Well, it's now cycledâ€¦ that is, the Gobi desert is now covered on our itinerary. We considered it to be our last real challenge but never thought it would turn out to be as challenging as it ended up being. Imagine: one giant land (the most sparsely populated state in the world), an incredibly dry climate (it is - well - a desert), awfully rare opportunities for provisions and absolutely no roads (at best, jeep tracks in the desert). Granted, we took some high risks: no GPS, no maps, lots of bike punishment, etc but we managed successfully to cover the full 430 km of corrugated, sandy, bumpy terrain and, thankfully, our touring bikes survived (partially) the experience.
Ah yesâ€¦ and what an experience it was. There were camels, herdsmen with their horses, nomads scattered throughout nearby their Gers (Mongolian traditional houses), some occasional vehicle traffic (good safety net), lotsa sun, frosty mornings (that's below zero), many flat tires, a seemingly ever-changing vegetation, a guiding line of electricity posts, a never-ending series of small rolling hills, etc but eventually a little border town, adjacent to the Chinese border, appeared as an oasis would in the middle of the desert. Clearly, one much better appreciates the availability of anything, even the most simplest and typically most available of goods after a few days alone in the desert. The fragility of life and our vulnerability to the elements becomes dangerously evident.
That said, we did have to face some serious challenges. About 120 km to the end (a day, a day and a half of cycling in the desert), a new highway under development splits from our guiding line of telephone post and railway line. We followed it, reasoning that it would reach every, albeit rare, village along the way. Well, we were wrong and ran out of provisions. Meals were skipped and liquids became quite scarce but thankfully, we magically bumped into Cynthia and Dominique who, filled with provisions, generously offered to help us for the next little while until the border. To them, we will remain forever grateful and we wish them the best of luck on their cycling adventure (cnouskonpedale.wordpress.com). But eh, drama aside, a little adventure in the desert makes for lovely story-telling afterwards 😉 All is very well now and we are incredibly excited to finish in Beijing in a matter of days now.
China, here we come.
Damien, Mongolia / China Border