Greetings from Stockholm, Sweden.
Regrettably, seasons have passed since my last blog and the early snows of the impending northern winter began to dust the woodlands of central Russia weeks ago. Admittedly, I’m a pretty lazy writer but this prolonged writing hiatus hasn’t been due to idleness. Well, not entirely. Since departing China in July, I’ve cycled over 6000 km through challenging conditions and with little rest until now—due to the necessity of covering long distances on limited visas. If anyone is still following my sporadic dispatches, I thank you.
As it’s going to take a short while for me to update this story—and I do finally have the time on my hands to do it—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 in Russia—but fear not, I did wash in dung-coloured rivers.
Killer roads and…
…sublime landscapes is the Mongolia experience.
On the Russian side (below) the landscape was nothing to complain about either.
Two months for a 2650 km diagonal crossing of 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 Mongolian visa.
There’s no mistaking crossing the Russian border.
Several weeks through the Altai mountains.
Ticks were a daily worry.
With no cold weather gear and no time to stop, I could do nothing but tough out the sub-zero nights with my few scraps of clothing and half a synthetic sleeping bag (the top portion), for over two months through western Mongolia and central Russia.
Despite my best efforts, I got as far as Perm, Russia—1900 km short of Scandinavia (my target)—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.
This section of the journey will be detailed in my next blog.