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Old 22 May 2008
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Question Russia and Mongolia this summer - what to see?


I'll be travelling from Sweden to Mongolia and back this summer during 8 weeks. I'll be travelling with a van and a Ktm. On the way to mongolia I'll probably just drive the whole distance in as few days as possible (5-7?). After that I'll unload the bike and travel around Mongolia for a month. Then I'll load the bike in the van again and start heading home. On the way back I'd like to stop in Russia at 2-4 places where I'll park the van and go for a few "weekend" trips on the bike.

A few q's:

1. I'd like to camp (or sleep in the van) as much as possible, but I am reading that there aren't that many camping sites around...true or not? Any alternatives to camp sites? Any places where truckers stay at night?

2. What about guarded parkings? In Eastern Europe there are a lot of guarded parkings where one could park the vehicles safely. Is it the same situation in Russia?

3. What would be good places to stop on the way back for shorter detours with the bike? I am planning to stop in Altai for the solar eclipse, but have no plans other than that? Any other places I shouldn't miss?

4. What would be the best motorcycle clothing for Mongolia? I am thinking of using my enduro/mx outfit with a thin jacket as an option for the mountain (and rain clothes for the occational rain). I am thinking that it will be too hot to use my Gore-Tex suit - right?

5. Where should I go for the best off-road riding experience? What shouldn't be missed to see? I'll probably do two/three (in different directions) 7-10 day trips to the countryside using Ulaan bator as a base camp. I am planning to see the Naadam festival, but other than that I have no plans.

6. Will the KTM adventure 25 litre fuel tank be enough in Mongolia? Or do I need to bring a 5/10L fuel can along?

7. According to the LP guide it is possible to buy decent maps in Ulan bator that covers Mongolia. True or not?

Sorry for the long post and I hope someone can answer some of my questions...otherwise I'll find out along the way :-)

Can't wait to leave :-)
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Old 23 May 2008
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Gizi Maps has a nice road map of Mongolia. Bear in mind that the vast majority of "roads" marked are dirt.
You can get the maps thru Stanford's.

Unimog U500 w/Unicat
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Old 24 May 2008
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Hi Charlie.

I have a Gizi Geographical Map of Mongolia, but was wondering if that would be sufficient since the scale is 1:2 000 000. I read in th LP guide that there are maps available in UB with a lesser scale wich I guess could be a better option when riding on the less traveled roads in Mongolia.

When looking at it I also see that there are two different versions of the Gizi map - Geographical Map and Road Map. After searching on the internet I have come to the conclusion that they are pretty much the same except for the colors/shades. It looks like the data on them are the same.

I'm also considering buying a new GPS, but only if I can find some decent maps (I am going to have a look at the wanderlust map...). I have an old GPS with no map functionality, witch I can use to get the coordinates and backtrack when lost...

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Old 26 May 2008
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congrats for your choice of Mongolia, you'll love it.

Camping in Russia: I didn't see one campground. The "tent" signs actually direct to car parks where truckers sleep in their cabins. You can camp in the wild but beware of the dreadful mozzies in Siberia! The bikers community is very friendly though, they would sure help you in this department.

Mongolia weather. In summer you can go from 45 degrees to 0 degrees in a couple days so plan for everything.

To see: not much in particular, but I remember Amarbayasgalant monastery, the place is beautiful, and the road is not bad with just a couple river crossings at the end. If you prefer the desert, the area around Yolin Am is great to ride, but rougher as well. Basically, the north is hills, grass and trees, the south desert, rocks and sand, but everywhere are nice people and fun roads, you can't go wrong.

Maps: that's right, there is a nice road atlas of Mongolia, you can find it everywhere in Ulaanbataar (there's and English version although the Cyrillic version is easier to use). It is pretty detailed, but that's useless as most information is wrong or outdated. The thing is, besides the 2 sealed roads, most other "roads" move from one year to another as the original one deteriorates and the 4x4 drivers "create" new ones. So use your intuition.. that's part of the fun of going to Mongolia!

A GPS is not that useful for the same reasons: if you have punched in the GPS coordinates of your destination (from the LP or posted by others here) it'll prevent you from getting even more lost, but it won't lead you back to the road. When I was there I found that the little roads that are on the Garmin world map gives you a good general idea, don't expect more than that.

Oh and did I mention that the locals are useless? they will point you the geographic direction (which you have on your GPS), good for their horses, not great for our bikes.

Range: 25l should be OK, although top it up everywhere you can. There are surprisingly many jeeps and motorbikes in Mongolia so if you ask around ("benzin") you will find something (they ma ask you the same and I did occasionally help some locals with some of my 28l tank).

