Mongolia Motorbike Marathon - Northern Tour
"Viagiar desc? Nta, but if you leave mona you come back mona"
27/07/2019 - Saturday
The alarm rings in time but the fatigue accumulated until yesterday makes me move slowly, I leave the house late and I have to run to the metro stop to be able to get to Porta Susa and get on the bus to Malpensa, just before it close the doors.
In the queue at the check-in I meet Piergiovanni and Riccardo, father and son, with a passion for photography and motorcycles and shortly after we also meet Lorenzo and Edoardo, two other tour participants.
Is the departure for Moscow more late? of an hour and we almost lose the connection to Mongolia; while waiting to board the plane for Ulaan Bataar, Sonia, Agnese and Zena also join the group.
28/07/2019 - Sunday
In the end, we managed to catch the right flight but our bags didn't, yeah? It was therefore useful, on the day of arrival, to have spare clothes in hand luggage.
Once at the airport, we find Simone, our Italian guide, waiting for us, together with Paolo and Elio who arrived on another flight.
We spend the day walking around the Mongolian capital, Ulaan Baatar (Red Hero), trying to recover from jet lag; in the evening do Maurizio and Daniela join us, the group? fully booked (net of luggage) and ready for this new adventure.
Are the room combinations made and I will have to? share the room with Lorenzo who will reveal himself? to be the entertainer of the group and that during the trip I will teach me? a new application of kotegaeshi (ancient Japanese joint lever technique) to tie a knot on the rope for hanging clothes and how to divide a cake into eight slices with only three cuts.
29/07/2019 - Monday?
The climate does not allow respite and it continues to rain continuously; in the early morning the bags arrive but we leave two hours late, and recover in the rain? tough.
The caravan? consisting of a Mitsubishi driven by Simone leading the way, the seven motorcycles driven by Edoardo, Lorenzo, Maurizio, Paolo, Riccardo, Piergiovanni and myself, a Toyota driven by Enkh and a UAZ driven by mechanics (the others equally divided between the Mitsubishi and Toyota).
We have a first taste of the Mongolian slopes, sandy or dirt roads lead us to lunch in a ger camp.
We begin to become familiar with the bikes that, starting with zero kilometers in the piston, find themselves with 298 km at the arrival at the Khogno Khan ger camp; they are light and easy to handle, go to 70 km / h? already? a great result, but in any case it seems to run at 140! We lose a few bolts (and a fender) on the road but the evening view of the gers at the foot of a small promontory? something exciting.
Stand on the bike? tiring why? the controls are low, brake? a relative concept, but they tell us that the confidence will increase? in the next days.
30/07/2019 - Tuesday?
"In the saddle" suggests Simone.
Quiet departure and after a few kilometers we skirt the sand dunes on the right, turn and stop at their feet to admire the desert (Mongol Els).
I don't have any for stopping to contemplate the desert? the time why? Simone invites us to try driving on the sand. "Great!", I think. Ready go! And I get bogged down by the first sandy bump from which Enkh (bataar), the local guide, helps me out.
With the motorbikes, of the flaming Yingang 150, we try a bit of curves and crossing the dunes and? now it's time to leave.
"In the saddle!" Simone bellowed, and I didn't take a photo of the camels.
We reach Kharkhorin where we refuel for the first time since the start, so the scooters have shown us that they can really do 40 km with a liter.
Visit to the museum of the ancient Mongolian capital and to the Buddhist monastery of Erdene Zuu Khiid.
"In the saddle!" Simone orders, and through wide and flowing slopes we reach the Ugii Nuur lake, but we have to make an effort to stay longer? standing on the bike if you want to avoid the jolts of continuous holes.
Upon arrival, a surprise performance by a local musical group (Kharkorin) awaits us, delighting us with typical Mongolian instruments, throat sing (throat singing) and contortionism.
Pleasant note at the end of the evening, a surprise cake for Daniela's birthday.
Kilometers covered 163.
31/07/2019 - Wednesday?
"In the saddle!" Simone neighs, 230 kilometers await us!
We cover about eighty of them on pleasant and flowing tracks, meeting herds of cows and herds of goats, and herds of horses occasionally cross our path.
