1 July 2018

Update June 2018

Countries visited: Mongolia, China

Cycled mileage in June: 1,981.1km
Cycled mileage per country: 1,979.5km Mongolia, 1.6km China
Total cycled mileage incl. June: 38,358.8km
June mileage not cycled 137.6km (Car, Bus)

Days per country: 29d - Mongolia, 1d - China
Days cycling: 19d

Technical failures: 1 split tyre

Link to this month's route

Last month we had crossed the border from China to Mongolia. After waiting out a week with rain, snow and storms in Ulaanbaatar we headed north-west from the Mongolian capital. We finished last month in a ger camp (ger = Mongolian yurt) near the famous Amarbayasgalant Khiid monastery.
To get to the monastery we had had to ride 35km on dirt tracks. To get back to the paved main road we had to ride the same way back. Even though we had been dreading it, the off-road bit was much easier on the way back. Gradients were gentler plus with an early start we avoided the scorching heat. Back on the main road we made good progress and reached a small village after one hour of riding. We were pretty optimistic to get to Erdenet the same day. While we had lunch in a restaurant the wind picked up and dark clouds started to turn in. We checked the forecast and it was for afternoon storms. Bummer! We carried on and the headwind became stronger and stronger. At some point we were cycling at walking pace even though the road was pan-flat. A bit later we met a French couple on their recumbent tandem. They were going the other way and were cruising along with a tailwind. We had a quick chat and they warned us of a nasty climb ahead. Great news when the headwind is so strong you can barely maintain a sensible speed on a flat stretch! We cycled on and it was a slog. The uphill wasn't actually that bad as the mountain somewhat sheltered us from the wind. It was bad enough, though. By 5pm we still had 40 kilometres to go and the dark clouds looked really threatening. We plodded on and the miracle happened – we crossed another hill and in the valley behind it the wind was much weaker. It remained like that for the last kilometres into Erdenet and so we managed to get there before nightfall.
Even though Erdenet is Mongolia's second city it certainly isn't a beauty. A giant copper mine is the only reason for it's existence and everything looks purpose-built. We checked in to a rather lacklustre Soviet-style hotel, bought some food and called it a day.
Way back to the main road
Industrial area in Erdenet
The next morning we woke up from the sound of torrential rain. By the time we had finished our second coffee the rain was still bucketing down and we both elected for a rest day.
In the afternoon the weather cleared up and when our alarm went off at 7am the next morning there were no clouds in the sky. It was pretty chilly, though. We layered up and set off. The wind was still relatively strong and progress was slow. By 6pm we had managed to make a mere 85km. Given the chilly temperatures during the day we expected a freezing cold night particularly as we were cycling along a river valley. Coincidentally we cycled past a tourist camp with cosy-looking huts. Tourist season hadn't yet started and so we were able to bargain a good price. We pushed our bikes into our little hut, layered up further and sat on the porch of our hut until the sun set.
Sunny weather the next day
Our wooden hut for the night
Even in our hut the night was freezing. With the river nearby the air was also super humid and it certainly would have been condensation station would we have pitched our tent instead. As things stood we didn't need to pack up much and had a super early start. Once the sun was up it quickly became pretty hot and the afternoon was a sweaty affair. After a last long climb and a solid 110km we rolled into the small town of Khudag Undur. There even was a hotel and we happily took a room. The forecast was for a rain day tomorrow and we weren't too keen to camp.
On the way to Khudag Undur
The forecast was completely right the next day. It rained constantly. We stayed indoors and kept us busy with admin stuff.
Waiting out another rain day
The next day wasn't exactly sunny but the clouds didn't look anywhere near as threatening as the day before. With only light and variable wind we made good progress. The temperatures were still rather chilly and we were cycling another river valley when it was time to set up camp. We happily took the opportunity of another tourist camp aside the road. This time we had a ger rather than a wooden hut. And again the decision was wise. It was freezing cold as soon as the sun had disappeared behind the mountains. We lit a fire in the wood stove in the centre of our ger and had a cosy night.
This is a truly Mongolian road sign
Derelict gas station
And yet another hill
Our ger for the night
Getting a fire going
The next day was much sunnier and pleasantly warm. The headwind was back but we were determined to get to Mörön early. Despite a lot of photo stops and despite the unrelenting wind we accomplished that mission and bashed out the 110km into town by 3pm. As always priorities were food first, shower second. We found some real cheese in a supermarket and ended up buying 1kg of it. Never go shopping when you're hungry! The rest of the day was spent in the hotel room.
