Category Archives: Mongolia

Day 90, London To Magadan 2016 – Mongolia to Russia – KTM Biker

We left Hotel Nine in central Ulan Bator at the normal time but without five of friends, Kawangi had gone back to Brisbane and has been replaced by her equally lovely mum, Hera, who will now complete the journey to Magadan on the back of Adrian. Diana only ever planned to join Bruce on the Mongolia part of our adventure and has returned to Sydney. Dennis has returned to California following his confirmed broken collar bone. The two Springboks are nursing their bike injuries and in the case of David, waiting for a new shock absorber to arrive before being fitted, Riaan is having a new radiator fitted after crashing into a marker post by the side of the road. David and Riaan are hoping to catch us up in Yakutsk or possibly earlier. The ride to the border with Russia was easy and straightforward, we were exiting Mongolia and re-entering Russia through the same border post we used to enter Mongolia 13 days before. This was our final border crossing so we were hoping for a quick and easy one. On arrival there were only ten cars in the line, but five hours later we were still trying to enter Russia. The Russian border officials are a total shower, they were asking us ridiculous questions like the weight of our bikes, our mileage and the value in rubbles, none of these questions had been asked of us on our two previous Russian entries. I have a theory that when the senior customs and immigration officials take their exams the ones that come bottom of the class get posted to this tiny obscure Mongolian/Russian outpost. We totally made up the answers to their questions and finally got on our way. However Hera who had just arrived in Ulan Bator from Bali had a problem with her Russian visa. Hera had a new and perfectly good and valid visa but it was in her in date but old passport. Hera had been instructed to obtain a brand new passport because her old one was full up and only had a few months of valid date. Most of the world would allow both the two in date passports to be used concurrently, not Russia and after eight hours of wangling, Hera had to travel by taxi 300km back to Ulan Bator. Adrian was prevented from going with Hera because he had been processed into Russia and his Mongolian visa was now out of date.

We all, minus Hera, Adrian, Andrew and Danny met up at a supermarket on the Russian side of the border, purchased much need supplies of ice cold beer and headed into the Russian countryside to find a suitable campsite. We had to be a minimum of 30km away from the border and the massive Red Army base before we were allowed to find a camp site. It was now gone 7pm and the sun was setting, so as soon as 30km were covered we all searched in ernest for a campsite. We found one up a track and on a hill and out of site of the road and then spoke to Andrew on the Satellite phone, gave him the coordinates and waited for them to join us. Adrian, Andrew and Danny were delayed because of the Hera situation. The support vehicle turned up just as dusk was settling so instead of setting up the cook tent we just got the stoves out and Leanne fried up some sausage sandwiches, what a girl!

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London To Magadan 2016 – Road Of Bones – Crew Update -Tran-Siberian Highway and Mongolia

It’s been a while since my last crew report.

Many challenges and events have prevented me from posting earlier.

Departing from Almaty we started our way up back into Russia. It was not an easy task. Three bikes collapsed their shock absorbers with the potholed bitumen. Two bikes were loaded on the trailer and the third one was ridden to Russia with the shock in a less than satisfactory state. Apart from that, the exciting Tran-Siberian highway was waiting for us on the Russian side of the border.

Entering Russia for another night of camping before Krasnoyarsk, the town where we could get the shock absorbers fixed and continued on our way along the Tran-Siberian highway, a dream for many riders. Wooden Houses, and beautiful forests were our path to Yrkustk, a larger town very close to Lake Baikal. We went on a 2-day excursion to Lake Baikal and it was just amazing to be able to camp on the shore of the Lake and go for a hike to a secluded bay which had shamanic inscriptions on the rock.

Irkurst was also the place where we needed to get our visas for Mongolia, our destination for the following weeks.

Arriving in Mongolia we met Dianna, another member of our expedition (and the wife of one of our riders) and a second support vehicle for us to be able to take in all the pillion passengers in case of rough roads or rain. It was a prediction for what was to come.

Mongolia is absolutely stunning. Open prairies with no fences displayed a country where you can actually move around freely. Gers with families herding their sheep, cows and Yaks made the scenery more interesting. Two amazing camping nights in absolutely wonderful hills with great views brought us to Khovsgull Lake, where we stayed 3 nights enjoying the scenery and a rest.

The next section was what we came for. Three days riding on tough off road with wild camps separated us from the White Lake, another beautiful destination where we would stay in a Ger camp.

Open prairies of green hills with many tracks running towards the same point. Wide-open and free riding, Paradise!

The problem was, it had been raining for the past 10 days and this year was a particular wet one so the roads were very muddy and slippery. Deep river crossings, some with rough bridges made it even more challenging and exciting. Many riders fell and one had a broken collarbone, which sadly meant the end of his journey.

The next 2 nights of remote camping were amazing. Nomad kids on their horses came to check out our group and some really special cultural exchange ensued. Majestic eagles flying over the camp and herds of yaks and sheep passing through followed by men on horses or small bikes, the new version of Mongolia. These locals made us look bad riding through the muddy sections and river crossings sometimes with 3 people (the entire family) on the bike and still managing to get through with no problems.

All of the bikes and our support vehicle made it to the White Lake for another stunning view and a well deserved hot shower.

The next day we had only a small amount of off-road left to ride but that was enough for some more falls while crossing rivers and very muddy ground.

Reaching the bitumen we headed to Tseserleg, our last night before Ulan Batar, the Mongolian capital.

On the way To Ulan Batar we passed Karkhorin, the former Capital of Genghis Khan and home of the Erdene Zuu Monastery , a beautiful place where we encountered a man with a hunting eagle to show visitors.

After all those days and with the back-country still on everybody’ mind we found a deserved rest in Ulan Batar, we said goodbye to our rider with the broken collarbone.

While in the city some of our group visited the enormous statue of Genghis Khan and his horse. It was a beautiful way to say goodbye to Mongolia.

