51st Traverse – Misha Kravcenko Just another The 51st Traverse weblog

4Sep/100

Tajikistan

blup bla blup blup is the sound Rob's bike was making as we ascended to 4200m metres through the tallest pass in our trip. I remember joking with Rob and him smiling as I said you can do it brother. I love taking the micky out of the 250's :).

What a view from the top it really outlined the remoteness of where we were. Stunning mountains and colours in the rocks, windy roads followed by a beautiful lake, lake Karakul where we camped on the first night.

We got up and rested till mid day before heading to Murgob. This was the last stop before the Pammier highway. We had an interesting afternoon with me getting a flat tire and being helped by a local to the point he was in the way i remember thinking i asked God for patience before the trip and this was an opportunity to be patient :). We also meet seven polish riders heading back to Poland in a none stop 12 day ride to Poland. I was thinking that's a massive haul. However it was nice meeting David a guy from the UK on a BMW we yarn-ed for a bit before heading off.

Getting gas was funny having it poured out of a tank from a container. I remember seeing his bed and looking at Tom thinking that can't be healthy sleeping in a container with petrol.

The evening before the Pammier highway was epic. Beautiful sunset, running river good tucker and nice company what more does one man need.  The next morning we hit the 200 or so km's down the Pammier. One highlight is when the a dog from the Pamier  border post came over and urinated on Tom's bike I cracked up. T

The views through this pass were epic. Cliffs that overhung you, fast flowing river, mountains of Afghanistan, beautiful villages.... i loved it.

Our first night in the pammier was spent in a locals house, Gloria turned out to be a Russian teacher and her husband Dima a teacher but also a trader. I remember going "Shit whats this house made of?" to his reply da meaning yes in Russian Shirt which means dirt I laughed as I had said shit he then replied da shirt again i chuckled:) Their home was beautiful inside and the food they lay-ed out was epic and for such little money.

The next few days riding was special because i had never in-counted such friendly people the farmers, children, men woman old and young all waved to you. They all seemed happy to see you and loved us taking photos. I remember thinking this would be an awesome place to take my kids one day. One particular spot saw me stop by a hospital for a drink and getting mobbed by some very friendly nurses. I remember thinking of my cheeky Auntie and thinking she would so do this to a young man on a bike:)

Fuel quality was a problem but to the Dr's credit i still got 420km to 19 litres so was pretty happy with Storm trooper. The riding was beautiful my highlight so far. Getting to Khorog was awesome as we got to stay in a backpackers and have Indian for dinner what a treat. The following morning I got advice from other travelers about the road ahead and they all said the same thing road is out and it took us 30 or so hours from Dushanbe to get to here. We had to take the Panage highway to get to Dushanbe this turned out to be the nicest riding of the trip for the first leg then the most corrugated section for the second half. We were dirty smelly and had been ripped off by a corrupt checkpoint having to pay 10us to get through to get to Kiva.

Our ray of light was a local taxi driver who first took us to a hotel and then after us explaining this was too expensive took us back to his house where we slept. They put on an epic spread at 12 o'clock at night all the boys were chuffed. What did not go well was him waking the boys up at 5am for prayer. I was sweet but the sleepers in the team both Rob's struggled.

After leaving for Dushanbe at 7am we arrived by mid day in time for a nice Pizza lunch and internet time. By 2pm we had fueled up, had lunch and got back on the road.  My favourite part of the riding in this leg was the mountain passes,  one tunnel 8km long no extraction or light I came out behind a truck high as a kite :) and beautiful cliffs as we descended. I also got stuck going up a squarer part having to push my way out.

My impressions of Tajikistan and my thoughts after is that this is a must for any traveller to see it was truly spectacular country, great food, views and people that are so friendly and helpful.

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4Sep/100

Kyrgyzstan

The first night spent in this country was in an apricot orchard after crossing through the easiest border so far on our trip. It took just 15 minutes to get through with no checks.

Our second day we made our way from Bishkek to lake Isakul. However, just 30 or so km into our ride Robs bike from where I was riding made a loud grinding noise so he pulled over. Turns out his rear bearings had gone. With little hope of finding spares worry began to streak all over our faces. After a short prayer, Rob was off to find internet to seek out any shops. Now for those that don't know, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are two countries you don't want to have a break down in due to the lack of parts or specialty shops to fix your bike.

