Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mongolia X Journal 13 // Where the pavement ends // Riding Northwest // Microadventure // Brian Peric Expeditions // Lynskey Performance //

I survived some very rough sections of dirt roads. Today, I will try and reflect on what is beautiful about life. Cycle touring only fills a small percentage, or two months of my years in Korea. Family is beautiful in so many of it's compositions: couples, newly weds, one child, or multi-child units. I come from a family of 5 siblings, twin elder sisters (Beth and Chris), a younger brother (Steve) and sister (Nancy). Living in my family unit growing up started my world of adventures. My parents wanted to give us the world through North American road trips. We camped most of the time with the occasional mechanical breakdown, we stayed in Super 8 Motels across the central and eastern United States. Growing up traveling in the summers and winters starting from Canada was a lucky break. Today, I sit and reflect on past travels in America while camping out beside Steppe tracks of Outer Mongolia, which is really - a long way from where I started out.

I've left the Herder hauling dirt's lot, he had a log home build from big northern Mongolian timber adding an addition to the main building, a wooden barn used for his various equipment and welding tools, and he was industrious too - a handyman, jack-of-all-trades and well known to many in his small town. We rolled through the dirt roads between tracks of tall wooden fences, everything was painted maroon as a weather-beater paint on these divisions of permanent Mongolian settlement. It was only possible to see in with an invitation to stay from a local. Since I hitch-hiked into town with the dirt load, we toured first and caught the eye of his local friends, this was great -really rolling cool into a totally different neighborhood in Central Asia with my host. I can appreciate the generosity of being offered sheep head, onions and potatoes -this was a real treat. I ate a tongue cooked tender along with muscles from all around the lower jaw, delicious.

When I left town, I found an ATM and stocked up on Mongolian Turguts and turned out onto 100km of pavement today. What I didn't see ahead of me on that smooth as the Silk Road were swarms of seething flies again. So, today was cut short, some dirt track and about 20km out on blacktop pavement and the heat attracted swarms of flies, big and small and all hungry for cruising sheep on bikes, like me! Since there were no herds in the immediate area, I was game for horse fly bites, and the gnat flies that like to drink my sweat. It's tolerable until they start doing tumbles into your face and eyes, then all hell breaks loose on the side of the road with the Tilley Endurable T3 hat which I normally wear as an all purpose sunscreen and fly hammer to swat and kill as many flies as I can. It's a little insane in the heat to have to stop the cycle and kill, but the other option is being eaten alive, I take what precautions I can without the DEET. Next time, bring mosquito repellent to Mongolia (mental note).

Finally, this early afternoon I have camped with the paved roadside still in sight. I pushed the Lynskey mountain bike up the hillside, grassland is nicely cut by roaming herds of domesticated sheep, goats, horses around here, over the hills are probably Ger camps, as Mongolians are living in many remote pockets of the rolling terrain, you might see them about anywhere here, or none at all for hours on the bike.

Camping out, relaxing, and recording. It's great to wipe away the early days sweat with wet napkins, change clothes, and snuggle into a sleeping bag on the Thermarest mattress:  this is peace - even though it's just past noon and I haven't made enough progress, I am still loaded with 5 liters of water, good for the night.

Little did I know, the Korean trio that I shared my route with (Hak Jun, June and Chris) are now competing with me now to cross Mongolia, Wow, what a wonder since they are pursuing a $9500 book writing contract while I am just riding to support educational non-profit foundations and see more of the world from a mountain bike. They are riding mountain bikes, Korean models with two Chinese carrier racks I modified custom and assembled myself - to help them do it. What's amazing - helping others and having them compete with you immediately afterwards with the route map I shared with them to assist them. Well, it is worth the experience to remember who I helped, why I helped them - and that's important to me right now.