Wide curves, holes and some bumps to jump (but don't tell Dawa and Gansoot, the mechanics) accompany us until lunch.
"Riding stray dogs!" Simone kindly invites us to resume the journey towards the Khorgo volcano.
We pass by the canyon of the Chulut river and well-holed roads with pointed stones emerging (the first fall of the trip is recorded, author Maurizio) lead us to the White Stupa, on the top of an impervious hill from which you can also admire the volcano.
The hill is so inaccessible that a Mongolian family climbs it in three on a motorbike while we sweat to reach the top.
In the end, the kilometers turn out to be 293 and in the evening we proceed to do some maintenance by pulling the motorcycles chain.
Overnight with a view of the White Lake (Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur) at about 2.000 meters above sea level.
In the evening Lorenzo shows off the hidden contents of his luggage, salami and cheese (!) At the table, and Simone makes him find a cake for his birthday (even if we later discover that it would be the next day).
01/08/2019 - Thursday?
Relaxing morning to walk on the banks of Tsagaan Nuur until around 11 then, with his characteristic mantra, "In the saddle!", Simone invites us to continue smudging yet another cigarette.
The tracks are a bit ruined by the recent rains and slowly we follow the driving's Mitsubishi until lunch where we stop on a pass at about 2.600 m asl.
During the break we meet a group of Australians who make the opposite route to ours with their BMW F650GS rented in the capital.
"Siori in the saddle!" Simone urges us giving us the possibility? to precede it, since it is not there? pi? risk of getting lost.
We travel about ten kilometers and then we wait for him at the mouth of a wide valley that promises to be a land of green pastures and therefore of tracks to be run with our horses.
"Go beasts!" Simone spurs us on, and we like a herd of young yaks with our tongues out we set out in search of the next ford to cross, the next promontory or the next plateau to be admired with astonished eyes as only those of children can be.
Arrived in the late afternoon in Jargalant (one of the many towns with this name that we will meet during the trip), the rain welcomes us that invites us to a refreshing nap and a dip in the hot water of the spa.
Kilometers covered 84.
02/08/2019 - Friday?
"In the saddle Siori.", Simone hisses, and we leave behind the colorful village of Jargalant to face the mountains that surround the valley.
We proceed behind his minivan which enters the maze of tracks unknown to us and biting the brake we go up the stony streets followed by the UAZ, a support vehicle driven by Gansoot, and by the Land Rover that carries the other passengers (the initial Toyota has merged the engine on the first day).
We climb up to an undulating plateau where the cry of "Go bastards!" Simone takes off the leash and we throw ourselves into a wild race, like greyhounds behind a hare, opening up radially and occupying all the lanes of the available slopes.
We stop in the middle of nowhere to have lunch and Sonia and Agnese take the opportunity to take a ride on their motorbike.
After lunch Simone gets back to the rope why? we are slightly off track and we have to find the right path.
When the management? now certain we give? again the possibility? to vent a little more desire to run.
The path at first stony and tortuous (the second fall of the trip was recorded by Paolo) becomes flat again, then I step closer to Edoardo, who I have now taken as a reference for off-road driving, and thanks to the confidence reached with the motorcycles we keep an average of 50 km / h for some sections, reaching peaks of 70-75, just to say how smooth the track was.
After the first real modern bridge encountered so far, we approach the city in the evening? by Moron.
Kilometers covered 163.
03/08/2019 - Saturday
Transfer day from Moron to Khovsgol Nuur lake, well-known locality. Mongolian tourist.
After lunch "Siori sul battello.", Simone surprises us, and we find ourselves on an old Russian tug that allows us to see how the natives have fun.
After the tour on the local "Love Boat" we reach the ger camp where we will stay overnight for two nights.
Sar? the luxurious field with underfloor heating, will be? the adrenaline rush, but fatigue is felt and the bed welcomes us gently.
Kilometers covered 102.
04/08/2019 - Sunday
Day of "rest", during which we walk a few kilometers among the mountains that surround the lake; the three girls, Agnese, Sonia and Zena, take advantage of it to be chauffeured by motorbike and feel the breeze, and the thrill, of the wind on the face and of the holes under the butt. Even Elio, official photographer of the trip, does not miss the opportunity to ride the bike for a day.