Just 10 minutes later Rob comes back looking quite lively he had meet Talent a Kyrgyzstan tourist guide with a passion for Suzuki Dr's. Turns out he had travelled most of the country on his three bikes two dr650's and a dr250.   He knew exactly where to go so Tom and Rob were off while myself and Climo looked after the gear.

Today was special for me as the 8 hours or so we spent looking after the bikes was a mash of speaking to locals trying local food and having a look at the markets. Meeting Alexander a local taxi driver was awesome. He spent the whole day with us. Alexander was very passionate about bikes and with his help we were able to get allot done. I made him laugh when these little kids came up to me for autographs on our post card's I got him to sign it for the kids pretending to be Tom in the picture :).

By about mid day Veronica and Rob two more locals had seen us standing there and decided to come over. After saying hello rob handed me a drink called Jar-ma and a second called Sokoro. Being polite and keen to try i accepted. Funny thing was it was  the sourest milk i have ever tasted and the second was like really salty porridge liquid. I smiled and gulped back as much as I could. Poor Climo returning from the photo shop was sharply surprised when i handed him the drink to finish off. I laughed in my head when Veronica returned with yet another two cups for him to finish. The look on Climo's face was priceless!!!!

My favourite part of the day was near the end when we were deciding what to do for dinner. Turns out we had three offers for dinner and we had to decide. The hard call was to leave Alexander, Rob and Veronica and head to Talent's. By the time we had made the 30km ride over his wife had cooked us a mean rice Blov. Highlights for me were sitting in their garden eating watermelon at 11 o'clock at night thinking what are the chances of this.

Our ride through Kyrgyzstan was incredible. For those that have done it you will agree the terrain is varied. One minute you are riding along the flat to lake Isakul to a beautiful lake with stunning views of the mountains of Kazakhstan. Before heading inland up the mountain pass to lake Songkul. A pass with stunning mountain views that made me feel like a small blip.

The pass lead us over a ridge with a ice shelf  to the lake. Straight away we are great-ed by four boys two on donkeys and two on foot. They were very inquisitive about our bikes and camera. I took this moment to step back from the boys and look around all I was thinking was this is what I signed up for.

This would all change in the next 20 minutes though.

Well to describe the next few ours would take too long but I will give you the brunt of it. All four bikes while we were parked on the side of the road got cleaned out by a drunk driver. Luckily he hit Robs soft panniers and it was just a domino effect. Defusing a very hostile situation that almost erupted in a full blown punch up was a challenge in itself. After leaving this seen Tom's bike played up again as it was struggling with the poor quality fuel and Climo got stuck up to his seat in a heavy mud bog. I ended the day with a video cam interview of the experience. I was grumpy from being tired, hungry from missing lunch and had all signs of altitude sickness except for loss of apatight. What a day!!!!!

My main reason for being sour the following day was the drunk driver. He had damaged Robs swing arm. This forced us to take a different route. But after riding down the valley from lake Songkul to lake Toktogul My spirit lifted as we descended through one of the most beautiful valleys i have ever seen. You will have to look at my photo's.

The southern part of Kyrgyzstan and Osh is better described in Rob Grays blog so I wont go on. But what I will share is the thoughts running through my head. As we entered Jalalabad I was taken back by the destruction. The university, local business and family homes burnt out. I remember holding this 65 year old woman in my arms don't even know her name as she cried. I could not understand from my sheltered upbringing in New Zealand how another human could do this to another person. It was as if i was holding a relative of mine or close family friend in pain. My thoughts of her home as she showed me around where of pain for her family. The thought of people invading my home and what me and me old man would do to them.

I was shell shocked from the destruction. You could clearly see they were well off as the architecture on the walls said it all with these intricately plastered walls and railings. All that was left was a Sauna/ bath room. I don't know what to say other than i felt helpless to offer any comfort. I would encourage anyone reading this to help the aid agencies working in Kyrgyzstan or Pakistan as these people have lost there homes. You don't really have the heart for people watching it on tv but being here has opened my eyes to the cruel brutality of what man is capable of doing.

To forgive someone who has hurt you deaply is a very hard thing to overcome and i expect tenssions in this region to remain high for a long time to come. I pray for their hearts and if you are at home or around the world take a moment to think about those who are suffering and pray for the world.

