Peter Grace and his brother Dave have joined us on our inaugural Magical Mongolia motorcycle tour and Peter has kindly allowed us to follow along with their journey via his daily updates. I reproduce it here for you word for word without amendment.
Many thanks Pete.
First day in Mongolia 13/6/18
Went exploring in bright sunny weather after a leisurely start. Walked across Sukhbataar Square to the National Museum. Cost T10,000 (currency is called Tugrik) to get in (about $5.50). Nine rooms covering early man through to Genghis Kahn and Russian control to current independence and development as a free market democracy.
Lots of very nice insights. When the early Turkic empire influenced Mongolia in the 8-9 century, there was a belief that the earth was held up on the back of a turtle. Stone monuments were erected for dead heroes with inscriptions describing their achievements. To ensure the stone was stable it was placed on a stone turtle – it’s true see the picture.
For anyone who plays Scrabble be aware that the traditional long-sleeved wrap around cloak worn by Mongolian nobles is called a del or deel. Could be useful.
I took a photo of a pair of 13 Century motorcycle boots as well – just goes to show what early innovators they were. Probably exported them on the boot road rather than the silk or tea road.
Mongolians traditionally were nomadic moving their herds to the best areas as the seasons change. Even now 30% of the population spend some of the year tending their animals and living a nomadic way (part of their culture likes Aussies going to the beach). A common way to move was to have all their possessions hauled by yaks or horses. The photo shows a yak and cart. The yack was enormous, I wouldn’t fancy milking a lady yak.
Checked out a dinosaur museum too and did some flaneuring (wandering watching the world with interest). The city I saw is a bit run down in places but with real surprises such as wall art and sculptures where you would least expect it
Dave should be arriving shortly
Thursday 14th in Mongolia
Dave arrived last night at about 7.00pm after his lift from the airport failed to turn up. It was great to see him again – we like meeting in far flung places. He was more jet lagged than me having come west-east, so it was a slow start today.
I went for a stroll on my own to find Beatles Square. This was a place that young people met to play Beatles songs when their music was banned – in protest at the repressions of the USSR communist government. The square is being refurbished but I found the statue.
A sculpture I found called ‘Apex of the Sky’ was the globe held up by tree branches. It was impressive, but the representation of Australia was a bit dodgy. Tasmania seemed a bit big and I was not sure about the SW corner of Western Australia.
The pink traditional dance theatre was fabulous and was being adorned with a giant white screen to show soccer world cup games. We must get back there to see a game before we leave. And next door was the Great Khan Irish Pub – must try a Mongolian Guinness soon
I met up with Dave back in Sukhbataar Square and found lots of people in traditional garb and a celebration and prize giving. You’ll see the mixed skyline – old and new – in the photo.
We went for a coffee and then in search of someone with an industrial strength sewing machine to fix some damage to his bike riding jacket. David’s mimes of sewing machines and sewing were hilarious and not very successful. The Mongolians can’t have heard of charades
UB seems very dusty and when I washed a T shirt out this evening the dirty water was brown.
Friday 15 in UB
Another eventful day. By chance we got invited to join the inaugural tourist bus ride through Ulaan Bataar. It started with speeches and music by a traditional throat singer (picture available on request) and a 4-piece Mongolian boy band. The traffic slowed things down a but we had notable sights explained and stopped at a monastery for a few photos.
At one stop we saw memorials to Russian assistance to Mongolia in WWII when they repelled the Japanese. Mongolia raised money to help Russia buy tanks and at the end of the war they sent them one that had travelled from Moscow to Berlin and survived.
We called at the dinosaur museum and got a guided tour by the director which was very good. The Americans found a TRex like dinosaur and took it to America but have now given it back. They have 98% of the bones so the photo is the real thing. It is 7.5m long and half the expected adult size (unless it loses a fight or a meteor hits).
We called at another monastery (effectively Buddha HQ in Mongolia) to see him – he is 28m high, made of bronze with a gold covering and full of herbs to give him the right essence. We learnt that any rites (like spinning prayer wheels) must be done clockwise and three times. Behind us in the photos is a small edifice with about 9-10 bells hanging from it. We dutifully walked round it three times ringing the bells for good luck.
Saw this nice wheel barrow on the way home and took a photo of Ghengis Khan in the main square. We wonder if the sculpture misadjusted his horizontal hold. He doesn’t look like a man to argue with.
Tomorrow we have a bit more exploring to do and meet up for the bike tour briefing and a pre-ride meal. We have met some of our colleagues though some are stuck in Beijing.
Saturday 16 June
Took a taxi south of the city to climb a 300m high lookout which promised good views of the city. As always, these little adventures seem to lead to the unexpected. We passed a train of rider, dog and 9 camels – made of fibre glass but impressive none the less. Supposedly a typical scene in the Gobi Desert in earlier times.
The lookout celebrated the Russian achievement of repelling invaders in WWII but as they didn’t leave until 1999 they were really invaders too. The hill had 600 steps to the top and had a statue of a Russian soldier holding a flag 27m high. The views were impressive but depressing. The urban sprawl is unfinished and messy. You can see many gers (traditional tents) in the picture because even though people have a modern apartment a ger is much cosier in winter. Power is generated by 2 coal fired power stations and as we were directly downwind the acrid smoke from them was very obvious.
There was a man with an eagle at the top – traditionally used for hunting – and we both held it aloft. It was 5 years old and just a ‘baby’ but was very heavy.
We’re off for the tour briefing now and tomorrow we start riding
Day 1 of the bike ride 17 June
The tour briefing was a sobering experience as we heard about the terrible roads here and the places we will go where there are no real roads at all Take care was the obvious advice. We spend 3 nights in high quality hotels and then stay in ger camps until the last 2 nights. Of course, there is fabulous scenery that makes it all worthwhile.
We woke this morning to find it had been raining all night – the first rain in UB for this year! There were 17 bikes in the group all supplied by a local Mongolian company. Sadly a few didn’t run properly or had problems so with that and the rain it was a chaotic start. We got off about 10.30 and the rain continued all morning. It was cold and not much fun. The Mongolian roads were as awful as promised with large lakes over them so we all got wet and cold. We stopped for a coffee and it was decided to skip a sight-seeing excursion and go direct to our hotel. We all warmed up – Dave and I had hot milk and honey – just shows how cold we were.
The tour leader (who also runs Compass Expeditions) was very apologetic and shouted a nice meal and gave us all a discount on the cost of the trip. It’s forecast to be fine tomorrow. Our wet clothes are now drying.
As an aside we went to a beer garden in UB to see a world cup soccer game – amazing how it can combine people from all over the world.
End of Part #1,
If you would like to know more about our Magical Mongolia tour, please visit the the tour webpage.
We have a few remaining places available on the August 2019 departure.