DANIELLE MURDOCH TRIP. 14 january - 7 october 2008. 26900km!!! RUS - ENG
THAILAND - LAOS - CAMBODIA - VIETNAM - CAMBODIA - KOREA - RUSSIA - MONGOLIA - RUSSIA
Before i reach the boarder i get my passport checked by Russian army, i arrive at the boarder and instantly pushed ahead in the que. I was into the boarder compound. I get my papers checked and i was through the Russian side within minutes... i drove through to the Mongolian side, i drove through a deep wheel wash. - i get to the gate and the lady looks and me and indicates that i have gone the wrong way. You only need to drive through the wash when you enter Russia not leaving, so i turn around to go back through, that's when i realise, i went through the truck wash! so i head back up to the car one, which turned out to be half as deep and with my passport in my mouth, i had to drive really carefully...
On the Mongolian side, i was push through the
que and had my bike
registered into their log books. In total i spent 2 hours in no mans land
My first problem was obtaining some cash, and then getting a new chain and sprockets for my bike, the old one had been stretching like crazy since i added the extra weight of camping equipment, food and water... the chain was so loose, it made accelerating difficult and i was worried it would jump off going around corners - if it got much more looser, i was planning on finding a person with a grinder and cutting it shorter, then with the link, join it back up. This is going to be a must if, i can not find these pieces in UlaanBaator. But from the sounds of it, there may be some larger dirt bikes around, so for the entire journey to UlaanBattor, i had my fingers crossed.
On the drive down, I looked around me, all i could see was rolling hills and the occasional Ger's... this was fantastic, there was just nothing... no trees, no fences... just you, the road and the possibility of other people. The Ger's stand out like pimples on your face in the morning.
I arrive into UlannBattor, I head back out
into the traffic after finding a
guesthouse, which ended up being a nice surprise. I am sleeping in a Ger
on the roof of the guesthouse, with a great view over the city. I headed
down to a guesthouse, that i would have liked to stay in, as i knew that's
where all the motorbike travelers usually go too, but for me it was just
expensive. I asked the owner, if he knew where i could buy a chain and a
rear sprocket and possibly a new rear tire. The one i brought in Cambodia,
turned out to be too soft for the Russian roads and was fast becoming a
slick. He come out with a chain he brought in Germany and calls his usual
mechanic,yes they have a rear sprocket and some tires. As i head down
there, I felt a bump from behind, i was thrown forward... I kept the bike in
As you do when you get to a new city or town, you go out for a walk, I was on my way back to the guest house to cook dinner when I was bumped from the side, my hand instantly went to my pocket that contained my wallet. As my hand was heading down there, i brushed it with another hand who was trying to steel my wallet... fuckers i yell...ass he swears in Mongolian and walks away, I look up to realise, that there was three of them, setting up the little stunt.
I was fast beginning to hate UlaanBaator.
I got to the motorbike shop with no hassles
with the traffic, I let then
remove my old worn chain and sprocket and put the new one on, I was
watching like a hawk at their every move, and showing them, an easier way if i knew
one.... there was an old man there, who started to take a shining on me,
he grabbed me to shake my hand, he started pulling me down to what i thought
a kiss, so i pulled away, slightly shaking him off. Later on he got out
his tazer and was showing to the boss of the company, he then grabbed me
I met some really nice people at my guest house and decided to stay another night, the next day, i needed to go to the bank, so i decided that i should take a bag, so i can walk around with my passport, credit card and money safely. As i walked down town with a girl from the guesthouse, I heard my bag been unzipped... i instantly turned around to find my self face to face with a guy and yelled at him... he just side stepped my and walked off.. The Mongolians just seam to keep on rubbing salt into my wounds.
I was please to pack my bag and head out of town, I had decide on a route, but when i came over the hill to find 15 paths all going in different directions, i figured i would be easier for me if i took the main road and discover the way to navigation Mongolian slowing, not throwing my self into it... it was a hard decision to make, because i though i was letting my self down. I turned around and back tracked but the main road and turned off to sleep next to a river, it was my first night camping in Mongolia and after my experiences in UlaanBaator, i was scared for my motorbike, I think i found the only tree in the hole of Mongolia to look my bike up too.