I write this report from the border with Russia, our last border crossing with the bikes before the end of the journey. I have time to write this due to a border shut down for a couple of hours for some unknown reason.

Once the border procedures are completed we are headed to camping spot to rest and prepare for the next phase of our expedition.

Now the journey has only two weeks left and we will ride the Tran-Siberian highway before diverging to the Road Of Bones. The adventure yet to come in the last phase in Russia will be on the next and last crew report, which hopefully will be written from Magadan, our final destination!

Danny

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Day 88, London To Magadan 2016 – Ulan Bator to Camp – KTM Biker

Today’s featured image was taken by Patricia McCloud on her iPhone from the passenger window of the Toyota support vehicle, it is me and Jim sweeping up at the back following our journey to the White Lake. I wanted to show the giant 100ft statue of Genghis Khan that we visited on Sunday 14th August but unfortunately my Canon 7D had a malfunction. I was able to take some pictures with my iPhone which I have posted on my Instagram account, so you will be able to still see the images. Jim Bassett has been a rock to me, Jim is the most unassuming modest man you will meet, but he is also the most helpful, resourceful, caring and thoughtful person you would wish to meet. Whenever I have been left behind due to my photography is it nearly always Jim and Lorraine that are waiting at the next corner which could be 100 kilometres away. And whenever I have what might seem a stupid mechanical problem it is Jim that comes to the rescue, Jim has helped me out with liquid metal to fix my busted wing mirrors, lock-tight paste for securing my Garmin, spanners, WD40 etc etc. Being a total novice when it comes to mechanical things, I have also to say thank you to Ian, Tony and Bruce who have also always been there to lend a helping hand, instruct me on simple bike maintenance, make my KTM rideable or as is more the case “take the piss!” from the bottom of my heart, thank you; for Aussies you are all “bloody good blokes!”.

On Sunday morning 14th August the majority of us had a late breakfast and then visited the giant 100ft statue of Genghis Khan that is 55km out of UB. We dodged the rain and arrived at the statue at 11:00am. This statue was built by a Mongolian Millionaire and encompasses a huge reception building with museum, shop, restaurant and toilets and with the statue above on the roof. The statue appears to be made of stainless steel and can be seen from miles around. Also at the statue are smaller and to my mind more beautiful bronze statues of Genghis Khan and his warriors. I have shown some photographs on my Instagram account. Whilst at the statue we took some photos of all of us and our bikes at the base of Genghis and I held a hunting Golden Eagle on my arm.

In the afternoon, I had a walk around the centre of UB and visited some interesting antique shops. In the evening I had supper with Ian, Leanne, Tony, Pat and John. Adrian & Hera, Riaan and David were having a farewell supper to Kawangi. David and Kawangi earlier in the day had visited the Black Market and purchased genuine Mongolian costumes including leather knee high horse riding boots, (check out my Instagram photo’s). We will all miss Kawangi’s vibrant smile, her sunny disposition and her enthusiasm for life. I have really enjoyed the company of Kawangi, I don’t think I have ever spent so much time in a closed environment over a five week period with a young women, other than when I was Kawangi’s age. I have five sons, if I was fortunate enough to have been blessed with a daughter I would have wanted her to be like Kawangi.

So over this weekend we have said farewell to Dennis and Kawangi and welcomed back Kawangi’s Mum, Hera, tomorrow we leave Mongolia and return to Russia where we will focus on the Road of Bones and the goal of reaching Magadan.

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Day 86-87 London To Magadan 2016 – Ulan Bator- KTM Biker

Mongolia, is a landlocked sovereign state of East Asia, it is sat bang in the middle of two Super Powers, Russia to the north and China to the south. Mongolia is the 19th largest country in the world and with only 3 million inhabitants it is the most sparsely populated country in the world. It has very little arable land with most of its land covered by grassy steppe, Mongolia is flanked by mountains to the north and west and the Gobi desert to the south. Thirty percent of the population are nomadic and their horse culture is integral, the majority of Mongolians are Buddhist. Other than Ulan Bator and a few small towns, Mongolia is still an ancient society where people live their lives in a simple, ancient and traditional manner. Many of the nomads have added 4×4 cars to their possessions to make life a little easier but essentially they still live in Gers on the steppe making a living from their horses, cows, goats, sheep and other grazing livestock. During our thirteen days in Mongolia and in particular our days riding the steppe every where we went we saw Mongolian nomads riding horses in traditional clothing. We met many nomads and they come across as happy, welcoming and fulfilled, they were a joy to meet.

The area that is now Mongolia has been ruled by many nomadic empires including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei and the Rouran. In 1206 Genghis Khan founded the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history, his Grandson Kublai Khan conquered China to establish the Tuan Dynasty After the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368 the Mongols retreated to Mongolia and resumed their earlier pattern of fractional conflict. Genghis Khan dominates Mongolia, all Mongolians love Genghis Khan, he dominates modern Mongolian culture, his image is everywhere and so many things including the main square in Ulan Bator to numerous vodka brands are named after him, and why not it is unbelievable that the tiny population of a landlocked country could rule over the biggest world empire in history. At its most powerful the Mongol Empire stretched across China, Russia, Korea, Kazakhstan, Iran, Burma, Uzbekistan, Pakistan and Ukraine.

The next two days were spent resting, blogging and eating. I fixed up my KTM, I found it was missing one of the two bolts that kept the rear frame and seat connected to the sub-frame and engine. I went via taxi to the Black Market to find a new bolt, this took me all afternoon and the bolt didn’t fit!!. Dennis gave me a bolt from his KTM that was being transported back to California. I wish I could have spent more time at the Black Market as you can practically buy anything there! David van der Merwe and Kawangi bought traditional Mongolian clothes, they look so brilliant. I have added a photo of Princess Leia and Obi wan Kanobe on my Instagram account, you can see it on this blog.

