We leave Tsagaan Uur – which is pronounced, um … “sahur eewr”? – stocked up with chocolate bars and instant noodles and emergency meat, and plunge promptly into an impossibly dense forest. he sign on the edge of the forest, in Cyrillic but more importantly in danger red, should have warned us off our “shortcut”, but instead we made courageous jokes about unexploded Soviet ordnance and blundered manfully onwards, following tire tracks that, well, they just stopped. And it’s all good for a while just pushing our bikes through the lumpy trees, coming on and off the odd hoof-trail, but after half an hour we are well and truly bogged, literally in a bog, and the prospect of turning back is just as ghastly the prospect of continuing, so we continue, until we are carrying our freakin wheels up and down these Fiordland-worthy trails, slamming into trees, not really riding much or navigating in any meaningful sense of the word.
We hit a stream, follow it for a while, ditch our bikes and walk ahead to see if it opens up. (It doesn’t.) Eventually we backtrack, find a shallow place to cross the stream, argue a bit about which way to go, end up heading north back to towards the main road, hit a big river, like, a really big river, like, we cross one of three branches and are standing there when a dashing horse-riding peasant rides up and goes to cross the second branch and turns back when the waer reaches his horse’s belly … and in the distance, a tractor tows a big grunty 4WD across the fast-enough flowing water.
There on the stones in the middle of a mighty mörön, we feel a bit stuck.
A few hours later, after some great gesticulating hand-arguments with some peasants on the riverbank, we pitch up in a deserted wild-flower meadow, miles from anywhere, and hopefully just a few miles from Tiger Mountain. We drink half a litre of Chinggis before bed and feel much more okay about things.