I awoke at 1200 am and decided under moonlight with a cacophony of  flies now departed for their sleeping holes, I put the bicycle back on the road to complete the fastest stage of the entire expedition. 80km more pavement was waiting out there, swiftly I was rolling smooth, probably apart from leaving Ulaanbaatar, the only place I could roll without putting less than 1 horse of human power to get to the next destination, which is another patch of arid, sandy soil Steppe grassland to camp. There isn't 'development' out across here, but I do come across towns that punctuate long paragraphs of roaming landscapes.  I am determined to keep moving, to make more progress to get across Mongolia solo by mountain bike.

Time and pressure, is the trepidation building before taking the expedition.  I have a great deal of freedom to be in this situation, nobody leading the way except me and nobody sent me here - I roam alone supported by my wife on occasional text messages and friend support who have donated their time, interest, equipment (SFC Tim Copeland) and a donation already (Malcolm Wesley Wrest sending me off with money for the bus ride home when I return to Korea) and Don Erwin at Lynskey Performance, USA. These supports are integral to success in Mongolia. It helps if you have a team, it can have implications on how you cope, even if you cannot connect while riding through the unknown. These scattered text messages (Malcolm, James Penlington, Mi Sung) are important, I keep them on the SIM card for moral support.

I rolled for about 4 hours (80 kilometers) and this was amazingly smooth sealed blacktop heaven. At the end of the pavement the road ends, drops off into the dirt tracks which continue across Mongolia. It's crazy to be cycling in two worlds, one mostly undeveloped - just beat down dirt, rocks and Earth soil and sand and the other is one I am familiar to in North America, China or Korea - pavement made from either concrete or stone and tar sealed roadways. If you are looking for pavement, don't come to Outer Mongolia.

I camped wild eyed at a full moon washing over the rolling landscapes, I past the town in a few minutes silently, only a few dogs barked breaking total silence and no flies buzzed in my ears - heavenly. At the end of this pavement, I went to the side of the tracks and pitched the Northface tadpole 2, my home away. After a catnap for a few hours, a golden sun opened the blue horizons. I jumped up about 700 am today and look,   - there were the 3 Korean amigos! It was a surprising coincidence to meet there because they had stealth passed my tent on the side of the paved road without  'hello' while the swarms of flies had driven me into my tent. I was delighted to see them again, they looked - disappointed. I sent June back into town to collect a few liters of water from the store since they have stocked up and stayed in town themselves.

In Korea, my occupation directly involves teaching adolescents in a university - and while on adventure I try and lend a hand of support (4 hours of rack drilling/modification and assembly - done!) and of course, I worked hard to travel overland in Mongolia and saved for this - without return to Canada in over 6.5 years. Supporting my family, my students, my wife and children and then following a road to a big adventure. I will turn 40 in January 2013.  So, this journey is important as it is for others trying to realize the same dream.

Well, I spent a few minutes with the trio and learned about their battle through the flies on pavement (yes, I was there too, I know this!), but they never mentioned seeing a bright orange tent beside the road. They were preoccupied with making their own journey at the expense of their parents - for the Korean guidebook.

I left them behind for the last time today, following the GPS through the sparse grass fields and along the dirt tracks. The Koreans I met faded to grey specks and disappeared into the rough terrain behind me now.

Ahead is a new day. Luckily, after an hour before crossing a river with a checkpoint before the long concrete bridge, I find this amazing diner - brand new place with gleaming glass windows and Art Deco design using concrete for the the structure and wide and tall modern glass as the side of the wall looking out to a miniature desert. It was out of this world, and a good menu too. I had ridden through some of the roughest terrain and up and over the small desert to an oasis today, another Eden. Amazing. Here, I am just writing to relax, unwind and re-hydrate salted goat milk chai tea and fresh water while I sip soup by the bowl and chow these flat, fried noodles mixed with onions and potato, mutton and chunks of fat  in my bowl. I'm lucky to be alive today, I'm lucky to be traveling in Mongolia unlike other travels, there are no tarmac roads pointed in this direction, you need a compass and a GPS to follow these tracks. Life is - something truly unexpected.

