Story and photos by Mick McDonald.
For the first time in nearly 3 weeks in Mongolia it’s raining, and raining hard, of course it’s our first day of our first ever 14-day Mongolian Magic tour. We struggle out of the capital Ulaan Baatar though a maelstrom of water filled potholes with manic bus driver, determined to empty the potholes of water all over us, and slightly nervous local drivers not sure what to do in the rare rain. It isn’t long though before we are into the legendary Mongolian countryside.
16 riders had gathered from around the world and all but 2 of them have joined Compass rides in the past. It was great to finally put faces to some names and voices, some of whom I have been talking to for 10 years.
A quick itinerary change saw us ride directly to Mongolia’s first 5-star hotel where we spent 2 nights enjoying superb food, massages and luxury accommodation, just what was needed after a sodden start to our ride.
The sun returned the next day, and we rode out visiting the towering statue of Chinggis Khan astride his horse, reputedly the largest horse statue on earth. We soon hit the first of the endless dirt tracks that criss-cross this stunning country as we rode the beautiful Kerlin River Valley, it was our first experience riding through the legendary Mongolian landscape dotted with brilliant white gers, horses and yaks. A treat was in store as we rode into the remote village of Mongoramit, a Mongolian catering team had departed Ulaan Baatar at 4am to provide a fully catered lunch that was nothing short of spectacular. The return ride provided epic river cliff scenery as we arrived back into Terelj National Park in time for another 5-star meal, thus far we weren’t exactly “roughing “it.
Riding due north toward Russia we reached the remote village of Batsumber where again we found a dirt track across the mountains so remote that not even our experienced Mongolian guides, driving our support vehicles, had ever been there before!
A couple of flat tyres saw us arrive into Darkhan, near the Russian border, a little later than expected.
Turning due west, we traversed more spectacular scenery of verdant green valleys dotted with ger families eking out a tough existence in this remote landscape. We reached the amazing Amarsbaysagalant Monastery set in a magnificent landscape at the head of three valleys. The monastery construction started in the early 17thcentury and was all but destroyed during Stalin’s religious purges in 1937. We were privileged to wander around at will, this magnificent structure.
Our first night in a ger camp was immensely enjoyed by all, the setting sun set the landscape aglow and as darkness descended the silence was breathtaking, only punctuated by Peter, who entertained the group with his ukulele and kazoo, yes, he really did bring those along!!
Further west we rode through the copper mining town of Ederenet and village of Bulgan. The scenery was nothing short of astounding as we wound our way through valley after valley before eventually reaching the wonderfully located Khutang Undur ger camp located on a hillside overlooking the Selenge River.
The scenery defies description, the landscape glowed under a massive blue sky with flocks of goats and sheep wandering amongst mobs of horses, as we rode a barely discernible track across the endless grasslands.
Rain returned as we made our way to Moron but didn’t last long and by the time we had our expressos, sunshine had returned. We climbed to 1700mts as we neared the “jewel in the Mongolian crown”, Khovsguul Nuur. We topped a small pass and stopped to visit some reindeer herders that inhabit this area of Mongolia, before getting our first glimpses of this magnificent clear water lake.
It was a surprise to ride into Natures Door Eco Camp, located lakeside, to be greeted by a camera crew from the local TV station, the ger camp was celebrating its 20th season and a massive meal was put on for our group in the evening.
The following day some enjoyed the most Mongolian of activities, horse riding, while others went hiking, bike riding or simply relaxed by the lakeside.
Its halfway through the tour now and we are back on the bikes tomorrow for some of the most remote riding of the trip, and it’s all dirt, it promises to be an awesome last 7 days….
Stay tuned for Mick’s next instalment.
In the meantime if you would like to read more about our Magic Mongolia tour from another perspective, riding brothers Pete and Dave who live on opposite sides of the world but come together to ride motorcycles in wonderful places are also sending us regular updates.
Read Peter’s Blog posts via the links below.
If you would like to join us in Mongolia in August 2019, we still have a couple of places remaining. For more please visit our Mongolian Magic Tour Page.