In April 2010, Eleanor Moseman left Shanghai on a journey of more than 10,000 miles, across 3 countries, on one bicycle. This is where she updates from the road.
  1. Ever since…

    …Mongolia I have been wrestling with myself.  (Mongolians like to wrestle too).

    A half a kilometer before crossing from China to Mongolia, it had been difficult.  One thing after the next.  It seemed THAT NOTHING went the way it was suppose to.  I know you should prepare for incidents like this…but seriously, never in my life had there been days after days of everything just down right sucking!

    (I would have more photos but since that camera was stolen I’m missing some stuff).

    We tried to ride North from Zamyn Udd but the road disappeared – literally.  I had been warned to NOT FOLLOW jeep/motorcycle tracks as they can lead you nowhere, or your death.  After attempting to talk to two truck drivers (from big Russian-wheelers), one woman, and a young girl in a pink silk dress – we asked them about the roads and he just pointed towards Zamyn Udd spreading his arms back and forth horizontally. (I understood this as saying the roads are everywhere).

    This is where we tried to hitch hike.

    Looking South towards China:

    Looking North towards Ulan Bator (where we wanted to go):

    This little girl was spending the afternoon before the Sand/Wind storm blew in throwing rocks at a horse.

    We met some great people.  Thank god this little fellow could speak Mandarin and Mongolian.  We may actually owe our lives to him.

    They make ’em stronger in the North.

    We did finally make it to Ulan Bator, which was a complete fiasco and nightmare.  And where I killed my  budget getting back to China.

    After a couple of days of finding maps, talking with people, weighing the pros and cons.  We did set out on a very cold and windy morning.  We passed truck after truck coming from the West, loaded sky high with dog? pelts.

    It was so windy, barely making it at 8km/hour.  I was extremely sluggish (I ended up getting really sick that night).  It was gorgeous but I was freezing, slow, and just feeling really dogged.  Jason rode ahead of me but returned when he noticed I was not near.

    We stood on the side of the road and watched a storm roll in.  Storms on the plains are amazing…this isn’t an uncommon experience.  You can see it in the distance and time it for duck and cover.  You can also get an idea how long it’s going to last.  This is where I sat, looking out, and made the decision to head back to China.  And this is the exact place where my dreams fell apart.  Take a note of the road conditions…um, I mean jeep tracks.

    I’ve longed for Mongolia for years now.   There is something about the stories, the photos, everything…that has drawn me to this land.  Well, needless to say, it gave me a really good ass kicking.  Jason built his bike frame so I was also concerned about his bike holding up, along with his 25kg limit aluminum racks.  Do I regret turning back, probably not…but I regret trying to go North West when I would be face to face with wind.  And I’m talking about a wind you probably have NEVER experienced.

    I think of Mongolia AT LEAST once a day and it’s usually when I’m lying in bed recounting my rotations and playing the “what if” game.

    So, I threw out the idea to my pen pal, Ed, of the Torugart Pass from China into Kyrgyzstan.  I’m playing with the idea of just heading out of China and pass through the K’stans to get back into the North West side of Mongolia.  I could at least have a hell of a tailwind to Ulan Bator.  Can I handle eating all the boiled lamb…probably not.  But I think I could handle the non existent roads, and it will be a hell of a lot easier to hitch hike as a solo cyclist.  I just can’t be defeated and maybe I’ll get to see Lake Baikal after all.

    One of my ideas was to catch a train in China to get to Lhasa.  But yeah, sounds like a super touristy place.  If you know me in the bit least…you know I go in the opposite direction of tourists.   So, what would I do once I get to Lhasa?  Go to India…then where?  I’m kind of getting stopped in those tracks…so it’s to the K-stans.  From there…I don’t know.  That Russia Visa is a pain in my butt!!!!  I may have some guanxi to use for this.

    So now I’m thinking of doing a circuit into Ulan Bator or heck…just go to Europe.

    Please stay tuned as I’ll be back on the saddle in about 2 months.  Just got my Visa renewed for another year…that’s the most important thing right now.

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  2. All Signs Pointed to “No Go”…and more…

    The last time I visited here, we were going to ride around Mongolia.

    Well, it was frigid and there would be intermittent rain – BESIDES the hell of a wind.  I can deal with wind when I know there is a town ahead, because you can’t camp in this type of wind.  We moved about 30km in about 3-4 hours.

    We passed an Italian that had crossed over from Russia and he had a mountain bike.  The road would disappear and the terrain would be trying.