Stupa on the way to Mörön
City gate of Mörön
Allegedly Mongolia is one of the sunniest countries on earth. Well, we faced yet another rain day when we woke up the next morning. It was a welcome break for planning our route and for sorting supplies accordingly. We had wanted to make a detour from Mörön to Lake Khovsgol but we realized we would be running short on time if we would do this detour. Back in Ulaanbaatar we had extended our visas by 30 days but now we learnt that the last 6 days on our extended visas would fall together with a national holiday during which the borders would be closed. So essentially we just lost 6 precious days on our visas. Bummer! We figured that Lake Khovsgol would have to be cancelled. Instead we decided to continue directly to Uliastai. The way there would be about 400km long – on an unsealed road.
The next morning the weather was back to sunny and we tried to get an early start. We failed. Motivation to tackle the 400km of dirt tracks was low to begin with and then we met a French couple on touring bikes on the way out of town. We kept chatting and chatting with Laura and Pierre and didn't leave until noon. The sealed road lasted for a bit over 2 kilometres and then the dirt tracks began. Someone once called the roads in Uzbekistan a 'bicycle destruction derby'. Well, that person certainly hadn't cycled this road. On our map it was called an 'inproved (sic!) unpaved road' the Improvements apparently took the shape of some shoddily built bridges and some random road signs. The rest of the road was either corrugations covered with soft sand or corrugations covered with loose gravel. After 20 kilometres Simon's front rack rattled loose, 10 kilometres later Dominik's bottle cage came off. Another 10 kilometres later we crossed a minor hill and found ourselves in the centre of a dust storm in the valley behind it. Coincidentally it was only a few more kilometres to the first of only 4 towns along the way to Ulilastai. We pushed on and found shelter in a small shop. Soon the dust storm ended and we plodded on until we found a nice camping spot next to a river.
Idyllic river right after Mörön
The first pass
We had an early start the next morning and continued slowly. The road was pretty much the same quality like the day before and we felt sluggish. The 2 major mountain passes we had to cross didn't help either. At least the landscape was spectacular. Unfortunately it was difficult to enjoy it. Constant attention was required to not slip in the rim-deep, soft sand or to ruin the bike hitting one of the big rocks. When the sun started to set we reached a small lake and set up camp on the shore. It was an idyllic spot but soon the bugs were out in full force and we ended up with bite marks all over our legs.
Helpful roadsign
Camping with a view
The next day continued in the same fashion. For 30 kilometres over the second-highest mountain pass on the way to Uliastai there was even a proper, well-rideable gravel road. It didn't last for long and down in the valley it was back to particularly deep sand. We plodded on and in the afternoon we reached something like a roadhouse. Naturally they only served some greasy, mutton-based dishes but we were so hungry we didn't care. The only reason for the existence of that roadhouse was an intersection where two of those 'inproved unpaved roads' met. We had heard rumours of road construction work on this stretch and were kind of optimistic to find some tarmac but there were just corrugated dirt tracks as far as we could see. We pushed on to find somewhere nice to pitch our tent. Suddenly we spotted a car speeding along on something that could be a road, maybe one kilometre to the left from us. We figured that there would have to be a proper road as the car had been much faster than any car could possibly drive on the track we were on. We pushed our bike through the sand towards the suspected road – and we found it! There was a brand new road, paved for as far as we could see! We shifted gears and bashed out an additional 30 kilometres in not even one hour. It felt soooo good! Eventually it was too late to cycle any further and we set up camp behind some shrubs.
Great views but awful road
Soooo many birds of prey
More dirt tracks
We didn't have a clue how long the paved road would continue so we tried to make the best out of it. Long story short - it lasted for another 30 kilometres then it was back to the usual corrugated stuff for the remaining 100 kilometres to Uliastai. We were determined to get there and so we powered on. At least there wasn't much deep sand, just rocks and corrugations. After a solid 11h in the saddle and after a 2,500m high mountain pass we reached Uliastai in the late afternoon. Uliastai is a weird place. It's a strange mixture of Soviet architecture, slum-like huts, western restaurants and Mongolian culture.
