Just a 30 minute detour, on route to Tsetserleg!!!
Little did I fully understand the email that Murray Benn had sent with details of the roads to get to Tsetserleg!
I got away from the hotel at Darkhan by about 7.10am, trying to beat the heat. The road was basically okay, with the occasional sections of potholes in places. Eventually stopped for fuel at Bayangol, and was pleasantly surprised when the lady came out to serve me. In Russia, one calculates how much fuel is needed, pays the cashier then fills to the amount paid. It was so nice to be able to fill the tank completely, then pay the required amount.
Even though it is only about 265km from Darkhan to the junction with the Tsetserleg road A601, it took me until 10.30am to get there - 3'20" to do 265km !! This boded ill for a PLAN I have/had !
Heading west, the road was relatively decent, fairly heavily trafficked on this holiday weekend - for while. At Lun, I stopped again for fuel and a rest break and coffee, then turned onto the A602, heading for Khakhorin then on to Tsetserleg.
Having had to stop at various times on this trip for mobs of sheep, goats, cattle, horses and even pigs crossing the road, I was now confronted with my first mob of bactrian camels, although I didn't take any photos unfortunately, as it was raining
All went swimmingly for a while, just the occasional potholed section to negotiate. I passed what must have been a local Naadam festival, as there were myriads of cars, trucks, people, horses and camels mingling and milling in a small area. Very colourful, but I didn't stop, even though most of the traffic turned off to attend.
Then came the detour from hell! Murray had said there was a 30 minute detour. It, of course, had been raining quite heavily in bursts, although it had now stopped. The detour consisted of two dirt tracks wandering through the countryside. The track/lane I should have been on was just a mess of sloppy, chopped up mud, so I shifted over into the drier, slightly more uphill other track, which was fine, until oncoming traffic appeared. Often, I would just stop, shake my head in desperation and the oncoming vehicle would move off onto the grass to bypass me!
Eventually, I decided to mainly ride on the grasslands, as it seemed a little more stable albeit rough, although I did occasionally get back onto the track at times. A track led off through the grass to the actual highway, and all the 4x4s were heading over there and climbing onto the highway to continue. I did go over and check it out, but there were truckloads of loose fill dumped to block access to the highway, which the 4x4s were just climbing over. Unfortunately, there was waaaay too much loose, and high, fill for me to attempt to cross it, so, dejected, I went back over to near the tracks and continued on the grass.
I must admit, though, the traffic was pretty good about waiting behind me all the time, as they were much faster on the dirt/mud tracks than me of course, and they'd automatically move onto the grass, letting me stay on the drier track.
Another track off to the highway appeared with a couple of 4x4s and sedans climbing onto the highway, but again, it was too steep and gravelly to attempt an exit. Back to the mud for me!
This went on for quite a while, although I am unsure of the distance, except it would have been quite a few km at least. Timewise, at least 30 minutes of poking along in first or second gear, trying to avoid the ruts in the grass and the mud on the tracks. The old mantra "keep calm, relax and power on" kept playing in my head all the way through, even though I was hating every minute of it, particularly when most of the traffic was up on the highway, and there would have been no-one on the detour tracks to help me if I dropped it.
Finally the end was in sight, although I had to negotiate through a large mob of horses to actually get back onto the pavement. I was SOOOO glad to reach that pavement!!
It had been raining in patches once back onto the pavement, but it was better than the dirt, believe me. Then, finally, I understood what Murray meant about the potholes! OMG!! It was horrendous! My left hand pannier, the one the mounting bracket had disintergrated on, suffered after hitting a hole faster than I should have, and it ended up hanging off, connected by just one mounting bracket out of four. I stopped on the highway, put the flashers on and rectified it as best I could. From there, I rode very slowly at about 30-40kph, trying to hold the pannier on with my left hand through all the potholes. What a shocker of a ride!
But good things sometimes come to those who wait, and wait, and wait, and after a short sharp shower, the sun peeped through the dense dark clouds, in places. It was time to stop and take some photos as there wasn't much traffic now, and I could park on the road.
This is at about 40km from Tsetserleg:
And these below are at about 15km distance from Tsesterleg, when the rain and storms had cleared a little.
It is beautiful, if barren, countryside, with gers scattered (the white, round, transportable homes of the nomadic people) throughout.
At 6pm, I had arrived at Tsetserleg, at long last.
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