    After sitting on the side of the road debating, feeling defeated, we turned around. 

    I woke up with a cold, and lied in bed, stuck in Ulaanbatar for a week.  We decided to take a train back to Hohot/Huhehaote (bad idea).

    What I learned about cycling Mongolia – I was very ill prepared.  My advice:

    1-travel North to South, the wind is hell.

    2-extreme weather, pack accordingly and drop the panniers and add a cart (food, lots of water, winter gear, 4 season tent, etc.) 

    3-mountain bike necessary

    4-a gps device to give you coordinates OR a satellite phone OR be fluent in Mongolian/Russian

    5-a high tolerance for drunks and boiled lamb…lots and lots of boiled lamb

    I lost a considerable amount of weight because of my sickness and the awful food.

    Would I like to attempt Hell-golia again.  Sure.  Better prepared.  You bet.

    It’s been awhile since this so my feelings aren’t so hurt, but I did feel like a failure.  I have to remind myself that being an explorer sometimes means having to turn back.  Jason was even less prepared and the last thing I wanted to do was drag him out to the middle of nowhere – just to send him back with hypothermia and a broken bike.

    Oh, don’t let anyone tell you that Mongolians know English – bull. 

    We were lucky to find a man at the train station, that reminded of my dad.  (There is a possibility that American Indians came from the Mongolian region).  He spoke enough English to speak to some random dude because we had to fill out paperwork for customs. 

    I was afraid of this but didn’t want to admit to it. 

    It took 4 hours and a lot of paperwork, footwork, and money.

    Well….when we finally arrived in HuHeHaote, you could of found me crying in the train station.  Turned out that we had to get off at the border to take care of paperwork for our bikes.  When was my luck going to turn…really?  God, can you hear me???

    We have to go back to the border.

    No train tickets, only 2 trains a week.  Go get bus tickets and we are approached by a private driver – we can leave that day!  125rmb a person,he even helped us find a bingguan for 70mb.

    So, if you have ever lived in China – you know the drill.  Guess how long it took to take care of the paperwork?!?!

    Literally, 3 minutes and 4rmb!

    We go back to HuHeHaote the next day.

    With all this extra time there, we pass the time at a video arcade.

    The bikes arrived – safely.  Found a shop to repair my derrailleur – only one cog ring doesn’t work now – rather than 3.

    Nothing too noteworthy since leaving HuHehaote – oh, Jason replaced my point and shoot camera with a Canon S90 – it’s pretty friggen awesome!

    We did stay in a prostitution hotel, and was awoken twice by our neighbor being serviced.  Prostitution here is strange, to say the least.

    Route 110 from HuHeHaote sucks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  The first day to BaoTou, we looked like coal miners.  The coal mining and the trucks loaded with this was flying everywhere.  We have had only 1 day out of 6 (left HuHehaote last Thursday am) where we weren’t rinsing grey water off our bodies. 

    3 days ago, the side wind was so bad it was blowing Jason and I all over the road.  It was a dangerous wind.  It always happens after 5pm and of course was coming from the North….

    Except today!!!!  We are traveling South and have a hell of a headwind.

    I finally exited Inner Mongolia today and landed in NingXia.

    Yesterday, as we are riding along the Yellow River, you see a strip of sand (that we are riding through), then a stip of green, the river, another strip of green, then MASSIVE SAND DUNES!!!

    Hey China!  You are turning into a giant sand box.  There are hundreds of dried river beds that once branched off from the river.  I’m riding through imagining what this part of the country looked like 200 years ago.  I bet it was the land of milk and honey…seriously.

    Hey China! Quit strip mining, at least have some beautiful mountains in your sandbox.

    The pollution has been outrageous since leaving HuHeHaote and traveling West.  Grey skies and the sides of the road are grey/black from the coal particles.  I really can’t imagine what my pink lungs NOW look like.

    I’m now 50km North of YinChuan.  I got yelled out today because I took pictures of some men striking outside a power plant.  Jason translated the signs saying “Goverment workers are people too”.  I got surrounded by a bunch of men and just deleted it just to get them off my a$*.  The last thing I need is the cops arriving.

    Well China…now that you are #2 in GDP, you are going to have to face up to a lot of stuff.  And this announcement is very loud and EVERYONE knows about it.  Even the poor government workers barely making a living wage.

    Good luck with that.

    Don’t think I’m hating…I’m really glad to be back in China.  The food, the language – THE PEOPLE.  I LOVE THE PEOPLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Even the prostitutes…they haven’t really been given another option to make a