More sand
One of the few roadhouses along the way
The highest mountain pass on the way to Uliastai
City gate of Uliastai
Finally back on tarmac at the city limits of Uliastai
Even though Uliastai is one of the oldest cities in Mongolia there isn't a whole lot in terms of sights. After a very satisfying breakfast with fresh bread and cheese we set out the next morning to explore the only proper attraction in town – a temple complex on a small hill. There were some stupas, a small temple and some statues but the view over Uliastai was the only thing it had going for it really.
For the rest of the day we sorted our supplies for the next few days and just relaxed in our hotel room. The first time in quite a while we also had dinner in a proper restaurant. It was a fairly popular place with English speaking staff and a 'Western' menu. We went for chicken Teriyaki which wasn't authentic but tasty. There isn't any vegetarian food in Mongolia. While most of the time the meat would be mutton or occasionally beef, we hadn't seen chicken since China. Neither in the shape of chicken meat nor a living chicken on a farm. It even remained a mystery where the eggs in the supermarkets came from.
Temple complex
View over Uliastai
This ground squirrel was watching us while we took pictures of the temple
German products in the supermarket
Non-mutton dinner in a restaurant
The next morning we set off early. Or we tried to. Actually we were too early! We had forgotten to buy water the day before and the tap water smelled seriously unhealthy. Of course the supermarkets didn't open before 10am and so we cycled around the city centre until we finally found a kiosk that was already open at 9. The paved road ended after exactly 4 kilometres but the gravel road looked quite okay. We had to start the day with a solid 700m climb but given the well rideable surface we made good progress and reached the pass at 2,500m before noon. After the pass the nice gravel road ended and we were back on dirt tracks. On the way into the valley corrugations and rocks were our only enemy. Down in the valley we got into deep, soft sand. Short stretches were rideable but we ended up pushing our bikes for more than 10 kilometres in total. By 6pm we had only made about 70 kilometres. There would be another 110 to go to Altai. We hadn't seen a car for hours and when finally one turned up we asked them about road conditions. They said it would be sand for 30 more kilometres. Great! Surprisingly there was another car shortly after. We asked the same question and this time we were told the the road wouldn't improve until we reached Altai... We sat down on a pile of rocks and assessed our options. Neither of us was keen to plough through deep sand for the next 110 kilometres. If the road wouldn't improve this would easily take us 3 days. But maybe the first driver was right about the 30 kilometres? For a while we thought about returning to Uliastai. That would feel like giving up and we didn't yet feel desperate enough to do that. According to our map there would be a town in 40 kilometres. We hadn't planned to go there as it was almost 15 kilometres away from our route. Eventually we decided to continue on the planned route and make a decision at the turn-off to that town. If the road hadn't improved by then we would go there and organize a car. If the road would improve we would carry on. Now that we had a plan we felt much better and pushed and cycled on for another 5 kilometres until we found a nice camping spot.
Makeshift bridge?
Corrugations and sand - great!
Pushing through deep, soft sand
Done for the day
The next day the road actually improved quite a bit and we made good progress. The turn-off came and we decided to skip the town and carry on instead. In the late afternoon we reached another small town called Taishir. We stocked up on drinking water and some sugary treats and then cycled a bit outside town. In a small valley we found a nice camping spot and called it a day. There were only about 40 kilometres left to Altai so we would get there early the next day.
No sand, only corrugations
New day + less sand = big smiles!
Only 40km left to Altai
We had a late start the next morning. The dirt tracks went on for another 30 kilometres or so and then we finally reached the paved highway that connects Altai to Ulaanbaatar. Finally we were back on tarmac! We quickly rode the last kilometres into town and didn't waste much time on searching for a hotel. The first one we came across had modern rooms, reasonable rates and a secure place to store our bicycles. Sold! We took a well deserved shower and then we explored Altai. There aren't any sights but after strolling around for a bit we at least found two sizeable supermarkets with a good selection of western products. We spent way too much money on some well-deserved treats and then retired into our room for the rest of the day.
Finally - Back on tarmac!
Rolling into Altai
The next day was pretty much spent in the same manner plus we also invested some time to give the bikes a check-up after the 600 kilometres of dirt roads behind us. We were a bit unsure whether we would be able to cycle on the day after. The weather forecast was for rain and strong wind.
When we woke up, the sky was overcast but it didn't look like rain and it certainly wasn't windy. We decided to give it a go. The first couple of kilometres were uphill but just the fact that we were back on a sealed road made up for it! After the summit there was an amazing downhill on smooth new tarmac and with marvellous views. For the rest of the day it was more or less flat. We had expected to cycle about 100 kilometres but then the wind set in.
