I'm outta here!
I'd not slept Thursday night before the ride, as a group of guests decided to party almost all night. So I started the ride with no sleep under my belt. Then the same group had another session on Friday night until all hours, so I'd had no sleep at all since getting back from the ride. Too wired, and too much noise from the partygoers. I was stuffed, to say the least! The joys of getting old, I guess.
But I had to bite the bullet and pack up to leave, as I needed to get to Darkan this night, as my visa expired the next day, Sunday.
I really wasn't functioning well, but managed to get it all done, albeit very slowly. By the time I'd packed and loaded the bike, paid my bill (more on this later) and had some lunch, it was 5.30pm before I actually swung my leg over and rode out the gate of the Oasis guesthouse for the final time.
Have you ever received an accommodation and food bill totalling 1,063,700? It sounds like a staggering amount, but in reality, it was only about AUD$630. That's not too bad for 21 nights accommodation and various meals over the three weeks I was there, I think. It just "looks" HUGE! And to make matters worse, they only accept CASH! How stupid is that? I handed over a great thick wad of notes, believe me.
Having travelled over to the western extremes thrice previously, I decided to go that way again and miss all the madness of traffic chaos on Peace Avenue, the main drag through the city, which is where the GPS wanted me to go. Sorry, Miss Garmin. I know better than you do! It was much easier and faster although slightly longer, bringing me out near the junction of the road out to Tsetserleg and the main highway south from the border. Heading north towards Darkhan, I was again appalled at the condition of this main access road from the border - so potholed and generally rough for about 40kms from the capital.
Riding this section again reminded me that I was oh! so glad I'd not done the IBA ride years ago, when the only paved road in Mongolia was this very section from the border down to UB, which I would have had to traverse at least five times to make the 1610km for the ride!!! There is no way I would have completed the required distance on that road in that condition. Thank heavens for progress - and the mining boom!
The Comfort Hotel, where I'd stayed previously, was close to the road, so that was it for the night. As it was quite hot, I asked for an airconditioned room. The receptionists looked at me as if I was stupid!! Eventually, another girl muttered something, and it was organised. A bellboy brought me an evaporative cooler, which was better than nothing, I suppose. At least it worked.
At breakfast the next morning, I heard the distinctive squeak, squeak of motocross riding boots approaching from behind as I sat at my table in the dining room. A couple walked past, dressed in full on enduro leathers. They sat nearby, and I heard them speak a little English, so approached them. They are Italian, with very little English, but we managed to chat for quite some time. Rosario and Martina fly into a country, hire an enduro bike and ride two-up around to wherever they wish to see the sights, (without a GPS, in Mongolia, mind you!) then fly out again.
Marina showed me photos from all over the world - except Australia, so far - where they have done this. Rosario is apparently a quite good competitive enduro rider at home in Italy. But it was time for us all to go our separate ways again.
I headed north to the border at Altanbulag, 123km from the hotel. I snuck past the long line of cars, entering through the exit gate and on to the shut gates. They opened, so I rode through, as you do .... Got to Customs, and was told to go back to the gates, which I did. There, my passport was stamped and my vehicle registration papers checked against the computer's info. I was good to go. Back to Customs and Immigration. A cheerful young Immigration guy did the deed with my passport, check, check, stamp, stamp, and it was off to Customs. Here a lady did the check, stamp routine. I was almost done. Customs didn't really do anything except check my passport. I was off to yet another closed gate, where my passport and vehicle registration were checked yet again. Then I sat, and waited and waited.
A young Mongolian Army guy came out, checked my passport (really? How could anything change sitting at a manned checkpoint, guys???) and opened the gate. I was out of Mongolia, through no-man's land, had my passport checked by a Russian guy at the initial entrance, and into the queue to enter Russia through Immigration and Customs.. Where I sat, and waited, and waited.
The thump thump of an adventure bike woke me up. I stepped out and flagged down the bike leaving Russian Customs, about to enter Mongolia. Antonio from Spain, on an Africa Twin, and I had a great long chat, swapping info, taking GoPro photos etc. Then he left to go on to the Mongolian side. In a few minutes, he was back. They'd forgotten to stamp something on his exit from Russia. He left again.
Thanks for the photo, Antonio
Antonio from Spain and I. The Wee in the queue in the background.
I had been moving ever so slowly forward in the queue, but did asAntonio said and took my documents forward, expecting to just roll through. Nope, get in line, lady! Fill in this new Immigration form (which I must have lost previously!) Check, check.
All this time while I'm standing in the queue to be served by the ONE immigration officer handling entrance AND exit customers (!) I was watching my bike slowly being manually moved forward in the vehicle queue, by a group of brawny guys. Only one vehicle moves forward at a time, while it is being inspected and checked over. By the time I got away from the Immigration officer, there were only two cars ahead of the bike. The brawny guys then signalled that I should bypass their cars and go through Customs before them, which I did.
Pulling the bike forwards to a stop in the checking/inspection area, the normal two Customs ladies were suddenly joined by no less than four Customs guys!! They all wanted to check out the Australian's bike! The sternest of stern Russian Customs lady in the office did not like me making ANY mistakes on my Temporary Import Documents, [niet! niet! niet! while circling any boo-boos] so I had to redo them a couple of times. Finally we got them done to her satisfaction. I was out of there at last!
Back into Russia.
It was 280km to Ulan Ude, so I stopped just after the border post and refulled, both the bike and myself, before riding on into the evening.
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