I am very happy to be writing this update from the hotel again. The night was horrible. It kept pouring all through the night, and we hardly had any space due to being two plus a lot of luggage in a tiny tent. We had to keep worrying about touching the tent walls with the sleeping bags which were wet and ice cold. Also, almost all our clothes were wet. Fortunately the sleeping bags stayed dry through the night, which was probably a few degrees positive celsius. It was tolerable, but this was with wearing several layers in the sleeping bag. We slept a maybe 30 minutes at a time, not on purpose but either because of the heavy winds and water dreshing in on the tent, or just because we were nervous and cold.
The morning was disappointing. At 6am it was still raining hard. At 9 am it let up a bit, so we packed all our wet stuff onto the bikes, put on our wet biking clothes, and started to ride back through the mud very very slowly. I was in fact positively surprised that our bikes started up at all after standing in this storm all night. We made it through particularly bad spots by one person getting off, and helping to push / hold up the other person’s bike. We took turns like this, while it was again raining. Eventually we gained confidence and experience about which surfaces were more or less slippery. There is grass, there are big stones, there is gravel, there are potholes full of water, there is sand, and there is mud. It is interesting how each has very different grip when wet. It is really unfortunate that we never practiced off-road riding in safer conditions. I felt like we were doing the equivalent of jumping off a mountain with a paraglider with zero training.
Anyway, we fortunately made it back to the paved road (a stretch of maybe 15 km that took us an hour or two), where we rode at 80 km/h toward UB. Not faster because despite being the main road in the country, it has enormous potholes, sometimes an entire lane has collapsed due to erosion, and one has to move to the oncoming lane. It is instructive to watch the sverwing of the cars ahead.
It was getting even colder, and of course it was raining. I had to stop several times to warm my hands with the exhaust, I was losing all feeling in the totally drenched gloves.
Finally we made it into UB, and the giant permanent traffic jam. Here we immediately tried the first two hotels, but the first had no rooms, and the second had a russian guy who thought that what I need most right now was some russian vodka (rather than getting warm and dry), so we ended up going on to the familar hotel. Interestingly sitting for an hour in the traffic jam was not so bad because the exhaust fumes for all the cars make it cozy warm in there.
We are now in the hotel, which we booked for 2 nights. We gave all our wet stuff to the laundry to wash and dry, and draped all the non-washable wet stuff all over the room.
The weird thing is that I seem to have gotten used to not eating. We had at most one filling meal a day since we got here but strangely I am not hungry. We want to go out anyway to eat somehow, but I am wearing my swimming trunks right now as paradoxically its the only thing I have now that is not wet. The hotel restaurant is an option, or I could google food delivery!?
We have a few worries now: Our Russian visa is specifically for the Tsaganuur crossing, I am not sure if they will let us through in the northern border.
Second, my bike’s blinkers don’t work, which is a problem. I will try to get it fixed somehow tomorrow.
Anyway, it feels good not to be cold and not worry about running out of water or freezing in the night. We will be much more careful from now on, this was a learning experience.