Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Photography from MongoliaX2014 // Mountain bike trips to Outer Mongolia // One Steppe at a time // 3700 kilometers 2299 miles // Photo story //

There is a human quality to travel. We experience our surroundings by traveling through the terrain. Terra incognita is a wonderful place to journey with a bicycle. When you have never been there before, well beyond your horizons seen and learned from birth, there are places in this world that are as full of mystery and legends. There is such a place that might seem unimaginable in a chaotic world where we continuously search for our places of peace and serenity. Mongolia is such a place.
I have cycled across 3700 kilometers or 2299 miles of Outer Mongolia on a conventional mountain bike with the traditional 26 inch wheels. I built my front racks in Beijing before tackling a trip to the deserts of East Turkestan (Xinjiang) and entering both the Aksai Chin and the Himalayan mountains all in one 3200 kilometer 1988 mile mountain bike expedition. That same bicycle has been recycled. I originally rode 10,000 kilometers 6200 miles through South Korea and I keep recycling and riding new routes across Asia. Mongolia is my favorite place to bike trip, here is my photo story.
We met in a small town on the road to Baganuur, Mongolia. This officer is fluent in English and directed me towards Unduurhaan in Khentii Province. He provided a telephone number for a local English teacher who gave me some directions to find my bearing on the compass around town. What struck me is the friendliness of the Mongolian people. I keep asking myself, why are they so nice to me? I don't feel that I deserve it, because I am not used to being noticed in South Korea. Here in Mongolia, I actually have personal and open conversations with different people, the geographical landscape of Mongolia is an open 1,565,000 km² or 604,247 square miles. Open land, small population and a warm, welcoming and wild natural atmosphere on the Steppe grasslands makes fertile fields for great conversations with interesting people from many walks of life.
These children were outside a brick and mortar building that served fried bread pockets with mutton which we dip in ketchup, they are fried in vegetable oil and are greasy - a treat full of calories for the road. I also liked the warm goat milk tea served in large plastic pitchers with a glass vacuum cylinder inside, they close the bottles with a cork. The food is simple, the servers in the restaurant are friendly and curious about bike travelers, I give them my itinerary and plan to come back another day to warm up. This photo with the local children on their bikes was taken on the way out to Unduurhaan.
I bought this clip sun-visor to cover my neck. Cycling in UV-strong South Korean areas combined with sun exposures on several trips to Mongolia, the Himalayas as well as North America - I have developed skin damage. This fall upon returning from Mongolia, my chest had a inch square removed that was developing a subcutaneous nevis which appeared upon completing my 3400 kilometer 2000 mile 30 day ride to the Canadian Rockies in 2013. With skin cancer, I don't play games.
Mongolian nomads having a ride on my mountain bike. These people were living year-round on the Steppe grasslands of eastern Mongolia in Khentii Province. Friendly, but hard working herders and horse trainers, they live in climates from the -40 below Celcius to the summer highs of 30 Celcius.
Sweet. Those who ride horses can ride mountain bikes, a bird of the same feather. There is freedom in this posture, because for me it's the way I ride 10-12 hours a day on a long expedition bike trip.
Although the nomads sleep in Ger tents, which are wooden poles held together at the hearth with a ring and the enclosure is wrapped in felt cloth that is several inches thick. They can also wrap in synthetic weather-proofing material that repels rain better.
Naranbaatar explains how the bicycle computer operates, his daughter Michelle and son Marcus look on wearing their bright colors. The herder/horse trainer wears a traditional Mongolian Del. Their flock of sheep and goats can be seen roaming in the far corner of this image.
Mongolian and free.
Naranbaatar has spent his lifetime on horses in Mongolia and in Ireland. He is an expert in the field of horse breeding and training. From the wild to the ride-able, they grow in his care. Sunset comes in the grasslands, these breezy August days presented us with sudden passing thunderstorms and colorful skylines. Although I remember riding this horse above, I also hit the dirt when it took off.
Wild and free. Live to ride. There is definitely no better way to live in this world. A hard, tough life has different joys, priorities, risks and rewards for the Nomads of Mongolia.
Naranbaatar built the "summer ger" in a few hours. Light weight and cool for the summer.
Inside Michelle helps her father and her mother set out our lunch of Mongolian onion noodles and broth, mixed vegetables (pickled), fresh bread and jam. The roof is lined with insulating felt which keeps the interior cool in the 25-30 Celcius summer heat. Being practical is life on the Steppe.
This girl is a Mongolian horse racing champion during national events, competitions and Naadaam.
Freedom on two wheels. Freedom on horses. Freedom on the Steppe, a few hours from Ulaanbaatar.
Seeing Mongolians on mountain bikes. I wish I could see more of this, it's awesome!
The ger tent is temporary and it will be moved several times over the summer. A herder comes inside as Jenny and Naran's guest. He was a tipsy from consuming alcohol. Hospitality is extended to community and these Nomads are living on the Steppe throughout the extremes of weather and climatic change. Generally speaking, global warming is affecting the Mongolians, the temperatures have risen significantly over the past century. The country has a continental climate without borders to oceans, the temperatures rise and fall to extremes. I have visited during the pleasant months of June-August. I would like to visit again throughout the summer and autumn seasons, experience the seasons change. If possible, I will in winter and explore some other areas of the country.
A young and prized horse. He has the mark of Naran's family.
These horses are well cared for, lead on walks and trots, bathed and hair trimmed (to prevent ticks). They are also free to run on the range, they run miles from their camps and habitually return to base.
I refilled my water supply while visiting the horse range. I filtered with the MSR MiniWorks EX microfilter which itself is a testament to quality, design and reliable water filtration systems.