My last evening in Kyrgyzstan showed a different light of the people. At about 9 o'clock as we set up for camp a group of farmers came over with sickles and donkeys after cutting the field. They spent some time laughing with us and getting photos' taken. I enjoyed this time followed by im guessing their daughters as 15 min later four girls aged 12 to 14 showed up with fresh yogurt and some more photo's were taken. I went to sleep thinking about the contrast between the north, central and southern kyrgyzstan that I had seen. It was very different.

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20Jul/100

Western leg of Mongolia

With confirmation that Mike was ok in Ulaanbaatar and that the bike was going to be ok we pressed on. The riding from here was challenging for those that have done this trip before the road to Olgi is not bad but it's a mash of sand, gravel, corrugation potholes, and ruts... We did days of 450km riding in 38 degree temps and one day of 120km as we got 7 punctures in part it was the cheap Chinese glue we had bought and the patches were coming loose in the heat. At one point and this is the only time Tom had had enough of the punctures so I took over for him and fixed three that day. 

This massive leg saw us pass many motorbike travelers predominantly Germans on BMW's. My highlight was meeting to retired cops from Germany and sharing our stories what good blokes and the advice they gave us was great.

I have one last story to share and this is our travel from Olgi to the boarder. As we got into Olgi just 120km shy of the border to Russia. We stopped in and had a Turkish lunch it was very nice. We decided to go to an Internet cafe to print out our letters from our employers, as we needed this for our Uzbekistan visa.

While there I was so frustrated with the computer I got there is Tom on skype, Climo on skype and I could not even get onto hotmail the connection was to slow. What's worse is the owner locked us inside so there is Rob outside by himself and we could not get out. 20 Min later after the owner came back I get this tap on the shoulder. Mish we have to go. I did not want to go but he insisted. As we got out side Rob said again Mish I'll tell you later. I said, "Rob if you don't tell me I can't help. He had not told me for a good reason as I get wound up. What had happened is rob had leant his bike to an English speaking Mongolian to ride in the car park. In this process he took it out of the car park and crashed it. On his return he had cut his hand, broken off Robs wing mirror  (the second time on the trip), broken a pannier clip and scraped the side of Piva (Rob's bike).

What the guy did next was go away and try and find another wing mirror on Climo's request but in the process bring back a car load of his mates. He proceeded to tell Rob to wait and that he called the police. His mates were going to say that Rob hit him and he needed to pay for the medical costs for his hand and back. As Rob' got on his bike a cop car pulled in and at this point I was so angry. Rob went to leave and the guy tried to grab his keys. I walked over and at that point the guy backed off majorly because I have never seen rob so Pumped!!!

As we left the city in a fast manner we had to stop as Tom's bike ran out of gas. The last city with a 100km to the boarder and Tom had no gas. A lesson to all motorbikes always fill up at the major city's as the first thing you do in town. So if you need to boost you can. We siphoned fuel from the other bikes and the cookers and just made it.

Rob was so good about the whole situation in spite of the guy being a dosh and crashing his bike. I remembered my Dads saying there is three things a man does not lend his car, his misses and his chainsaw :) Rob laughed at this and we all joked about the adrenalin.

The whole experience in Mongolia was a mash of amazing scenerary, hospitality, trials and adventure. With 16 countries to go what other dram and adventure awaits stay tuned for more.

20Jul/101

Michaels Strength

That afternoon on the first day back on the road from my crash the team took another blow. We were following a land cruiser we had meet in small village in central Mongolia. As we got to the turn off they pulled in and Michael who was in front of me came to a stop in some really soft sand. The front of the bike turned and he put his leg down. I remember seeing the angle of his leg and as the bike fell on it thinking grrrrrr that's not good. With my bung leg I could not get to him so Climo lifted his bike and he rolled out. The first thing Michael said was I need a minute. Then in his comical style as he went to stand was Owwh Ahhh I need another minute and sat back down.

What happened next was a mash of getting Michael into the Land Cruiser at 3 pm thanks to the German couple we had met. They gave us the driver and vehicle they had hired to drive Michael to the hospital back in town. Climo followed behind on Michael's bike. As we stayed huddled under a tarp temperature would have been near on 40 degrees. Both me Tom and the two Germans talked about football and politics (see the trend). Three hours had past with Tom yet again helping a truck that had overheated and giving a bike a push start. All this time I was thinking I hope mike was ok. As we saw the land cruiser come over the rise with a truck in-toe I don't know what I was thinking other than I hope he is ok. 

