Northern and Western Mongolia Tour, Day 14 of 33
Bayan Nuur to Uureg Nuur (Lake); 247km
8AM to 5ish
Uemaa and the other guide teamed up to prepare a nice french toast breakfast before we got on the road. We stopped at the little village at the road where ice cold water was coming up from a spring. Uemaa was planning to refill our water bottles with this delicious spring water only to discover Pancho had helpfully crushed all our empties. She hoped the water would re-expand the bottles and tried to fill one. Too much trouble she shrugged and tossed the bottte aside. Oh well, we had plenty of water still.
Our van bounced down the dusty path and as we cleared a rise near a small river, a foreigner came running to the road. He poked his head in the window to talk to Sereg. He was a Russian cyclists in need of assistance. He was cycling with another Russian. He was happy to see a car and more happy to discover Uemaa spoke to them in Russian. Serge was the one who flagged us down and he did almost all the talking. They had only very basic Mongolian and English skills. The rear derailer was broken on one of their bikes so they could ride, but not shift. Could we give them a ride to the city of Ulaangom where they could buy a new one? They were on two fully loaded bikes but we would not think of saying 'no'.
The question was how to fit their stuff inside. With the wheels off, we stacked both bikes flat on our luggage in the back. The wheels and panniers fit with us in the passenger compartment. With just the rear panniers, their load was manageable. Serge and Boris were in there mid fifties and live near the city where our van was made. They said the van is still being made today! They had ridden from Baikal lake with a goal to get Istanbul. Uemaa was tickled to have someone to practice her Russian with. They went on and on. They had met another cyclist. Was her name Emily?, Michelle asked. With roaring laughter, they said, yes! We rode with her for just one day. We could not keep up with that strong woman. She was always up ahead waving 'come on boys, you can do it.' so we said goodbye the next morning. Serge pulled out his camera and showed us his pictures of Emily.
Uvs lake is a massive salt lake in northwest Mongolia. It's the biggest lake in Mongolia. We took a short detour off the main road to dip our toes. Uemaa was more excited about it than anyone and asked Pancho to take her picture while she jumped up and suspended in the air. Yes, Pancho's camera had recovered. It was bound to be a good day.
Ulaangom is a large city with many places that have signs in English! The main city streets were paved as was a 30km stretch into the country. It certainly seemed like a big enough place for the Russians to find a new derailer. But if they needed just the hanger, a special part, they would be toast. Thier plan was to get the bike repaired and then camp outside of town somewhere. Boris and Serge decided not to join us for lunch and reassembled their bikes. We went inside a simple restaurant. Food there was typical mongolian and pretty good. We looked up to notice we were being watched by the customers and staff. We were the main attraction.
Driving further west, we left the valley and climbed into the mountains. We were treated to good view of high peaks in the distance. The sky was threating again. We made it to Uureg lake and turned toward an isolated section.The wind was fierce.We pitched our tent behind a rocky outcrop in hopes of avoiding the wind. Just in case, we put large bolders on the corners of our tent and a few more bowling ball size rocks inside. We could not remove all the rocks where we pitched and instead doubled up on ground pads. It was lumpy but the pads made it soft enough. Uemaa decided to stay inside the van while Pancho pitched next to the van he hoped would shield his tent from the wind.
As the sun set, the wind shifted and we were exposed to its full force. The tent poles flexed, almost double it seemed, until they were pushing on top of us as we laid in our bags. We did not have any option except to let it blow and hope for the best. If the poles couldn't take it, we would be left in a broken tent. No big loss, we thought. We slept as the wind battered away. In the morning, the tent was still standing and it was calm and sunny.