On Saturday 13th August we all went out to a Mexi-Khan restaurant to celebrate Dennis who was travelling home to California on Monday morning because of his broken arm.. Dennis loves Mexican and it was therefore a perfect venue to say goodbye to him. We all wished Dennis the best, Dennis is the oldest, toughest, most resilient and most brilliant motorcyclist I have ever met. Dennis is 67, yes folks 67 and on the dirt and on the bitumen he kicks arse. Dennis used to race in California motorcycle desert races and really likes to cloud up the dust, always riding like a maniac on the sandy tracks, no wonder he fucked up his shock absorber!!!. Dennis told me a story that one day not so long ago he was on his 1290 KTMcSuper Adventure and he stopped for a rest. An old timer came up and eulogised on his younger motorcycle days, and wished he was young enough to continue riding. Dennis asked the old timer how old he was and the guy said 63! whereupon Dennis told him that he was 66, back of the net, just do it. Incidentally I used to own a Triumph Bonneville 1967 TT120 which was a special edition Triumph only 120 were made and they were used for desert racing in California, Steve McQueen had two, I wished I still had mine! Steve McQueen, Thats the movie star legend not the film director.

After the farewell dinner, the young ones, Kawangi, David and Danny boy went night clubbing, while some of us oldies went to Genghis Khan Square. It was my idea to hire a three seat tandem and myself, Tony and Ian rode round the square like a bunch of toddlers, followed shortly by Diana, Pat and Leanne. You can see the pics and possibly even a video on my Instagram account, “londontomagadan:

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Day 85, London To Magadan 2016 -Tsetserleg to Ulan Bator- KTM Biker

Today’s ride was 500km and supposed to be all on bitumen, however we were warned by Murray the owner of Fairfield Guest House that much of the road to Ulan Bator is pot-holed.We left the lovely Fairfied house as normal at 08:00am within an hour we had arrived at Erdene Zuu Buddhist Monastery. The evolution of Buddhism in Mongolia can be divided into three distinct periods, Erdene Zuu was the first monastery to be built during the third of these in Khalkh, Mongolia.The monastery was founded by Avtai Sain Khan a descendant go Chinggis (Gengis) Khan and the Great Grandfather of the first Bogd Lama Zanabazar. The Lama Zanabazar was declared the spiritual leader of the Kkhalk Mongols by a conviction of Nobles in 1639 when he was just four years old. The 5th Dali lama (1617-1682) recognised him as the reincarnation of the Buddhist Scholar Tranatha. The earliest part of the monastery is the Gol Zu Temple shown in my featured image that dates back to 1586. By 1872 the monastery contained over 500 buildings including 62 temples and housed over 1500 monks. Unfortunately most of the buildings were destroyed during the political repression of the 1930’s as happened to monasteries throughout Mongolia. We spent two hours at the monastery which we all found fascinating. Just outside the walls on the monastery was a market where I purchased a wolf’s tooth pendant for our Shit-Rivers museum at my house in Abingdon. I also had my photograph taken with a hunting Golden Eagle on my arm. While we were waiting for all the group to reassemble we met three competitors in the off-road Mongolian motorcycle rally they were all from South Korea and pretty impressive on their bikes, they did some trick riding while sitting side saddle. However in the race they had all been dropped because their BMW bikes couldn’t compete against the smaller more agile KTM’s, hence the reason the three guys were at the temple and not competing in the Moto-Cross section special stage that we passed on our journey to the monastery.

The run into Ulan Bator was easy and straight forward other than the 20 kilometre off road section on a part of the road that was being totally refurbished. Because the countryside had dried over the previous 48 hours we were able to blast down this section at up to 90kph. Ulan Bator has 1.5 million population which is equal to half the countries total population of three million. When you consider that Mongolia is over six times bigger in square kilometres than the United Kingdom you will understand why the countryside is so vast, so unspoilt and so sparsely populated.

Our hotel, Hotel Nine was located only 100 metres from Chinngis Square, which is culturally and geographically the centre of Ulan Bator. The square was officially named after Gengis Khan in 2013 having previously being called Sukhbataar Sq. It is an impressive space with a large colonnade monument to Gengis Khan, the monument also depicts Ogedei Khan and Kublai Khan.

In the evening we all went to a Chinese?Mongolian restaurant located in a very up market central Mall.

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Day 84, London to Magadan 2016- Tsaguun to Tsetserleg- KTM Biker

I woke at 06:45 with a knock on our little Hobbit door, it was a young Mongolian Ger camp staff member who had come to light our wood burning stove, by 07:00am the pot bellied stove was crackling away and throwing out shards of ruby red light and gently warming our Ger. Laying in a warm and comfy bed watching the fire just three feet away was total bliss. Having had such a demanding journey the day before we were given the luxury of a 8,9,10 start, if you have been following my blog you will know that this means up by 08:00am,breakfast at 09:00am and departing on the bikes at 10:00am. At nine am, our second support vehicle left with our Mongolian driver, Pat, Lorraine and Dennis, they were going early to see if they could get a second opinion on Dennis’s broken collar bone at a hospital.