However, the look on both Michael's and Rob's face did not suggest it was good. I remember Michael saying he felt a crack and with the angle I saw I was surprised he could even roll away when Climo lifted the bike. It was decided that Michael needed to get to hospital in Ulisstay. Now I got a rest in this time as they strapped my bike on the truck with Michaels and we sat in the cab. All that we could think about was how to make it comfortable, as every pothole was agony for Mike. The driver would hit a pothole and then look to mike as if to say are you ok. Mike would grit his teeth and smile with a thumbs up to say to the driver im ok. 

After three hours of this it was like 11pm and we pulled into this small house for dinner and rest. Mike was optimistic that it might just be a hematoma, which was positive. If you ask Mike he will say the drugs helped him sleep but the house was like a sauna. When the driver pushed me at 5:30 am to get up I was in a dither. The next four hours in the truck saw us do 120km on some of the most corrugated roads I have ever seen. Mike asked me to sit in the rear with the bikes so he could get more leg room, which proved to be more comfortable.

The drive saw us go through valleys, across giant pot holes, past local farmers and gave me the opportunity to take some photos. Michael looked in good spirits as I looked through the rear cab window. It turns out Michael was helping the driver with his English but also the driver would sing to mike in a Mongolian tune which was really awesome to listen too.

Just before Ulisstay we pulled over and picked up a Swiss traveler and gave him a ride. This was a blessing as he ripped the map of the city out of his lonely planet for us to locate hotels, food, and hospital........ List goes on. As we entered the city he pulled over and made our Swiss friend walk, chucked me in the cab and tidied up the truck. From the way we headed to the hospital through the back roads I think he wanted to avoid the police as the truck was dirty and had broken rear tail lights and was worried about getting pulled over both are a no no. As we pulled into the hospital both me and the driver lifted Michael to a seat and proceeded to unload the bikes. Now trying to lift off a 140kg bike with a bung ankle was not a bright idea but we managed with know ramp and no locals to help. By this stage Tom pulls in. What do you know Climo had got a puncture 110km back and as I had the tools/ pump so they could not fix it. At this stage it was 10am and Tom took Michael into the hospital. For the next 5 hours I stayed outside the hospital while Tom was inside trying to explain to none English speaking doctors that Mike needed an x-ray. By 2pm Tom covered me while I went for my x-ray. As I got my results I walked around the corridor and as soon as Michael dropped his sunny's I knew he was hurt in a bad way. Yes it was broken clean through. Michael said don't Mish this was because I was gutted. To be honest we shed a tear. While Michael was talking to the insurance team in NZ. I went into the surgeon's room for a consult. Turns out I was in the clear he said it was a sprain.

As I left gave Mike Some time and went back to the bikes. Tom went into the hospital and helped Mike get it put in cast. The following three hours from 4:30 till 7:30pm saw me sit through a sand storm where both bikes fell over and me huddled beside a van as it wobble profusely (Did a video of it but you will have to wait for the DVD). As it cleared the local Mongolian blokes at the hospital with their wives on maternity leave helped tie the bikes upright and turn the tent fly into a giant cover for the gear as the rain clouds set in. Just before it bucketed down Rob pulls in covered in Sand. As it turns out he rode through the sand storm and had to leave Climo 30km out of town as they had fixed the puncture with the help of locals but Climo had got another puncture just shy of town. 

Rob decided to go in and help Mike. I stayed outside being entertained by the Mongolian fathers to be. They taught me knots and made me do it with my eyes closed :) I took lots of photos.

