On our last day in Sainshand we decided to finish blogs, reply to emails and use the electricity at the hotel until the last moment, before packing up and cycling out of town to camp. However as we were about to leave the hotel 2 things happened, Chris got a puncture in his front tyre as he pushed his bike over the hotel floor, so we had to stop and fix that. Then as he was doing that I notice my water bottle was missing, and then noticed that my front bike light, which was a Christmas present, was also gone. I was pretty gutted as the bikes and been locked up under the stairs in the hotel for a few days and every time we’d walk passed them they were fine. However in hindsight we should have taken everything off the bikes that was worth nicking. I guess in all our time travelling we haven’t really had a problem with people stealing stuff, so perhaps we had been too relaxed on this occasion.
As we wheeled the bikes outside, I then realised that my bike helmet was also missing! At this point Chris really felt we should say something to the hotel staff. I had been reluctant as I didn’t really think there was much they could do about it. So we told them and asked if they had cameras of that area, they didn’t. As it was now late and had gone dark outside, I think they felt quite bad about it and they offered us a free nights accommodation. They also said we could put our bikes in the garage! This was good, only I couldn’t helping wishing that they’d mentioned the garage when we’d first arrived! So we stayed the night and then set off the next morning. I was disappointed that someone had taken my stuff and also puzzled, no-one here even wears a helmet when the ride a bike, what were they going to do with it!
It was a bumpy sandy track out of Sainshand and it seemed to take a while to actually get out of town. A guy in a jeep waved and stopped as we cycled. He was keen to chat, I was keen to get going, our morning had been slow and we’d faffed too much for my liking, and i was still in a bad mood about my stuff being taken, However as we cycled on towards the railway crossing, he caught up with us a second time (having stopped) and got out. We stopped, he obviously really wanted to chat. But no he’d gone and bought us two big 1.5 litrs bottles of cold water and came to give us those. I felt bad for being so impatient and his kind gesture restored my faith in humanity again!
Our bikes were fully loaded again and mine felt very heavy and wobbly. the road was sandy and bumpy and I kept losing my balance and coming off. It was easier to push at times. We continued on and my concentration on the track was immense, assessing every bump and constantly thinking that the other side looked better, only to swap and realise that it was pretty much the same. Finally we joined up with the new road and we hopped onto that. It was immediately much faster and I was glad to get away from the sand for a bit. After 20km we stopped for lunch and sheltered from the sun in a drainage pipe under the road. Not longer after lunch Chris rode over something and we heard his tyre going down whistling with air! Fixing the puncture was straight forward enough however the loading of the bike is a big job with all the water, bags and bungees, so it took us a while to get sorted and get going again.
We weren’t getting very far today and I’d hoped we do 50km, ah well it was just going to be one of those days. We carried on and over the mounds of dirt bumps in the road, Chris lost the trailer in what looked like a magic trick.
The sand was too loose to cycle over so it meant stopping and pushing over the bumps which was exhausting. I could see Chris getting more and more frustrated with his heavy bike and the trailer. The weight was extreme, I couldn’t fathom how he was even managing to move the damn thing.
Going over one bump awkwardly I hurt my knee as the bike fell over to one side and I landed heavily on my right leg. Chris started to ache too, with back ache and wrestling the bike. Around 6pm a side wind arrived out of nowhere and both having had enough we decided to stop for the night. Before we did we met a man on a scooter who drove over to see us. Dressed in a traditional deel and cowboy hat he was about to round up his animals, albeit on a motorbike rather than a horse.
At 40km we stopped to camp and I could see Chris was tired and low. I quickly got out the stove made coffee and bog the biscuits out. Hopefully that would help a bit. It did and there was soon a smile back on his face.
As Chris set up the tent, I decided to cook us Pizza and Chips, desert style. We’d talked about this a few days earlier so I decided that tonight would be a good time to try it. I washed the 2 potatoes we had and chopped them up into batons for chips. Then I chopped onion, red pepper and the new sausage meat, and fried this in a little oil.
After slicing some bread, I toasted this before spreading tomato paste on it, followed by the meat and veg. Finally the pizza breads needed cheese. I spread the cream cheese on top of the tomato and meat mix, then using the pan lid, tried to heat the whole thing up, using a little oil to fry the bottom of the bread. Then I flipped the whole thing.
The chips went into some hot oil to fry for 5 mins. It was pretty good and the chips came out very well. Probably as close to pizza and chips as you’ll get in the Gobi desert!
After dinner we sat out under the sea of starts above us, in the dark, and listened to some podcasts with interviews of other cyclists. It’s like having your own personal radio show to listen to! Despite our plan to get an early night it was about 11pm before got to bed. However it had been a nice evening and we both enjoyed the downtime.
Next day we got up and got back on the road. It was calm and so still, no wind at all. For the first time we realised how hot it was and with sun hats and sun cream all over us we set off. The road was great and I was doing 20km an hour at one point. It was so nice and I was confident we’d easily get 50km done on this. However after about 20km the road ended abruptly and turned back to sand and gravel.
It was ok to start with but gradually deteriorated into sand and dirt tracks with little in the way of a hard surface. It was slow and frustrating, and the contrast between cycling and the morning and now was apparent.. The sand kept stopping me mid flow and skidding all over the place and could feel myself getting cross. I tried to relax, keep my weight and not fight the bike, let it go where it needs to go. It remind me of riding horse a little where you let the horse find his way over difficult ground. However the bike isn’t as clever as a horse.
I wanted to stop and sit down now and it was so hot, much hotter than I was expecting and my head was throbbing. I kept drinking my water but was constantly thirty. This is really due to how dry it is and I didn’t think I was dehydrated. As you cycle passed bones of animals, you’re reminded of how harsh this environment can be.
Having done 30km, I was starting to feel funny, too hot and cycling over corrugated road was making me nauseous. We finally stopped about 38km and I needed to lie down. Chris got a wet cloth for my head and I lay on a roll mat in the shade of the bikes. I was sure I would be sick, but really didn’t want to be – I knew that would be a slippery slope. I sipped my water and then once the tent was up lay down and rested. It wasn’t long before I was cold and needed to stay warm. Chris cooked and by 9pm I was able to eat something and my headache had subsided.
I’ve always been susceptible to the sun and over heating, I’ve had sun stoke in England and in Malaysia I really suffered with cycling in the heat. I guess I just got caught out today after several months of mild and winter weather. By the time I went to sleep I was feeling much better.
So we’ve done 80km and it’s still 140km to Choyr the next big town. Let’s hope tomorrow is good and we reach the half way point of Tsagaanvojoili, 45 km from here.
(not many pictures sorry, as internet very sloooow!