At ten we all rode out as one, our journey to the Fairfield Guesthouse in Tsetserleg was 180km but we had 30km of dirt tracks and two river fords to negotiate first. The tracks were much dryer and better than the day before but they still required 100 percent concentration. After an hour we came to a volcanic lava field with the petrified black lava rock spread out to our right covering a sparse forest and continued on to the lake, we paused to take some pictures. A little later we came to a fast flowing stream with minor rapids and a choice of three or four ford crossings. We studied how the 4×4’s crossed and then one by one we made our individual choices, crossed our fingers and went for it. I decided to follow Ian and take the direct route nearest to the minor water fall, the river rose to this point and then cascaded over the rump. In theory this was the shallowest water but being the least used by the 4×4’s it was going to be a bumpy crossing and if you misjudged the line you could crash over the rump into the fast flowing rapids. I got nine tenths of the way across and then just before I reached the far bank I hit a rock which guided me to my right and straight into a mound of earth that was eighteen inches above the waterline. Crash bang wallop, I went over the handlebars landing on my right shoulder with the bike laying over my right ankle. With my foot under the bike, I cried out that it had got my leg, everyone came to my rescue and told me not to move. There was a sharp bony bit sticking out of my right boot and both Bruce and Andrew thought I had suffered a compound fracture with the bony bit pushing against my the shin part of my trouser being my fibia. Fortunately it was my plastic and metal boot strap, the type you get with ski boots, it had come undone. I laid on the ground for about a minute and then bounced back to my feet, bruises but not beaten, and no damage, by now the other members of the group were accusing me of having rubber bones, but I put my good fortune down to the angel on my shoulder.. Back on the bikes and we finally left the off-road tracks by about 2pm, the 30km of dirt track had taken us four hours.

We stopped by a deep ravine which had sheer cliff like sides down to the stream below, we were going to have lunch but the majority of us just wanted to get going on the tarmac roads and arrive at the Fairfield guesthouse as soon as possible. I travelled with Jim and Bruce, Jim was leading and he was obviously keen to see his wife Lorraine who had travelled with Dennis and was already at Fairfield. Jim was testing out his red zone on his tachometer with our speed into the 180kph zone at times. I still marvel at our big bikes, one minute we are negotiating muddy dirt tracks and rocky mountain climbs and river fords and the next we change the bikes computer settings from off-road to sport and we can blast down the bitumen at over 200kph (not today though Guv, honest!).

Fairfield was spot on, it had been set up by an English couple over twenty years before to cater for adventurers, hikers and trekkers, it had a lovely feel, the bedrooms were great and the food was the best we had tasted in Mongolia. Lots of trendy salads, vegi food but also tasty burgers, chips and full english breakfasts. We all had dinner together in a separate restaurant and even though Fairfield is totally no smoking and no alcohol, Murrey the new Aussie owner allowed us to take our own beer and wine into our private room, probably because of all his fellow Australians persuading him that no one would find out. Tsetserleg is a starting point for tasting the real Mongolia, we obviously finished our countrywide tour in Tsetserleg but it is a go to destination for adventure tourists that arrive by aeroplane into UB Ulan Bator. I would highly recommend Fairview as a guest house if you ever venture to Mongolia.

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Day 83, London To Magadan – Camp to Tsaguun Ger Camp,Mongolia – KTM Biker

During the night we had a storm front come through our camp site, I woke to the sound of thunder and torrential rain beating down on my tent, I checked my watch and it was 2:30am. The wind was so strong and gusty that I thought the tent would take off, I am always conscious that storms can be the undoing of best made plans and therefore unlike some of the other campers I always secure my tent with all the guide lines and use every tent peg in the bag. When I remembered what a good job I had done securing my tent, I snuggled up in my sleeping bag and with great satisfaction listened to the storm creating havoc outside. I woke again at the allotted time of 7am as we had planned a wake up at seven and be on the bikes by nine, it was still raining, so I stayed in bed. Andrew announced that we would wait until the rain stopped and then leave a couple of hours later. The rain ceased soon after seven and at 08:00am Andrew told everyone that we were going to leave at 10:00am. We had to cover a total of 80km to reach the Ger camp of Tsetserleg on the White Lake. With all that rain, we knew the going was going to be incredibly tough and the plan was that we would see how far we could get, hopefully all the way to the White Lake but if the mud was impenetrable then we would set up camp and postpone the trip to the Ger camp until the following day and hope for dry weather. On bitumen we can cover up to 800 kilometres in a day, on dry dirt roads we can cover 250 kilometres in a day but on soaking wet and muddy dirt tracks, 80km was going to be our hardest challenge so far, probably out doing the previous day! With me coming off my bike a few times the day before, I have to admit that with the storm and heavy rain beating up the countryside all night I was feeling very apprehensive about this trek. If I was leading this expedition I would have remained at our camp for another 24 hours and then hope for dry conditions to allow the ground to soak up the water as I believed that the current conditions would be just too dangerous. I mentioned this to Andrew, but Andrew made the call to start off at 10:00 am and see how we go. Obviously Andrew has a schedule to keep to and a 24 hour delay would make things difficult and there was no certainty that the next 24 hours would be dry. And besides this, the London to Magadan adventure that we all signed up to is exactly as it is described on the can, an adventure, so lets get on with it!

With the rain having faded away, the sun poked its head out from behind the clouds and we all appreciated what a fabulous location our camp site was, looking east down the valley towards the streams, rivers and mountains in the distance. To see this vista, check out my photographs, there is one with Ian & Leanne sitting the little camp stools kissing,(their son Jason mentioned on FB that they should get a tent!) with the valley in the background and another with a whole bunch of sheep being herded past our tents.

As soon as we left camp, we all quickly realised how slippery the ground was even the virgin grass on the planes was waterlogged, and the tracks were treacherous. I followed Bruce for the first few kilometres and I watched him nearly lose it on half a dozen occasions. In slippery conditions, the trick is to choose the firmest and most untouched piece of track that you can find, avoiding the most used muddy bits but also steering clear of the lush untouched grass bits because these are often waterlogged and have not ever been compacted by 4×4 tyre tread. The other most important trick is to keep the bike upright, you are probably thinking thats obvious, and that I mean by upright, not falling over, well yes and no, what I mean is that when you turn a motorcycle you lean into the corner but on slippery mud that lean will lose you traction with the end result a fall. So, slowly through the bends whilst trying to stay vertical. On straight tracks you can go a bit quicker and churn the mud up behind you with your nobbleys. On the really muddy tracks that are surrounded by very waterlogged grassland or rocks, the track becomes a big puddle a sort of mini ford with muddy bits on the edges of the huge puddles. During the day we came across hundred of these massive unavoidable puddles, there are two ways of passing these, bending the bike into the muddy edges risking sliding to a fall or straight through the middle sometimes up to eighteen inches deep, normally I will go round the edges because no one wants to get soaking wet but with the mud being so treacherous, for today only, I went straight through the middle. By the end of the day (will I actually get there?) I was imitating a dirty drowned rat!