By 7 pm Mike came out and Tom taxied Mike to the hotel. Rob was a machine as he did like six shuttles of gear to the hotel and later returned to help me with Mike's bike. Tom at this point had to go get climo still out in the wilderness :) By 8:30 pm both Tom and Climo got back and we enjoyed a dinner together in the hotel room. Mike shared his thoughts and we did the best to get organized redistribute gear and talk about our plans. To mike's credit he was so awesome with how he handled it. To be honest it was so surreal that he was going home. Tom had jacked up a flight for mike with the help of some locals and the decision was in Mike's hands. The following morning I get a bang on the door at 6am from Mike "Mish I want to take the flight". This gave us 40 minutes to pack his stuff and organize a taxi to the airport. As I woke both robs they were in a dither but proceeded to get up not willingly :)

The whole ride out to the airport was truly gutting to think I was loosing my partner in crime my wing man. As we arrived just 10min after mike the team set about checking Mike in and talking about what to do with mikes bike. As the departure call came over the speaker I remember thinking those crutches on this floor owww risky so I followed Mike. Shore enough the crutch slid out from his arm and he put the full weight of his body on his bad leg. I caught him just after contact with the floor but it was to late he suffered so much pain. We had to give him a minute to regain his focus as he was in allot of pain. It truly showed me his character in the situation, as he was so strong. I think the hardest thing was that we could not go on the airfield and no guards would help him. That's when both me and Rob got caught in our emotions I was in a state of frustration with no one helping and a sense of gutted ness because he was going home.

As the flight took off Climo did a video cam of us and our thoughts. We had so much to do and now with the delay from Tom's Bike breakdown, My ankle and Mikes leg we had to do half of Mongolia in 7 days....... which turned out ok but was not enjoyable riding.

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20Jul/100

Thoughts that run through your mind when you’re hurt

What happened next is a story of my crash :( 

We had just had a morning of really sunny weather and picturesque sights. The bikes were running well and the boys were in high spirits. Rob and Michael wanted some video footage done of the roads as it was very rutted and this particular setting showed the contour of the land. However it was really hot and I was impatient. So after the shot I decided to boost in front and shoot up the valley breaking all the team rules about riding alone. In the process of getting some shots on the hilltops neither of the boys knew I had left the track. As I saw them shoot past I decided to catch up. As I came down the valley I was traveling off the track at about 60 kmph. As I turned left onto the track in one motion my front went through a giant rut and my back tire bounced and swung the bike out. This caused the bike to swing 180 degrees and land on its side with the engine still running. As I was thrown from the bike I felt this jar of my knee and as I touched the ground a crack of my ankle. For the next two minutes I laid on the ground. The first thing that I can remember is praying as I clutched my knee. I could not get up and all sorts of thoughts were running through my head. Know with my rugby and foolish child hood antics I have broken many bones and twisted my ankle before so I knew it was serious. As I lay there I just remember saying god can you help me but specifically if you have a reason why you still want me on this trip I leave it in your hands. (At this stage also the boys thought I was ahead so carried on not knowing I had crashed.)

Literally seconds after the prayer a small mini van pulled in and a group of monks pulls out. Three lift my bike and two help me up. One points for me to get in the Van and he would ride my bike but I was not liking this. By this stage I said I was all right and they left. In my first attempt to get on the bike I felt dizzy and had to sit down. As I lay there I slowly took off my jacket helmet and managed to get some water out of my camel back that was draped over my pannier. In my second attempt to get on I managed to use my stand as a leaning post and then shifted my weight onto my good leg. To change gear I had to use my right hand on the clutch and as I was on a hill put it in second gear lifting it with my hand. As I rode toward the boys I could not do more than 25km maybe. I knew they would be doing like 50 or 60 km. 

What transpired next was very lucky. Climo had got caught up in some wire and ripped his guard and got jammed in his chain / spokes a real mess. In the 15 minutes they needed to fix it I caught them. They had also attracted some other riders on DR650's and were talking. As I drove I remember singing Elton john how wonderful life is but putting God into it. This was because I had just been listening to it on climo's ipod and the song was in my head.

When I pulled in Michael could see me in distress and held my bike upright. the look on my face as the weight shifted to my bad side was not a good feeling. Tom, Michael and Rob lifted me off and carried me to the river. that ran parralel to the road. With our removing the boot they sat me in the water while sitting on a camp chair boot and all.

For the next 4 hours Michael and Rob carried me to the water to ice my foot and then wrap it repeating the process over and over. I was given codeine by chief medical officer Rob and an anti-inflammatory. During this time Climo enjoyed filming the whole ordeal and chairing me up. To be honest I thought my trip was over.  

By about mid afternoon Michael and Rob had set up all the tents and Tom / Climo had gone into town to get supplies. In this process Tom bought a whole leg of lamb diced it up a skewered it over an open fire for us to eat. In this time while I am flat on my back in the tent Rob comes and checks on me but also gives me his ipod. 

