It is a chilly 10 degrees this morning, but bright and sunny. It is 121 km to our destination go Ulgii in Mongolia.
First we have a 51 km ride to the Russian border town of Tashanta. There is not much here 1 gas pump and 1 hotel.
We rode to the end of the main street and this is the border post. There is a long line of vehicles and so we passed the line to the front. At the gate there is an officer who checks your visa and passport before you are let in. There was an issue initially as the 3 Canadians had 20 day visas and not the usual 30 day visas for Russia. This was a flag for him, but it was easily sorted.
We waited only a few minutes and all 5 bikes were let in. You drive 300 m and park under the cover. Here the young officer spoke English perfectly and directed us where to park and what to do next. The first thing is to go to the window on the left side of the parking. Here they want your passport, vehicle registration, tourist card and customs form. There are 2 officers working and peck typing in all your info (address at home, mileage on the bikes……). They both spoke enough English to ask what they wanted from us. Dan and Brent showed up as well and they are 2 Canadians in the Mongol rally. Dan said “ how did you know to ride up to the front of the line” Experience my friend!!
Next you go across to the right side of the terminal and up the stairs. Here you wait at a desk and again in English the officer asks for your passport and vehicle papers and she enters this into the computer. From here you are directed to passport control in the same area for the exit stamp. Both officers here spoke English perfectly and interestingly a lot of the border official are women. Outside we had to open the luggage for inspection for weapons and narcotics. They were very interested in my medical kit especially the local anesthetic, suture material and instruments. It was otherwise a pretty cursory search actually. The regular people had to drag all their stuff upstairs for X-ray. Then we all rode 150 m to the gate to have a “final” passport check. We were done all 5 bikes in an hour 15 min. So much for the horror stories from other riders of 5 hours to get out! Drama!!
There is then 21 km of no mans land on the Russian side with a beautiful paved road. At the end of this there is a another passport check and plate registration.
There is the 8 km of pretty good dirt to the Mongolian border.
Here at the gate you park and and the guard says in English “passport moto paper walking”. We got off and walked thru the gate to the office. Here the officers check your documents, gives you the standard small scrap of paper to get your collection of stamps, and then you are flagged thru. The first stop is the tire decontamination bath that costs 50R (a Canadian dollar). You are given a receipt for this.
Then you ride 300 meters to the border station and are directed to park on the left. The officer checks your passport, vehicle registration, and your paper scrap. You go inside to passport control for the entry stamp and to fill in the tourist card (with English questions). Next you go to the window to the left for a customs stamp. The last step is to go to Customs office which is the next window part passport control and where they make up the TVIP for you. It is important to get your small scrap of paper back and that it has 3 stamps on it and that the TVIP is signed by the big boss. We were lucky to all get in before the hordes of people showed up for luggage X-ray. They did not even ask to look at our stuff. Trevor was last and the boss was going for his 2 hours lunch, but we managed to catch him for Trevor’s last stamp.
Then you ride 300 m to the exit gate for a final passport check and to hand in the 3 stamp scrap. Trevor was turned back here as he did not have the customs passport stamp and had to go back.
Leaving the gate the road is terrible and full of holes. You ride about 250 meters and then a few people run out to stop you. These are people trying to sell you worthless insurance and of course money changers.
We passed them and then another 200 m later there is an “official looking booth with an open gate and a stop sign”. The “ officer look official too”. This is the “Mongolian highway tax scam”. They want 15 USD for this. I said no we are not paying as this is fake. She said why and I said I read it on the internet and rode off. They did not even try to stop Trevor who was last.
The official road from here is gravel for 34 km and terrible wash board to the first town of Tsagaannuur.
There are however multiple alternative tracts, which are hard packed and much easier to ride on.
It is then good pavement for the next 65 km.
We stopped to see if we could help these guys with their flat.
The boys did some off road hill climbing.
Just 8 km before UGLii we crossed a big World wide ride milestone of 200,000 km so far on the trip!!
Riding into the town we were headed to the Blue Wolf Get camp and our first night in a ger!!
There are some decisions to be made on our route to Ulanbaatar. The choices are the southern (Gogi= 300 km of deeper sand, but actually many more km of tarmac), the northern (more water crossings, mountain crossings, and difficulty better suited to small bikes), or the middle route (a mixture of both).
Well we managed not to leave the Blue Wolf today at all and spent the evening in the restaurant there with Brent and Dan from Saskatchewan who are in the Mongol Rally in their Yaris. There were many many beers had and at least 3 bottles of Vodka….This made for a late start today.
We had breakfast at 10 and then packed and gassed up with 95! We finally left town about 1130. This was after finding an ATM and SIM cards!