The following day, the road finally drops
away and i hit the true Mongolia road... nothing but dirt and 10 different paths to choose from. I quickly
discover that the generally all go in the same direction... except for the odd
ones...I traveled along the country heading for a lake that everyone said
was amazing. I was riding along when i some children stopped me to try and
sell fermented mare's milk, I said no and tried to carry on, they were
asking for lollies or money, I said no..The oldest one stepped in front of
my motorbike and wouldn't let me go, the younger ones where around the
back of my bike looking at my map, which is loosely tied on, i was now
getting worried for my stuff, the oldest one, started to pull my water
bottle off the my front rack, i had just brought that so i could cook
dinner, there are
no more shops until tomorrow some time, So i reaved my engine and started
to move towards her, she finally jumped out the way and i pretended to kick
The following day, it is still raining, i put my wet weather gear on over the top of my usual clothes. I stop in a small village to warm up, i was pretty cold. I had lost my gloves a few days ago, so i was riding with no gloves... after a coffee, i headed out to my bike, a old guy in the local bus called me over, I said hello, and shake his hand, he pulls me closer (like the old man in UlaanBaator) I pull away confused. I packed up and left.
I arrive at Moron, drenched, just out side the town, i get flagged down by an Mongolia who needed petrol, I get out my hose, and give him a litre of my petrol. I figure i need some karma points because of all the strange things happening to me....
I head out to the Hatgal lake, I arrive
drenched again, settle down in a
nice guest house. I met some people who have just go back from a 10 day
horse ride which they recommend. I was thinking i didn't really need to do
this as i have my own mechanical horse... I was feeling a bit lost,
thinking why was i here.. its just a lake. Nothing that special... I stay another
day for a rest, I ended up meeting some locals living at my guesthouse they
invite me down to check out some old boats, i join them, On the way down
there, it become clear why they wanted me to come, one of the guys who i
given a ride into town, has an interest in me.. so the other guys were
That night i met an older guy from Budapest, he was a funny guy telling a couple of us stories about trying to get an new Zealand architect over to Hungry to design a public building for the city, but this guy was not interested in the job as the hooker that they were hanging around with that evening, did not know anything about architecture! Just before i left the next day, this guy started taking photos of me, I was slightly embarrassed at the attention. He then hands me a Budapest badge and gives the other guy his business card. That's when i find out hes the Mayor of Budapest! this guy just spent two weeks riding around Mongolia on a horse!
I got back to Moron and filled up with gas,
found my way out of the city, I
wasn't sure if it was correct, but i asked someone and they said yes, that
way. I soon in countered a river... not just a small one either... a
big one... the widest, that i would have had to cross to date. I look
and see that its pretty shallow for several meters, then on the far side,
looks really deep and fast. I have to walk it first, I take my boots off
walk across, after 10mins I hand only reach half way across, I was
on the sharp rocks and small boulders, I mapped out a path before hand but
kept on changing it due to big rocks. I finally reach the part i was
about, I was way too deep and way to fast the gravel under foot would just
make me slip and fall. I decide to head back to my bike and head up stream
to find another way. I tried again, I decide, that this place was faster
stopped in at a Ger and asked them, they explained to me that i need to go
further up the river as they hand me fermented meres milk to drink, which
was really nice... i was surprised, normally its taste really bad. I
their directions, I find the river even deeper and even faster... shit I'm
going to have to go all the way back to Moron and go the correct way.... I
had realise that is was not the right way to leave the town...I rode up to
I drive up to the village, i was so tired from the river crossing, i dropped my bike, struggled to pick it up with the locals all standing around staring. I brought some water an left.
I left heading for the far west of Mongolia. I was heading into the desert... the rolling green grass gave away to sandy dunes... scrubby bush lined the tracks. i camped in the middle of nothing... but there were always Mongolia cowboys around, i would wake in the morning to find a heard of horses, goats or sheep going past me followed by a Mongolia mounted on a horse.