For the next two days I laid on my back repeating the RICE principle rest ice compression and elevation. On the second morning a local brought me while I was sitting in the river at 7 am a bowl of fresh yogurt and a giant alloy bucket. He directed me to put my foot in it. He then proceeded to put hot tea bathe temperature onto my foot. What blew me away next was he massaged my foot. Here I was thinking I am in Mongolia by a river getting a foot massage in hot tea random!!!!!!

This hospitality repeated that night with him bringing us more yogurt, the boys some meat and his wife made us Hushoo, which was offal in a deep fried pastry. Both myself and Tom liked it but Climo, Michael and Rob were not so keen. That morning Tom came into my tent and prayed for my leg and also prayed to be able to repay the hospitality to the locals. Well I know he got answer to prayer that day as we filmed poor Tom fix like half a dozen local bikes ranging form carburetor cleans, faulty electrics, fuel tap leaks, kick start problems. By the last bike that pulled in I looked at Tom and smiled and he said Mish I am done both me and Michael laughed.

I don't know how to describe it other than by day four I could hobble around. My leg was wrapped up tighter than pair of small stubbies on a large figure. We had strapping tape followed by a compression bandage, large winter socks and my boot locked in real tight. We decided we must push on. That day's ride I just remember thanking god and hoping I did not have to put my foot down. As we drove i was nervous because of the soft sand so I traveled at 40 kmph and avoided and soft stuff.

What we got out of the situation was a real team bond all the boys stepped up and helped me through. By good fortune the accident happened by a nice river so the boys could get some R & R so it turned out to be a plus.

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20Jul/100

Central Mongolia

To describe the mixtures of terrain would be a book in itself so I will talk more about the people, my challenges and moments of great significance for me.

The first stage from UB to tserleg......... was a long stretch of open planes and grasslands for as far as the eye could see. I remember thinking after the fifth day where are the tree's? One awesome moment was when we stopped in a small town for dinner and Tom comes out front and says boy's come. I was thinking ok so I popped out back and what do you know a man was standing with a giant eagle holding it out for each of us to hold. I truly felt honored to hold such a beautiful creature. The share weight of it lowered my arm. As the local shook my arm it opened its wings and stared me in the eye just as Mike look a shoot. I was truly buzzing after this experience.

Over the next two days we had opportunities to help locals and a shocking fall by me it was truly ridiculous. As we drove we saw a local with a flat tire he had a small Chinese bike and had got a flat. Both Mike Tom and myself fixed it while Rob G took photos and Climo filmed. The second opportunity saw the team split up I was at the back and saw this husband and wife trying to fix their bike in the rain the other boys went on to tserleg. I stopped and got the tools out turns out he just needed a spanner to tighten the chain.  The most embarrassing thing happened as we were parked up on the side of the road I had been playing cat and mouse with this truck of foreigners and we stopped to wave. My foot was off balance and I fell of stationary in front of the travelers. With the bike on me Climo decided to get the camera out and film. After about 5minutes of struggling with the bike to get it back up Climo smiled and said would you like some help. I was thinking you cheeky bugger!!!!

That evening though saw the team have its first real serious chat about safety and leaving the pack. With Mike getting separated the day before then Tom and me remembered the advice given and decided line of sight was a must if we were able to help each other.

Our next stage saw us camp by a lake (>>>>>>>) this time gave us a rest day. We shoot into town for some lunch but the cafe was closed. Cheekily I saw the young waitress that we had eaten with the day before and gave here one of our photo's funny thing was she decided to open up. It turns out it was her day off but she was practicing her English so wanted to open just for us. Rob said after the meal her boyfriend gave us the cheeky middle finger, as he wanted to spend time with her. I laughed and shrugged it off.

The following morning myself and Tom walked up the hill by the lake that's when we realised how unfit we were it was ridiculous. We laughed and talked about a range of thoughts and how we enjoyed the view. In that hour up the hill it was great to hang and speak about our homes, church our friends and relationships. (Bit of a girly moment)

That morning after the hike and a half. Tom went to start his bike and it made the worst clunk sound ever it was in a bad way. As we sat there trying to work out what the problem was I reminded by Mr Anselmi's prayer and asked Tom to pray with me. To be honest with you we spent the day mucking around with bits and pieces but I remember Tom saying I don't think we have done anything. All the thoughts that ran through our heads like trucking to UB or into Russia came up. To Tom's credit he was calm and dealt with the whole situation very well. The following morning we got our answer to prayer it started no worries. Tom said it still had a sound but I was thinking it sound good to me. Thanks God!!!!

