Tour Cycling In Mongolia- A Battle With The Elements

Tour Cycling In Mongolia- A Battle With The Elements

Tour Cycling in Mongolia- A Battle With the elements

Written by George Balarezo, Intrepid Global Citizen

Mongolian weather is notorious for wreaking havoc on anyone that attempts to challenge it to a duel. Summer snow storms so cold that toes and fingers turn numb for months. Blinding winds that toss sand and dust into any passerby’s eye sockets, leaving the poor souls that attempt to tough it out running to the nearest yurt for shelter. Heavy rains that transform the land of Genghis Khan ‘s dirt roads into impassable mud pits. Mongolian weather is full of extremes; and changes faster than the time it takes Lebron James to run the length of a basketball court.

Along the corridor to Ulgi, the country’s Western oasis town, the infamous Mongolian weather decided to put me to the test. Nature versus human. Who would come out on top? This human was determined to show Mother Nature he would not bow down so easily. My opponent knocked me to the ground, left me drained of my energy and nearly beat me into submission on my previous cycling journeys. How much mercy would the Mother of the natural world have on me this time? I must take on fierce opponents in order to be reborn as a warrior-like version of myself. Come on Mongolia. Give it to me!

Taking a Rest and Enjoying The Shade

The uphill climb started off slowly. The mountain pass was straight ahead in the distance and did not look as challenging as others I encountered along the Pamir or Karakorum Highways. Mother Nature must have read my mind, because she suddenly began to taunt and have her way with me.

The previous night I stayed with a local man in his yurt and the evening wind gusts left me rattled. Vroom! His makeshift tent rumbled and vibrated back and forth.  “Was that an earthquake?” I asked.

“No it’s the wind,” he answered, appearing to not even be the least bit worried.

If a local Mongolian guy does not freak out, then I don’t need to either. I hope the same wind does not come back when I am out there tomorrow on my bike,” I thought.

The wind gusts were other worldly. Dark grey clouds hovered above me, blocking the sun I enjoyed for the previous few hours, signaling a drastic change in weather. This was totally unexpected as I left in the morning thinking the day would be filled with sunshine and mild weather. The wind pounded right into my face, heaving sand and dust into my face. I was moving slower in my lowest gear now. Despite pedaling with all of my might, I was moving at a leisurely walking speed. I would have been better off tossing my bike into the sand embankment and hiking up the slope. “Should I leave my bike behind?” I thought.  That was not a viable option. I purchased this piece of metal machinery exclusively for this leg of the trip. Any other bike would not have survived up until this point.

A Mongolian Bathroom Along The Highway
I Donated My Broken Tent To This Kid

Keep pedaling. One turn of the wheel after another.  One hour went by and the top of the mountain pass still looked exactly as far away as it did sixty minutes before. The wind was deafening. As air struck my helmet, it let off a whistling noise that even an army drill sergeant would deem impossible to duplicate. The sound of whistling in my ear left my head aching for peace and quiet.

Whoosh! The noise caught me off guard that I almost flew over my handlebars. An eighteen-wheel semi truck whizzed past, coming only an arm’s length away from knocking me into another world. The wind was so loud I did not even hear it creeping up from behind. My sense of hearing was deemed useless at this point and I continued to glance behind me every five minutes to make sure I did not get picked off by another vehicle.

This was completely insane. I was on my way to Ulgi, a major town in Western Mongolia. One of my tire spokes snapped already on account of roads so torn up that they leave cyclists feeling like they are undergoing epileptic seizures. I had visions of my rear tire bending itself out of proportion on account of supporting my panniers and an 80 kilogram rider, rendering my bike useless. All I had to do was make it another forty kilometers into town. Come on!

The wind shifted at will. Every change in direction nearly knocked me off my bike onto the rocky terrain. I had to use every once of concentration and all of my metal strength just to stay up on my bike. It was like I was undergoing a Mongolian right of passage test. Would I pass this one? When would the celebration ceremony start?

That’s it. I am getting off. I pushed my bike up the remainder of the hill for another thirty minutes that seemed like four hours. Each step weakening me and leaving me more mentally drained than final exam week in engineering school.

I finally made it. I threw my bike to the side and scanned the grassy mountains all around me. Admiring the distance I covered in such wretched conditions was my short victory celebration. The wind continued to beat me into oblivion. It must have been gusting at at least 60 kilometers per hour.

Lets go. I glided down the mountain and the wind dissipated. Now I was flying at full speed down the hill, the butterflies in my stomach fluttering like a teenager on his first date. Let the right of passage celebration begin. I became a Mongolian man that day and was ready to take on whatever this mysterious land had in store for me.

Mongolian Spoke Job- Total Cost- 30 Cents

This Post Has 17 Comments

  1. Actually I didn’t know that the Mongolian weather is infamous for terrible wind. But after reading this article, I realized that traveling Mongolia with a bike alone has high barriers to entry. Therefore, I was very impressed that our professor conquered the weather and I’m very proud of him:). Someday, I hope that I could visit Mongolia with my bicycle.

    1. Mongolia is a very interesting place. I hope you can visit one day.

  2. I think you had a hard time in Mongolia. I was able to experience the weather indirectly through your writing. Also i want to read your full story in Mongolia after this hard riding.

  3. you write very well i think you can be novelist 춘삼!
    very scary wind!
    you’re so great to ride bike in that circumstance!

  4. Reading this article, I notice Mongol’s weather is notorious. I think it is very hard to endure this weather. It is respectable to endure that notorious wind and weather!! Also, I feel when I travel, it is necessary to search about information where I want to travel.

  5. I think this writing is a quite respectable diary. Start of the writing is also exciting because weather of the Mongolian is not so famous issue. So we can concentrate on your writing because of expectation, and your writing meet my, and maybe others’ expectation. From your journey riding on a bicycle, we can feel your emotion, situation, and also weather of the Mongolian. I learned a lot of things from your writing, so I want to say you “Thank you.”

  6. I’ve read your article. I envy your way of life!!

  7. I think I heard that there is a lot of wind in Mongolia. But I first found out that the wind was strong enough to be mistaken for an earthquake.

    1. Yes! The wind was very strong and impressive!

  8. I think I heard that there is a lot of wind in Mongolia. But I first found out that the wind was strong enough to be mistaken for an earthquake.And I want to go on a bicycle trip.

  9. After I have read the story you tour cycled in Mongolia, I was very impressed. I have not ever thought about traveling by cycling. I think it was not a easy experience to travel in a country with harsh weather condition. However, if I have a chance I’d like to try tour cycling like you did.

  10. Mongolia seems very fun. I want to visit there someday. Especially I want to ride bicycle there.

  11. I have no friends who have get to Mongolia, so I didn’t know that Mongolia has terrible wind.
    Through reading your story, I realized that it is dangerous and hard to travel Mongolia.
    But I really hope to go Mongolia from old times.
    Therefore I will go there next time with perfect preparing for my safe.

  12. Mongolia is unfamilar coutnry to me. For your article, i can know about Mongolia than before. And also harsh wind of Mongolia surprised me because i thought its whether is just hot and dry.
    I’m shocked you misunderstood wind as an earthquake.

  13. Your challenge is amazing. This article made me want to go on a bicycle trip to another country. I should try it during the winter vacation!

  14. I ‘ve been to Mongolia so I can sympathize with the harsh weather. On the other hand, I thought you are such a brave person with a brave spirit. I want to cross anywhere like you once in my whole life. Great work!

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