Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Mongolia X Journal 14 // Determination is not destiny // You land where your path leads you // Mongolia Mountain Bike

Today, another eventful day on the expedition. I cycled 8 hours covering 75km for the day and try to take naps along the dirt track leaning on my backpack or sitting next to my mountain bike. There are no trees and no shade to be found for miles. It's ironic. Days ago (photos above), I rode from 1350 meters at the center of Ulaanbaatar in the continuous rain. My journey stopped suddenly with an accident but after replacing the rear rack that bent when I cycled through an open manhole on a busy, flooded street west of the city center. 

Before the disaster unfolded, I was here in the photos above. Nairamdal - a beautiful area just north of the capital city of Mongolia and well worth a visit for an overnight trip. Here I met friendly people, began to appreciate the green Steppe grasslands that begin all around the undeveloped hills surrounded by 1500 meter mountain peaks and followed a thin line on my loaned Garmin GPS. It might look like Scotland Highlands around here, although I can't confirm this because I would only be referencing from movies with natural scenes and landscapes like this. I'm a bit lost right now, because it's dirt track - is this what the rest of Mongolia will be like, if it is, it will be a certain challenge to cross over land like this. Following GPS is best and recommended always in Mongolia when there are so many roads alike, or no roads at all. I found it easier to navigate off the pavement than I did on it, which is a bit ironic isn't it?

Amateur today, perhaps I will still be an amateur cyclist tomorrow - but I will be the best one that I can be while doing it. It's raining lightly, I crept up the mountains at a snail's pace with a heavy loaded Lynskey mountain bike. At the moment, I can feel the cool mist against my face and it's refreshing to be here finally after a few months of preparation. I spent another 10 weeks at a fitness center in the Spring "Yellow Dust" season in Korea (nasty stuff! Living West of China isn't a dream come true for air quality, and Korean industry certainly contributes to it as well, as they rise to become a industrialized Superpower smog emitter), missing the poison again this year and prepared physically to cover all ground in Mongolia. 

What is amazing is the air quality in Mongolia - immediately noticeable improvement over South Korea once you leave the somewhat smoggy capital of Ulaanbaatar. When the air quality is this good, it reminds me of the good things about traveling "Out West" whether in North America or Asia, it seems true. 

I've learned from preparation and successfully launching my own independent expeditions using mountain bikes, that determination is not destiny, because anything can go wrong and it will - to test your wits. I have managed to minimize damage to a certain degree so far, but I with 24 hours of starting from UB, I have lost communications (iPhone dearly departed in a leaky Arteryx Goretex jacket pocket), I cycled into an open manhole on a busy roadway bending my rear rack carrier (to be replaced), and was mugged when I reach the city of Ulaanbaatar (thief only taking away from cycling gloves, but an important piece of protective equipment since there is so little while mountain bike touring). 

I have already invested myself to be here (expensive flight, Pro discount investment into a Lynskey frame, previous equipment purchased to document the journey, provide protection and reliability - is all very expensive when you add this all up). So, determination is only half the ingredient to success, it takes planning, budgeting money for many expenses, physical training, and some travel experience to do all this. Yet, I am still an amateur today, and probably the same tomorrow - but I have prepared for this moment all my life, so no matter what road I follow, what tree will fall to block my path, what equipment will fail - I will eventually find a way to make things work, I always make an effort do this in my life (even if I am only successful 1 in 10 times I try, it was probably worth the effort, right?). 

While out exploring like this, or while living in foreign countries without leave for years and years (to have the financial means to do this - Explore with a mountain bike). I planned ahead for years, bought the right equipment and had the support of my family in Korea (wife says, "okay" - that is support enough) and I saved from working for quite a few non-stop years without leaving the county (I can count year 9 in Asia starting already). That is the secret to my new freedom to ride bicycles over borders and explore. There is no hidden sponsorship, some dream manifested in companies supporting me, and when I fall and get injured in Mongolia, as I did. I was on my own or traveling with the Nomads, receiving their love and kindness, their goat, yak and horse milk, bread, butter and 'arroz' cheese in exchange for what I was carrying - Mongolian customs. I was also one of the lucky ones, middle aged and locked to family to support but still managed to go out there to explore the world. 

Some people envy what I am currently doing with expeditions - Please don't. I ride only to inspire others to try because after all, we are all amateurs living the dreams on this Earth and only God knows what is going to happen next. I ride with strength prepared ahead of time in mind, body and soul. And weather and terrain will beat me down, and life will kick me around - but I ride with more determination, perhaps it helps to reach my destiny, but the road is unknown and anything can happen. Living through it, and telling tales of the adventures is part of that journey back home. Tomorrow is another day, so work towards living the dream because most of the best dreams planning and put into reality - do not happen overnight. 

Another reminder about bicycle touring lifestyles is to remember the risks, two world cyclists riding through Thailand were killed while following their dreams on cycles, they lived the dream until the tragic end, but they lived and left some special experiences to share with others. Very memorable and it will be sad for their families and loved ones who will miss them the most.

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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.

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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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