Our drive from the Lake saw us meet up with Benji an American on a Yamaha 175 and we thought 250's were going to be a drama. We enjoyed two nights camping and laughing at New Zealand and America politics :) But also shared stories of travel and just chilled around each of the campfires.

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20Jul/100

Girljik National park R & R

Our time out at the National park was a mixture of relaxation, boy mischief and a horse trek.

By about day three at the park we were bored and Climo decided we should erect the NZ flag. Tom dug the whole and Mike and Climo strung it up.  I remember hearing Climo say wouldn't it be cool if a kiwi saw it. Sure enough a bike pulled in with what do you know Jonny a kiwi Physical Education teacher based at an international school here in UB and his partner Mica also a Physical Education teacher. We hung by the river and toasted to Climos' birthday with a meat skewer and a snickers bar. It was so random but so cool to hang and talk about our travels.

Thanks Jonny for that time!!!!

The following day Tom expressed his need to do something so the suggestion was to go for a horse trek. Both myself, Climo, Tom and Mike set off to source some horses we had seen on the side of the road. On arrival at the horse park an American who owned the station greeted us. While I was sourcing the horses Tom, Mike and Climo set about helping the owner install these aluminum windows in his garage.

To my shock the saddest looking horses pulled in. I remember literally praying the whole time for my horse not to die under my weight. They were not looking to well after what some of you know was Mongolia's worst winter in a while over 7,000,000 animals were estimated to have died in what I found out was up to -51 degree temperature wa wa wow that's cold!!!! With Tom and Climo cantering around the park and me / Mike to scared to whisper at our horses the two hour ride was over. One of the highlights was the canyon we traveled through it was truly amazing, huge mountains, trees and the weather was awesome!!!

Back to Ulaanbaatar after what was a very restful week.

That night back in Ub the Australian Miko and Lisabeth treated us to an amazing diner. They had decided to leave Mongolia and boost through Russia in 10 days, which in my head after traveling through it seemed like a Mish..... But for that night we shared stories and talked about future adventures a truly enjoyable night. It was topped of by the Truck the world boys coming out as well. If you want to see a real adventure check out the truck the world website trucktheworld.com two kiwi blokes Rikki / Alex a Russian translator and a Russian truck heading off around the world. I sat in their truck its awesome!!!!. 

Our Time in UB was a mash of errands, visa's meeting people and experiencing the city culture in Mongolia. From here though we travel into the heart of Mongolia.

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20Jul/100

Ulaanbaatar organized chaos

As we drove into the city I remember thinking wow this traffic is tight. I got boxed in many times and witnessed first hand aggressive city driving. I will use Tom's description organized chaos!!!!!! Cars tooting, smog, people yelling in Mongolian, which in itself is the most difficult language I had ever heard. As we pulled into what we thought was the city centre Tom scouted for a local who could direct us to the Kazakhstan embassy while myself and Climo went to the bank. On my return we were greeted by a local who wanted to help.

Turns out me getting the boys up at 5am saw us get to the embassy just in time to get our passports in by 12pm. This gave us the freedom to leave the city for the week while they were being processed. To say thanks to the local we had meet we took him for lunch. This is where we tested Rob's cost of food as he had told us just two years ago a meal was $2.50 nzd turns out since the trade of minerals here in Mongolia foreign investment has gone up and so has food the meal cost us $100 nzd bit of a shock!!! Since we had planned for this to be a country we save in :0).

The Mongolian restaurant we had chosen turned out to be a saving grace as a local biker pulled in and it turned out he was the Head of the Ulaanbaatar biker club :). He took Tom and helped us negotiate a hostel for $30nzd for all five of us that included showers and a locked garage for the bikes what a blessing.

That night we were suppose to meet Dasj-doj but he had to return to Russia on business so he sent his son to hang out. We took him for dinner to a cheap Chinese restaurant with a buffet. We got him to order for us and we stuffed our selves :) It surprised me that he would send his son to hang, s we were only just acquainted. This is where I started to think more about my level of hospitality towards others in need of help.

