Greetings from Stockholm, Sweden.
Seasons have passed since my last blog and early snows of winter began to dust the woodlands of central Russia weeks ago. This writing hiatus hasn’t been due to idleness. Since departing China in July, I’ve cycled over 6,000 km through challenging conditions and with little rest until now, due to the necessity of covering long distances on limited visas.
As it’s going to take a while for me to update this story, I’ve put together a quick photographic synopsis of the past 3+ months.
I had been travelling for some time through the Gobi Desert in northern China but Mongolia posed a greater challenge of unsealed roads and large distances between water. I was carrying 14 litres at a time and still running out.
Scorpions were among the many desert dwelling critters that enjoyed visiting my camps.
Illegal calcium mines.
The remnants of Soviet rule scar the villages with dilapidated barracks and the shattered foundations of military instalments, as with this abandoned airforce base.
700 km north from the Chinese border, I arrive in Ulaanbaatar. From there I turn west, travelling 2000 km across the north of Mongolia, towards the Altai mountains.
On the steppe there’s no shortage of curious herdsmen.
Watching the London Olympics in a Ger.
About as good as signage gets in Mongolia, I’m afraid. Without accurate maps, a functioning odometer, or GPS, I was lost often.
During my two months in Mongolia I only stayed in accommodation in Ulaanbaatar, so I relied on solar power to charge my camera batteries.
Lack of development, nomadic culture, and meeting other adventure cyclists and road travellers, were the best bits of Mongolia.
Hell headwinds, torrential rains, unridable tracks, and bad food, were the toughest bits. My tripod was tied down from the wind to get this shot.
I didn’t shower for 6 weeks—from Unaanbaatar to the end of the Altai mountains in Russia—but fear not, I did wash in dung-coloured rivers.
Killer roads and…
…sublime landscape is the Mongolia experience.
On the Russian side (below) the landscape was nothing to complain about either.
Two months, 2,650 km diagonally across Mongolia, mostly on unsealed tracks, and against prevailing winds, afforded me no time for contingency. I arrived at the border on the penultimate day of my visa.
There’s no mistaking crossing the Russian border.
Several weeks through the Altai mountains.
Ticks were a daily worry.
For over two months through western Mongolia and central Russia, with no cold weather gear and no time to stop, I could do nothing but tough out the sub-zero nights with only a few scraps of clothing and half a synthetic sleeping bag.
Despite my best efforts, I got only as far as Perm, Russia—1,900 km short of Scandinavia—within a week of my visa expiring. Thus, I had no choice but to leave my bike there, catch a train to Moscow and exit the country. After a few days in the capital, I flew to Stockholm from where I’m currently applying for a new passport and visa for Russia.