The diaries - 7   

19 May

Ulaan Bataar - Mongolia


We've been here in Ulaan Bataar a few days now, staying with Degi and Toro at the
Guest House... a remarkable place with a great welcome.  The journey here was, to say the least, horrendous.  Thirty two hours in a small van the size of a Transit with two motorcycles, loads of luggage, five people, doors that didn't shut properly, windows that were missing... but we needed to be at Ulaan Bataar for the oil seal for Sue's gearbox output shaft... and other bits.  The journey was virtually non-stop, no sleep, cramped, noisy, dusty and just errr mmm well, mmmm errr "bloody uncomfortable"!


My first diagnosis, as Sue's F650 had ground to a halt making a horrendous (mmm ....THAT word again!) screeching noise, had been that the output shaft bearing (rear of gearbox sprocket) had collapsed.  I'd come across one before.... The wheel would hardly turn when in neutral, and looking behind the plastic cover over the sprocket revealed that the fault was in there somewhere!  Once into the hotel at Altai I had found a stone had wedged behind the sprocket and chewed up the gearbox casing and the rear of the sprocket, but I needed to be sure about that bearing so prised off the oil seal... it looked fine, and spun sweetly.


So while we needed a new oil seal, and maybe could have found one locally, arrangements were made for our dear friends at Rainbow to fly one out to us to Ulaan Bataar, where we knew we had some garage facilities etc.  Cost us two hundred and sixteen quid to have it sent to us though.....!


While sending the oil seal, I reasoned that I might as well have a new GPS unit, for it's still A Long Way Home!  I would be buying a new one when home... so why not now?  We would have to have chains and sprockets sent out to us at some time... so why not now?  My BMW tank bag had finally 'given up the ghost' ... zips all gone, so why not have one sent out now?  So it came to pass that four days before the parcel was due, Sue and I went to the DHL offices here in Ulaan Bataar, to learn that the goodies were awaiting customs clearance at the airport.  DHL put us in their mini bus, took us to the airport, helped with the customs clearance, and brought us back to UB... service indeed!  No charge, and no duty to pay on the new Motorrad Navigator II, as we at first thought there might be.  We were ready to produce evidence that it wasn't being imported, but replaced, eventually to be returned to England.  We had the old one in our hand, and were prepared to leave it there.  It's one of the original Navigators, done a few track days, Nurburgring courses, been 'down the road', and done half a million miles!

I've now serviced both bikes and all is well with them. Both are showing signs of errr mmm errr... maturity,
with a few scratches and grazes etc! Mine has a bent front sub-frame when it blew over while helping Sue through a river crossing.  Landing upside down, like a turtle on its shell, wheels in the air, the bike didn't stand a chance... that's how windy it was. We've (read 'Sue') washed and cleaned the chains and sprockets, and they're still quite serviceable. Fitted new before we set off, they have had one minor adjustment and that's it...  they still don't show any signs of serious wear.  The new chains have been wrapped in plastic and gaffa tape and are now nestling under the engines, laying on top of the sump guards, out of harm's way.  I carried a worn spare in this fashion (now dumped) without a problem. We can't get the weight much lower down than this eh!  We can carry the sprockets in our panniers, no problem, and then we'll have them whenever needed.  I don't think the new chains and sprockets fitted before departure will make it to Turkey (Istanbul) where the next service will probably be required.


Scott, an American guy working for his Embassy here in Ulaan Bataar, has been a great help to us in furnishing advice and supplying us with some BMW oil. He himself rides an R100GS with extra large tank.  He jokes about running around town with only a few litres of petrol, because of the weight when full.... but out in the country here a large tank is very useful.


Friday we pick up the passports from the Ministry of Tourism with an eighteen-day extension to the Mongolian visa... and then we're free to go south... to China!


That's really about all for now folks... a few days off here in UB and we're both champing at the bit to get back on the road again..... aaaaaaagh!


Next update could be some time... we're heading into unknown territory!


Just to go back in time a little. May 10, the evening before we are to leave Altai, we meet an American Peace Corps worker called Daphne in the internet cafe as we are doing our updates. She invites us to her flat for a meal - and what a fantastic feast! Am I becoming obsessed with food? You bet I am, I have lost a stone already, food is uppermost in my mind. Daphne - thank you my angel, I can still taste that meal!

I asked Mick to put his bike on the lorry with mine when we left Altai, the worry of the journey from Darvi when neither of us knew where the other was, was not one I wished to repeat. It was a horrendous journey, and if anyone dares to tell me 'it's journeys' like that that build character' I shall sock 'em!

We had a super reception when we arrived at Khongor Guest House, Toro and Degi made us most welcome - a secure container for the bikes, a hot shower for us, a bed that didn't move - I slept like a log the first night.

Ulaan Bataar is a very laid-back city, food of every description (there I go again). I bet you can buy anything here if you really look. There is poverty too, a great divide between the haves and the have-nots. I must admit I feel uncomfortable with the begging from the street children, the motorcycle I have (broken or not) is worth more than they can ever hope to earn, they rifle through the dustbins for scraps of food and anything remotely useful.

One evening we had rain. You probably wonder why I mention that - well it's only the second time we have seen rain in 2 months. Mongolia deserves its reputation for the land of blue skies. Still not much sign of spring though, a few buds on the shrubs, a little more grass, one solitary dandelion - just watch, this Saturday when we leave, the whole land will blossom with wild flowers!

We have done a little of the 'cultural' thing while we have been waiting for the spares to come in, a visit to the Natural History Museum, full of old dinosaur bones, an evening performance of traditional dancing and singing, shaman dancing, throat singing, the costumes were breathtaking. Mick tells me I almost fell asleep - I didn't honest! I was absorbing the atmosphere through closed eyelids!

Today we have been out on the bikes for the first time since mine was repaired and serviced. She works well my little 650, perhaps chugging a little with the crap petrol, and not starting first time as she does at home, but it was fantastic to be on two wheels again. We went to the Terejl National Park, spectacular scenery and  a round trip of about 60 miles ON TARMAC !!!!


There is a little thumb-sucking going on at the moment with me. The off-road stuff is so hard, I dread deep sand, I see a bit coming and my anal sphincter muscles clench so tight I think they are going to turn me inside out! I know the road south to the Chinese border is the Gobi Desert and sand, I also know that once we start I shall be okay, but it's this interim period, I just want to kiss every bit of tarmac I see!


Hopefully the next update will be from China, and I sincerely hope Uzbekistan will have calmed down before we get there!


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