicating with the delivery guy and getting us sorted. Thanks, Canadian Crew 😊
Of course, that wasn’t the end of the story. The tyres were promptly delivered to my hotel. Ok so now what? I pry the old ones off with a butter knife??! Luckily the tyre fitting shop was a 2-minute ride and they not only put them on but also fixed my dented rim.
That was Yogi sorted, I was not so lucky. Being a Tuesday, it turns out the embassy was closed for visas. There was nothing I could do but wait it out in Ulan-Ude another day. Which was not such a bad thing, it is a nice city with a huge creepy Lenin head statue in the town square, right across from the hotel.
Visa in passport, Yogi with new shoes to scuff in, and we were ready to hit the road. It was 34c and there was about 250km to cover before we got to the border. Unfortunately, I woke up feeling awful and Yogi has continued to be fussy about his food.
The 3 hour ride to the border took much longer with him slowing down, sometimes to 40km/hr as he struggled to find power.
It was hot, I was not looking forward to a long border crossing and Yogi was crawling along at a snail’s pace. Busting for the bathroom and nothing in sight, we pulled off the side of the road to take a break and to visit nature lol. A couple of slices of left-over pizza was the first ‘real’ lunch I have had on the road for weeks.
The little break recharged us both and onto the border we went, passing a long line of heavily armed tanks on the side of the road! It wasn’t the time or place to take a photo, so you will have to trust me that it was an impressive yet quite scary sight.
Beginning our wait to enter the gates of the Russian exit, I was very grateful to be waved to the front of the que by the waiting cars and trucks. That is where the niceties ended. After almost two hours we were let through and total chaos and confused ensued.
With the majority of people being from either Russia or Mongolia they appeared to know the drill which included a very lengthy immigration check, to leave. The pushing and shoving in line was out of control. Coupled with the heat and already not feeling well, I broke out in a sweat, feeling faint and light headed.
Not wanting to lose my spot, I tried to take deep breaths and put my head on the bench in the hope it would stop me from passing out. I had no doubt those behind would step over me to take my place!
After 4 hours we had the first part done. I had managed to stay on my feet and after a quick rest on Yogi as I waited for customs to check my bags, I was thankfully feeling better.
The Mongolian side was even more ridiculous with about ten stamps needed but with no logical order in which to get them. This meant going in and out of the same building almost a dozen times before finally being cleared to leave, 6 hours after we had started.
There is a rather run-down town immediately outside of the border and the only thing that made any reference to now being in Mongolia was the archway with the Mongolian flag. Stopping for a photo, it sunk it what we had done.
Over 8 years ago I watched The Long Way Round and the part where they adventured through Mongolia looked so amazing and removed from anything I could imagine, I proclaimed I would one day ride a motorcycle around the world. I got my licence weeks later.
Standing on Mongolian soil all these years later, it suddenly hit home. I had done it. It bought more than a few tears as I realised the enormity of what I have achieved. I think the fact that speak to my loved ones back home daily and we continue to find solutions as we go, the trip has just become ‘normal’.
There is nothing normal about it though and I knew I needed to take a minute and really enjoy the moment. I had no care in the world how long it took us to ride the 100kms to the next town for the night, I was going to take it all in.
The landscapes are nothing like I have seen before. Rolling hills, farmlands, green and gold steppes with wild horses grazing next to the road. It felt amazing to finally be surrounded by nature once again. I stopped more than a few times to take photos and hopefully capture the beauty of those first few hours here as the sun went down.
Our first night here however did not leave me with the best impression of the people. Checking in at the hotel I asked if I could put Yogi in the underground carpark, to which I was promptly told no. Not sure why not but I then asked if the gate is closed at night for security, yes, I was told with no real commitment.
Exhausted after the long day I went down to the restaurant for dinner after a cold shower (not by choice) and was treated as a total inconvenience by the wait staff. I was starting to get a vibe that perhaps foreigners are not so welcome.
I was eager to get going in the morning and ride the final few hours into the capital of Ulaanbaatar. Leaving my room, I was greeted by the receptionist and hotel manager who told me that my bike had crashed in the night because of the rain. Sorry?!! I very rudely told her that was not true, bikes don’t just fall over from rain and to tell me what had happened.
Not bothering to wait to hear anymore of their strange explanations I raced outside, now thinking I had to pick up Yogi after someone had obviously hit him and pushed him over. As I got outside to the carpark and looked to where I had left him, the space was now filled with a car. With panic setting in I began to run through the carpark with tears starting to fall, where was my Yogi.
A million things went through my head, my heart was pounding and I felt genuinely scared. How could this happen. I had crossed the width of Russia without ever feeling a moment of worry about Yogi’s or my own safety, and now this.
Just as I was about to have a total meltdown one of the staff came to me and showed me down to the garage. There he was. Thank goodness. Even remembering that moment now as I write is making me emotional. From the absolute high the previous day to thinking I had lost him, when we still have so far to go was devastating.
Without the presence of the manager and his side-kick, the young man used sign language to tell me the truth. Someone had tried to take him. Obviously they had been disturbed, thankfully he was than safely put away. Like I had asked the evening before.
Furious, I quickly packed and left. I wanted to get as far away from that place and closer to the safety of the capital and meeting up with the crew who I will thankfully be crossing this country with.
Although it was a very cold and wet ride, it was still beautiful, and I was able to remind myself that I have been incredibly lucky up to this point with the amazing people I have met. I shall reserve judgement until I come out the other side as it has been a rough couple of days and I am hoping my initial thoughts on the people of Mongolia are changed.
Regardless if they do or not, I know I have awesome people coming to share this part of my adventure with and the scenery and animals are more than I was hoping for already.
We now finally get a real break with the tour starting next Thursday. I have spare parts for Yogi coming from Australia, so I am hoping a new fuel filter will make him feel a little better along with a few more naps, secured in the garage.
It has been a massive week yet again and a real milestone one at that. Thank you for your beautiful messages of support, it really does mean a lot to me and I love sharing my adventure with you all.
Love Kylie and Yogi x