Do we first meet the bivouac of a Ducha family or, in derogatory form, Tsaatan, a term that means "Reindeer men" as this people? dedicated to the breeding of these animals.
See these beautiful beings up close? was very exciting even if I? sorry to see how they have become a tourist attraction, with a ring of stalls all around the tepee.
We leave for the ger camp where we will eat an excellent shin of sheep for lunch, but first Simone takes us to visit a shamanic place of worship.
In silence we approach an arena in the middle of the woods made up of many tepees, each of which constitutes a sort of altar and all together surround an open space with a huge brazier dedicated to sacrifices.
Simone tells us about his encounter with shamanism and the history of the latter and from his words it is clear how much respect he has for these people.
After lunch we head to the top? of a promontory overlooking Lake Khovsgol and on the way I happen to puncture the rear tire.
Luckily we stopped at the ring of stalls and thanks to Enkh a repair kit for inner tubes and a bicycle blower came out with which the puncture is repaired and we can resume the journey.
By beading the tire it turns out that I have pinched the inner tube on one of the many holes in the road and I win the record of the first ever puncture of the Mongolia Motorbike Marathon tours.
We go up a stony mule track to the top of the promontory from which you can enjoy a wonderful view and here we must congratulate Paolo and Riccardo who faced the climb taking Agnes and Sonia with them; Zena instead yes? made to accompany by Simone.
So let's go back to our ger camp and knowing the way we can give vent to all the power of the 9 hp of our Yingang 150! Before reaching our destination, Edoardo, Piergiovanni and I, in one of the breaks made to recompose the group, we become a source of attraction for two Mongols who approach us by motorbike and with whom we exchange a few hard words.
In the evening we celebrate by the lake and then all to bed that the next day we will touch? a challenging stage.
Kilometers covered 91.
05/08/2019 - Monday?
Departure from the Eden of the Khovsgol lake for the stage pi? toughness of the journey on a wooded path that the rains of recent days have made full of pitfalls.
We soon meet muddy areas and marshes that will accompany us throughout the day.
In the fords Maurizio and I try to wash the bikes, succeeding for? only to wash ourselves by falling directly into it.
After a dry and correct lecture given to us by Simone for having separated from him at a crossroads, we begin to put in a series of misfortunes that are enough for the duration of the trip. There are countless falls (perhaps the most disastrous of which was mine) and exits from the track due to the mud, followed by a puncture by Riccardo and bogged down by Simone's vehicle.
We arrive at the Erdenenbulgan ger camp at 21.15 pm after about 12 hours of motion (net of breaks) ready for dinner and a healthy sleep.
Tomorrow? another day!
Kilometers covered 163.
06/08/2019 - Tuesday?
"On the saddle of calf heads!" Simone warns us, mindful of the digression of the previous day.
We expect a day of transfer and, not before having repaired a puncture to the jeep remedied the previous day, we take wide and flowing tracks along a flat valley for which Simone gives us? the wide as to the hens and we pull straight up to cross the asphalt.
After the lunch break made on the edge of a grove, we take the road towards a pastry shop where the guide promised us "dessert". Do we meet this "cathedral in the desert" but big? the disappointment when we are informed that there is no? pi? a slice of cake available.
Let's go back to grinding kilometers and when we reach the ger camp near Unit, Simone begins a long negotiation with the owner to be able to use the smoker barbecue to cook an apple pie and keep the promise made at lunch; in all there? Daniela helps her as she rolls up her sleeves and begins to knead.
In the meantime, a good part of us discard our motorcycle clothes and mounted the jeep we go up to the Uran Togoo volcano, now extinct and with a beautiful lake in the center of the crater.
Dinner followed by smoked cake and then to bed.
Kilometers covered 210.
07/08/2019 - Wednesday?
Departure from Unit towards Erdenet on a paved road ... earphones in the ears to make up for the boredom of the asphalt and away you go.
We reach the city? mining for lunch not before visiting a newly built religious site overlooked by a huge sitting Buddha, about 15 meters high.
We resume the motorized vehicles at a time of Amarbayasgalant, the pi? large and best preserved Buddhist religious complex, Unesco heritage.
As soon as we take the dirt road we understand that it will not be? very easy to get there but so much ?, straight (more? or less) towards the goal.