After about an hour we reached a little wooden bridge that crossed a fast flowing stream that would have been impossible to cross via a ford. The bridge was only a metre wide and made of slippery logs and it had huge ruts on the entry and exit. We took it in turn to walk the bikes across, we needed four helpers to get the bikes up the rutted entry as the wheels were spinning. On the exit, you powered over the rut but the whole grass area was heavily waterlogged. We got all the bikes safely over the bridge (there were no Trolls under the bridge!) however myself and Riaan lost traction over the muddy waterlogged area, so that was fall number one for me, luckily no injury to me or Riaan. We continued along a ridge which ran along the side of a valley, multiple tracks here and because we were traveling along the incline of a valley the ground to the right was higher than the ground on the left, not easy on wet tracks. The rain had started again and my rear tyre was continually slipping down the hill. On this section we were all riding in the same direction but a different tracks so sort of side by side instead of directly following each other, by taking separate tracks you minimised the problems caused by the bike in front of you churning up the mud directly in your path. Although this section of our journey was on an angle it was straight with no bends so our speed had risen to approximately 30-40kph. My track was one of the lower ones and I could see up ahead that my track was turning into a pond and I needed to cross the many grooved tracks higher up the hill in order to avoid the pond. The grooves in the tracks made by 4×4’s can be up to a foot deep, so crossing should be done at slow speed, not adhering to this rule I blasted at 30 degrees to the right of my forward direction, lost traction and flew off my KTM with the bike crocodile rolling more than 360 degrees down the hill! According to Bruce who was higher up the hill and Lorraine who was in the support vehicle behind, my crash was quite spectacular. Modern motorcycle apparal of the highest quality like my armoured Dianese gear is astonishing! I had a few bruises but got up immediately, picked the bike up and continued. The bike had broken both wing mirrors from the 360 degree roll but otherwise was as good as new, I love my KTM. Normally an accident like mine would bring everyone to my rescue but on this occasion Bruce to the left of me stopped and said “are you OK?” and then both him and the support vehicle rushed a few hundred metres ahead to where Dennis had come off. Dennis stayed motionless on the ground, he had seriously injured his shoulder, but we didn’t know if it was broken, however we loaded his bike on the trailer and he continued in the Toyota.

The next section was climbing the mountain, the grassland disappeared and was replaced by wet rocks, shingle, mud and huge puddles. As said before my mode of operation to cross the puddles was to go straight through the middle, I therefore got soaked but at least the ground under the water is compacted by 4×4’s and I avoided the muddy corners. However on one section the whole track was mud and puddles with the areas to the right and left marshland, I went through the muddy pool lost traction and came off but this time I fell into two foot of brown mushy water, when I stood up I resembled the famous picture of Fran Cotton the English rugby prop forward (check it out on google, Fran Cotton mud picture) again I was unhurt. Bruce arrived a couple of minutes later when I had already picked my bike up and he, cool as a cucumber went round the outside of the pond without a care in the world, bastard! Bruce and I continued up the mountain with me in front, we picked up the pace and with more traction on the mountain we were making good time, I was scooting along in-between the mud the ponds and the rocks until that is I misjudged an outlying rock and hit it with my pannier, I spun round ninety degrees and came off for the fourth time of the day and to Bruce’s amazement I got up without any serious injuries, again. Bruce, John and I made it to the top of the mountain pass first, it was 2800 metres above sea level, we parked up beside the monument adorned with prayer flags and took a much needed rest. It was windy but by now, which was 12:30 the rain had finally ceased and the sun was out, I took my jacket and helmet off and flaked out on the grass. It was a good half an hour until the next rider joined us and that was Jim, by radio communication we knew the others were about another thirty minutes behind and also that nearly all the riders had endured falls and accidents. The top of the mountain was going to be our lunch spot but John and I decided we needed to take advantage of the only good, dry conditions we had seen all day and so the two of us carried on alone.

John and I descended the mountain fairly easily, at the bottom we hit the multi-trails again and by now we could see the White Lake a few miles in the distance, with numerous bendy streams contouring into the lake. It was good that we could see the lake, it is at this point that I took today’s featured image, you can just make out the lake, you can also see the beautiful sky and cumulous clouds, what a view! The next few kilometres looked fairly straight forward, but we miscalculated the previous nights storm which had swelled the streams flowing from the higher ground which had waterlogged all the low lying ground surrounding the lake. Over the next four hours we only covered 25 kilometres, we got bogged down, we had to cross five streams, three by ford and two by tiny wooden bridges. The first stream was doddle, the second required a fifteen metre crossing with muddy entry and exits and a water level of waist height. I got through first, found a non waterlogged bit of ground and parked up waiting for John to join me. John got two thirds across and then hit a rock and tumbled over, I raced into the stream whilst holding my bruised ribs (from the days previous scrapes)and helped John pick up his bike. I then held the bike and with the stream babbling past, John remounted his BMW and to our joint relief started up the engine, it went first time, hallelujah! Both of us were sopping wet, our motorbike boots filled up but we were pleased that the bike was still going. For five minutes John’s bike spluttered out water from the exhaust, it was important that John had turned off the engine as soon as he hit the water, this prevented the river water entering the carburettor. We both continued towards our destination of the Ger camp, we could see on our Garmin Sat Nav instruments that we only had 14km to go. We transversed another ford and then as we neared the lake the streams got too big to cross without bridges, the nomads knew this as well so we purposely searched for Nomad Ger settlements on the horizon. We found the two bridges that we needed, the approaches to these bridges was incredibly difficult due to the much used slippery mud, as all the nomad traffic has to cross these very few bridges, all the various tracks led to the narrow point of the bridge’s entry and exits. Because we had no support we couldn’t dilly and dally with jumping up to the tree log bridges, we didn’t have the luxury of walking the bikes across, we just revved up the engines got onto the bridge and quickly put the brakes on to help steady our passage, we both did great, and continued on our way. We were now right by the Lakes shores, we had a little rocky outcrop to manoeuvre, which when we reached the peak, was a near cliff drop the other side, it could have been curtains but we both passed the test. We followed the White Lakes shores for another five kilometres and safely arrived at Tsetserleg Ger camp, back of the net!