I was riding along, when i noticed that the kilometer sign had changed. I wondered how long it had been like that, I look behind and couldn't see another path. I stop near some Mongolia cowboys and ask, they shake their heads at me and tell me the town I'm looking for is over that hill. I found out i was 100kms south of where i was planning on going, I had been heading in the wrong direction since waking up this morning! The shortest distance is that way pointing to a hill in the far distance. I point at the bike and he draws me a map in the dust. So I'm to head south for a bit then back up north. I ask about petrol, they tell me it is at the next town. So i was set, to do some back country riding to get back onto the main road again. Every day i was getting lost, I couldn't understand why, but its just what its like out here, you have to ask for directions at every town.
I was waved down by two Mongolians, who needed help to fix a flat tire, I got my kit out and helped then to prepare the hole and put the glue on. While the glue was drying, they looked at my bike, impressed, they then looked at my helmet in wonder, i then bend over and tap my knees... they stare at me in confusion. I lift my pants up to show them my knee protectors laughing at their faces - i am sure they were starting to think i was a robot! I showed them my jacket with all its padding and explained it is really good when you fall off you do not get hurt. But they were shaking their heads at me as i placed the patch on and then pumped their tire up.
It was now getting dark so i drove into the sand dunes and camped under one away from the road, you could see for miles.... i was surrounded by camels, I pitch my tent and cooked some food. As i was playing a card game, a man and a small boy on a horses turned up, I offered some water and some food. They took my offer and sat down, he explained in very simple English, my horses, my camels, my dorm (he points in the direction) he indicated to me i should sleep over there with them, I tried to explain, i had to pack everything up. he leaves his boy with me as he helps round up the camels, the boy gets the courage to speak to me, and tells the this huge story, which i could not understand. The man comes back and sends his boy off to do something, I could hear him running around the sand dunes talking to the horses, the man comes back with a camel, gets it to sit down, places the saddle on the camel, (which he had left at my camp earlier) and says good bye and rides off in to the night. I was left there... wondering about the shear contrast of people in this country.. .I was so lucky to experience that moment with this guy. I lay down that night to sleep, buzzing with my now need love of this country. maybe my kamer points are working.
I rose early and packed my stuff up, the wind was blowing so i grabbed my helmet to hold down one end of the tent as i rolled it up. picking the Beatles (who has decided that under my tent was a good home) off as i went. I stuff the tent into its bag and go back to pick up my helmet. That when i discover all the Beatles that enjoyed the underside of my tent were now enjoying the inside of my helmet. I begin picking them out one by one... hoping i have got them all out. As i rode my bike back onto the road, i felt something crawling around my head. I stopped as quickly as i could the the loose sand and tore my gloves off, removed my helmet, to discover it was all in my head.. i can not find any more Beatles. 5 kms down the road, i can feel it again, i try to ignore the sensation, but i had to stop and repeat the panic, just in case i was wrong and there was a beatle in my hair.
I arrived into the next big town around lunch, I needed a shower.... wash my clothes, check my emails... I found some food, the Internet, and decided ill camp by a lake 100km out of town, that when i saw four big 4 wheel drives from Australia. I pulled over to have a chat with them, that when my English camper van arrived... they said that they followed my tire prints into the desert, but it got too dark so they pulled over to sleep. We ended up getting some food and beers and headed up to the lake together, This time, i traveled my closely with them, either behind or in front, i was not too far way. We came out from the surrounding hills to discover a beautiful lake, We stopped and ran to jump in, this was tho second time, i stripped down to my undies in front of strangers. We all enjoyed been surrounded in water for the first time in a long time, that when we decide to stay for another day....
We wash our clothes and I sit down to repair my bags, clean my air filter, that was full of dust, I strap another dish cloth on the outside to try and keep the main filter in better condition. In the afternoon, i sit down to read a book. I was on of the best days Ive had resting in a long time.
