The biking in Gobi continues in strong tailwinds. But we encounter some problems as well. Our fuel bottles get stolen by some childrens in a village. We also take a wrong road in the desert with scarce water supplies, leaving some of us very thirsty for a whole day.
Our fuel bottles are missing!
We had just gotten safely away from a curious bunch of children in the village of Senj and were about to start preparing lunch outside the town when Lyngve cries: “Where are the bottles of fuel?” I pull up with the bike cart and look behind to the spot where the bottles of petrol are usually standing. There I see just two empty bottle holders. Lyngve and I stare at each other, a little desperate, thinking the same: “The boys! One of those annoying boys we were with a minute ago must have taken the bottles!”
Now we had to act fast. We are completely dependent on these fuel bottles to make hot meals along the way. It’s not likely that we can buy new bottles in the area we’re going to.
Luckily, there was a young girl in the large flock of children, which had met us an hour earlier and followed us to the place where we were planning to eat lunch. She was 14 years old, well mannered and spoke a little English. With the help of the Mongolian dictionary we’ve brought along, we were able to tell her what has happened. She goes back to the village with Eric and Sigbjørn to try to locate the bottles. Lyngve and I stay behind to look after our equipment and bikes.
We are lucky, really lucky. We find one of the bottles right away. Eric is stopped on his bike by a man in a jeep who has found the one bottle on the ground. It wasn’t as easy to locate the other bottle. Sigbjørn accompanies the young girl all the way back to where we first met the children There, they encounter some of the boys and all go to a boarding school where the principal scolds the boys in a loud voice. A policeman also arrives. They take Sigbjørn quite a distance to the outskirts of town. Some of the boys disappear into a ger (Mongolian felt tent). They come back a little while later with the second bottle. We never find out for sure which of the boys took the bottle, but we have our suspicions. As a kind of apology, Sigbjørn is given a necklace and head scarf by the boy we assume is the culprit.
While Sigbjørn is gone, Lyngve, Eric and I meet some railroad workers near the place where we stopped for lunch. One of them, a 23 year old girl, is a recent geology graduate who speaks relatively good English. An older man, who also works for the railroad, gives us some biscuits and a bottle of soda. Most likely, he feels sorry for us because someone has stolen our heat source.
When Sigbjørn finally gets back with the last fuel bottle an hour later, we are well aware of how lucky we have been. Since we never would have found the second bottle without the help of the 14 year old girl, we give her a chocolate bar as a kind of thank you gift. Not long afterwards, she’s back with a gift for Sigbjørn: a small embroidered picture of a Mongolian ger which she had made herself.
We take the wrong road
The next day our trip takes us to a small village called Ulan Uul. After our experiences the day before, we try to spend as little time as possible in the village and not draw a lot of attention to our technical equipment. This works, and we’re able to buy water and a little bread without arousing too much curiosity. We ask directions to Samod, which is the border town to China, and some children show us the way.
A few kilometres down the road, we notice that we’re going farther and farther away from the railroad tracks, which we wanted to follow. While the tracks lead down to the plateau, we’re following the road up into rather hilly terrain. Our compass tells us that the road were following leads south in the direction we want to go, and so we figure that it will turn in towards the railroad a little farther on. A couple of hours later, we realize that this isn’t happening. We take a look at our maps and see that we’re on a cart road that leads to Samod. It runs parallel to the tracks, but is quite a distance from them. This means that we have a problem, because we have only a limited supply of water. We had expected to buy more in one of the villages situated along the railway.
We gather together all the water we have and do some calculations. Based on previous experience, we figure that we have enough water to get us to Samod the next day, but expect to be very thirsty when we arrive.
60 ml of water – 60 km of desert sand
As so often before, Lyngve and I are out front. Ahead of us we can see the outline of a large town. Undoubtedly Samod. “5-6 km left at the most,” I tell Lyngve gleefully. Happy because we’ll soon be past the 40 or so kilometres of washboard road, and because I only have ½ decilitre of water left in my bottle. Thirst has really been plaguing me for the last 20-30 km.
One hour later I’m not so gleeful anymore. The presumed 5-6 km turns out to be a bit optimistic. My speedometer tells me that I’ve ridden about 10 km, and the town we saw has disappeared from the horizon. The plateau, which before had been so flat, isn’t so flat anymore. The good, hard cart road has turned into deep sand, unbelievably strenuous to bike on. Some places the sand is so deep that I have to get off the bike and pull it through the sand. And I’m so awfully thirsty. I have enough water left to moisten my mouth one more time, but I decide to postpone doing that until I can see the town. The others are behind me, but I can’t stop to wait for them. I just have to keep going. I’m beginning to feel dehydrated and can think of one thing only: WATER!!
After about two hours of pushing my way through the sand, I finally have the town in sight off in the distance. Two or three kilometres later, I can throw myself on the ground just outside of the town and wait for the others. Today there was 60 kilometres of desert sand and only 60 millilitres of water to drink. Water has never tasted so good before.
After having finally arrived in Somad, we checked into a hotel and then went out to look for transport across the border to China.