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Samurai Route

Chronicle of Mongolia. Part I

Roads in Mongolia are "free style". If they don't exist, you make them up

Chronicle of Mongolia. Part I
23 August 2010

We arrived at the border between Russia and Mongolia on July 25. The last village in Russia is called Tashanta, a small village that takes no more than 2 minutes to cross. We take the usual photo in front of the sign at the entrance to the village and continue towards the Russian border.

When we arrive at the checkpoint, we find two Canadian bikers (a man and a woman) in the queue, equipped with two BMW GS1200 and well-studied luggage. You can tell they have experience traveling around the world on motorcycles. We talk to them for a while and they tell us that we have to go back a little further to fill out some paperwork before we can enter customs and passport control. In the end, we manage to get into the offices and start the paperwork to be allowed to enter Mongolia. The visa and passport issue was solved quickly, but there were problems with the ATA carnet. Apparently in St. Petersburg, they did not fill in the booklet properly and now when we leave Russia they do not want to stamp the booklet because they say that the import is already closed.

It is lunchtime, the border closes for an hour, so we wander around, have a picnic in the middle of the border and wait for the officials to return to see what solution we can give to the ATA carnet issue. After waiting a few hours and using advanced techniques in silent protest, they tell us that there is no problem, that we can pass to Mongolia, but that the ATA carnet has recorded our passage through Russia in a somewhat strange way since they gave us entry and exit of the goods in St. Petersburg.

We took the exit and headed for the next border post, but not before passing through two more passport controls. Once at the Mongolian border, we entered the offices to process the motorcycle papers and visas. While I took care of the paperwork, Vicente stayed behind to watch the motorcycles. Several Russian truck drivers are messing around, fiddling with the motorcycles, putting on their cases without asking permission... Vicente almost slaps them.

When we manage to fix the papers (about two hours) we go on, they stop us and force us to buy insurance for the bike (500 rubles, about 14 €). The children come up to us to ask for some trinkets.

Finally, we get into Mongolia and it starts to pour, the dirt road turns into a muddy mess with puddles that make driving very difficult. We have to reach a village called Tsanangur and we cannot stop. We reach a point where the road is cut by a fence. What the hell is this? We are puzzled for a moment, we can not believe that we are forced to go cross-country ... but in the end, it is the only option. We tighten our belts and go through the middle of the mountain for several kilometers. We skirted the fence and arrived at the first Mongolian village since the Russian border. The road was complicated, we had to pass through some deep puddles, it was pouring rain and the bikes got very dirty.

When we got to the village, it looked rather worse than the Russian villages. It looks pretty devastating, however, the scenery and the mountains are breathtaking. Suddenly two guys on a motorcycle approach us, they have a very broad smile and immediately start to mumble some English. They want to take us to their house for a chai (tea) and also tell us to stay overnight because it rains a lot and the next village is far away and the road is very bad.

We decide to go with them and arrive at their humble Ger, where their family is waiting for us with open arms. For a change, as soon as I arrive I fall off the bike and the side case fills with mud. It's becoming a classic to see the bike on the ground...

We enter the ger (yurt) and sit down to drink tea and talk a bit with the parents of the guys who rescued us. They seem happy to have us as guests and are amazed at how much we know how to say in Mongolian. Soon we arrange everything, arrange the food for dinner, pack our luggage and make ourselves comfortable by the stove.

Soon it gets dark and I was already feeling like giving something to these people who were being so nice to us. We go outside and start taking things out of the suitcases, flashlights, padlock, radio, T-shirts, medicine, sunglasses,... In the end, they were very happy and we were more relaxed to be able to compensate for the hospitality they were offering us.

Later on, neighbors and relatives started to come. We are the attraction and they can't pass up the opportunity to come and say hello to us. We all have dinner, there are several children and they are immediately interested in the photos we show them from the camera, the videos made with the cell phone and the stories we told them about Russia. It seems unbelievable, but they are very fond of the neighboring country...

It starts to get dark, the guests go home and we fall into bed, but not before being a little embarrassed for having to change our clothes in front of the whole family that kept staring at us. The bed is a horror, but the euphoria I felt for being there with them makes it not even cross my mind how uncomfortable the bed is.

To be continued...

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