...I have a few photos to try to upload and running on battery. Took a shower, first in 2 weeks, it felt good...I might ride another 200km to Khovd, but officially, I wanted to announce that I am completed today. Layers of skin peeling off with the dirt and grime, tough place getting here...I almost sent SOS from the desert as well a few days ago, I was trapped in the tent after crossing a dangerous river with strong currents (a Toyota SUV was submerged in the middle, I went a little further and began crossing with the school teacher holding a bag. During this whole episode we are both being swarmed by seething mosquitoes and a few horse flies!!!! I made it across the river, the teacher ran for his truck where his wife had been waiting, and I began pushing the cycle to find a path across the desert.
The only plan possible to escape the mosquito swarms were crossing the mountains and I was 10km off-course riding up with a swarm around me. When I finally started swallowing mosquitoes, I began to choke and scream in panic, I left the bike and pitched the tent. Horse flies stung my back, my hands were numb with bites.
I sent MAY-DAY messages to my wife and friend James...it was insane, I made a break 10km south in a truck, and cycled through a mountain pass, washing my clothes along the way, I went towards Tsagaanuur, the border crossing between Kazazh-Mongolia and Russia, and fortunately met locals who wanted to assist me again (like across Mongolia!!! Impossible without them, bless these wonderful souls, the Nomads, the generous people)...
I had a run-in with a motorcycle gang two nights before in the mountains, stayed with an English teacher in Bokmoron (infested with mosquitoes in that area, and all across the desert oh my God), then ran into Kazakh-Mongolians stopping me with their children, at first, good luck and friendly people, later rough people, a father blocking my path, grabbing the bike and demanding something, glasses, gloves...I told him to move, everyone tried to stop me from moving ahead, some people were friendly, others just nagging for something, ahead the mountain pass and Tsagaanuur.
A bad moment this morning, trying to dodge the locals, a tout came up to me along the road and brought me to his family Ger tent, all was well inside, friendly people, had a cup of tea, outside however, he and his brother were plotting something for me. I went out and they insisted I take a trail instead of the main gravel road, I could even see a bridge in the distance north towards the center of the town. They pushed me to take the "better road" and led me to a fast flowing river, it looked deep as well. They suggested I "take a taxi for 10km to get past the river..." All hard to believe, I tried to fjord the river, and dropped waist deep and shaved both of my shins on some sharp wood with nails submersed in the stream. It was like a trap, I swore and made it out to the otherside, bags completely submersed (with computer in another water-proof and camera on my hip also water-proof luckily) and I left them, injured. I rode a few kilometers on a flat rear tire, the nails that cut my shins also punctured the rear tire (almost bullet-proof Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour 1100g tires).
I wanted to be at a distance from everyone, I never had an experience like this anywhere in Mongolia, I crossed into a cultural divide/new territory where the rules were written differently, people were aggressive (and stupid I might add...) and I made it through and onto the provincial capital Oglii (Bayan-Oglii). It's unfortunate to see these behaviors in western Mongolia as an introduction, but there is pressure here for this cultural minority, and they direct that frustration, need or greed on foreigners passing through.
I finished the last 2600 meter mountain pass with the Mongol Rally Drivers from Europe ahead of me, it was glorious up there, no people hacking at me, a calm, an Ovoo (Buddhist mound used by Shamen) and I calmed myself down. 40km down the track, I entered Oglii and found the small Tourist Ger Camp where I am now, met Mongol Rally drivers that came from Spain, England and Europe...and all is well right now.
I will ride further, but cautious of the people inhabiting these parts, very aggressive but not necessarily dangerous, yet severely annoying and I will avoid them flagging me down or blocking the road, or their dogs, nasty ones in packs trying to bite at me riding past them (dirt, stones are my friends). Interesting turns in the road, all of Mongolia was awesome, this end of the world is much rougher, tougher and seems at times severe.
In the end, a great experience with demands physically and mentally, the calm of mountain passes (too many to count) and the open doors of Mongolians everywhere, the Nomads, the families that supported my journey, the cultural exchanges, the photos, the body languages, the communication open and free with each encounter.
Now, I am really looking forward to seeing my family in Korea, talking to friends and relatives here (FB), and back home, and relaxing back into my teaching routines.
Adventure is out there, but it takes a great deal of endurance to enjoy it day and night long for an entire summer. Some cycle around the world (RESPECT TO ALL OF THEM...I COULDN'T DO IT!!!), that is amazing from what I have seen in only 42 days. I need some rest, sleep and a plan to cross back across Mongolia to catch a flight to South Korea. Counting down, with more riding ahead. 200km to Khovds where I can find reliable transport to the capital Ulaanbataar.