Tour Cycling in Mongolia- Is It Really as "Hard" as they say?
Written by George Balarezo, Intrepid Global Citizen
Tour cycling in Mongolia has always haunted my dreams. Dirt paths that lead to nowhere, harsh winds, summer snowfalls and nomads roaming Genghis Khan’s former terrain by horse were images that infiltrated my mind whenever I fantasized about riding my bicycle across the world’s least densely populated country.
Mongolia was sure to put my physical and mental strength to the test. Before crossing the border, other travelers who cycled or drove through the Mongolian steppe all summed up their experience in one word. “Hard” was the first adjective that came out of their mouths.
“Hard” has always been one of my favorite words in any language. Leaving my comfort zone and testing myself has been my life long goal. There is no sense in doing things the easy way. The easy way leads to boredom, complacency and regret. How hard would it actually be? Everyone has a different standard for the world “hard” but I was curious to see how I would react to my new surroundings.
I met a Korean friend in Siberia who had just cycled across Mongolia who had difficulties with the locals. “They grabbed my bags and just started digging through it until I gave them something. I was really scared because I was in the middle of nowhere and they could have just left me for dead if they wanted to,” he said with fear in his eyes just recounting the story.
Hearing my friend’s story sent chills down my spine. I had to mentally prepare myself to adjust to a more rugged way of life upon crossing the border.
Whenever fear enters my mind, I re-frame my self talk by thinking of past accomplishments.
“I am the guy who camped outside with lions and elephants in Namibia and Botswana, cycled through the one of the world’s highest elevated roads in Tajikistan and played basketball in the roughest neighborhoods of Detroit. If people put me to the test then let them! I can handle myself in any situation the world throws at me,” I said to myself.
This is my way of overcoming the scared voice in my head. That voice always tries to keep me from realizing my true potential. Every time I give myself an inspirational talk, the voice falls silent and I reemerge as a warrior ready to destroy anything in my path.
Traveling in Mongolia by bicycle was sure to be survival of the fittest in it’s rawest form. Life would become all about one thing- surviving to see the next day. This is the way humans have lived for thousands of years and only until recently have we been softened by the ways of the modern world. In my everyday life I work hard to callus my mind by pushing myself to the limit. Mongolia would serve as a playground where I could live the way human beings originally evolved. I was destined to be there.
At least I was not alone. My tour cycling companion Josh was right next to me when I crossed the border. Surely I would be a lot less vulnerable with him by my side. Power comes in numbers. We were both as giddy as children waiting for Santa Claus on Christmas Eve at the thought of entering Mongolian territory. How would this place test us and how would we react? Only time would give us the answer.