A trip to the countryside

Turelj Travel Blog

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A friend says goodbye as I depart for my bike trip

I've been in the smoky city for two weeks, and I kept hearing from the other travellers that the real Mongolia is in the countryside. It would be a shame to come to Mongolia and only see one city, so I set up a trip to a nearby National park, Terelj. I found an NGO that not only offers prices below those of tour operators, but also gives a larger share of the money to the nomads. I was able to arrange my own itinerary too, so I asked for vegetarian meals (I'm not keen to try the ubiquitous mutton) and told them I would be biking by myself to the park. I think they were a bit worried about this plan, but I told them I could manage.

I left early Tuesday morning and it took me about an hour just to get out of the city.
Running into my colleagues Damien and Sorouche on the road
My map was hand-drawn and incredibly vague, so I had to keep stopping and asking random Mongolians in the streets if I was on the right road. Of course, they couldn't understand me so it took me a while to find the right highway. In the end, I resorted to writing the name of my destination in Cyrillic, "ТЭРЭЛЖ," and showing it to some old men. They understood immediately and showed me the correct way.

Once I left town, I made much quicker progress through the barren countryside. It was chilly, but I was well-covered on my bike. About 25 km out of town I ran into my colleagues Damien and Sorouche who, after biking to Mongolia from Europe, were on their way to Beijing via the Gobi desert. We rode together for a mere three kilometres before the road forked and our paths diverged again.
Eagle in "flight"
I had originally intended to ride with these guys from eastern Russia to China, and it was good to ride with them here, however briefly.

I entered Terelj park (after repaying a park fee that I had already paid in my tour package) and rode past the many giant rock formations that the park is famous for. It was obvious that this is a touristy park because every 500 m were signs advertising "Tourist Gers." I rode on, climbing up steep, unpaved switchbacks before arriving in the town of Terelj itself. I waited outside a local restaurant and soon a lad on horseback beckoned me to follow him. He led his horse down the broken road, but I chose a smoother path on the sidewalk and began pedalling as fast as I could. The race was on! His horse was hesitant to run on the rocky road, so I was able to push ahead.
Mongolian dude and his pet
I turned the corner with a five metre lead, but then I had to slow down to navigate past a telephone pole in the middle of my sidewalk. The horseman took this opportunity to pass me and left me in his dust. Horse beats bike, this time.

He brought me to a cart with an ox attached to the front. I hoisted the bike up onto the cart, then asked him where I should sit. He offered me the horse, which I happily accepted. I haven't ridden a horse since I was a kid, and even then someone else was leading it. But I found this horse extremely easy to ride and I had no troubles. We led the horse and ox cart across a river (there was no bridge) and rode to the nomad community where I would be staying the next few days. The nomads were all curious about my bike, so I let them ride it. Let's just say they're better horse-riders than bike-riders!

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A friend says goodbye as I depart …
A friend says goodbye as I depart…
Running into my colleagues Damien …
Running into my colleagues Damien…
Eagle in flight
Eagle in "flight"
Mongolian dude and his pet
Mongolian dude and his pet
Stone cairn on a hilltop
Stone cairn on a hilltop
Desolate Mongolian countryside
Desolate Mongolian countryside
This dude carried my bike across t…
This dude carried my bike across …
photo by: rideouts