Mongolia on a dirtbike – we are back!
I successfully managed to squeeze in another epic trip this year, yupeee! This time to Mongolia on a dirtbike. It was amazing again. As you may have read, our group of enduro enthusiasts was in Mongolia in 2019. If you haven’t read my post and namely seen the video – have a look here. We loved riding in Mongolian Gobi desert so much that we booked another visit right away back then, for 2020. You know what happened in 2020… Hence, we took the first chance to get back after the ‘covid-induced-break’. Here is the story.
This time we rode 1600km on the incredible Husqvarna 450FE and 701 enduro bikes. Entire trip was perfectly organized by Nomadic Off-Road team, these guys are really superb. If you like to experience Mongolia on a dirtbike, there is no better option. Of course, it’s a bit of an expedition: 8 riders, 1 guide, two support trucks, own chef, 2 mechanics… as all the yurt camps where we were staying at are still closed in May and their owners opened for us only.
It was cold! We started in Ulaanbaatar at around 5*C temperature. Luckily we quickly learned a useful trick from our guide: from time to time let go handlebars and put your fingers on the exhaust. Nice and warm again! For some time, of course. Weather significantly improved in the following days, mostly sunny with temperatures around 15-20* C. As we already knew the desert from our last journey, this time we chose another destination: White Lake, in Mongolian ‘Тэрхийн Цагаан нуур’.
Mongolia offers many wonderful experiences to an adventurous traveler and for me by far the most spectacular is the landscape. Through the crystal clear air on any hilltop, you can see very far into the countryside. And what you see….is usually nothing! No buildings, no electricity poles, no people, simply nothing. From time to time, one can encounter one or two yurts of nomadic people and obviously their animals: sheep, horses, goats, camels. Animals are everywhere and seemingly just roaming around alone. There are wild animals too: foxes, marmots, mice, vultures, eagles. The sight of a majestic eagle flying in front of my motorbike with his wings larger than my arms is still vividly in my mind.
And we were riding indeed! 5-6 hours everyday in the motorbike saddle, off-road and therefore mostly standing is not for faint-hearted. Many (all?) of my friends are better riders than me which means that I am happily tagging-along in the back. Still, our speed is usually between 70-100 km/h, zooming through the empty lands. What is quite amazing about Mongolian riding? You can go anywhere you want! If you know the way. Paraphrasing Alice in Wonderland, I came up with this quote:
“If you don’t care where you go, any direction is good.”
For any enthusiastic enduro rider, the terrain is simply wonderful. Steppe, desert, dunes, rocks, forests. Riding is not too technical but for sure fast and long. Endurance training required, if you are contemplating!
So, we visited waterfall, ancient monastery, volcano, several villages (with ice-cream shops), rivers and lakes. I even started a mania of washing in rather cold water – as one of the yurt camps did not have running water, there was luckily a very cold river nearby. All my friends thought that I am crazy nevertheless competitive spirit often wins in men groups and at the end almost everybody immersed their beaten-up, tired bodies into rather refreshing stream. This new cold exposure tradition continued in other places until we came to the White Lake, which was still around 80% frozen. In there, I was swimming (read “quickly getting in and out”) alone…
Of course, some people have never enough, therefore me and three of my friends went without our guide for a ride around the lake. Empty land, river crossings, dirt roads or complete off-road, uphill, downhill, you name it. On the way back to the camp, we had to cross one of the small creeks. Three of us crossed at the place where we saw car trails from the nomads living around the lake. Unlucky one from our party stayed behind, did not notice the trails and went straight into the river over the handlebars ending up completely wet and the motorbike underwater.
What a mess! I ran as quickly as I could to help him out of the freezing water, we rescued the motorbike and now what? It was getting cold, sun setting in a couple of hours, we were far from the camp and the motorbike’s engine was full of water. What started as a relaxed short afternoon trip became a survival situation.
Luckily, we are the best! One of us went to the camp for help, I gave my friend my dry undershirt and let’s wait. After an hour, when we started to get a bit nervous, the truck with our guides-saviours appeared. Mongolians again displayed an amazing professionalism and calmness. They fixed the dirtbike in 40 mins right then and there, here we go back to the camp, lives saved and one more great story to tell.
The rest of the trip back to the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar continued smoothly, including great riding in the sand dunes and visit of the Hustai National Park, the only place in the world where Przewalski wild horses live in the wilderness.
Mongolia is indeed one of those places where we can still experience wilderness, amazing nature, wide-open landscapes and beautiful yet tough people. If you like to visit Mongolia on a dirtbike, I can only recommend Nomadic Off-Road team. Be ready for fast riding, make sure you have some enduro experience. The terrain is not too technical but it’s not a good idea if you come to Mongolia and want to ride on a dirt road or sand for the first time! French guys know…
More images at @danfrolec
Photocredit: Jordi, Andrea, Alex
If you enjoyed this story, feel free to read my earlier post about this great country – Mongolia: from yurts to shopping malls (and back).