Mongolia and the Altai mountains

By admin. Filed in Adventure Motorcycling, Altai, Altai Bogd, Gobi, London to Sydney, Mongolia, motorcycle touring, Olgii, Russia, Tour, Wild Camping  |  
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Mountain Pass - Mongolia

Mountain Pass - Mongolia

Ahhhh finally we had reached Mongolia.. The border crossing out of Russia was fairly easy except that they had closed the border for lunch… we managed to get into Mongolia 5 minutes before their border had closed at 5pm… we had hoped to be able to get through a little earlier so we had time to get a good campsite when we got into Mongolia.. Unfortunately it wasn’t so… Immediately after getting into Mongolia the road went from Asphalt on the Russian side to a rutted, corrugated mess of gravel and sand.. the road was in such poor shape that the locals didn’t even bother to use it.. Instead they used one of the 40 alternatives… this made navigation very difficult and we had to keep asking the shepherds where the hell the road went.. on several occassions we had to back track to find another track so that we could make it to our intended destination Olgii…. After 3 hours of riding we came to our first mountain pass… In most countries the road upto a mountain pass goes through a series of zigzags or follows the river up a gradual slope…..

Flock of Animals - Mongolia

Flock of Animals - Mongolia

well in Mongolia the road goes along the valley then straight up the steep side of the hill.. The slope on this particular mountain pass must have been at least 50-60°. The crazy thing was that the slope was soo steep and yet this was the main road from the Russian Altai into Mongolia…. We had a convoy of at least 15 semi trailers following us… how the hell are they going to get up.. the view from the top was spectacular… overlooking the valley as the sun set it was amazing, but we still had to find somewhere to camp.. and find somewhere fast before it got dark..on the other side of the mountain pass there was snow on the ground, as we descended down into the valley… a short time later we crossed a snow filled gulley and Heather decided that we should go off the road and camp further up the hill… no problems.. we rushed to get the tent setup, then Heather went to collect some stuff for a fire… horse and cow poop… and I prepared dinner… it was very cold so we hit the sack early with a plan to make it to Oglii early the next day… that night we had our first snow on the tent… we had a mild panic attack hoping that it wasn’t rain.. I couldn’t imagine riding on these roads if it was wet.. when we go out of the tent the mountain on the other side was covered in a fresh coat of white snow.. luckily we had only a small dose so we left early… continuing on our dirt track for about 30 minutes.. then we realised that about 50 meters away there was a nice fresh asphalt road…. why the hell are we still riding on dirt??? the new road was fantastic and we arrived in Oglii about 20 minutes later… the temperature was sitting at 2°C.. we had to get money and we had to restock on our food so that we could head north again….

Old Lady with her Ger - Mongolia

Old Lady with her Ger - Mongolia

We managed to get into town and find a bank.. one thing we didn’t realise was that there are no banks in Oglii that accept Mastercard or Maestro cards.. we had to transfer some of our emergency fund US dollars to Mongolian Currency… it was while Heather was doing this that we got approached by a Tour operator who offered to take us up to see the Glaciers and lakes in the restricted border zone with China and Russia.. It was something that we wanted to do but with the poor quality roads had decided it was a little tough.. we said that we would go and get some food, then after an hour meet up again to discuss it further… An hour later we had agreed on taking the tour, organised the route and started to was all very rushed because we had to get some permits from the Military to enter the area, we also had to get some national park permits to use the park…we locked our bikes up at the tour operators sisters place in her secure garage, got prepared and set off…

Mountain Passes on the way to the Glacier - Mongolia

Mountain Passes on the way to the Glacier - Mongolia

First of all we headed off towards the Glaciers.. on the way we stopped at his Mothers ger, then stopped at his Uncles house for some tea.. we ended up spending our first night on the tour at his uncles eating horse head, horse sausages, horse tongue, and drinking tea.. the next day after 6hours driving we finally made it to the Glacier.,.. the road there was crazy.. Anyway going into Details about the tour will take up a load of time so I’ll be quick and nasty and put it all in point form..

  • Walked up to a Glacier at 3000+ meters above sea level…

  • on the way back from the glacier we walked through knee deep snow

  • had Yaks cream

  • Tried Deer

  • Had fresh Mongolian pasta.

  • Had loads of tea

  • had more tea

  • got sick of tea

  • drove along rocky roads for 24 hours in 3 nights…

  • had temperatures down to -12c

  • Had balsak which is a local doughnut style bread which you have with butter of fresh cream… we know its balsak because it reminds us of ball sack.. haha

  • Heather spent hours teasing a kitten…

  • watched some terrible Kazakh TV

  • witnessed some amazing off road driving..

  • Saw Turkish stones

  • crossed crazy rivers

  • Saw eagles being trained for Hunting.

  • Had a diet that consisted of traditional Kazakh food… meat, cream and noodles..

Heather and Russian Van - Mongolia

Heather and Russian Van - Mongolia

All up the tour was well worth the money.. we called it our Holiday away from our Holiday… it was nice to have someone else navigate.. he didn’t have or use any maps but knew the area so well that we didn’t get lost or have any issues finding any of the sites that he said we would be able to see. There was no way in hell that we would have been able to make it up many of the roads with the sand and our bikes fully loaded that he could with his Russian 4wd van… I would highly recommend anyone wanting to go on a tour to use this guy.. Do the tour in 5 or 6 days not the rushed version that we did over 3 nights… it was a hell of a long way on the crappy roads..

two humped Camels - Mongolia

two humped Camels - Mongolia

After the tour was over we checked into a hotel.. yay finally we could have our own privacy.. One thing I would say about doing a tour in Mongolia is to make sure you bring your own tent. The Ger experience is great but there is no privacy and everyone just stares at you.. its all very odd and uncomfortable but well worth experiencing at least once.. having your own tent gives you some freedom to go to bed when you want. Not get woken when wolves attack their flock of goats etc…

It was so nice to have our own room in the hotel.. unfortunately we both got sick and ended up spending most of our time in the room for 3 nights to recover… which is why its taken so long to update the blog…

Oglii is definitely a meeting point for tourists.. we have seen more westerners in Oglii that we have seen for our entire journey since leaving Istanbul…

  • Paolo an Italian who Is riding a Honda Africa Twin places

  • 4 Italians who are riding 4 vespas from Milan to Ulan Baator.

  • 2 English and 2 Finn’s who are back packing from St Petersburg to Vietnam

  • a group of French who have spent 3 weeks travelling from Ulanbaator to Olgii and the Altai

It really is a cross roads for anyone who is coming overland to Mongolia.. Its recommended as a stop off.

If your looking for an experienced tour guide who knows his way around the Altai in Mongolia very well. Speaks good english and has a reliable 4×4 van then we highly recommend Jupar Abzal email: tel : (mongolian) 95424044

One Comment

  1. Comment by cindyhartwell:

    Wow guys, the scenes are amazing! It must have been awe-inspiring to see the glacier, and eat as many horses as you have! That pic of Jupar’s mom in front of her ger is amazing! It really shows how different life is over there, the culture shock, and scenery change. Sho, now I know why you got such padded gear, it doubles up as thermal gear!

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