We ride down to a bridge, perhaps 15ks, and the bridge isn’t there. It was washed away some time after our 2003 map was printed. Meet some Russian 4-wheel-drivers, who suggest we follow them 20ks over a pass to where the moron branches out into three, and might be crossable. Thankfully, before this we find a little Waterworld-style pontoon in the middle of nowhere, where three dudes are herding goats up onto the rusting metal hulk. (One goat panicked in the water and drowned.) Now, this pontoon is in the middle of fucking NOWHERE, and this guy could charge rich desperate hurrying tourists like us practically anything he liked – we wouldn’t question it. But Mongolia hasn’t had enough rich desperate hurrying tourists through yet to adjust to a two-tiered economy, so the ride costs all of 70 US cents. Awesome.
A couple of valleys over, Tama stops. “Hey … this is grass.” I stop and look, and sniff. He’s right. We are surrounded by a couple of acres of wild ganga, only three or four feet high and not really budding yet – but still, good for frolicking in. There is so much of it, you can literally pick tips from the roadside without even slowing down your bike.
Late in the day, we finish our cheap melted fake swiss chocolate (Alpen Gold my arse), and rock a 300-metre hill climb that nearly kills us. But, we make it, and on the other side there’s this magic dreamy downhill in the fading light that almost makes all the pain worth it. Actually, it totally makes the pain worth it. Actually, fuck that, the pain is fine, is good, is part of why we’re doing this, is a challenge and a release and a way to really feel, to really be fully alive!
I get a puncture. Tama fixes it. We make camp in the dark, hoping we’re near the Selenge River, and one day closer to Erdenet, massages, burgers and internet.