There are a few ways you can travel across Mongolia from East to West by car or Motorcycle, the 3 common ways are the Southern Route, the Central Route (which uses some of the Southern Route) and the Northern Route, this is the most common question Overlanders ask each other when they come to Mongolia.
The Southern Route heads towards the Gobi Desert which is the route we took a few weeks ago, I haven’t travelled all of it but I have been told it is easier, mostly bitumen but boring and flat, that’s not what I came all this way to see. I had read that the Northern route is much more difficult, more isolated with deep sand and some high river crossings, as I was already at Lake Khovsgol in the north it seemed the most obvious choice, how hard could it be?
After a day and a half of rain I packed up the soggy tent and skidded my way out of the forest to the gravel (rock) road which was now a Rocky Stream.
Then back over the dodgy Bridge.
And back down the nice Bitumen Road with hardly any traffic on it.
This nice road lead all the way back to Moron where I turned my wheel west and started on what is known as the Northern Route.
About 100 metres west of town the bitumen ended and would not be back for days. I think they called this town Moron because if you head west from here on the dirt you are one….so without any hesitation off I went.
Can’t be that bad look at the quality of this bridge.
Ok pick a track, any track or if you don’t like ours feel free to make your own.
So just to explain the Northern Route is a line on my map and GPS named Northern Route it looks like it is one road but it is just a series of ‘roads’ and tracks that sometimes join and sometimes don’t, occasionally you need to go off road all together in search of the next ‘track’ to take, some tracks disappear and some multiply, some have bridges and many don’t.
Another stunning Valley.
All over Mongolia when you reach the peak of hills or mountains there are these Monuments, sometimes made from stones and sometimes made from fallen timber from trees and decorated with Blue cloth, I have yet to find out why they put these here and Google couldn’t help.
The last Motorcycle Rider who didn’t turn around at Moron.
No I didn’t, although it was very tempting.
Unfortunately this is far too common all over Mongolia.
But the scenery is still beautiful.
Later in the day it was time to find another campsite. Step 1….
The following morning the sun was up early and it was going to be a warm day.
Not far down the road was the first challenge, not the best bridge I’ve seen…
But no other choice..so here goes…
Dodging the holes and sharp metal all while it was swaying, at least I didn’t have far to fall.
Then the GPS told me to cross this river, I disagreed and found a way around.
Then I came to this Bridge which was heavily guarded, luckily had I crossed the river before this was the bridge to bring me back over, so in the end I didn’t need to cross the River after all, Paul 1 GPS 0.
Just another rocky hill to climb.
And more sand.
Another small town for supplies, cant help but thinking I might run into a few Cowboys in towns like this.
And the GPS sends me out of town through someone’s back fence, this IS the Northern Route.
Over the crest just outside town the next Valley looked like the American West.
To my right I could see a massive expanse of sand and I kept pleading with the GPS not to send me through there….please.
Luckily I skirted around most of it and this was the worst it got…for now.
Got to chase some Horses again.
The wind had really picked up and was blowing sand everywhere, I couldn’t put the Visor down because then you can’t see the changes in the track surface and that’s when accidents happen so it was push on and stop whinging.
And I could see the dark clouds gathering in the direction I happen to be heading, great.
Then down it came, well at least it made the sand a little easier just seeing anything a lot harder.
But some of the ‘puddles’ were deeper than they looked.
The rain didn’t last that long and it became time to find a camp site again, this spot looked good.
And with the snow capped Mountains in the back ground…
The next morning while I was packing up these two guys came and visited me, they were all smiles until the camera came out then it was the Mongolian pose…
Then it was back on the road chasing Goats.
I arrived in this small town (Which I can’t remember the name of now) to find a nice bitumen main street and some shops to replenish my supplies.
In the street I found this little guy who had crashed his bike in the mud, no doubt practising for when he gets his car licence later on.
So I stopped my bike and went back to give him a hand.
First the bike went back on the footpath….
Then I had to lift him over the mud so his shoes didn’t get dirty…
Job done. The whole time he looked like he was on the verge of tears and was looking at me like I was from another planet and when I gave him the thumbs up he just gave a short sharp nod and I got on my back and rode away.
So after getting more supplies, water and food mainly it was back to the usual ‘roads’.
I was now heading towards a massive area of sand to the south of Lake Uvs (I didn’t know this at the time) and it had been a hot day already peaking just over 30 degrees.
The bike has been excellent and so far has not missed a beat even though it has been given some rough treatment it still keeps on smiling.
Sand gets deeper, no turning back so plough on….
Up on the pegs, keep the weight back, occasionally it got too deep and I had the revert to the ‘don’t be a hero’ position, sit down legs out for ballast and keep going…
As you can tell I’m loving all of this sand on a hot day…
This deep sand went on for a few hours and was getting tiring until I found this family with their little front wheel drive station wagon bogged severely in a long particularly deep section.
After an hour and a half helping them dig their car out and move inch by inch across the sand using their car mats for traction they were finally out of the soft stuff and could move again. To thank me they gave me some type of dried meat which tasted like petrified vomit so I put that in the Tank Bag for ‘later’…..
Not much further up the road I got my first glimpse of Lake Uvs which looks like a sea. it is the largest and the most saline Lake in Mongolia and stretches around 84 kilometres north to the Russian border with part of the northern section actually in Russia.
This is about as close as I wanted to get as I had already ridden through very deep sand just to get this photo, the Lake is impressive but it seemed a lot of extra work to get to the shore only to turn around and ride out again and no doubt there would be some type of flying, biting insect waiting for me. So it was back on the road towards Ulaangom which didn’t really get any better just less sandier.
It was starting to get late in the day and it had been a long ride so I was so glad to see a bridge up ahead which looked like it was reasonably new.
And I was even happier to find some Bitumen on it.
This Bitumen lead all the way into Ulaangom where as with a lot of Mongolia the cows rule the roads.