As John and I rode through the gate, we high gave each other a high five, todays ride had been so extraordinarily gruelling that at times I was unsure if I would make the Ger camp or the hospital first, I was totally exhausted but pleased that I had seized the day and come through smiling. As we parked our bikes, Lorraine and Pat came to meet us they had traveled ahead with Dennis in the support vehicle so as he could get to a Doctor as soon as possible. Pat asked if she could do anything for me as I am sure I looked a bit tired, vacant and shell shocked, I said all I needed was a cold beer, an ice cold Tiger beer was delivered to me within two minutes. At the Ger camp we all had a Yurt to be shared between two people, Pete and I were allocated number 17. Pat helped me in with my helmet, gloves, jacket and bags. The Yurt had a wood burning stove and it was totally stoked up, creating a warm glow throughout the Ger. As soon as I was alone in the Yurt I pulled off my soaking wet boots, gloves and clothes and sat on the bed, just two feet from the glowing stove and thought, “what a day!” this was indeed my London to Magadan “D-DAY” and I had slain the Dragon.

An hour later I had a warm shower, followed by lamb and noodle soup and another Tiger beer with John, (thats the soup, not the shower!)As we were eating our soup, Dennis returned from the Doctor with an X-Ray of his broken collar bone, unfortunately this was game over for Dennis. The remaining members of the group arrived at the Ger camp two hours after John and I arrived, they were all tired and exhausted and along with being pleased that they all made it, they were amazed that John and I had completed the journey without any back up.

The Tsetserleg Ger camp was delightful, especially the warm and cozy yurts. In the evening we all sat down to Yak tongue, chips and salad, the Yak tongue was a bit chewy but otherwise it was a filling meal. I was so tired and nursing so many aches and pains that I went straight to bed in the lovely wood fired yurt at only 20:30pm.

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Day 81, London To Magadan 2016 – Towards the White Lake – KTM Biker

Today was just the most incredible day, we only covered 110 kilometre in eight hours, this was because of the crazy road/track conditions and the rain making the dirt roads muddy and slippery. For the whole day we had amazing scenery, one incredible vista after another, mountains, hills, valleys, planes, lakes, rivers, streams , babbling brooks, all sorts of animals, Gers and Mongolian nomads, many on horseback dressed in traditional costumes, cute nomad children and whole families on little Chinese made 150cc motorcycles.. On leaving camp we hit the multiple tracks carved out on the Mongol plains, the sky was black and threatening, it was already raining but only lightly and the direction we were heading looked thundery and extremely wet. The overnight rain was not heavy but it had made the dirt tracks slippery especially when negotiating corners. As I passed a Ger on my left I could see a nomad horseman heading towards this same Ger. I parked up, I eventually found a piece of flat grassland that I could balance my bike on without it falling over on the wet grass and retrieved my camera from my pannier, hoping the horseman would come towards me. He did and I was able to take some great photographs, following close behind me in the second support vehicle was Diana, Pat and Lorraine and their Mongolian driver Bababalo. Bababalo doesn’t speak a word of english but has got to know our quirks and knows that we like to meet the nomads. The horseman stopped right in front of us and Bababalo spoke to him and asked if I could take a photograph and if Diana could sit on his horse, he smiled and helped her up onto the horse. Soon after we arrived at our first stream ford crossing of the day, it was about 20 metres across and half a metre deep, we all wait at fords so as to lend a hand if someone gets into difficulty. This time everyone crossed safely. Shortly after the stream crossing Adrian, Kawangi and I noticed two alpha male Yaks duelling, they were charging and rutting each other with their horns. I think they do this to recognise seniority and herd dominance with the champion Yak winning the mating rights. I videoed this natural selection combat and also took some photographs, I probably got to within 30 metres of the fight, I was a little concerned that all that testosterone could be directed at me if I dared to get too close. Immadiately after this fascinating incident, Kawangi noticed a Golden Eagle settled on the ground no more than 40 metres away, we both crept up behind her hoping to get close enough for a great picture, of course she knew we were there all the time and took flight as soon as we started stalking. Nevertheless we were both able to capture the Eagles flight, unfortunately its flight was away from us and not to us as we had hoped.

We stopped for lunch by a little nomad village, this village was at least 100 kilometres from any normal civilisation, the only way of reaching this village was by the multiple dirt tracks and that means transversing huge open planes, hills, mountains, rivers and streams with nearly all of the stream crossing via fords. The Mongol nomads travel by foot,horse, small Chinese motorcycles, Toyota 4X4’s or Russian built 4×4 transit vans that haven’t had a mechanical upgrade in thirty years. Many of them farm Horses, Goats, Sheep, Yaks and Cows, we were told by an Australian that has lived in Mongolia for seven years that the horses we see everywhere are not wild, they are all owned by different nomads, the horses are branded and none of them are given names even the ones they ride. Instead of names each horse is known by its colour and according to the Aussie ex-pat they have hundreds of names for different colours. Mongolians respect their neighbours and horse or livestock is never stolen, this also goes for vehicles, but petty crime and alcoholism is a serious problem. Therefore they won’t steal your car but they will take the wheels!! We have now stopped in a few villages and at petrol stations in this wild countryside and I can confirm that probably a third of all the adult Mongolian Nomads we met were completely off their heads on booze. While we were having lunch besides this village we were visited by two nomads in full traditional Mongolian clothing, they rode up on their little 150cc motorcycle and they both fell off twice in the half a kilometre journey from the village to arriving at our lunch site, they had difficulty standing up but insisted on greeting us and shaking our hands.

