Circumnavigating the world through Human Power while connecting different societies, civilizations and landscapes.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Went Lünatic in Lün!

Lün, Central Mongolia
Töv Province
N 47 51.980   E 105 15.103
206 kms since leaving Ulaan Baatar

On Saturday October 20th 2012, after having completed/zigzaged 206 kms since Ulaan Baatar, and while crossing the town of Lün,  I discovered that my Surly Big Dummy bicycle was going lünatic!
- The back wheel was starting to split near three spokes holes
-  A screw on my front Tubus rack splitted in 1/2 and could no longer be removed to be replaced, unless I would drill through it.
- The hook attachment to my front Ortlieb panier was missing and needed to be replaced with metal, or else... 

Splitted rack screw

One of the three spoke holes where the wheel is splitting

Besides singing in my head, the classic Fun Boy Three's tune "The Lunatics have taken over the asylum",  I had to find a solution!

Considering that it could be potentially 3000 kms until I reach the next good bicycle shop in Astana, Kazakhstan, I decided to retreat to Ulaan Baatar, less than 200 kms away where I could replace my bicycle wheel and make my additional repairs with my friends at The Cycling World and with the help via email of my friends at Free Range Cycles in Fremont, Seattle, USA.

So quickly, I found my way to the Lün traffic police station where I met Iktus, a local police officer to whom I begged to keep some of my bags in their garage while I would hitchhiked my way back to Ulaan Baatar with my broken bicycle.

Lün Traffic Police station where I left some bags...
Then, I turned around, raised my thumb and the VERY FIRST moving vehicle picked me up!
Batarchich and Mukachur were indeed transporting 1500 liters of airag/kumis to Ulaan Baatar in their small Korean pick-up truck. They agreed to strap my bike on top of their kumis barrels and squeeze me in the middle seat between these two corpulent Mongols. Batarchich is actually the uncle of Tuvshinbayar Naidan , Mongolian judo olympic champion, who claims to have been successfull thanks to his daily ration of airag/kumis!

Batarchich and Mukachur strapping the Big Dummy on top of 1500 liters of Airag/Kumis!
Airag/Kumis barrels...
On the way back to Ulaan Baatar, we made one stop to deliver barrels of kumis to a local farmers/distributor near Ulaan Baatar where I was offered a meal and copious amount of Kumis.
Cheers and thank you again Batarchich and Mukachur!
Airag/Kumis barrels for sale in UB's Black Market

Airag/ Kumis for sale in UB's Black Market

In Ulaan Baatar, it took a few days to fix my bike wheels since they both had to be rebuilt, as well as complete a few additional repairs in  order to make the bike as "bullet proof" as possible. 
We should find out soon if that is the case...

During my time back in Ulaan Baatar,  I tried to heal my cold, spent time with Mongolian, French, British, Irish, Spanish, Basque, German and Austrian friends/travellers at the Oasis guesthouse, roamed a bit more through the capital, and finally shopped at the black market where I acquired a snuff bottle which I might need to share over the next few weeks while staying with mongolian nomads in gers.

Now, before I leave Ulaan Baatar once again, finding my way back to Lün, where I last stopped, I would like to share with you briefly what I experienced last week when I was riding westbound from Ulaan Baatar to Lün.

Taking into consideration the current "refreshing" temperatures, when the night temperature can drop to  -15c, instead of pitching my tent along the way, I decided to take the opportunity to experience Mongol hospitaly and spent my nights, sharing meals, rooms and gers with farmers, herders, restaurant workers/owners and soldiers along the way. 
This was a great experience where I continue to share and learn about the mongolian nomadic lifestyle!

Yep, that's right, I left behind my Takhi  in good hands!

My Big Dummy cycle turned into a People Mover: 2 Adults, 3 children and 1 Takhi!

shaman statue
Shaman statue

First fields I see in Mongolia after 1150kms...

I also quite enjoyed, from time to time, being passed by small trucks and minivans transporting families with their entire ger/yurt and belongings packed in the back while other family members were simultaneously migrating the herds to new ger/yurt locations. 

A ger/yurt on the move!

Herding sheeps to a new ger/yurt  location
One time, I even noticed a bucket full of random items (spoons, forks, tools, shearing scissors) falling  off a "ger truck". Thankfully, I was able to stop the following minivan passing me, commanding them to catch up with the first one up and return the beloved missing items which they were able to do successfully!

1st Antipode point reached in Mongolia
On my way, I was also excited to pass through my first antipode point N 47 53.320 E 106 39 784 on the outskirts of Ulaan Baatar. Now, I just need to get to my second one in Chile while completing my human-powered circumnavigation of the planet!

Antipode Location

View of polluted Ulaan Bataar from antipode point
Ulaan Baatar: sadly the 2d most polluted city...
One day, I took a detour over a steep mountain pass to spend  a night near the Mongol Tsergiin Khuree Military Base where I met the Mongolian commandant Bataar who greeted me with a "Bonjour! Comment ça va?".
He then took the time to explain to me that this Mongolian military base had become a training center for UN forces, prior to being deployed to Afghanistan. 
So here I was, reflecting on what was coming up for these Belgian, German, American and Mongolian UN soldiers in the Afghan hills while sipping a coffee and listening to the sounds of  driving and shooting UN and Mongolian tanks in the background...

Going down a mountain pass to Mongol Tsergiin Khuree Military Base

Posing with a Mongolian soldier

Mongolian Nature Morte

I took another detour along my way to stroll in the Motsog Els / sand dunes (where I came across Japanese scientists conducting researches on the sand composition), and spent time in the beautiful Khustain National Park where I was kindly welcomed to stay in the workers quarters.

Riding in Sand Dunes

Riding in Sand Dunes... 

Taming in Sand Dunes

In the Khustain National Park, I took the time to admire the landscape, the stone turkic statues and monuments  and truly enjoy watching yaks, marals (asiatic red deers) and above all the free-roaming Takhi horses (Przewalski's horses).
It was quite exciting indeed to see some of these last few wild horses on our planet gallop freely in the hills...

Khusain National Park
Turkic deer stone monument

Takhi Horses

Marals (Asiatic Red Deers)



On this note, it's about time I leave once again Ulaan Baatar and get back on my repaired bike in order to try to "gallop" freely as well westbound before it gets any colder.

БАЯРТАЙ  Ulaan Baatar!

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