We stop for a break at the top of a hill but perhaps we lose a little too much time and "Dear Sirs, would you like to have the courtesy to rest your ass on those saddles!?!" Simone asks us politely. After a few ups and downs and a couple of fun fords we find ourselves in a wide valley at the bottom of which the monastery stands out.
The site is full of energy and? also used for shamanic worship.
Fascinating is the large hall where prayers are officiated but more? full of magic? the open space in front with the circles drawn on the ground and the section of wall built to delimit the site.
Shower, dinner, vodka and sleep.
Kilometers covered 238.
We start from Amarbayasgalant to get closer to the capital.
We pass the two fords of the valley which even today force me to pay homage to him by concluding the crossing from a seated position; will I stay? a bitter taste in the mouth for not being able to cross the long ford standing ... but do I make up for it? on the next trip!
The morning passes quietly behind Enkh's smoker jeep.
After lunch, taken from the thrill of the lack of oxygen at high altitude, Zio Lollo takes the time to go up the top of a hill with his motorbike and then descend it in giant slalom style.
We return to the track and for the last time of the trip Simone opens the doors of the stable and we take off the whim of a last gallop until we reach the remains of the AO401 state road where we return to queue up to Simone's minivan who takes us to Bornuur in a hilltop resort with huge wooden gers from Mongolian Secret History.
Before leaving the tracks of northern Mongolia we stop to visit a nomadic family dedicated to horse breeding and witness the milking of the mares as well as having the opportunity? to taste the very delicious (for those who like it) airag, the fermented milk that Mongols are fond of.
After the usual evening vodka we are going to go to sleep but first we pass to greet Enkh, Dawa and Gansoot who are playing billiards in the next room; we had never done it ... the Mongolia-Italy challenge starts with the teams made up of Enkh and Dawa for Mongolia while the Italian team? composed by Simone and myself.
As in the now classic scene of the Italy-Morocco match in the movie "Three men and one leg", we start well with the ball pocketed by Simone, but the final result? merciless and in favor of Mongolia.
Kilometers covered 163.
09/08/2019 - Friday?
We resume the route on the state road undergoing renovation, covered with a thin layer of mud due to the water that fell during the night. For lunch we stop at the Gobi Resort which these days? seat of the training of the Mongolian national judo team.
The gloomy weather all day gets worse in the afternoon and our arrival in Ulaan Bataar? greeted by a tremendous downpour.
Now the tiredness is felt and after having given a rough wash to the bikes we return to the hotel.
In the evening Simone takes us to visit the atelier of a calligrapher who draws up our certificates of participation live and then takes us to the luxurious Veranda restaurant to make us re-encounter local flavors.
Kilometers covered 146.
10/08/2019 - Saturday
Free day dedicated to visiting the city. With Elio, Agnese and Zena we walk through the urban streets until we reach the Naran Tuul, the old black market of the city, today a commercial center where you can find everything from ger stoves to fishing rods, from bicycles to fabrics valuable.
Let's retrace our steps to reach the Parliament square, where we meet the other groups waiting for the changing of the guard. today will not have? place and not there? given to know why ?.
We then head to the post office to allow me the anachronistic possibility? to send postcards, and then we continue to the State Department Store for the customary purchases and then to the Gandan Temple where we attend the homily of some monks and we can admire a huge standing Buddha.
We conclude the tour with a taxi ride to the Winter Palace and annexed museum of the Bogd Khan, emperor of Mongolia.
In the evening a dinner awaits us in the luxurious Shrangri La hotel and then we exchange our last greetings before leaving for Italy.
11/08/2019 - Sunday
Time to return; wake up early, a last sprinkling of luggage and off to the airport.
Whole group? departed with the 7 o'clock flight, with the exception of Elio who partir? with me at 9 and Maurizio and Daniela who will leave in the afternoon.
In Moscow we still meet Sonia who is waiting for the connection to Venice and therefore we have time, a lot of time, to get lost in various chatter, arrange the photos on the mobile phone and think about the next trips.
Will the 19.30 pm bus arrive in Milan? full and I have to wait for the 21, never mind, continue cleaning the phone.
Back home I go straight to bed, for the classic pasta of the return from a trip there will be? weather tomorrow.