(meals key: B = breakfast; L = lunch; D = dinner)
Day 1. Arrival. Ulaanbaatar
Arriving at Ulaanbaatar’s Genghis Khan Airport you will be met by a driver who will deliver you to our joining hotel where you will be met by your tour leader.
This evening the group will meet for a briefing and our first meal together.
Day 2. Transfer, Ulaanbaatar to Arvaikheer
Today is a transfer day as we leave Ulaanbaatar in our Russian made support trucks heading east towards the Kangi Mountain range. The city is soon behind us and we start to get a feel for the vastness of the country we will be spending the next nine days exploring by bicycle. At times we are driving through sandy desert, at other times the rolling landscape is covered with grass or crops of wheat, and dotted across the scene are the white, round ger tents that are home for many Mongolian people.
Our destination for the night is the small and remote town of Arvaikheer where some may be surprised to find we dine in an Irish pub.
Our cycling begins today, but first, we have a further two-hour transfer across more open wilderness during which we may well pass grazing camels. Neither wild nor beasts of burden, these camels are often owned simply as a status symbol and spend a trouble-free life wandering and grazing.
With the drive over we prepare our bikes, drink a coffee, and take to the trail.
We are now on the unsealed tracks and trails that are to be our conduit to exploring Mongolia. Ahead of us, a long gentle climb leads us through a beautiful deserted scene of gently rolling hills and a huge sky towards the Kanghi Mountain range.
Our first campsite of the journey is set in the midst of a wide valley. Nearby are the carved standing stones of a Bronze Age archaeological site whose interesting story our guide will impart before we camp. The valley is home to a scattering of nomadic herders who, in the true tradition of nomadic Mongolians, may well wander across to our camp and offer us hospitality and refreshments.
Having broken camp we head west through a narrow valley where the environment changes rapidly from fertile green where scattered rock gardens may see riders pushing their bicycles, to an arid desert where vultures perch on the valley wall and circle as they search for carrion.
Passing Shargaljoot Riverside town, a small collection of colourful houses, a school, hospital, and police station is a significant point in the journey as it marks the final outpost of ‘civilisation’ for some days to come.
We camp tonight in a wide valley where herds of yak appear across the hills to drink at the river beside which we camp. As the evening progresses local lads on horses will round up the heard and drive them to the safety of their camp for the night. Now not only are we in another world, but we also begin to feel as though we are in another time.
We set out this morning following a wide valley where herds of yak and horses roam. Turning from the valley our first challenging climb begins on a trail leading through a pasture of grass and edelweiss that takes us to the head of another valley.
We take lunch at the highest of the day's three passes overlooking a view where rock formations jut from rolling green hills that lead to the far distance. From here the descent is rocky and challenging requiring discretion, and some pushing may we'll be necessary on the initial section. One final grassy climb, a short but rocky descent, and smooth valley floor trail lead us to tonight's riverside campsite.
A challenging climb and descent followed by a gentle downhill to a river make up the first eight kilometres of today's ride. From the river crossing grass and dirt tracks climb gently across the highland pastures and past the sacred Erkhet Mountain. Onwards past a Bronze Age site and to a gravel track leading to a lunch spot with views stretching across the plains to ger camps and herds of grazing yak.
After lunch, a gravel road leads us via a short steep climb to the highest point of the tour at 2850 metres. From here we drop amidst rolling hills to the babbling brook beside which we will camp for the night.
Today's terrain incorporates a stretch of rocky river bed that is often flooded necessitating the inclusion of a transfer midway through the ride.
The pre-transfer ride is predominantly a gentle valley descent on double track, at time gravel, at others grass and hardpacked dirt.
During the transfer, we cross the watershed from where all rivers cease to flow south and now head northward, generally to Russia’s mighty Baikal Lake.
With the transfer over we remount our bicycles in an altogether different scene. Now across the Kangi watershed, the fertile north-facing mountain slopes give life to conifer forests and the region becomes altogether greener than we have been used to. From here on the ride takes on a new character as, still cycling past herds of yak and horses, we ride on smoother hard packed double track trails, a feature for the remainder of the tour.
Day 8. Tsenkher
A couple of short steep climbs today break up a series of fast flowing hard pack tracks as we head east at a swifter pace through a series of wide valleys dotted with evergreen forest.
The town of Tsenkher throws up a couple of interesting surprises in the shape of traffic lights, cars, and a tarmac road. Needless to say none of these last for more than twenty minutes and soon we are back on fast flowing dirt trails heading for lunch and an early finish.
Today is our first experience of a ger camp. Better know as yurts in the West, gers are the traditional large white tents of the nomadic Mongolians. Our gers are comfortable with the combined novelties of electric light, a bed with sheets, a shower block, and a dining room. The setting is tranquil and the afternoon can be spent relaxing in pastoral isolation, or if you prefer you can join the crew as they head into town to stock up on supplies.
Accom: Ger camp
Day 9. Tsenkher Hot Springs
Today is another semi-rest with a short but beautiful ride climbing three passes past forests of fir and pastures of alpine flowers. None of the climbs are particularly high, but the final one is of sufficient distance to work up a good appetite for lunch. The conditions make for a swift ride, and following a tea break atop the flower-bedecked final pass we swoop downhill on smooth double track to the comfort of our ger camp, which we should reach before noon.
The afternoon can be whiled away soothing tired muscles in the mineral water of the hot pools, taking a massage, relaxing in your ger, wandering a little in the hills, or enjoying a cold beer and convivial banter in the ger camp’s bar.
Accom: Ger camp
A longer day today with several passes to cross riding mostly on smooth hard packed trails. The land is fertile, the grass is thick, and as we ride away from our ger camp we climb through conifer forests and pastures thick with wildflowers. As we head east the scene we ride through is rolling hills, pastures, and wide valleys where cattle graze, all rather reminiscent of Austria’s Tyrol. We end the day at a beautiful riverside campsite beneath a small escarpment.
Our final day on the bikes follows the Orkhon Valley as we head towards our final ger camp at the town of Kharkhorin. The ride is fast and flowing, at times riverside and at times moving a little away from the river to cross small passes offering fines views of the river and the lovely valley through which it flows.
Our final lunch in the wilderness is riverside and just a few kilometres from our evening's ger camp which boasts a convivial bar, ideal to relax on a sunny afternoon and enjoy sharing memories and tales from a wilderness adventure that will surely be recalled many times with much fondness for years to come.
Accom: Ger Camp
Day 12. Ulaanbaatar
Having loaded our support trucks with bikes and kit we return to a sealed road for the journey back to Ulaanbaatar. We are now back in a desert scene where camels are more commonplace than yak.
We should arrive back in Ulaanbaatar mid-afternoon in time to pack bikes (for those with private machines), take a shower and have a last wander around town or enjoy pre-dinner drinks in the sunshine before our final dinner together.
Day 13. Finish
The tour ends today with a transfer to Ulaanbaatar's airport in time for your onward journey.
For those wishing to remain a little longer in Mongolia, we are more than happy to organise extra nights for you.
© Painted Roads 2021. All rights reserved.