- City: Kanpur
It was 15th of August. Independence Day in India. But for the last 15 days it had been complete freedom and independence from the daily grind for us. We had our bikes and freely roamed the countryside of Mongolia, with not a worry in mind.
We left from Zuun Nuur a little later than planned and we left the lake with a heavy heart as we started climbing immediately for the first pass. Fortunately the climb was not as steep as what we had seen the previous day, so we were thankful for that. Once we climbed the top, the other side was extremely steep, with a lot of pebbles and rocks. So instead of risking a crash riding down, we walked our bikes down! With that much luggage it would have been a recipe for disaster, it was easier to swallow our ego and walk!
From there it was downhill all the way to Shine Ider, as the town was at the bottom of the valley. In the town we got internet on our phones after a couple of days and we also found a tyre shop where we filled air in the tyre which had been running low for quite some time. We also bought water and grub before we headed out. We decided not to eat lunch there, since breakfast had been but a couple of hours prior. It was a bad decision. A few kilometers into the climb out of the town we were both ravenously hungry.
The first 13 km took us around 3 hours, we really struggled on those roads with our hungry bellies growling in anger. The last 3 km was real steep and we pushed our bikes to the top. At the top there was a shrine and some rocks placed in a significant manner, the story goes that a lama had jumped off that cliff for reasons I couldn’t figure out!
At the top of the pass we could see the clouds rolling in from the opposite valley, dark grey clouds pregnant with rain. We wore our rain gear and tried riding. But the wind was so strong that we could barely walk, let alone ride downhill. The wind and rain lashed our shivering bodies, though our rain gear kept our bodies dry, our hands and feet were soaked. We somehow slipped and slid our way down from the pass towards the nearest Ger in sight. As we approached the Ger, a dog there started barking at us in a menacing manner, we stood in the rain hoping that someone inside would take notice and come out. After a few minutes wait, which felt like an eternity, an old lady stepped out, saw us and tied the dog, indicating for us to go over. She then invited us inside and gave us hot milk and cheese to eat along with some cream while we sat by the fireside warming our frozen limbs. The cheese that was offered was something like dehydrated paneer, it was hard as rock, very tasty but almost impossible to eat. I downed my piece in around half an hour. Prakash took a small piece of that cheese and two hours later still hadn’t been able to eat it!
The Ger had the old lady and three young girls inside, not for a moment were they afraid of two strange men harming them in any manner. Women are extremely safe in entire Mongolia and it shows in the confidence they have while interacting. As the rain subsided, we left the sweet family to continue along our way.
On the way we were so hungry that we downed a chunk of 4 day old stale bread. Normally we would throw something like that out, but out there even that stale bread made for a delicious meal. Never again will I complain about food…
The road to Jargalant was more or less downhill and we made good progress, there was one pass to overcome but it was relatively easy and we were helped by a tailwind. On the way we met a couple of tourists on bikes who informed us that the road was completely downhill from where we stood. From that interaction I learnt that biker judgement is not to be trusted regarding inclines and declines. With a slight twist of the throttle, it overcomes all, that nothing is actually noticed. While on a cycle every tiny incline is obvious!
As we approached Jargalant a light drizzle started and made our search for accommodation that much more urgent. Fortunately a local on a cycle saw our plight and led us to the only hotel there, where we managed to get rooms for cheap. Little did we know at that time how lucky we were to find a dry warm place to bunk.
Saying goodbye to Zuun Nuur
We walked our bikes down this steep rocky slope
Cresting the Pass
At the top of the pass
Clouds threatened us with rain the entire day and gave us the shivers briefly as well!