New plan

Since the China part 2 plan has gone down the drain for mysterious reasons, I had to do a bit of brainstorming to get my act together and keep going the way I want and the way that brings me more satisfaction. I don’t want to take a plane during this trip unless I really have to. This is not one of those times.

Today, I went down to the train station and bought myself a train ticket to Beijing. So there is a bonus in all this, I get to travel on the Trans-Mongolian Railway, part of the same network as the Trans-Siberian. Meanwhile, my dear Z will be shipped straight to Bangkok and will be waiting for me there until I arrive. From now on and until I get to Bangkok, I will be on foot. It will be a new experience but I have high hopes for this new part of the trip. It will be something different being back to depending on other people to get from one place to the next one.

Ulan Baatar
The roundabout near the hostel

After I got the train ticket, I went for a walk in the town center, checked rucksacks at the camping store (too expensive) and then at the black market (too cheap). Since I will only need this rucksack for a couple of weeks, I will go for the too cheap one and bring my straps, bungees and cable ties with me into China in case it needs « roadside maintenance ». Finally, I went for lunch inside the black market. I had already had lunch there yesterday with David and really enjoyed it: good cheap food, who could say no to that?

Lunch
Yesterday’s yummy lunch

 

I sat at a random food stall and ordered a random dish from the menu around 4000 tugrugs. I have no idea what I ordered but a couple of minutes later I had in front of me a sort of prison tray with a full meal on it: soup, fried noodles with meat, Russian salad, two other kinds of salad and a strange but not completely disgusting hot white drink.

Menu
I ordered one of those, the third one after the red line

 

After that royal lunch, I was going to check the auto parts market for a couple of tools I am still missing and a 13 spanner for Lorraine who had asked me to kindly buy it for her but a sudden dust storm and the menace of rain convinced me to stick my hand out at the side of the road to go back home. In no time, a random local had lowered his window and was asking me where I wanted to go, I hopped on and went back to the hostel to finish repairing the bike.

Of course you don’t know what was wrong with the bike because I haven’t told that story yet but the rest of the afternoon was very productive: I put a new chain that Richard kindly agreed to sell me, I put the missing bolt in the pannier rack and finally I hammered my panniers back into shape, they are waterproof again. Actually, I didn’t hammer them myself, the hostel’s watchman saw me doing it and obviously thought that I was using the hammer like a little girl because he took the hammer off my hands and did it himself.

When I had finished with all my repairs and maintenance for the day, it was already time to go for dinner with the group. Today is the last night we are all together, from now on we more or less all go our separate ways. Neil is flying to Hong Kong, Iain is flying to Bangkok, Lorraine may be flying to Korea, David is driving back to the UK through Russia (I hope he doesn’t freeze!), Richard still doesn’t know and Chris is taking the same train as I am but will be crossing China a bit faster than what I have planned to. The group was created with the sole purpose of crossing China together on our bikes (+David’s car), now that we are not allowed to do that anymore, it makes no sense to stick together any longer. We all have different plans for the future and have already set them in motion but meanwhile, we absolutely had to find that English pub with the funny name that we had spotted a couple of days ago.

Unfortunately it was closed to the general public tonight (on a Saturday night!)

 

PS: Since my bike and I are going to be parted for some time, I have set up a new wallpaper on my computer, something to remember her by.

My memento of Z until we are back together

Ulaanbaatar, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

Paris-Metz

It’s funny how travelers sometimes end up in the same places for no reason. Yesterday on the road to Metz, I met the same German hitchhiker at two different gas stations more than a hundred km away. The second time I just had to talk to him, he was just hitchhiking his way back to Germany and needed to be there at the latest on Wednesday. It sounds to me like something from the Middle Ages to think that one could travel at that pace and with that (lack of) urgency. Then again, it’s just what I’m about to do, albeit a bit faster.

Moselle
Missing Paris already?

Yesterday was a pretty nice day, after all the things I had to do in the « morning », I set off quite late but finally vaccinated against yellow fever, typhoid fever and difteria, tetanus, polio. Yes, I had left that for the last moment, that’s just me and my just in time planning. Since I was so late and didn’t want to reach Metz after dark, I decided to take the toll highway. Not the best « roadseeing » (road sightseeing, I’ve just made that word up) option but I really didn’t want to ride for 6 to 7 hours because I was already thinking of taking a nap. And that’s what I did.

