Mongolia and back overland – an honest story
Almost one year since the last published article here (sorry about that). More than one year since, if anyone would have mentioned about going overland to Mongolia, I would have laughed. Yet here I am, already post the “and back” part, still wondering. So here it is, an honest story of overland travel from Romania to Mongolia – and back :).
The “Mongolia” idea got into my head some time ago, much like climbing the Everest – it’s such a great dream, but soooo out of my reach (I wasn’t even planning on getting a bike back then). The first contagious contact with Mongolia (and overland travel) was via the story of Mihai Barbu, a Romanian traveler who really publicized in Romania the idea of motorcycle overland travel. At the time he was posting while travelling his now famous “letters” on the mongolia.ro blog (I’m pretty sure that a lot of Romanian travelers still fondly remember this address), which is now closed, but the content was re-published as a very successful book: “Vand kilometri“. From his stories I have kept in my mind two powerful images: the rusting fishing ships laying in the sands of the former shore of Aral Sea, in Muynak, Uzbekistan, and the Darvaza gas crater, in Turkmenistan. Mongolia was (still) a very, very far-away land for me. Those were the places I was really intent of going to see for myself. A few years later, motorcycle touring being already part of my life, I was toying with the idea of travelling around the entire Black Sea coast. Sadly, with the current political situation in the area, such route is impossible, due to some borders being impossible to cross. So, the next “stage” was to research if my goal of going to Darvaza and the Aral Sea was plausible (little did I knew at the time about the Turkmenistan visa peculiarities – but more about that later on). Around the same time, I was following the stories of other Romanians traveling overland around Central Asia, Mihai and Adi: motorcycling.to. So, plenty of inspiration and motivation.
Looking at the map, it was obvious that, since I was going to reach Central Asia, I could easily expand the route to include the usual “Stans” as well: Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan. So I did, and the plan was looking like a winner. I was estimating around 2 months for this route, but while testing the waters at work to see if I can get away with such a long holiday, the answer was: “Of course. How much do you need? 3, 4 months?“. Oh well, it was a no-brainer: Mongolia jumped right in on my plans. A few months later, after lots of headaches about visas, bike service and customization, route planning and lots of sleepless nights, I was waiting to, finally, go. Just go!
So, why Mongolia? At the start I had no good answer (now I have lots of them), but the challenge part of it all was really appealing to me. As well as the entire mythical aura of the “Silk Road“. Heck, I was going to travel through the “Arabian Nights” stories, after all – how could I not be overjoyed with the idea?
PS – I didn’t mention it, but I have always hated going off pavement with the motorcycle. So, for me, a significant chunk of the route was looking like a, literally, crash course in off-road riding. It may be a little unnerving, at times. A bit more than just a little, to be, well, honest :D.