We have 220 km from Ulgii to Khvod and the first 45 are paved.
The rest are under construction. The first 100 are pretty good with little sand or loose gravel. There are long sections with hard packed dirt. When its sandy we go for the grass.
You cross back and forth across the prepared road bed. In one section they were laying deep gravel and the detour was down a steep grass embankment.
We found a cafe (the first) about 95 km from our destination and had a pretty good lunch. We had to wait for a large Russian group to be fed first and so we were there over an hour. The food was fresh ground goat in Jamaican paddy like pockets. The goat is so fresh the next one is tied up to the back of the shop! There were at least a dozen birds of prey playing in the thermals near by.
The last 95 km we started just after 4 and managed to get to a hotel by 630. The last 50 km are more sandy and loose and with some very long stretches where you had to stand for kms.
You can see the last 9 km from the hill top and it is basically just dozens of sand tracks.
The hotel we saw first ended up to be the best in town and that is not saying much, but they had lots of single rooms. The bathrooms were added afterwards and consist of a glass enclosure beside the bed. We walked around the corner to the King Restaurant and got the royal treatment. The food was good and the portions massive.
We woke up to the power to the entire town being off. This was no big deal except that if you did not notice this and left your room you were then locked out with the key card like Wolfgang. That would be ok except the staff then had to search around for 20 min to find the skeleton key to let him back in. Breakfast was 1 cold fried egg on a slice of dry bread and luke warm tea. The other issue of course is the gas pumps don’t work either. We finally got out of there about 945.
We headed out of town north to Ulaangom in 218 km.
The first 3-4 km are under construction and is a good firm gravel road.
Then there is about 25 km to the next town Norjinkhairhan where they had a working pump to fill up. Unlike Russia they get the concept of the fill up here and then give you gas and then you pay. In Russia you give them cash or the number of liters you want if you use Visa and then they turn on the pump. This creates long waits as everyone has to go in twice. There is 40 km of tarmac in total and this ends at the bridge to Bayankhoshuu.
Initially the road was good gravel for 5 km and then slightly looser.
The next 50 km to Uglii (number two) was more challenging with a lot of sand. When it was very deep we would go off the tracks to the grass, but you have to watch out for large rocks and the occasional crevasse.
The lunch stop as usual took an hour to get food and so we did not leave there until 4. Here we met 2 riders and got the scoop on the routes ahead. For us now the next 100 km the road gets slowly better. Unfortunately it is not the same for them.
Leaving the town initial you pass by the lake and the tracks are pretty sandy, but once you pass about 10 km it gets a bit better. And then it gets sandy again, but you can blaze across the grass lands. We had all kinds of terrain this afternoon thin sand, deep sand, grass, rocky wash outs, hard mud road, and gravel.
At one point Dan and I took the right track and the guys who were ahead had taken the left. They went on two sides of a hill. We saw a big herd of camels on our route. One we passed the hill it was grassland as far as you could see. This local biker blew past us on our track and then braked hard….He just wanted to say hi and then turned left and blasted across the grass.
The guys had split up when they realized they had not seen us for a while and all tried to find us. We headed across the grass to meet the main track again. The wind was fierce for a short while and while we were fighting it. We saw a big bike in the distance barrel to us and on a meeting trajectory. Orvar caught up to us and then had to go back for the others. It is easy to get separated with so many tracks to choose from. We stopped in the lea of the wind to take a brake and take some photos while we waited for them.
The road does get better here with hard packed sections and we can make better time. We have 65 km to go still and it is after 6 pm. At 7 we stopped to decide what to do with the 40 km left and with the overcast sky the decision was to go to the town as there would be no star shots tonight for camping.
The road is gravel from here with a few wash outs with deep rocks and some water to cross. At the “cross road” the guys went straight since it was 20 km shorter than going right and over to the paved road, which had been the plan. This 20 km took almost an hour with the light fading. There were several small water crossings and one large river crossing. There were also a few wash outs to deal with. The last 10 km was good gravel to the town.
Trevor’s bike was making some noise and he though it was the chain linkage from the new chain. We arrived just as the rain started and headed to the hotel recommended by the people we met at lunch. It is clean and cheap, but there is no hot water (it will be a few minutes…not). It is one of those places where the door handles are not properly attached and fall off when you open the doors, the window is not installed properly, and none of the plugs work. In fact we could not get back into our room with the key after breakfast. Luckily we had left the window open and Sara could go out Trevor’s window and into our room.