I woke at 8am and looked outside… yay, blue sky! It was still windy though and very cold. We got everything out of the tent and shook off all the sand and dust, it was everywhere. The wind helped get rid of it and I realised that despite my western obsession with keeping things clean and dust free, most things seemed to be ok, relatively speaking. I was so pleased that the sun was shining and we could finally leave ‘camp sandstorm’. So pleased in fact that I didn’t really register just how windy it was and Chris asked me what was flapping at one point, I realised it was the tent door – I’d gotten so used to the noise of ‘flapping tent’ that I hadn’t even noticed.
We were ready to leave bar putting the tent away, which we left until last for shelter. 2 men pulled up on a motorbike, they were friendly and took a seat on the more sheltered side of the tent. Although we’d been about to pack up and go, I felt we should offer them a drink. Who knew how far they’d travelled? We had some hot water in our flask and quickly fished out some cups, coffee and sugar to make them a drink. Having received so much hospitality and kindness from people on the road over the last year and a half, it’s nice to have the opportunity to be the ones giving something to others. They seemed grateful and were very smiley. One man asked Chris if I kept him warm at night, well that was Chris’s interpretation, he seemed pleased to know that I did!
Once we on the road, it was immediately clear that the wind was going to make this tough. After 7km I was off my bike and pushing. The wind was blowing me all over the place and my legs felt weak. My lower back ached, my hands ached from gripping so hard. ‘Stop being a whinging weedy Wilton’ a voice in my head said, ‘get on with it!’ No one said it would be easy. After climbing a long hill and pushing for most of it, I literally couldn’t catch my breath and my heart was beating way too fast. By the time I reached Chris I was ready to stop and rest. I was so hungry and had zero energy left. Chris cooked me some noodles and I ate a handful of biscuist with coffee while they cooked. After that I felt sooooooo much better and had lots more energy.
We were on a new road, it was tarmac, a revolution in the desert, but I couldn’t work out why all the cars and traffic were still taking the dirt road. After a km or so, we saw why, the new road wasn’t finished and kept abruptly ending. With so much more energy I managed to cycle another 14km and we stopped as the sun set having done 27km.
27km doesn’t sound much? Well imagine a windy day where umbrellas get turned inside out, sandwich boards fall over and newspapers fly away. Then thing of a farm track or gravel road that would make you bounce in your seat as you drove across it. Finally think of a hill near you that makes you out of breath when you walk up it. Put all three together and you have a rough idea of what it’s like to be cycling through the Gobi today.
After passing some camels and a couple of yurts we found a camp spot just off the road and watched and amazing sunset as we set up the tent.
We’ve seen a bit of wildlife, lizards, beetles, big crow like birds, camels, sheep, horses, flies and now dogs.
As I write a dog is sat outside the tent with Chris, he is skinny and hungry but very submissive and friendly we gave him the leftovers from our dinner and a chunk of meat. It’s late now and the temperature has dropped, the stars are out and there is no wind at the moment, hope to get to town tomorrow.
We woke to the sound of no wind, hurray. However it was short lived and we realised that the wind is closely connected to the sun, thermal currents maybe. At sunset the wind seems to drop and after sunrise it picks up again. We decided we would need to get up very early to have no wind at all. Off we went on a bumpy old track to a hill in the far corner. After 3km I was in a bad mood and hating cycling in the desert. It was bumpy sand and windy I was going so slow no more than 7km an hour and feeling very frustrated at how hard it was, how unenjoyable.
It should only be 20km to Ulaan Uud, where we hope to restock with food, fuel and water. We reach the top of a big hill after lots of climbing and pushing. I remember reading Ripley Davenport’s blog last year of him hauling ‘Molly’ through the Gobi desert. I now have some idea how hard that must have been.
At the top of the hill near a cairn, we had a full view of the entire valley below. No town. We asked a nearby truck driver he pointed down the hill so off we went down the hill and there was no town in any direction. We carried on and followed our NW bearing on the compass, which was also the same track that all the truck and cars were taking. It was a slow gradual climb across the plain to the next ridge. The wind was relentless.
After 27km a jeep stopped and four guys got out, one was from UB and spoke some English. I asked how far to Ulaan Uud, he said about 20km, Hmmm. It was marked as 102km on our map and we had already done 110km. They gave us a 1.5 litre bottle of water, that was very kind. I was tired now and knew we wouldn’t make it to the town tonight, we agreed to get up the hill and then camp. The last of my energy was used pushing the bike up, I was listening to Toto ‘Africa’ as the sun was setting. Looking across the yellow Mongolian plains, with the big red sun setting, I could have easily believed I was in Africa again.
Chris came back down the hill to help me and enjoyed a brief spell of cycling a much lighter bike! The top of the hill was a long plateau with tracks going in all directions. We finally stopped to camp around 8pm and ate dinner before collapsing into bed. I was shattered but pleased with 34km.