18 July 2006

MONGOLIA day-26 18th July Rashaant [FINAL]


MONGOLIA day-26 141.24 km 18th July 2006
Tonight we are camped in a beautiful area of high rock outcrop, which overlooks a very large floodplain in the Erdenescent region. The Basque women that we met in Tsetserleg drove past today, giving an inspiring wave. At the outpost of Rashaant, Bernard and Rachel were unloading their bicycles; yet again; from a van as he had damaged a knee. Now that we are upon the bitumen the journey feels as if it has finished. I have thought about Igor, the reserved Spanish cyclist we found at the Tsetserleg “shipping crate” market. This is a city block area of old ship crates that serve as shops, where anything of dubious quality can be procured. He had three broken spokes, a scoured wheel rim and the most shredded tyre that I had ever seen. Igor accepted Michaels offer to re-build his wheel and calmly took it all in his stride. Now many days later I wonder if he is still riding out to western Mongolia. The three Flemish girls on their cheap, heavy steel Chinese bikes haven’t been heard of since we shared lunch at Shin Idler. Their descriptions have not been recognized by any motorists that we have seen. I feel an affinity with all these cyclists. The journey is mostly one of luck. Mongolian highways are a litany of broken cars and riders coming to grief. In the last few days we have skirted the northern Gobi desert near Ovor Hoshoot, which is the geographical centre of the country. Beyond the highway stretch that is Rashaant, we could see the clay orange dunes and this is where we bid farewell to Bernard and Rachel, as they decided to back track ten kilometres to spend a night in the swales. Our two days of 115 kilometres (19th July 141.36 km, 20th July 90.96 km.) upon silk smooth asphalt has been healing to the legs. Pushing the big chain wheels in the cross and occasional tail winds has been pleasurable.
Now, in Ulaanbator I have time to think and have realized that my fears of arriving home with success are at the forefront of my thoughts. Will my travel papers be accepted? Without a passport how do I prove that I have a visa extension? It all seems autocratic and complicated. Riding the steppes and visiting nomad camps seems easier to grasp. Truly, I am ready for home and it is my only wish. Michael is in a post ride slump, probably needing vitamins and protein to “up” his weight from a mere 54 kilograms. In the next few days we shall hike the nearby Terinjli National park and slowly clean our gear.
The local English paper: the Ulaan bator Post (July 28th) reports of floods following heavy rain from various parts of the country. 7 people were killed and ten missing in Teshig soum (Bulgan Aimag), in floods around July tenth, which also destroyed two hundred animals, as reported via the national emergency management agency (NEMA). On July 9th the water level at Tsergaan-uur soum in Khovsgol aimag reached 1.70 metres, though no casualties were reported. The Vice Premier reached the disaster zone on the night of the 9th with working groups to review the situation. Troops rescued fifty people from the rising waters. According to NEMA officials, people had to climb the roof of their houses to avoid the water. The losses from the disaster amount to 140,000,000 togrog. In Shiver area, a lightening strike killed a young child on a horse. The heavy rain also caused the death of two Azarga stallions. Two riders were also struck by lightening and taken to hospital.

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