Life on the Steppe. Sunsets to remember the day you experienced here. The barrel of water is the life support system. They refill these barrels from water wells, so aquifers are important to everyone.
Sunset burns down, I added HDR (High Definition Resolution) to this image filtering.
Stoked. Despite being thrown from a horse the day before and hitting rocks in the sandy grassy soil.
Campsite. The locations always change, the sense of connection to a natural terrain. Nothing is permanent here, not the people, the animals, location or the weather. Everything changes.
Horses, the prize of Mongolia. Bred and raised to be strong, fast and beautiful.
Everyone loves a sunset.

Life on the plateau.
Happiness. (and hard work...go hand in hand).
This is my freedom pose, I was feeling it that morning in July 2014.
Highways are connected with artwork from the past. I passed various monuments, the contemporary Russian-era steel and stone blocks have given way to modern and more creative work. Today, the art forms remain side by side, and the Cyrillic characters are still used in Mongolia, although the language and culture is distinctly their own. Mongolia has a long and legendary history. Visiting this country is the best way to become acquainted to the diverse climates, cultural regions, and terrain while going overland. There have been backpackers, cyclists, motorcyclists, jeeps, SUVs, and retired military vehicles crossing my own path on a mountain bike. Many explorers come to Mongolia.
Noticing all my photographs have been lost. Fortunately, I used data recovery to reclaim the journey.
I cycled through meadows, across rivers, over mountains, through deserts, across plateaus. 3700 kilometers or 2299 miles of terrain incognita. I enjoyed every biting-fly minute of these journeys.
The tracks or national highways of Outer Mongolia. Yes, I lived to ride here! (:
Shaman grounds for spiritualism and healing. The dogs guard my visit and enjoy it here as well.
Happy girl and her colorful Deel. This is a lighter summer vest hand sewn by her grandmother.
My grandmother was born in a village in Romania. She lived until she was 100 in 2010. So in 1910, she was born and raised through some tough times when military forces would storm into her childhood home, a stone house with a dirt floor, and they would leave with animals or wheat. In the dead of winter, her and sister slept next to my great grandparents to save the wheat. Their family bed were the sacks of wheat and food they needed until spring, the soldiers didn't find it. When she turned 16, she faced harsh choices to remain in Romania or leave for North America on a ship from Europe. She chose the latter and never went back. While living in Canada, she continued to do manual labor for wealthy families as a servant where a stipend was paid at the end of service. This took years away from her life, but she was strong and loved to tell stories as a oratory tradition. She never learned to read or write what I doing right now, taken for granted. She supported her family after my grandfather passed away in a winter after suffering for years with Black Lung disease. My grandfather never met me, he passed away when my father was still young. My grandmother lived on and continued to travel to Florida in the United States while she maintained a student rental property in Canada. When I met this Mongolian grandmother near Baganuur, the resemblance was very close. I checked her blood pressure and pulse using the spygomanometer or blood pressure cuff - but it has been years since I trained and I have almost forgotten how to do this simple procedure correctly. It was a nice meeting, simple but connected into my past - reminding me of family and how the world is still connected, even when our loved ones closest have gone away from this world. Spirits live on.
I found some tracks and road further East, this route rejoins a paved highway and there is an aquaduct to my left. Civilization is just around the corner in small towns with Ger tents and wooden houses.
This is where I finished my first solo crossing of Mongolia in 45 days, 2500 kilometers 1553 miles 40,000 meters 131,234 feet between July-August, 2012 reaching Khovsgol Nuur National Park and turning west to Altai region and the Taven Bogd, or translated "5 Saints" that marked the end of my one and a half month long overland expedition. The mountains speak, I listen. I didn't follow another explorers tracks or pretend to be the first - Ash Dykes from Wales claims to be the first to cross Mongolia solo for 1500 miles in 2014. The original and recent pioneer for overlanding Mongolia on foot was completed by Ripley Davenport. I knew of Ripley through my work with Education Through Expeditions in 2011. What I wanted to do was complete my own northern route drawn on Google Maps and uploaded to a Garmin 705 GPS. To travel across Mongolia, I used a Lonely Planet guidebook for tips on local towns on the route, and pushed myself physically and mentally to complete it. I also met locals, those Nomadic Mongolians are the truest pioneers to roughing the wild making all other attempts by outsiders mere sporting competition in the summer.

However, I am not saying it's an easy affair completing expeditions in Outer Mongolia, when you travel motor-less while off road the game changes a lot. Crossing consecutive high altitude (1300 to 2600 meter) mountain passes is a daily challenge that is rewarding because you need to do it to make it to the next mark on your route and exhausting. Water becomes a major factor when you need it most and it's availability is questionable at best. As the landscape changes, the topography and terrain that your feet or wheels are contacting can affect your performance considerably. Stepping into sandy tracks can slow progress, increase water intake, delay the time it takes to cross a certain distance. While crossing either the Gobi Desert or the Northwest deserts in Mongolia. Planning and flexibility is important, larger water reserves balanced against the total weight of your equipment - must be weighed in correctly. When it's green fields, water is soon to be found. Some 90 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar, I was cycling through these wide valleys, into birch forests, and back again.

It's not about how fast you go, it's about how far you are willing to go?
Pavement. Riding south to the eastern Gobi Desert (Sainshand)
More adventure is coming soon!!!!

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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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