Soon after we set off again we came to a river ford below a steep hill that was covered in mud tracks, and beside the mud track was waterlogged grassland.Unbelievably we all made it over the stream, we then had the hill to climb. This climb resulted in over half the group coming off their bikes. I got two thirds up the hill and then completely lost traction, I spun 90 degrees to the right and left the track towards the hills grassland, for one moment I thought my skid control had worked, but then I completely lost it, I fell off the bike with the KTM sliding down the hill for about ten metres. Help always comes quick and if nothings broken it is important to get up on the horse again quickly. This hill took us a hour to climb and at least six bikers fell off at least once, in John’s case four or five times. However we all persevered and eventually made it to the top. Half an hour later we came to a muddy, waterlogged and rocky section, again six or seven falls, no damage again and this was one of the few difficult sections that I didn’t come off, back of the net! Soon after we arrived at the top of the mountain, at the top of each mountain is a Mongolian wooden and painted feature or sculpture which is nearly always covered in small flags, ribbons and prayer flags, I have added a photo on this blog page. The second half of the afternoon was descending into the valley below and it was breathtaking. This ride was truly one where we were chasing our shadows as the sun was gradually setting behind us as we were traveling East. I can’t begin to explain how absolutely fantastic the feeling you have riding down into a valley with a vast open plane in front and being totally surrounded 360 degrees by mountains; and this afternoon the plane was intersected by multiple streams glistening in the sun and another village with its multi-coloured roofs standing out in the distance. We stopped at this village for petrol, not many western bikers make it to these wild parts and at the fuel station and at the village shop we became a little bit of a show stopper. At one stage whilst I, Tony and Dennis were buying cold beer for the campsite, our bikes were mobbed by a dozen nomads, all colourfully decked out in quilted robes and discussing the pros and cons of our big Trail bikes, so different to the $1000 dollar Chinese 150cc bikes that many of them own. Tony took a great photo on my Instagram account of me and the most Mongolian looking person I have ever set eyes on. Leaving the town was a bit of a nightmare as all the roads were mud baths, probably because of the poor wet weather and the heavy use that these dirt tracks get. John fell off in the brook and Riaan got bogged down in a swampy area and all of us had a tough job exiting the town. Its difficult to believe that a bunch of expensive motorcycles and extremely experienced riders could have difficulty exiting a town, but you have to realise that this town is in the absolute middle of nowhere and the nomads get zero help from their government, no roads, no road maintenance crews, they are completely left to their own endeavours. Big 4×4 Toyotas can deal with these conditions because they can’t fall over when slipping and the locals on little motorbikes just know where and where not to go, a luxury we didn’t have.

Eventually we found a camp site ten kilometres out of town, this was without doubt my favourite camp site so far, beautiful views over the valley, no mosquitos, cold beer a fabulous sunset and a tasty meal of tuna and rice.

I could have posted so many amazing landscape photograph’s as today’s featured image but the overriding theme of today was how incredibly difficult was the riding in these extreme conditions, so I have therefore published a picture of some of the bikes (not mine!) bogged down at the bottom of the hill.

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Day 79, London To Magadan 2016 – White Lake – KTM Biker

Today we were leaving the Khovsgol Lake Ger camp, we had a later than normal breakfast for a riding day of 08:30am.For breakfast we had fried bacon, cucumber and tomato sandwiches, with toast and raspberry jam. Today is David van der Merwe’s 29th birthday, Kawangi gave David a surprise bottle of vodka as a birthday present and the staff brought out a birthday cake and we all sang Happy Birthday. When we were ready to leave all the staff on mass came out to wave us goodbye, they were more than a dozen strong, we lined all our bikes up with the sun on our backs , the bikes, bikers and assorted staff in the foreground and the Ger’s in the background. I got some great photographs, many of the girls wanted their pictures taken sat on the bikes and I took some nice photo’s of Dana and Deegii sat on my KTM. We all loved staying at the Ger camp, it was such a tranquil, peaceful place, the Yurts were comfortable, warm and cozy in the evenings and cool in the day time, the chefs served interesting and tasty meals and all the girls were so brilliantly happy and good at their jobs, whether it was serving our food, taking our chairs out to the veranda decking area overlooking the lake , lighting the fire in your Ger morning or evening or doing your laundry, it was always done with sincerity and a happy heart. If I ever return to Mongolia and I think I will, I will definitely return to Natures Door,Lake Khovsgol Ger Camp. On leaving the camp we had to negotiate the 20km of the dreadful rubble pot-holed road until we hit the bitumen road that would take us back to Murun a town we had came through three days before. The road to Murun was smooth with the same incredible views but in reverse. At Muren we fuelled up, changed money and purchased booze, water and snacks.

