I was unsure what to name this blog, the best suggestion i got was from @sunilg who recommended "From Mongolpuri to Mongolia"
Prologue 1 This story started many years ago. 2012 in fact. As i was riding solo through Spiti i met another solo cyclist from Chennai, Prakash. We rode together for a bit and shared digs at Tabo Monastery, in the course of conversation he asked if i would be interested in accompanying him on a cycle ride through Mongolia. Not having any clue about anything, including whether Mongolia was a country, region or continent, i said yes. Fast forward a few years and here i was gearing up for the ride of my life (so far!)
This is a picture from that fateful day in Spiti!
Prologue as defined by the dictionary is -I shall now go ahead and murder the definition of this word, by having multiple prologues!a preliminary discourse; a preface or introductory part of a discourse, poem, or novel.
Verbose as defined by the dictionary -This is something that i suffer from and therefore will bore the reader into wanting to kill me!characterized by the use of many or too many words; wordy:
Now that the rules are set, it's time to let the tale begin!
Which brings us to Prologue 2 a week before departure. With just a week remaining for the start of the ride, i was in the worst possible situation. Truck loads of things to be done at work before leaving for a month left me with time for little else. Yet i had a lot else to be done! I had to shift house before i left, my flatmate for a year was moving to America and i had to move lock, stock and two smoking barrels! And to top it all i had to cycle every day to be in the best shape possible for the ride. And that is what became collateral damage. I finished my work in office, found a flat and shifted house a day before i flew and didn't cycle for a fortnight before departure. The biggest difference in planning for a motorcycle and bicycle ride is that on a motorcycle, all you need to do is save money! On a cycle you need to make money and spend hours on the saddle in preparation!
Prologue 3 the day of departure. Our flight was at midnight. On the morning of the 29th of July, my partner in crime Prakash landed in Delhi from Chennai. On his arrival we went through the checklist once again and found that there were plenty of things which i hadn't bought. Yet! So after doing some last minute shopping we were set! Or so i thought, many days later in Mongolia i realized that bandaids and savlon were not part of the first aid kit which Prakash had packed. This infamous kit housed two crocins and one dependal i eventually found out! Just as i was losing my mind with all the running around, my father calls me up in the afternoon to say they were driving down from Kanpur to Delhi a distance of 500km one way just so that they could see me off at the airport. Then, i did lose it! I tried my best to convince my parents to take a U-turn and go back instead of spending 7 hours travelling by car just to see me for 5 minutes, but they were adamant. Insanity is hereditary they say, you get it from your children!
After last minute packing and repacking to ensure we were within the airplane baggage limits we called for a cab to head to the airport. In the meantime my parents had entered city limits of Delhi and had got properly lost! I was hyperventilating (or simply being overdramatic!) by then. Our cab took its own sweet time to reach my house. As we were heading out for the airport, my flatmates decided to also come to the airport to see me off. But since the two of them were terribly broke, they had to run around to borrow money to take a cab! Such love needs to backed up by hard cash as well I also got to know that my parents were almost at the airport and i would reach after them, a bit relieved i relaxed sitting in the cab. Note to self: Ola cabs are a bunch of crooks, don't use them again! But relief was not going to come so easily, my parents took one wrong turn and headed out towards Gurgaon and a detour of about 10km while i had reached the airport followed by my flatmates. Once again tense, it was time to check my wrist to see that i hadn't worn a watch and then check my phone to see the time. It was time to enter the airport and my parents just about made it to the airport with big smiles and a box of laddoos. After a short conversation and a couple of pictures rushed into the airport and weighed our luggage to realize that we had just scraped through the regulations by a couple of hundred grams. Yay, things were finally looking up. Reached the Air China counter to check-in and we were told that the flight was delayed by 4 hours! Nope, luck was still going down the drain. We spent our first night of adventure sleeping on the hard benches of T3. Our flight which was to leave at 1AM, left finally at 8! I would also like to thank my flatmates who took my parents to a hotel for the night, though they were half ready to drive straight back to Kanpur!
At the airport (From L to R. Father, Flatmate posing with box of Laddoos, Mother, Grumpy Me and Prakash, ignore the photobombing firang!)
Prologue 4. This is the story at the Beijing Airport. We reached the airport only to find that our connecting flight to Ulaan Baatar (UB, Capital and only city of Mongolia!) had already departed. I must have done something really horrible in life to deserve luck such as this. There had been a 48 hour thunderstorm in Beijing, which left countless flights delayed and cancelled. We reached Beijing at 8PM, and were told that the next flight to UB was the next morning, some of our co-passengers had worse luck, the next flight they could get was after 15 days! I was cursing my bad luck, when Prakash mentioned that most of his trips start of on a similar 'adventurous' note! So i started cursing his bad luck and accepted my fate calmly. Then we realized that we didn't have any local currency and changing money at the Beijing airport was turning out to be freakishly expensive. Prakash's credit card and my prepaid SIM card came to the rescue, with internet on our phones and food in our bellies, life seemed better. Till we had to spend another night on hard wooden airport benches. We had to stand in line to clear customs the previous day and again the next day, so our passports got stamped in China when he hadn't seen anything other than the Great Walls of the China Airport!
Prologue 5. Finally. Fina(insert appropriate expletive)ly, we were in Mongolia. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and the world was alright again. Oh and on the flight a rather senior lady sitting next to me offered her airline meal to me, because i looked too thin! How was i supposed to tell her that i cycled many kilometres everyday to ensure that i looked 'too thin'! At the airport our cab (better described as a beat up old van) was waiting to take us to our 5 star lodgings of a backpackers hostel! When we reached there we were showed to our room and were pleasantly surprised to see that it was a lovely room in fact. An hour later the lady who runs the place reached there who told us that we would have to vacate the room as it was booked by someone else and stay in the common dormitory. Our delayed flight from India had thrown our hostel bookings out the window! By then i was just pleading that our luck would turn. It only turned to Merde!
If you are thinking this was the end of the Prologues, remember there was a reason why i shared the definition of Verbose as well! More prologues to follow!
Erdenet to Bulgan
Bulgan to Uran Togo
Uran Togo to Hutag Undor
Hutag Undor to Ikh Uul
Ikh Uul to Murun
Murun to Alag-Erdeen
Alag-Erdeen to Khuvsgul Lake
Rain Drenched Murun
Murun to Campsite in the middle of nowhere!
Campsite in the middle of nowhere to Zuun Nuur
Zuun Nuur to Jaargalant
Jargalant to Khorgo (via the White Lake over 4 days and countless streams)
Khorgo to Tsetserleg and the end of cycling for us
A snapshot from Mongolia -