Freedom unlimited: The wild Side
In summer 2008 I had the pleasure of travelling
across Mongolia from the Gobi Desert right up to the
Siberian border with a bunch of enthusiastic off-roaders
of various origin. We used Yamaha WR 250F bikes provided
by Bike Mongolia, who also supplied Force 10 tents,
support vehicles (who struggled to keep up with the
bikes), delicious food served in style by a beautiful
Mongolian cook, and to cap it all a professional medical
physician (ex Mongolian army motorcycle corps) who
massaged and cared for us the whole trip.
The bikes were excellent - very light and great fun
on all road conditions - sandy desert, rocky mountains,
rivers, mud and potholed jeep tracks. Everyone had
all the right protective kit and I have a lovely photo
of an old Mongolian chap in traditional "del"
robe posing with one of the Korean motorcylists who
looked as if he had come from Mars.
Some people in the group were more interested in
the culture of the country than others and one in
particular took every opportunity to divert from the
trail and call in at every nomads' ger we passed to
brighten up their day and share sweets and baloons
amongst the children. It was the same English bloke
who at one point lay down his bike and jumped on a
yak to see how it handled. In Mongolia, people ride
the yaks and milk the horses, you see.
We camped in some spectacular places, usually near
a river which had loads of fish in, but no means of
catching them unfortunately. Sometimes we stayed in
ger camps which are just like the round white yurts
that the nomads live in, but with posher furniture.
That was quite a treat because there were hot showers
and cold beer at the camp.
We did 2000km in 11 days and by the end of it everyone
was pretty exhausted. However, no one would deny it
was the trip of a lifetime. Mongolia is such a fantastic
country - there's endless space, sometimes you can
see more than 50km in every direction. We travelled
for days without seeing a single building, which was
such a joy, especially for those coming from the cities
of Beijing, Seoul and London. Most people know very
little about Mongolia and guess that it is all vast
open steppe, rather more sandy perhaps in the Gobi
Desert. But actually the countryside is really varied
with volcanos, canyons, big sand dunes, forested mountains
and rolling green hills. The nomadic lifestyle seems
to have changed little since the days of Genghis Khan
and the people are so hospitable. I suppose their
lives must be pretty uneventful normally, so when
a crowd of foreigners and city Mongolians appeared
out of the blue, we were welcomed with open arms and
lavished with offerings of yoghurt, rock hard cheese,
fermented mare's milk and milk vodka.
If you want to experience something really wild,
go for this. At the moment Mongolia's infrastructure
is in the development stage and getting there in the
first place requires some effort, so for these very
reasons you will see a place unspoiled by tourism
and quite literally off the beaten track.