The following day we head south, via a detour to avoid a huge swamp that i had been told about... water and mud deeper than your bike... so we thought it was best to bi-past that and head to Oligy. With in a hour of traveling along this path, we stared up the hill. I knew i will be fine and get up there ok, but the van.... himmmm... I took off up the hill and then sat down to watch them struggle. They had to stop a few times to let the engine cool down. After about an hour they arrived at the top. Victory for the van... the two wheel drive legend. Phill explained that probably was the hardest track hes had to do with the van. I take off ahead of them, but i was soon stopped as i felt my tent and my spare parts fall off my bike, I stop and gather up my stuff and strap it on again. We dropped down into the valley, I was on a natural high, this is the one of the best tracks for a motorbike, the van followed more slowly, finding it really hard going, and were worried they wouldn't make it. We leave the next village with out asking for directions and find our self in an old river bed, there was evidence of a road there, and soon we were past by that huge truck full packed high with a family's Ger.
We were deciding on which fork to take, when i saw the truck further down the hill, we decided to follow, after an hour of rock road, not much fun and the road ended in a semi swap, we turned around defeated. The other fork was correct. So we back tracked, and ws finally on the correct road, at the top of the hill we could see the track did indeed stop there, in the swamp, as we made two minute noddles for lunch i heard a motorbike, i stood up and saw an African twin roaring around the corner. He stops, it turns out to be a french guy called Guillaume. He is traveling with two other french people in a two wheel drive van. But he has since lost them so hes leaving messages in the dirt... i said i haven't seen any messages... how are they going to see them! A motorbike passes us and indicates that they have just past a van that looks like the camper I'm with... hooray... within a few minutes they turn up in an old french police van. We carry on, and said see you in Ogily.
We finally arrive in Ogily, and find a cheap Ger to sleep in, with hot showers! You start to appreciate the simple things in life, hot showers, clean clothes and a bed. We head out for dinner, a treat, its a Turkish place. It seams like the whole Lonely planet travelers have turned up...That's when the french guys turn up. Guillaume tells me if i want to join us, then you can, i ws looking forward to a days rest, but this town is already giving me a strange feeling. I said yes, and arrange a time to met. Phil and Dot say, they just want to you navigate for them! I said that would be fine but i get lost a lot too!
The following morning i meet two other motor bikers on wee Honda 125cc old school things. They have ridden them from England and they are in the mongol rally. The bikes were heavily loaded with water and fuel, but from what they said they took there time. One of the guys asked me how many punctures i had... i replied - why did you ask me that! good reply he tells me....
We fueled up and left, by this stage the mother ship had left before us so we had some catching up to do. We left all together, but Guillaume and I left the two smaller bikes behind. We were trying to find better tracks of the main road, but i kept on hitting tussocks. One caused my stuff to come lose and fly off... Guillaume was riding quite fast and I was beginning to think, this was a big mistake - maybe hes too good for me to travel with him.
An hour into the day, and i think i have a flat tire, sure enough its my front. I stop and put some air into it and carry on riding... this did not last, I pulled over and Guillaume helped my push the bike over the edge of the bank as a temporary stand. I remove the tire and begin the process, I felt bad. I was now holding everyone up. Guillaume gets out a rag and lays in down for me to put the wheel on and while i was putting the patch on, Guillaume tells me he has cleaned all the grease and dirt off the wheel and front forks, they are ready to re-grease. I then had to ask him, what he does for a living. He tells me he is a GP. I was blown away, but now i understand the reasoning behind his cleanliness... i felt like a grub next to him.
While we were waiting for the glue to dry, guess who comes up behind us... Bob and Pete.... I tell Pete, it was his fault... he asked me that dam question...
We were off again, and our next obstacle was a small river (i mean small) I take one look at it and cross it without getting wet. I turn to watch Guillaume he splashes through getting half soaked.. I had to laugh - why didn't you follow me! I thought it was shallow... we road on to our next river crossing, this one was a lot bigger, I scan the river and find where the local people cross, I explain this to Guillaume there is option one, there is option two.... I said I'm going for number one. He said I'm going for number two....that's when the Bob and Pete arrived. They agreed with my option and jump on there bikes they were across before us, i followed and Guillaume decided against his choose and followed me.