I had my first roadside nap 100km before Metz. I had been dreaming of a roadside nap since my trip to ski in March when the elements (all of them) didn’t let me have a nap. It was just a technical stop, lay on the curb and close my eyes. It was sunny, naps in the sun are the best, you wake up completely recharged and ready to take on the rest of the road.

When I arrived to Metz, I was greeted by my good friends Boris and Tzveti who provided me with a couch and a nice dinner and of course some rakia. I was so tired that it completely knocked me out, although the wine may have contributed to the TKO.

Big cathedral doesn't fit the lens
The beautiful Metz Cathedral

Today was Metz visit day and working on the bike day. See, I have this Scottoiler that I had bought off the internet and that I still hadn’t installed. So, after noon I went out for a stroll and next to a city map I ran into this George guy, he’s a tattoo artist and he is traveling by bicycle, from Leeds in the UK to Portugal via Rome, from one tattoo parlor to the next one. Haha, yes, via Rome, that’s what he said. We talked for a while about the road and how he was managing on his 2-gear bike and then I took him to the street he was looking for, a little advantage I still have while I’m in France: 3G.

Now it’s the end of the day, the Scottoiler is installed and seems to be working alright, I’m finally going to bed. We’ll see tomorrow when I start riding if it works as good as it looks :). I was scared of doing the installation because I had to cut a pipe, an engine vacuum pipe in order to install it. It’s done now.

Scottoiler
My Scottoiler if fitted and primed

Going to bed

Going to b…

Going t…

Goi…

G…

PS: I had to go to Castorama during the installation because as it turns out, I didn’t have any tool allowing me to remove the rear wheel. Good one…

Metz, Lorraine, France

Days in the mud

I have just come back from 2 days in the mud. Not really, day 1 was quite dry and that’s great for learning the basics. When I started planning this

Nacho on G650GS
Dry, smug and ready to ride

trip, one of the things I wanted to do was to get some off-road training. Having a trail bike and not taking it off-road from time to time is like having a 4WD in the city, and I hate those.

After much hesitation (it’s quite pricey), I enrolled for BMW’s Off-road Skills Level 1. No, I don’t own a BMW, we all know I ride a Yamaha Ténéré. No, it doesn’t matter. Yamaha doesn’t offer this service, neither does BMW France FWIW so I had to enroll in the UK course and that’s good news in a way because the school is run by Simon Pavey, a guy who got to the finish line of the Dakar rally at least 6 times, one of them while riding in Charley Boorman’s team for the Race to Dakar TV documentary.

I had no idea what to expect of the course and it exceeded my expectations. Not only I got to trial ride the whole BMW range of bikes, albeit some for a very short period but I truly enjoyed myself while learning. Day 1 was quite dry and it gave us time to soften up a bit. Off road riding is done while standing on the bike and although I had stood on the pegs before, I would always sit back to turn and do stuff. The idea of turning, or switching gears, or stalling the bike while standing on the pegs wasn’t something I was looking forward to. During day 1, we learnt some basic skills that would become very useful on day 2. We did some trail riding too.

Now, day 2 was something else, day 1 had started sunny-ish and had been mostly dry. Day 2 was typical Welsh. Rain, rain and more rain. As a result the same trails we had ridden the day before had become big muddy pools. Lots of fun. Really, we had fun, I didn’t think I would but I did. I fell off my bike only 3 times during the day (stalled), broke the brake lever (only need to put 2 fingers on it anyway), got my buttocks in the mud and my orange jacket is now brown and orange (I hope it will go back to orange again someday). I spent the whole day with my trousers completely drenched but it was a great day. Seriously, who comes to ride in Wales without his waterproof pants? Me, of course!

Me with my feet in the water and my soaked pants on the G650GS
A lot wetter but still no butt in the mud

In the end it was all good fun, didn’t break anything (although I twisted my ankle on the first day) and had a great time with cool people. The crowd that this course attracts is a pretty nice bunch, mostly bikers wanting to expand their skills and adventurers preparing for their trips. I had a great time.

Tomorrow, I’m off to Brussels again in order to collect my passport at the Kyrgyz consulate and then it’s back to Paris one last time.

London, England, United Kingdom