It. Was. Tailwind.
And what a tailwind. It was so long since the last time with a proper tailwind that we didn't even remember what a great feeling it is. The pedalling suddenly becomes almost effortless, you don't have the howling of the wind in your ears and it gets notably warmer. We were cruising along at a whopping 30-40kph and by 5pm we had easily bashed out 200 kilometres. We continued for another 5 kilometres but then the road changed direction and we were suddenly battling a strong side wind. We saw some small dunes aside the road and decided to call it a day. There were rain showers throughout the night and the wind kept blowing hard until the early morning.
423km to Khovd
Still early in the season and some winter damage remaining
Interesting Ovoo over a derelict well
200km cycled, 28.6kph average speed
We didn't get a very early start as we had to wait for our tent to dry. The weather was back to sunny and the wind had turned to the usual headwind. At least it wasn't particularly strong. We maintained a good speed, passed a town called Darvi and rolled into another town called Zereg in the afternoon and after 100 kilometres. We had planned to just buy some junk food in a supermarket but then we saw a touring bike in front of a restaurant. That's how we met South Korean cyclist Bang cycling from China to Europe. We joined him for lunch and chatted for a while. He left before us as he had a sore knee and would be cycling slowly. We stayed a bit longer and enjoyed some sugary treats for dessert. The wind had picked up when we left and it took more than one hour until we caught up to Bang. A bit later we saw another cyclist coming towards us. It was British touring cyclist Nigel cycling from Moscow to Ulaanbaatar. His buddy Paul stayed in Khovd one day longer so we would meet Paul the next day. Coincidentally our friend Valentina had met Nigel and Paul in Russia. What a small world! We chatted for a bit then we said goodbye and carried on. There were dark clouds turning in and no sheltered camping spot in sight. We pushed on for another hour or so until we saw some small gravel piles about one kilometre away from the road. Not a great camping spot but the best we had seen for most of the day. We pitched our tent and Bang set up his Tarp. He had quite some trouble doing so when the pegs just wouldn't stay in the soft sand. Luckily our tent is free-standing. Despite the dark clouds there was no rain until after nightfall and we sat together with Bang for quite a while exchanging travel stories.
Sunny weather but no tailwind the next day :-(
Dark clouds in the evening
The next morning started sunny but the forecast was for thunderstorms in the afternoon. There were only 90 kilometres left to Khovd and we were optimistic we would get there early. The start was promising. We made good progress for the first half of the way. Just when the first climb started we ran into Paul. He didn't only hear about us from Valentina, he also knew our blog. We chatted for quite a while and probably it was funny for him to hear us repeat the same stories about Mongolia that he had either read on our blog or that he had heard from Valentina! Shortly after we had said farewell to Paul the wind picked up and the rain started. Great! We waited out the heaviest rain in a drainage tunnel and changed to our rain clothes. The wind was still strong, though, and progress was very slow. Bang was struggling with his aching knee and we had lost sight of him. We briefly thought about waiting for him but we were wet and cold and we knew he would also take a few days off in Khovd. So we plodded on and finally reached the summit of the last hill. The last 8 kilometres into town were still construction site and involved a corrugated dirt track. Eventually we arrived in front of the first hotel. Usually we would have checked out the other hotels as well but as things stood we just took the first one we came across. We changed our wet clothes, went to the supermarket next door and then spent the rest of the afternoon indulging in the treats we had bought. A bit later Bang texted us. He had arrived shortly after us and stayed in another hotel. We agreed to meet for lunch the next day.
With the patchy mobile reception we hadn't really checked our phones for messages since Altai. Now that we did we received an alarming message from Paul. Just before he caught up to Nigel, some thugs on motorbikes had tried to mug Nigel. Luckily some locals had turned up and chased them away. It was particularly alarming as Bang had told us he had been threatened with a chainsaw on the way to Altai. And then there was Valentina who had a big rock thrown at her tent somewhere in the north of Mongolia. As much as we liked Mongolia and as friendly as people had mostly been, those news left us in a negative mindset that night.