At the end of the day I found it much easier that I first thought, and a lot of fun. Enjoy!

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Old 26 May 2008
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Thanks for the info Laurent!

So the temp can range from 0 to 45 :-) I guess I'll stick to the mx-suit idea, but bring some rain clothes and some hot clothes to wear under the mx suit and a nice hot sleeping bag for the cold nights.

So a GPS with maps wasn't any good..I guess I'll just bring my old GPS (with no maps installed) and use the roadmap together with my intuition :-) I guess that after a few mistakes I'll get the feeling for it... It really doesn't matter where one ends up at the end of the day as long as one can pick up some food and fuel before one runs out of it :-)

It's all about riding and meeting interesting people :-)
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Old 27 May 2008
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Thumbs up

Spakur: Mongolia is wonderful. I wish I was going back!

Weather: While it can get quite cold at night, the days are very likely to be on the warmer side. That means you won't be riding in very cold temps, so the lighter riding gear is better. It doesn't rain too often but you need the rain gear as you can get hypothermic quickly if you get soaked.

Trips: If you are doing 2-3 multi-day trips out of UB I would recommend one trip to the west, out to White Lake (Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur). You can stop on the way in the old capital of Kharkhorin and also in the provincial capital of Tsetserleg. Don't miss the Fairview restaurant. The hot springs about 1 hour outside of Tsetserleg are also worth a visit to soothe your bones on the way back to UB.

For a second trip I recommend heading south to the Gobi. Head to Dalanzagad, the capital of South Gobi province. You can make it there in a couple of long days. Then spend a few days riding in the area: Yolin Am, flaming cliffs, etc. If you have the funds spend your last night in the Three Camel Lodge. Expensive, but wonderful luxury in the middle of the Gobi.

If you have time for a third trip you can go east from UB to the vast steppe. You'll see lots of antelope and can explore the provinces where Ghengis Khan grew up. Lots of ancient monasteries and beautiful grasslands. Swing by Choir and see the spooky, empty remains of a huge Russian air base.

Laurent is right, Amarbayscalant Monastery is lovely and well worth a visit. If you enter Mongolia from the north you can stop there fairly easily as it is a couple of hours from Darkhan. Take the sealed road from Darkhan to Erdenet and look for a small sign pointing to the right (north) and just follow the dirt track from there.

GPS: I disagree a little with Laurent. I found my Garmin GPS quite useful. Most of the large tracks are on the Garmin World Map and I used it all the time. The Garmin map is much better than the Magellan one. It is especially useful when leaving towns as you are often faced with 10-20 different tracks leading off and you don't know which one to take. You can survive without GPS, but it will take a lot longer as you will have to ask for directions more often. And bring a compass as a backup! You don't need a very new GPS as you only need enough memory for the WorldMap Mongolia portion, which uses very little memory. I was able to get all of it into my old Garmin GPS V.

Laurent is also very correct about asking directions: Not very useful, as most rural Mongolians have not been very far from their homes and have only the most vague idea of where other towns are. They know their local area very well, but not much beyond 20-30 km away. Ask drivers, especially the minibus/jeep drivers, as they are much more likely to know the tracks. And of course very few speak English, so unless you speak Mongolian or Russian you will have to use a lot of improvised sign language.

25 liters is plenty for Mongolia as long as you are sure to top up at every chance.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any specific questions.

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Old 27 May 2008
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Hi Scott.

Ok - the GPS is back in the budget :-) Anyone have any experience with the wanderlust map for mongolia? Is it better/worse than the garmin world map?

Thanks for the detailed trip suggestion. Is the weather any different in the beginning of july or at the end of july in any parts of the country? Does it matter if I go west, south or east first or last? Trying to stay away from the rain :-)

Thanks also for confirming my choice of clothes. Don't want to take to much stuff with me and don't want to get to hot in the desert...

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Old 27 May 2008
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The weather is not very different across Mongolia from the beginning to end of July. July is the rainiest month of the year, but still it usually rains no more than once or twice a week at most. The Gobi is of course the driest place with very little rain. But even in the Gobi it still rains sometimes.

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Old 28 May 2008
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Good to here that it doesn't rain that often...

Living in Sweden one is used to the rain :-)

Plenty of things to do now until the journey begins - got some stuff from KTm summer today..so this weekend I'll be in the garage preparing the bike :-)

Now I only need to decide if I should buy the GPS60csx or the Xumo550...
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