I could see the mother ship just going around the corner, it was 5pm and we had finally caught them up! We stop to eat lunch with them and get to know each other. we could see the rain coming so we raced down the hill to keep out of the rain, the clouds still followed us, that night we camp on the side of the road (or the middle depending on what you called the road) I parked my bike to one side of the tent in case a car came they would hit that and not me...this warning system only would work from one direction! We sit in the van and watch the rain, Guillaume had a flat tire, and took about 3 hours to fix it, what was nice was the guys were asking me for my opinion, It was a big hole! I took that as acceptance into their group.
Other the next few days, I really enjoyed traveling with Guillaume it was the first time, i could compare my riding to anyone. I really enjoyed discussing with him, the way we handle the different challenges during the day. I had to laugh at my self when i was going too fast for a corner that came out of know where and i had to make a quick decision on what to do... which was normally just go straight, I then look behind me at Guillaume to find he had to do the same as me! We were racing it through the sand, rocks and between boulders. Sometime we would travel on different tracks that came together now and then. other times we would follow each other. There was one day, i came to rest on top of a mound, i could see the mother ship behind us... then they past us while we were sitting there resting. We decided to carry on along this track, until we could not see the mother ship no more. I said i think we should join back up with the main track this one has a mind of its own and is heading for nothing. So we cross the country, following an old river bed, we join back up with the main road which ended up being several kms away! and carry on.
Its now been several days with out a wash, we are feeling dirty.. its so dry in the desert, by lips are cracking and my figures have turned black and are cracking... the blackness is from petrol, oil and grease, wedge into the grains in my hand. I look like a mess....I clean my hands very night but it does not work.... nothing works.
We thought we would get a hotel,at the next town, Guillaume and I arrive thinking we were behind the mother ship due to another puncture. We arrive into the little town, to discover the mother ship was not waiting for us, as expected. So we trawled the town, but there was no signs of them. We pull into a mechanic workshop where we could see two Mongol ralliers getting their car fixed. We asked them if they have seen our mother ship? No they reply. himmm this was very strange, but we quickly forgot about them, as these guys had an interesting story to tell about there days in Mongolia. As we were talking, more Mongol Ralliers arrived, this was quickly becoming a party, that's when the mother ship made an appearance. We grab some food and beers and head out of town in a convoy to a camp site.
That night we heard a lot of tales about these cheap two wheel drive cars, doing 100km/h over the harsh terrain. We just shook our heads at them and said that's why you have had to replace your suspension, rims and radiator and not to mention the ruptured fuel tanks. They were great stories though and it was fun to hang out with some other people, it made me feel normal for a change!
We decide to all met up the following night at a river. Someone said there is an intersection coming up take the right road. The ralliers leave in a cloud of dust. The mother ship leaves, then Guillaume and I follow. When we were about to come up to the intersection, I saw hanging above the road my first ever road sign! I looked at it stunned! i turned to check it out on the map... that's when i found my self sliding along the road. Shit. that was not meant to happen, as the dust settles around me. I jump up quickly and pull my bike up to a standing position. I was worried about losing too much fuel with it being on its side. Guillaume came to a stop and said shit what happen? I replied - it was my first sign in Mongolia i just had to check out where we were! He laughed at me and said from his view all he could see was a huge bull of dust and then, two bodies, you and the bike! My jeans had ripped but my knee protectors had done there job, my arm was aching, but i thought i would look at that later. I jump back on the bike and rode it out of the ditch i have veered into while i was looking at my map.
We caught up to the mother ship and over took them, then i found my self passing the mongol ralliers... I was having fun, riding mostly cross country, hitting the dust holes just perfectly, that my front wheel skimmed over it while my back wheel, bucked side to side. I was really enjoying my self. We stop in a small village for lunch, I brought my map inside the restaurant and the locals start peering at it. The little girl show us where we are on the map.. i panic. That not where we are meant to be! I ask, where is this mountain?? she points out the window. I wipe the sweat of my face, if it had been on the other side we would have been in trouble. After Lunch we we chased away by a angry drunken Mongolian that wanted something from us.
