When I woke up, my ankle and knee was worse. I decided to wait for it to warm up, so spent the morning fixing a few things with the bike and sewing my crash-bar bags. There was a hot shower set-up in the compound and I badly needed one. I left around 10 am after filling up in the city. There is usually no electricity so you have to find a pump with a working generator.

The day was entirely composed of washboards alternating between gravel and sand. I had to take side roads which were less consistent but had fewer washboards. On one of these, I noticed that the sand was getting deeper. I stopped to see if there was another way. I noticed a motorcycle approaching on my mirror. It was a cheap 125cc Chinese bike. A young Mongol couple were riding on it. They stopped to say hello. The woman was carrying something in her arms. I asked her what it was and she showed me a newborn baby. They disappeared in the horizon before I could get over my amazement in their audacity to ride with their baby on these roads.

Here I was, riding solo on a bike 10 times powerful as theirs worrying about falling because the road got a little bit soft. There have been a few more times in my life I was more ashamed than this. Just a few. Not more.

I picked up my pride from the ground, cleaned up the sand stuck all over it and continued riding on. But it took me only three minutes to get stuck in sand. The rear wheel was digging the soft ground and I couldn’t get it out. Another rally team reached for my help to get the bike back on the main “road”. I didn’t tell them about the Mongolian couple to avoid further embarrassment.

I averaged about 18 kph throughout the day but managed not to fall. A few scary moments but no failures.

As I entered Darvi at the end of the day, I met a group of English travelers. Four of them were doing the rally on a car and a minivan. But the other two, Gail and Craig were riding on two old motorcycles and we were heading the same direction. I was very excited and happy to meet them.

We camped together outside the city on a barren windy piece of land. It felt really good to be camping with other bikers for the first time since I parted with Savaş in Wisconsin. That was more than four months ago. But something wasn’t quite right. It didn’t look like they felt the same way. It wasn’t that they wanted to be alone as a couple because they were traveling with the others. Maybe they didn’t like me. I don’t know. Maybe I’ve been traveling alone for too long and don’t look as friendly as I feel… It’s hard to say.