The pilgrims awoke with sand in all directions. They had had to make an impromptu camp in the desert, instead of their planned stop at the river 30 kms ahead. In a particularly deep and soft section, Mr filipz had hesistated and carried to little entry speed. He had lost control in the deep tire tracks, and gone down breaking his clutch lever. The handlebar protector must not have been screwed on tight enough, because it had simply folded away in the low speed crash.
They had tried to attach the clutch cable to the currently unused decompression lever, but with no success. The metal matrix epoxy used to weld the lever pieces required 24h, or at the very least a night.
During the evening cooking, a surprise sand/rain-storm hit them from nowhere, blowing out the cheap chinese gas stove, breaking the freshly epoxied lever, tearing of the tents storm lines, and filling the tent with with sand.
From the map, the following day promised 100% dirt riding the 200 kms towards lake Khar Nuur, and looked to be quite good. The pilgrims had travelled a couple of days almost completely offroad now (since entering Mongolia) but they still had no idea just how epic the ride would turn out.
Over the last days the pilgrims had accumulated hours of deep sand riding, of wildly tracking front wheels, and continuous high speed sand wobbling. In the beginning they had felt very uncomfortable with this, riding on the limit of their nerves. Toast was now finding pleasure in the really technical sections, controlling the constant drifting and living with the wobbles from the heavily loaded bike.
The mornings sand track turned out to be really flowing, and the pilgrims had no problems doing 60kph in sections they had previously struggled just to clear. At this speed, they floated over it all with sufficient traction to plough through ruts while remaining in control. They were now following the exact tracks that the Mongolian Cosmonauts had taken, and Toast was delighted by recognizing places from pictures in their ride report.
After 30 kms and just before arriving at the village of Urgamal, a sweet sand bottomed river crossing opportunity presented itself. Filipz walked it through halfway, before they set off through the easy and refreshening crossing.
They later found a moped mechanics store and went on a shopping rampage for cheap chinese parts. A new clutch lever, mirror, decompression cable, allen keys, metal saw, and tape were all bough for 5 euros. They were only lacking distilled water for Toasts radiator, so he filled her up, crying a little, with normal bottled water. He promised Gina a proper coolant bleed as soon as they would make it into Ulaistaj though.
The shop owners happy daughter Ona, from Ulanbator, was very helpful in the process. She spoke excellent English and they discussed life in these emptying rural areas, and shared beautiful Mongolian places they had each visited.
A french couple then arrived in a rebuilt adventure Toyota Land Cruiser with two other french hikers Luca and Renault, they had picked up a couple of days ago. They had been “on” the road for one and a half year already adventuring all across Asia.
It was most impressive how much they had accomplished on the car in 4 months of weekend work and later two months fulltime. They had rebuilt the whole interior with a raised bed over a large storage and refridgerated area. They had beefed up the suspension, installed photovoltaics, spare tanks and fuel pump for 2000km+ autonomy, converted the AC pump into a tire inflator. This is roughly the same time Toast had spent prepping and going over Gina.
After another meal consisting of white bread of the semi-dry variety (not as dry as the thinner iranian cousin) for Toast, and some steamed dumpligs for Filipz, they headed off east.
The now predictable medium soft track featured endless turns, and Toast found it impossible to resist bombing down the track in (what he thought must have looked like) full rallystyle.
Jumping off small irregulaities, and drifting and sliding allover the place. The throttle was opened to what felt as the limit of traction out from every corner. The riding was simply excellent. It was almost shameful to miss out on the track’s setting, with a hundred meter high running Gobi (means sand dune desert in mongolian) running a couple of kilometers away parallel to the tundra track. Occasional and lonely mountain sized rocks popped out from the ground here and there.
Latet, the road spit the pilgrims out on many parallel running straighter dirt tracks running through the mountain sided steppe plateaus. Occasionally smaller mountain passes were cleared with rockier sections. Mostly though, the track could be spotted a hundred meters ahead, and the pilgrims were doing a steady cruising speed of 80-100 kph.
Finally, they reached the mongolian Cosmonauts gpx indicated side track. It was a shortcut over a 2700 high mountain passing through the “gates of hell” (more about these later).
They left the place astounded by the cosmonauts riding skills to have cleared that path. They were not terribly saddened by the defeat though. The new route was very technical as well, and could best be likened to randonnée tracks found in some steeper alpage sections.
This was terrain they could only dream about riding in Europe, where offroading is not so appreciated. The 30 km long path took them through ox herds, past gers, and sheep trimming stations where huge amounts of freshly harvested sheep wool had been packed.
Attacking the single trails in standing position, as on a downhill bike, Gina effectly hide her weight well. The riding was pure magic, and completely exhausted, the pilgrims finally descended and made camp next to the 2000 m high and vast Khaar Nuur.