Temporary Post from Ulaangom, Mongolia

Hello friends,

Sorry I cannot write a real post here — internet is very slow and inconvenient — but I wanted to let you know that…I MADE IT TO MONGOLIA! There are still 2000 kms to the capital, Ulaanbaatar, one endpoint of my trip, but it feels surreal to be here–6 months and 9 countries since Istanbul!

From Barnaul, I rushed to the border and managed to exit Russia just 2 hours before my visa expired. More details to come later, but it was quite the adventure: taking a bus, biking very fast, having bike problems, sleeping in a cozy log cabin, taking a bath in a Russian banya, hitching a ride, more biking very fast.

I knew I arrived in Mongolia when the paved road ended. Welcome to Mongolia! From reading other bike journals, I knew Mongolia was going to be a tough haul on bad roads. The roads aren’t “roads” but rather dirt “tracks” that go in all different directions and there are no signs. Some people recommend a GPS, but I had no such gadget. Besides, I wouldn’t know how to use it anyways. So, clutching my map and compass, I hoped that my navigation skills would guide me. And when all else fails, start singing “Listen to Your Heart” (or the cheesiest song you can think of)! “Listen to your heart/ There’s nothing else you can do/ I don’t know where I’m going/ And I don’t know why/ But listen to your heart”

I had one last piece of bureaucratic business to take care of — registering my stay in Mongolia. As an American, you can stay up to 90 days without a visa, but if you stay more than 30 days, you must register. So I headed from the Russian border to the city of Olgii. Olgii Wankanobe! May the force be with me on these terrible roads and fierce winds… Despite the elements, I climbed a big pass and pummeled through the strong winds to arrive in Olgii at 3pm on Friday. I found my way to a white building and got registered in time!

Being in Mongolia is like turning your clock back several centuries, which is both good and bad. The good part is that most of the country remains quite remote. As a result, you feel like a true nomad roaming the lands just as it was 1000 years ago and everywhere the scenery is stunning, seemingly untouched by modern society. The bad part is the usual “This is Central Asia” problems–it takes an eternity to “get things done”, electricity will just go out randomly, there are no signs when you need them (but there are signs when you don’t need them), etc…the list can go on and on.

But as an Irish guy I met in Olgii said: “Mongolia is a state of mind.” After my first week of cycling in Mongolia, I began to understand what he meant. It is the state of mind of nomadic life and melding oneself into sun, sky, mountains, winds, snow, and dust.

Now in the city of Ulaangom picking up supplies and headed to Nomrog and Tsetserleg via Khargayas(sp?) Nuur. Will update with pictures when I can! See you soon!

2 Thoughts on “Temporary Post from Ulaangom, Mongolia

  1. Almost there! See ya in China!

  2. Wendy Z on October 17, 2013 at 10:03 am said:

    So good to know that you are this close to China now, Minhua! Waiting to hear all stories here in NY..of course, over a delicious meal cooked by me!

    You are awesome!

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