Well, things are all rather exciting once again.
I am back in Bishkek, having done a visa run to Almaty, the capital of Kazakhstan, where I was given 10 days to transit through Russia.
The plan is to drive up to the north east of Kazakhstan, cross the border into Russia on the 28th October, and journey over the Altai Mountains into Mongolia.
From here, things get a little trickier… The roads through Mongolia are non-existent, and signposts are few and far between. Instead, several dirt tracks run through the country, linking the little villages, towns, and nomad yurt camps.
I will be driving 1600 kilometers through the country in November, and I have my fingers crossed that it will not simply be a blanket of snow and ice. (A Dzuud is expected)
I have not yet decided whether to take the southern route through the Gobi desert, where the very rare Gobi bear is said to live; the middle route, said to be swamped with marmots and mountains; or the northern route, known to host wolves, moose, and weasels.
Having been nicknamed Moose by my dear mother when I was young, followed by weasel through my teenage years and into early adulthood, I must say I am tempted to go north, but regretfully this is the coldest part of the country, and temperatures of -50 are not unknown!
Anyway, as always, the unknown is what makes these adventures what they are. If I knew it were all one perfectly tarmacked highway, free from wolf, weasel, moose, bear, and ice, I would probably not bother at all…no fun without a bit of a challenge eh?
I am sipping coffee and smoking a morning fag in a delightful little hostel. My tent is pitched next to a yurt in the garden, and I have finally got going with my scrap book. I look a little mad, sat in the corner, surrounded by mountains of scrap paper, drawings, paints, coffee, fags, photographs, and hundreds of torn up maps.
I had a very productive day yesterday, and managed to find a lady who could replace the zip on my Nepalese wooly coat, a shoe maker who managed to fix my saddle bags, a lead to connect a new smart phone to a USB attached to Grettle, a woman who agreed to print several small photographs for me, and a color copier for some drawings I was keen to turn to collage.
I had an amusing couple of days in Almaty, where I was invited to join an off land motorbike tour to the singing dunes, and the Aktau mountains. The six big blokes arrived, where Marat, the tour leader, had all their bikes ready and prepared. The men had not ridden for a good 15 years, and were all trying to fit back into their old leather pants…a splendid spectacle! Two fell off on route, but no damage was done. I rode in the support vehicle, as I considered Grettle may slow the tour down slightly, but the scenery was spectacular, and the company was good fun, which made up for it.
One of the men, named Michael, gave me an old smart phone of his, when it became apparent I had no navigation system, which was incredibly kind, and will no doubt be invaluable for my journey. Until this point, I have relied solely on the locals when it comes to navigation, particularly in the cites, most of which end up jumping on the back of Grettle, and back seat driving.
Anyway, it was a fabulous weekend, and we stayed in a little farm house, with horses, foals, sheep, and chickens, ate lots of plov, and drank a little too much scotch.
V much looking forward to arriving in UB, meeting all the dorks, and beginning the teaching. It sounds like an interesting city, despite its reputation as the coldest in the world!
Today I am on the lookout for pogies (some kind of hand warmer you can attach to the handle bars of your bike), and a good woolly jumper.
Until next time,