From riding on the perfect bitumen roads leading to Muren , we left the town on proper Mongolian multiple grass and dirt tracks towards our campsite on our way to the white Lake. These tracks were sometimes six or seven fold, with all twelve bikes blasting down these tracks at up 90kph, sometimes side by side but on different tracks. We rode into a green valley with Gers and farmsteads dotted all over the plane, mountains peering down on us and all sorts of livestock being herded by the Nomad horsemen. At one stage I rode past a herd of horses that must have been 200 strong and being moved through the plane by a dozen cowboys, I managed to take some great photographs. After stopping to take some pics, I quickly caught up the others. We often passed the nomads on little 150cc Chinese made motorcycles, often two up and sometimes whole families on the little bikes. The Mongolians never wear helmets and don’t seem to worry about the shit roads, we are amazed that their little bikes don’t get problems with their shock absorbers but then again they don’t do up to 100kph on these tracks. Shortly after I left the herd of horses Tony and I came across a whole family stopped by the side of the track with a broken chain on their little motorcycle. The family consisted of Dad, Gran, and daughter who were all travelling on the bike!! or not because of the broken chain. We had lunch in the middle of the plane surrounded by some fairly tall hills, birthday boy David decided to ride to the top of the hill about a mile away, when he came back we presented him with a huge birthday cake that the girls had purchased in Muren.

After lunch we all rode off like Meatloaf’s song “Bat out of Hell” blasting down multiple tracks and sometimes completely off the tracks and on the grass. We were all trying to overtake each other by using different tracks, I was chasing Bruce who had decided to go on virgin grass. We must have got up to 90 plus kph and all of a sudden the grass disappeared into a culvert three feet deep and three feet wide, I had no chance to slow down so I just braced myself and flew over the culvert with an almighty bump. I managed to stay upright and initially was worried about my front tyre and in particular my rims as another dented front rim could end my London to Magadan adventure. The rim was OK, well at least it wasn’t losing air, as no message came up on my onboard computer. But about thirty seconds later Pete caught me up and alerted me that my top box had come off. I turned the bike round and reacquainted myself with my dented top box along with four of the other bikers who had come to my assistance. Turned out that the top box was well and truly buggered and had to go in the support vehicle, amazingly my Canon 7D camera that was in the box was fine. With a lighter load I got back into the swing of riding like the wind. This ride was magical, the tracks were challenging but not so rutted and with very few stones, the standout feature of this ride was the scenery it was exactly how every biker or horseman imagines Mongolia to be like, fucking amazing!! sorry about the expletive but this countryside is just too difficult to describe in words. We found a campsite on the top of a hill overlooking two valleys one for a sunset and one for a sunrise. We were visited by half a dozen nomad teenage children who were all on horseback, we had no idea where they came from as we could see for ten miles in every direction and we couldn’t see any Gers or homesteads. Jim, Lorraine and Kawangi cooked vegetable stir fry with bacon for the meat eaters. I tried to fix my top box but it was beyond mine and Jim’s campsite abilities so I will hopefully get it drilled and bolted to my frame when we get to UB thats short for Ulan Bator, we are fast becoming native. I did however strengthen my panniers with some hose clips. After supper we sat round the fire and celebrated Davids birthday, Jim brought out the Chivas Regal and David brought out the Jonny Walker Black Label, this on top of lots of wine. I even found a bottle of Bottega Cab Sav in a shop in Muren, this is a company we have strong relations with, especially with there standout Proseco I have taken a photo of us drinking the Bottega sat around the campfire with the Mongolian mountains in the distance, I am sending this photo to Sandro and Paulo back in Italy, I think they will like this. While we were sat round the fire talking bollocks, Danny came up to me whilst I am writing my blog and urged me to write some sort of personal eulogy about him and what a cool dude he is, I told him that he is a Brazilian Twat!!. Danny comes from Rio which only a few days before commenced the 2016 Olympics, with Danny being here with us on this adventure, he has rented his flat next to Ipanema Beach for $300 per day, which is nice! Thats it for tonight, (I am writing in the present again) Happy Birthday David.

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Day 77, London To Magadan 2016 – Relaxing at Lake Khovskol Ger Camp- KTM Biker

I wish I could say that I took the iconic image above but it was actually taken by Diana Hawke on her iPhone. it was taken on the edge of Lake Khovsgol right outside our Ger camp, my friend Jeff Wang will love it.

Not much to say today as its another much needed rest day, today the sun was bright and hot from early on, no mist this morning. Breakfast was a little later, on our request, so we all gathered for breakfast at 9am. We were the only guests this morning as most of the other visitors had departed, this meant that the wifi was working great, David managed to order some much needed BMW 1200GSA spares to be delivered from Germany to Ulan Bator, to hopefully arrive on the 12th August when we arrive. I telephoned home yesterday and spoke to Jack, one of my sons, the first time I had spoken to him in four weeks, he said everything was fine and all my 5 boys were in good form, not sure where Noah and Ollie were but that they were fine. Next week, Joel, Gus, Ollie and possibly Noah go on their annual pilgrimage to Tuscany Italy where they camp out with twenty or so other young people in Philippa’s holiday villa, which is nice, Phil owns the White Rabbit where most of my boys have worked at some time or another.

Lunch was the nicest carrot soup in Mongolia, followed by meat balls, served uo by Dana and Deegii. In the afternoon,Ian, Leanne. Tony, Pat and I rode up the hill five km to a traditional Mongolian market, there were a few Korean and Japanese tourists who decided they would take Pat’s helmet put it on their head and jump on Ian’s bike while we weren’t looking, well they certainly got told were to go by Ian, who isn’t shy about expressing his feelings, Ian told them they were Twat’s, its a new word I have taught the Aussies! I purchased a Yak wool shawl, the softest in Mongolia, its a gift for someone special who has been sorting out my real life while I am away in the wild.I also got a Yak bone keyring with traditional drawing of a stick man and a bracelet carved out of Yak bone, so intricate, this is to go in our ShitRivers museum in my house in Abingdon, its where we keep the weird and wonderful things the Rogers family have collected over the years. The ShitRivers is a take off of our favourite museum in the world the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford, a amazing collection of artefacts from all over the world collected over the last 400 years, including shrunken Heads from Papua New Guinea, do visit, you will love it.

Our last supper at Lake Khovsgol was a BBQ, where we had lamb kebabs, crispy chicken, potatoes and rice.

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