The following day prior to us heading out to the National park Tom visited Blue Sky Aviation to visit a contact we had meet in Russia. In the process of us going with him we met Micko and Lisbeth two Aussies traveling through in their land cruiser from Australia all up through eastern Asia, China, Tibet Mongolia through to Russia. From the word go Micko was sharing stories and we yarn-ed about our adventures. As we left the shop we got a few photos of his truck and he shared his travels across Australia on Drz400 with his mates and son. We exchanged details and they kindly invited us out for dinner when we got back from the park.

The boys were buzzing as we left Ulaanbaatar we had done all our jobs and meet some amazing travelers and locals.

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20Jul/100

First impressions of Mongolia

The drive from the Mongolian boarder to Ulaanbaatar was a complete change of scenery to that of Russia. The terrain was very flat in parts with loads of pasture, goats, lamb and other stock. Our first night in Mongolia was camped beside a farm, which could be described as a giant tent (yurt) and some sticks like tee tree staves as a fence to hide us from the road. We cooked for Dash-doj and his driver at 10:30 at night in the pitch black and ya-rend about our countries.  As he drove off we had arranged to meet with him the following day. Being in a new land camped by someone else's home for the first time is a little bit nervous especially when Rob said there is a guy on a horse in the pitch black. It turned out to be a teenage boy from the farm just checking us out.

The following days drive to Ulaanbaatar saw me wake the boys at 5:00 am, as my clock was out due to the time zone :) my bad. As we drove the 180km into the city we saw much of the same terrain and enjoyed a well-needed rest, as I remember both myself and Mike saying we nearly fell asleep at the wheel. This reminded me of the ads back home about pulling over and resting back home (so the ads work).

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20Jul/100

Mongolia bully

The first person we were to meet in Mongolia would turn out to be a life saver! As we rolled forward from the Russian border to the Mongolia border we could instantly see a change when we were greeted by a lovely border guard. He was very interested in learning about New Zealand and the quality of the universities as he intends to study abroad. We spoke for only 10 minutes but that's all we had time for. As we progressed through the border we were shimmied from one desk to another for red, green, and orange stamps and finally after three hours we were allowed to exit Mongolia. As I wandered aimlessly around the building not knowing we could leave,  I noticed that there was a guard sitting on one of our chairs. As I moved towards the boys I heard him point towards the ground where we were sitting. He clearly wanted us to pick up the breadcrumbs on the ground. As I moved to pick some up I saw out of the corner of my eye Climo lean forward towards the guard with some in his hands. As if to ask him are you sure you want us to pick this up. Wow from here the guard turn skit-so nearly falling off the chair in a woeful attempt to kick him. As I turned the guard got up out of the chair, which was half tipped over due to the fact he fell off in the process to see him kick Climo with these ridiculous tiny legs.

From here it all turned nasty as he refused to let us go and snatched the departure cards from my hand.  I was not having a bar of it not from a guard with a seriously bad attitude. He was really cunning he proceeded to ask us who is Robert Climo I replied with that's me, in hindsight foolish thing to do but to be fair I was so frustrated with him. Then he said who is Tom and by this stage he knew we were not going to give him any more info. This drove him insane and he marched up and down the yard. Now at this stage three other guards came to his aid. Lucky one was the guard from the entrance who had been friendly and another was Dash-Doj, a local truck driver we had met. Turns out it was the captain we had offended. He thought Climo was being cheeky.

In a second attempt to find out Climo's name he snatched my passport out of my hand to my reply that's my passport you dosh.  Rob asked me to relax so I stood back as the friendly guard tried to negotiate on our behalf. After an hour of negotiations from $100usd to $50usd and finally "just go" from the guard we were out by 6:30. My take on the whole situation when at border crossings is don't leave a mess and if you do clean it up. This will save you allot of drama. (Great news is we got most of it on camera thank you head cams :)

Highlight from the whole ordeal was our friendship we developed with Dash-Doj. He was a very friendly local who has a knack for befriending foreigners. He spoke very good Russian, Mongolian and English. What stood out for me is he waited two hours for us, then helped negotiate Mongolian insurance ($17nzd for the month) and traded our Russian rubbles for Mongolian Tugerug. All he wanted was to practice his English and get information about New Zealand universities (AUT and Waikato we looked after ya).

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