Selfie with Paul and Bang
The way into Khovd
Things looked much brighter the next morning. We did our shopping in the supermarket next door and had breakfast with fresh bread, butter and real cheese in our room. Around lunchtime we met with Bang, explored the market and the city centre. There was a VW van parked in front of one of the hotels and Bang said it belonged to a Swiss guy he briefly met in Altai. We checked out the van and that's how we met Günter. He is a former touring cyclist who decided to buy a van for a journey through Russia, Central Asia and West Asia. You can follow his epic adventures here. We spent a totally random but fun afternoon and evening chatting and exchanging travel stories. Günter was stuck in Khovd waiting for a spare part for his car. He had made friends with a local guide. That guide had offered him a tour around Khovd. Günter suggested we could do the tour together the next day and we all happily agreed.
Exploring Günter's van
We all met at Günter's van after breakfast the next morning. The guide arrived soon after and off we went. Our guide belonged to the Kazakh minority in the west of Mongolia. The first stop was the yurt where he and his family live during the summer months. He pointed out the different features of Kazakh yurts compared to Mongolian gers – basically they have more space and light. From there we continued over pretty bad dirt tracks to an arid plain in a mountain valley. We had seen burial mounds numerous times in Mongolia but the burial mound we found on that plain was enormous. There was a big pile of rocks with a ring of rocks around it. Apparently the site had never been examinated archaeologically and our guide couldn't really tell us as to who and how many people there would be buried underneath it or why it had that impressive size. Some more dirt tracks took us from the burial mound to a Kazakh village and on to two mountain lakes. By the time we got there dark clouds had turned in and a cold wind kept us from swimming in the clear water. We continued to the house of the parents of our guide. There his mother – a former music teacher – played the Dombra (kind of a 2-string guitar) for us. Next and last stop was the house of a falconer. Falconry seems to be a big thing among the Kazakh communities in Mongolia and it didn't surprise us given the sheer number of birds of prey we've seen in Mongolia. After all those eagles and hawks in the wild it was even kind of sad to see a domesticated eagle. At least we were able to get a closer look at it than we would have had the chance to in the wild.
For the rest of the day we kept chatting over some beers. Late at night we said goodbye to Bang. He planned to leave the next morning and would take another route than us. We might meet him again in Almaty.
View from the giant burial mound
Dombar performance
Falconer at work
The next two days were lazy days. We finished all our chores. Sorting our supplies, planning the route ahead and catching up on our social media channels. We even bought a new camping stove. Not that we were unhappy with our MSR 'Pocket Rocket' stove – the screw-on gas canisters it requires are just prohibitively expensive in Mongolia. We ended up buying a stove that uses the cheap local gas canisters. In the evenings we met with Günter, shared some beers and some travel stories.
Chatting with Günter (Picture courtesy of our friend Bang)
Our new camping stove
After 4 days in Khovd we felt ready to move on. We got a late start, though. And it wasn't a pleasant start. From Khovd the road begins with a substantial 200m climb. Also it was a bit annoying to backtrack our route for 75 kilometres. But then – Khovd was worth it, we really had a good time and a well-deserved break. By mid-afternoon we had cycled those annoying 75 kilometres and took the turn-off to the border. There had been a light headwind for most of the day but now it picked up and dark clouds started to turn in. We knew there wouldn't be any towns for the next 250 kilometres so we stopped at a lonely roadhouse that was close enough to the small town of Mankhan to offer some weak mobile reception. The forecast was for mostly sunny weather with light and variable winds for the next days. Great news!
We plodded on for another 30 kilometres and called it a day when we found a nice camping spot in a valley next to the road. The noodle dish we had for lunch in that roadhouse had been tasty but probably not all too fresh. We both felt bloated and nauseous.
China here we come!
When we woke up the next morning we felt much better but a glance out of the tent made us lose all optimism. Dark clouds everywhere. While we prepared breakfast we heard thunder in one of the valleys nearby and by the time we had finished our porridge it started to rain. Soon later the wind picked up and even the valley we were in couldn't shelter us from the gusts. We vowed to remove the useless weather app from our phones. When the storm unexpectedly stopped we had almost accepted the thought of spending an unpleasant day in the tent. We had a second breakfast while the tent dried and by 12.30pm we hit the road. The climb to the first mountain pass at 2,400 metres started immediately and for the first half of it the wind was still blowing hard. We briefly thought about waving down a car but there was hardly any traffic so we gave up on that idea. Eventually the sun came out and the wind stopped. We made it over the mountain pass by late afternoon and enjoyed a great downhill. Just before the ascend to the next mountain pass started we found a good camping spot near a dry riverbed.
Over the first mountain pass
More mountains to come...