Thanks for reading my journals written while traveling overland in Mongolia on a mountain bike. More adventures are coming soon!!!    Later, I will include a equipment report, one reader commented and asked about what equipment I am using and how the Lynskey titanium mountain bike performed this summer. The equipment is listed in the links above, and all details on equipment performance, maintenance and picks (what I liked, what I would leave behind, what I will bring next time) will be shared in the final print/ebook being developed right now away from these pages. Thank you all for visiting the Korean-World blog. (:

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About the Korean-World Author

Brian Perich was an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) lecturer for a decade, father, and adventure cyclist based in South Korea.

Previously, Brian has led Canoe adventures in Quetico Provincial Park, Atikokan, Ontario, Canada (1993/1999); led Grand American camping adventures (2000); lived at Paramahansa Yogananda's SRF Ashram for 5 months (see the film "AWAKE"), formerly worked in titanium welding at Agilent Technologies, formerly worked in Winery industry in Marin County with Kendall Jackson in California; Surfing and Meditation continued for several years in California, British Columbia, South Korea, Yoga training in California 1999-2000.

Between 1994-1998 - Brian completed his own adventures with motorcycles. His motorcycling marathons took him across the United States and central/western Canada, while traveling solo over an astounding 24,000km in 60 days! Brian endured 900 mile/1300km average days in the motorcycle saddle and apparently loved every minute of those adventures.

Today, he has given up motorcycle adventures altogether, but finds an outlet for his enthusiasm in outdoor recreation while bicycle touring and micro-blogging about those experiences on his mountain bikes.

While employed as an English teacher in South Korea, Brian has became an advocate for bicycle touring on his mountain bikes. The Korean-World blog originated from those small adventures in Korea, now expanded to cover his recent trek down the TransMongolian highway to the Gobi Desert, cycling 900km east through the Khentii grasslands and in 2012 crossing Mongolia in 45 days, 2500 kilometers 1553 miles. HimalayasX expedition Brian previously cycled across western China, the Taklamakan Desert, the northern Himalayas of East Turkestan Xinjiang/Uyghur Autonomous Region, the corrugated back roads and mountains of Kham Tibet. Brian successfully completed his 2011 mountain bike expedition with 3200 kilometers / 1988 miles unsupported, on/off road MTB adventure cycling.
Brian has completed his second mountain bike journey, MongoliaX expedition - Crossing Mongolia 2012, an unsupported mountain bike MTB expedition across 2500km of Outer Mongolia from Ulanbaatar to Altai Taven-Bogd National Park bordering China, Russia and Mongolia.

In 2013, as a sequel to a trilogy of cycle tours, Brian enjoyed a more leisure bicycle tour onboard his Koga-Miyata World Traveller seeing the northern tier of the United States and western Canada covering 3400 kilometers / 2000 miles in 30 days. This North American cycle tour was called Totherocktour. Enjoying the adventure of bicycle travel and every great conversation started while traveling on the road - has refueled his inspirations to cycle around the Earth. In 2013, while he cycled solo from the Great Lake State of Michigan, United States to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. He weaved through local communities and reconnected with friends, family and community after spending almost a decade in Asia.

Brian is now supporting several non-profit foundations through expeditions: IDEAS Foundation of Canada IDEAS is the acronym for Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society which supports the IBD community, those suffering from IBD-inflammatory bowel disease, also known as Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis.

The second non-profit foundation is ETE.ORG - Education Through Expeditions, UK which supports educational outreach programs inside schools around the world. ETE connects explorers with students in the classroom, through an interactive online program in development (Beta).

Brian is researching support for a 18000 kilometer bicycle expedition across the Americas: North, Central and South America - ONE -Arctic to Argentina
Please contact him if you are interested in helping out.

Twitter: Cycleagain
Location: Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea or southern Ontario, Canada.

Thanks for visiting my Journal from Asia

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Brian's friends have also been...Cycling in Korea!

Brian's friends have also been...Cycling in Korea!

Cycling in Korea, Warning: always wear a helmet! (I gave mine to my friend)

Cycling in Korea, Warning: always wear a helmet! (I gave mine to my friend)

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