Byarlah!! (Hello in Mongolian!)
We are back – got back jet lagged like hell on Sunday.
Trip was amazing, incredible, fantastic… tough to find the words to describe it.
The country is vast, landscapes overpowering in their scope and so completely under populated. With a few concessions to the 21st century (the occasional battery powered satellite dish) people live the way they have for thousands of years. Nomad herders eking out a living on a harsh rock infested landscape. The diet consists of meat and dairy. The meat, mostly mutton and the dairy yak, and goat. The towns that we visited in Western Mongolia were extremely poor and we could have been there 100 years ago with the exception of a few more modern vehicles. Two of the bigger towns that we stayed in ($3.50 and $7.50 a night in the hotels) had no power or water because of flaky power from Russia! Can you imagine checking in and being told that they “hoped” that they would have power by 9PM??
There are a total of 5 airplanes in Mongolia and three airlines. Often seats are filled by young children travelling alone. They’re sent by their families to learn nomadic ways for several years before returning home.
The riding was BIG, mostly double track, wide open spaces, vicious head winds (at one point we were convinced that Mongolia meant “always into a headwind”), incredible vistas, screaming descents. A number of areas we rode in we made first tracks on a bike – very cool. We also hiked to the base camp of Mt. Huyten, the highest peak in Mongolia, and rode horseback for one day.
We had 8 days on the bike and we did an average of probably 80 km a day. We camped most nights and having the opportunity to live with the land was perfect and really enhanced the experience. The people of Mongolia really were the cherry on an already large and varied cake. The Mongols, Kazaks and Tueva people that we met were shy, beautiful and openly and unconsciously gave of whatever meagre things that they had. It was almost embarrassing coming from such an over-consumptive, possessive society.
No one owns the land. They move their entire belongings 3 or 4 times a year and live almost entirely off the land. A hard, simple life. We showed up at 10pm one night, running very late, and our guide Timur banged on the door of a building in a small compound. With no hesitation this family moved out to another Gur for the evening and welcomed our weird group of 8 Caucasians and 6 Mongols inside. They in essence moved the entire family out for the evening and allowed us to cook in their kitchen and sleep in their home – complete strangers – with no hesitation! This was repeated on numerous occasions.
The lads pack up their camp and get ready to saddle up for the day. Their guides and their cook rode in the two Russian 4 x 4 vehicles. The guides had planned to ride along but after the first long day they decided to opt out.
The children are riding horseback as soon as they can walk, they are looking after the family herd at 4 or 5 and were the most beautiful, nicest most well behaved group of kids I have ever met.
I could got on and on. Great trip, amazing experiences that will be with me forever!
These camels arrived late in the day after the guys swore no one was showing up. No cell phones or anything else. They arrived after word was sent 2 week prior to the guys arriving…via the village to village message system. Unbelievably they showed up and all the gear was loaded on these camels while the boys hiked up to Mt Huyten – Mongolia’s highest peak.
You think you’ve got it rough cause your Saint rear derailleur didn’t come in on time. The kids lives off the land, herds horses and could probably kick you ass at anything to do with living….and he is 3 years old.
Richard sent me this in an email shortly after his return from Mongolia. He was stoked beyond words and it was pretty clear the trip had been life altering. The original plan was to post the story and photos the week before Richard’s planned slide show on October 25th – but that of course went out the window when Richard along with Denis Fontaine died in a sea kayaking incident.
There is no denying the lasting sadness Richard’s death leaves behind. Looking at his face though it’s pretty clear that we needn’t be sad for Richard. His was the epitome of a life well lived. The evening at Centennial Theatre, hosted by Dave Norona, was clearly a celebration.
Just what Richard deserved
If there’s anything you’d like to tell us about Richard, riding in Mongolia or anything else please share with us here.