I spent all of the first day riding on washboards, hoping that it wouldn’t be the same for the next 1000 miles to UB. It was very hard on the suspension. Trying to float over them at high speed -like the locals do- felt very dangerous, and there was no in-between. No matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t doing proper mileage. I couldn’t ride on the third gear for long enough to maintain a proper speed. There was always some sort of an obstacle ahead. There was a gravel stretch for a few miles where I felt comfortable to do 60 mph. But even that didn’t last long. For the first time since I began 5 months ago, I fell down. I don’t mean dropping it at low speed. I mean falling down properly! I immediately picked up the bike to check for damage. Nothing seemed to be out of place. Then I tried to feel my own body. There was no pain. I repeated out loud: “I’m OK! I’m OK! I’m… OK.” This was my first warning for underestimating the terrain.

The second one came sooner than I expected. This time it was a sandy hill. I didn’t realize how deep the sand was and entered it in a slight angle. The bike started turning around. I fought to regain balance but ended up falling on the reverse side. My foot was stuck under the metal pannier as my body turned around. I felt something cracking in my ankle and knee. This time I wasn’t O.K.

I was right below the slope, lying on the ground. I had to get the bike out of the road very quickly, even though there weren’t too many vehicles around. I pulled my foot out and tried stepping on it. It wasn’t broken. The bike was leaning downhill on the sand. It was very painful to pick it up.

I kept on riding slowly, singing to myself:
So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from Hell,
Blue skies from pain.

Half an hour later, I met yet another group of Mongol Rally cars. Again, one of them had rolled over. Luckily, this time noone was hurt.

The roads became tracks and started climbing up the mountains. This was a harder terrain for large vehicles so there were less washboards. I was enjoying it. The views of snow capped mountains soon became very close and I was riding right next to them, admiring their massive beauty.

But this is Mongolia. Nothing is to be admired from a distance. There is no such seperation of the viewer and the viewed. The snow from the mountains melt down to form rivers. And you eventually need to cross them. There I was trying to judge the right place to get across a small but deep stream. Finally, I get the caurage and dive into it. Right in the middle, I stumble and the bike falls on the right side on the pannier. Of course, the one with my laptop inside. I lift it up immediately and walk it across… When I opened it up, there were little creatures swimming in it. Wasn’t this supposed to be waterproof? I guess not then… I took everything out and cleaned it. The computer miraculously seemed to be dry. I was lucky. Nothing was damaged. Another lesson learned. If you think you may fall, you need to carry your stuff across before you attempt the crossing.

A little later, I met three other motorcyclists from Canada. Of course, they were going the other way. In any case, it was a good chance to exchange road information but the information itself wasn’t very good. They told me that the next three days would be “teeth shattering” washboards with a very deep river crossing. One of them had sucked water in the engine and had to do an oil change in the middle of nowhere…

I took it slow for the rest of the day and arrived in Hovd just as the sun was setting. I camped with the rally teams in an organised ger campound, working out the casualties of my first day in the country. Two serious falls, one unsuccessful river crossing attempt and an injured leg. If it went like this, I would be facing a serious risk of ending the journey in UB. Either the bike, or my body would give up eventually.