Today’s plan is to get close to the Russian border, which is 354 km north and then do the border and the ride to Ulan Ude the next day. We have agreed if the forecast is wrong and it is still rainy we will say goodbye to Wolfgang and stay here to wait out the weather. We endured 4 hours of horrific weather yesterday to catch up to him here or we would have stayed put where we were. His plan is to book it all the way to Ulan Ude, but this may take more than 12 hours.
So the plan for us is to go 330 km to Sukhbaatar, which is 24 km from the border and it is supposed to have more accommodations to offer than the border town of Altanbulag.
We were in no hurry to get out of here and finally gassed up at 10, found an ATM that worked, and then spent an hour getting across the city on the only thru road to access the road north. There is not much traffic here and the road is in pretty good condition except for a few holes.
We had several rain showers, but only one long enough to get the suits on. We were really dawdling and stopped for coffee after 100 km and almost 3 hours since we left the oasis. We did stop for a few pics, but essentially not much to see.
About 40 km from Sukhbaatar it really starts to look a lot more like Russia and not Mongolia at all. This town is a “shit” town and the nicest looking hotel and restaurant are both shut down. We did find an ok place, but no hot water. There is a big Korean influence here and that improved our dinner selections!!
We heard a bike pull into the parking after 10 and it was Nicholas from Barcelona that we had met at the Oasis. He left 2 hours after we did and it took him 3 hours to cross the city in traffic. In the end we did not have a bad night and slept well. Another surprise is they actually served us breakfast (congee and friend dough).
We have 262 km to Ulan Ude and first thing we all gassed up ad set out the 24 km to the border. Nicholas decided he wanted to ride with us today even though he plans to go 719 km to Irkusk today. He says he rode all the way across Russia and never met any other riders and he is dying for some conversation.
It was a chilly 12 degrees when we set out and the sky is cloudy, but rain is not in the forecast. Driving up to the border we passed by a line of trucks and were whisked thru the first gate. We lined up at the second gate to wait to be let in. The border guard was young and friendly and spoke English well. Once you are inside the gate you go around the other side of the building an hand over you passport. Here they enter your data into the computer and stamp you out. That’s it you are out of Mongolia in 10 minutes!
From here we were directed to the Russian check point gate. They are supposed to give you a scrap of paper with boxes printed on it to collect your stamps. (well actually they did not give them to us, but we did get them later at customs). We waited here a few minutes for it to open and then we had to squeeze by the trucks to get into the long line of cars.
They opened a second line and we moved up not that this would help time wise. You have to go to the first window to get your visa checked and entry stamp. They are very specific to blue light scan every page of your passport and spent a good few minutes inspecting each persons documents. Next you need to fill in your customs clearance forms. They are in Russian, but they have examples posted in English. This took forever and the woman who was doing the forms was a battle axe. A huge bus showed up and so Dan and Sara who were last were then sent to another office where a very pleasant woman did the last 2 forms very quickly. We also met up with the two Swiss riders here as well. It took 3 hours and almost all of this was the getting into Russia part. WOW.
The road initially was new tarmac, then very bad pavement in need of repair for about 10 km, and then a dried mud road for another 10 km. Then back to the good road.
There is no services after the border town for about 80 km where we finally found a restaurant for some lunch. Lucky we had save some Rubles from our last time in Russia.
The weather held off but it was pretty cold and windy. We had booked into a nice hotel with all the comforts for 30Euros!! There were several Mongol Rally cars here too.
The next good thing was there is a laundrette a few blocks away as well. The hotel wanted to charge by the piece and this would be about 100$ where the laundry mat was 6$. The very nice lady here did the wash, dry, and fold. You even pay at a kiosk.
We also found a great Chinese restaurant close by!
It is not raining today and it is a bit warmer. We had a late start, but managed to get our the door about 11. We took a walk across the tracks and then down to the old town.
Here they have a massive Lenin bust in the main square. The ballet is nearby and several nice cafes.
The houses near the river are all old wood buildings with elaborate windows. They look like fire traps.
The original plan today was to head out to Lake Baikal and find a place to stay overnight. The options are ger camps or cabins. Since it is forecast for rain we are not too keen on tenting. The ride out is 169 km and getting out of the city was easy.
About 25 km from town you head over a pass and it was raining foggy and 5 degrees. It improved quite a bit on the far side at least as far as the rain.
The “beaches” along the lake south of the towns were covered in garbage! The wind is howling and the lake is white caps. We arrived to the Ger place in Gremiatchinsk, that we had seen on bookings and it was totally tragic. It is a few ratty gers in a sand parking lot with the full brunt of the wind. The next town Tourka is over is 6 km and they do have some other accommodation, but it is sketch and double the price of the comfy hotel we had last night. We did have a nice lunch with a view of the lake.
So back to Ulan Due it is!!! The trip back was much nicer as the sun was shining. They thought it was very funny when we showed back up at the hotel.
This small trip had also convinced us that we do not want to ride 1400 km thru more Siberian forrest to the eastern Mongolian border. This seems now a crazy waste of time and tire tread. We will wait out the bad weather here for a couple of days and then head back to Mongolia. We can then have 2 weeks to loops about as we like.
We are basically hiding out the few days of rainy weather in a comfortable place with great wifi. This means we have all been able to catch up the last 6 weeks of the blogs. This also means we can avoid the 10 km of the road that turn to a mud pit in the rain (it took Nicholas 3 hours). Time for some Russian “champagne”.
There is Yamaha dealership here and we stocked up on Motul chain lube. Trevor also got some new winter gloves and Orvar bought some fork oil to change his out (you can not buy in UB).
We also ran into our Icelandic friend Gudmundur and his new riding partners Edouard and Mathilde from France. He had checked our SPOT and saw us across the tracks from them. We probably would have met anyway since their bikes were parked out front of their hotel and the guys walked by there and went in anyway. We made a plan to go out for Chinese tonight.