Polar Explorer Eric Larsen
A Different Gobi Everyday
Eric Larsen
09 March 2017 | Somewhere, Mongolia
When we started out in Dalanzadgad, the Gobi was a big wide flat plain. Small grasses scattered the ground for as far as we could see. Mountains framed the horizon miles and miles in the distance. As we cycled, every day seemed a little different.

Yesterday after getting leaped frogged forward past a small town, we started cycling toward a distant mountain range. As we bike, we both felt sluggish and slow. There was a slight head wind, but nothing serious. Earlier in the day, my Trek bike was running flawlessly. Now, it seemed like my my disc brakes were rubbing. I stopped and spun both my wheels to check. No, they were fine. I started pedaling again, but still it seemed like I was expending a larger than normal amount of effort.

Eventually, we realized we were not going down hill at all, but rather up. The vast landscape and looming mountains created an optical illusion and we were, in fact, riding up hill. It was the first time I've ever experienced anything like that before.

We made camp quickly in a perfectly flat swath of perfectly flat Gobi desert and were in our sleeping bags by 8:30.

In the morning, we managed to get up and start riding fairly early. 'J' had told us to stay to the left. However after about two hour of riding, the van caught up with us to inform us that we had indeed gone the wrong direction. No worries however, there was a perfect short cut ahead and what followed was one of the more picturesque sections of riding we've had yet as we paralleled the mountains while rolling up and down a variety of washes and gulches.

It's hard to describe what these mountains look like, but I'll try. For starters, they're bare rock and the just up from the sloping plain with little or no transition. That said, Imagine any movie about Mars and you've got a pretty good idea.

We rendezvoused for about 10 minutes to resupply food and water and then started cycling up a narrow rock gap that opened up into a larger canyon. It was slow going and we walked our bikes every half hour or so, just to give our bodies a short break from the grind. We also stopped for lunch - a special treat of salami, cheese and sardines.

Two hours later, we finally reached the top of the pass where we were treated to an incredible view of a snow capped range mountain range perfectly arcing on the horizon. From there, we traversed a broad spine angling along the crest of the range versus straight down. In the distance, we spotted someone on a motorcycle watching a herd of horses. We waved and the rider came toward us. It was a young woman in traditional clothes and a knit New York hat. Big lamb fur bar mitts covered the handle bars.

The ride down was brutal. Nothing like the easy roll we had hoped. A severely washboarded surface and fierce headwind jackhammered constantly. Finally, after another hour of riding the valley opened and we set up camp, ate dinner and quickly fell asleep as a nearly full moon rose above us.

Image: Tim riding along the top of the pass.
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