Camping spot
The next morning started with ample sunshine – and with a substantial climb to a 2,800 metres mountain pass. In fact it was the highest mountain pass we had cycled in Mongolia. Even though it was sunny the temperatures were chilly. The more surprising it was to find a small village in the river valley right after the summit. We found it hard to imagine how life would be up here in winter!
It was only days until the start of the Naadam festival where there would be nationwide competitions in wrestling, horse racing and archery. The people from the village were apparently training for the big event. There were about 50 men having a picnic and watching a group of traditionally dressed wrestlers. We waited at the side of the road and were hoping to be invited. But nobody invited us. There was a fair bit of tension in the air, some of the men were drunken and not one of them was smiling or waving back to us when we tried to get their attention. It was kind of an awkward situation and we elected for cycling on.
A bit later we cycled past a vast area with dozens of burial mounds. We've seen clusters of them numerous times in Mongolia but this one was special. There were several groups of megaliths with their carvings clearly identifying them as deer stones. The unusual name comes from the depictions of flying deer that are carved into the stones. Apparently the meaning behind the imagery remains unclear, though. Still it was an impressive and unexpected find along the little-travelled Khovd – Bulgan road.
The road continued through spectacular landscape. For the last kilometres before the small town of Altai Sum we cycled through a beautiful narrow river gorge. Totally unexpected the road to the Chinese border had become one of our highlights in Mongolia. We filled up water in Altai Sum and then carried on for another hour until we found a viable camping spot. Despite the mountain pass earlier that day we had hit the 150 kilometres mark - not too shabby! Even the camping spot was amazing in a way. Despite the obvious absence of water there was wild chive all over the place and the smell made us even more hungry. But there wasn't only wild chive – the bugs were also out in full force. It remained a mystery to us how they could survive in such a hostile environment.
Mongolian wrestling
Lunch break at a river
Deer stone...
...and one more
One of the tombs
Cycling along valleys...
...and gorges
So many birds of prey!
Done for the day
Wild chive
The next day was Friday. The Chinese border would close for the weekend at 6pm and we still had 120 kilometres to go. We weren't quite sure whether to try crossing the border before the weekend or not. We decided to postpone the decision to the last town before the border, Bulgan. If there was a nice hotel we would stay and cross on Monday otherwise we would push on. We had a super early start and had cycled 2/3 of the distance to Bulgan by 10am. By all accounts the road to Bulgan and on to the Chinese border would be completely paved – but suddenly the tarmac ended. Allegedly road construction was begun in 2013 but 5 years on there were still two last bridges missing. The deviation was a dirt track that clung to a steep river valley. No need to mention that there was deep, soft sand everywhere. We rolled and slid down to the small stream, pushed our bikes through the mud and then huffed and puffed our way up the sandy slopes. For the last bit of the deviation we saw some construction teams working on finishing the road. They were just about to lay the asphalt in some places and the smell of hot bitumen was overwhelming.
Around noon we reached Bulgan after a last long downhill. Just when we rolled into town Simon's bike made some weird rubbing noises. There was a blister on his rear tyre. While Dominik inspected the tyre the inner tube suddenly exploded right next to his ear. What a great finale for Mongolia! At least we were prepared and carried a foldable spare tyre. Dominik installed the new tyre and we cycled the last metres to the only hotel in town. Long story short – the hotel was nice but ridiculously expensive. Decision made – we would cycle on to the Chinese border. First we had lunch in a restaurant, though. By the time we had finished the tinnitus in Dominik's left ear had stopped. When we left the restaurant the wind had changed from calm to a strong headwind. Great! 45 kilometres to the border, 4h until it would close for the weekend. It was a slog. We plodded on for about half the distance but then we figured it would be pointless. The wind was too strong to get to the border in time. We hadn't seen any traffic for quite a while but suddenly a Chinese coach stopped right next to us. They were going across the border and we happily accepted the lift. At 4pm we arrived at the border. The Mongolian exit stamp was an easy exercise. However, the Chinese controls went on forever. First they checked all pictures on our phones, then all our bags twice. X-raying and manual search respectively. At least they didn't treat us any differently from the Chinese travellers. If we wouldn't have arrived on a Friday shortly before the weekend closure we would've probably spent even more time at the border. But as things stood it 'only' took us 2 hours to cross the border. We loaded our bikes and bags back into the bus and were dropped at the outskirts of the Chinese border town Tarkshken. We cycled the last 2 kilometres into town and found ourselves a nice hotel.
Simon's split rear tyre
Some more wrestling
At the Chinese border