Night was coming in fast, i stop to look at the map. We had not past a town, that i really needed to get fuel at. The was a strange lake to our right and i then look back at the village we had lunch at. Oh no, there were two mountains called the same thing! We had dropped down onto another road 60kms south of where we were meant to be. We flag down a tourist van, and asked if there was a river up a head of us. The said yes there is, and there is actually a group of ralliers camping there! we thank them, with our hope rising... tonight we get to have a wash!
We arrive at the river and the mother ship quickly gets stuck in the sand. With Simon swearing and throwing down the sand mats, i dig out the sand from under his tires with my boots. We help push the van and makes it out, and carries on to the river bank. We pick up the mats and run them over to him. Guillaume and I cross the river with easy and follow the mother ship out to the camp site. This was a bad idea. It was now dark, my head light is obscured by my water bottles and petrol can. I can not see anything, I have to follow closely to Guillaume using his lights. The sand from the van up ahead was getting flicked into our eyes and we were fighting the bike hard with the sand. We came to rest next to the van. I was looking forward to the ride back out!
We had all gotten lost. we decided it was that first intersection where i had come off my bike. In the morning i buy some petrol off the ralliers and fill up my bike. We all help push the van through the sand onto the road, then one ofter another we help each rally car. Guillaume and I easily made it out. Now problems there, we were wondering why it was so hard the night before. We carry on to a town, only to find that due to an earthquake, there was no electricity in the town, therefore the petrol pumps were not working. It looked like people had been queing for hours. We met more ralliers, who had the time to remove their front suspension and replace it with one they had brought at the mechanics, just in time for the generator to start up and the petrol start flowing. We met up with the ralliers once again for camp. The next day, we are all splitting up as they want to get to Ulaan Baator the following day, we would be there the day after.
So we say goodbye until we met again in UlaanBaator and we drive on. For our last night we camp on top of a hill over looking the valley we had just come up. We could see the trail of lights as the sun set behind the hill, it was just beautiful. I slept well in my tent, which now was my home.
This was the last day, today we will arrive in Ulaan Baator. I was not really looking forward to it, but it may of changed. Ill keep an open mind!. I saw two BMW at a store and pulled in to say hello. They turned out to be an German and a polish couple. While Guillaume was adjusting his chain, which was nearly running out, I sat down to talk to her. She explained to me, that the first month of traveling by motorbike, was fun and exciting, but after that, it all became boring and normal, no physical work. I would have fallen off my seat if i wasn't sitting on the ground - what is she talking about! i think she saw my frown and tried to explain by saying that they were extreme outdoor people, and this was too easy for them, all they feel like doing was to go for a run. Later when we stopped for lunch, i explained to Guillaume what she had said, he was appalled as i was. Riding a motorbike, was hard work, you were always tired, hungry and by no means was it boring!... we decided that maybe they were grandmas in couches on bikes. That's when they confirmed it. We saw them pass us on one of the many roads, sitting on there couch traveling at 40km/hr going dead straight. Where as Guillaume and I were having fun on our last day of off road experience in Mongolia... we were weaving in and out of the different paths, crossing over each others route and even finding a couple of jumps. We were having fun.
We arrive in Ulaan Baator, we battle our way through the manic traffic, with the help of the mother ship police horn, which scared everyone and made them move! In Ulaan Baator we planned to do the required maintenance on our vehicle, I desperately needed some new tires, and there were a few other things to fix and clean. I was looking through the left luggage at the guesthouse when i saw, there were some good quality semi-road tires and the right size for me, I offered him $40 for both and the owner agreed. The guesthouse was transformed into a mechanic shop, in total there were two camper vans completing work on there cars and two motorbikes. We were all helping each other and having a good time.
Every night we would head down to a bar called Dave's Place, it was the finish line for the ralliers, and we were hoping to met up with the friends we had made on the trip. I found the Irish people who had cooked my lunch when i was lost, all the guys who we had camped with were there and a few days later the Pete and Bob turned up on their little motorbikes. It was wonderful to see them all again.
THAILAND - LAOS - CAMBODIA - VIETNAM - CAMBODIA - KOREA - RUSSIA - MONGOLIA - RUSSIA
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