I’d rejected The Hero’s kind offer of staying with him for a couple of days, but already I was questioning my decision. There were no downsides to his warm ger, tasty food, and wonderfully friendly family. Living the life of a Mongolian nomad sounded pretty good while I dried out from my swimming incident.
But I was stubbornly resolved to attempt an escape from this region, so I took my leave just after 1 PM and headed southeast across the river valley. I was facing a fifteen-mile slog through the saturated, muddy terrain as I hoped to reach the mountain pass that would deliver me from this basin.
It was tough sledding. I frequently had to dismount and walk 50 yards at a time to scout the small mounds of rideable mud while avoiding the bogs that were utterly impassable. Walk back to the bike, ride those 50 yards, stop, do it all again.
After two hours and just twelve miles of progress, I finally made it to the end of the valley and began the 1200 foot climb up toward the pass. I speculated that the going would get easier once I was above the flooded valley floor; I was appallingly incorrect, and now fully understood why The Hero had been so insistent that horses and camels were the only transport out of here.
The recent snow melt from higher elevations, mixed with weeks of steady rain, combined to create massive run-off that was using the trail from the pass down to the valley as its own private aqueduct. The route was a sloppy mess of liquified muck and grass, not unlike a Malibu mudslide. It was unusable.
I walked a short distance from the “trail” and saw some hoofprints about twenty meters to one side of the route. As is the Mongolian way, when the established path is impassable, you simply create a new one. Still, the off-trail mud was only slightly less gooey, while also being pot-marked with boulders and large rocks. There’d be no straight path upwards, I’d be fighting both gravity and non-existent traction, while having to act like a sprayed roach as I zig-zagged ‘round the obstacles.
Trudging back to the bike, I started up the hillside. I’d ridden maybe 300 meters when my back tire slid down the side of a rock and found a two-foot hole. Just like that, I was stuck.
I futilely attempted to rock it out of the hole. Nope. Sighing, I switched off the fuel petcock then lowered the bike on its side and flat down into the mud. Grabbing the rear wheel and, with the bog stubbornly sucking at my boots, I dragged the rear of the bike away from the hole. I lost my balance and went ass-first into the muck, but overall rated it a success. The rear tire was clear of the pit.
I lifted myself out of the mud and then I lifted the bike back up. Feeling every foot of the 8400 feet of elevation, I breathed heavily and took a long moment to mentally compose the opening paragraph of my forthcoming 15,000 word manifesto, on the clear advantages of lightweight adventure motorcycles with light rackless luggage loads.
Oxygen restored, I climbed aboard and rode another four hundred meters, carefully picking a route around large boulders and around muddy bogs of unknown depth, while avoiding eroded stretches of hillside that had created vast crevices in the landscape.
I tried to tightrope a particularly narrow stretch of rocks between two bogs, but misjudged the traction and the back tire slipped into the murky water, pulling the rest of the bike in with it. Stuck again.
Twenty-five minutes of pulling, digging, heaving, and tugging, and I was no closer to freeing the DR-Z. A nearby boulder politely volunteered to be a Thinking Rock, so I stumbled over to it and sat down.
Looking forlornly behind me and down toward the Valley of The Hero, I soberly began to calculate how long it might take to hike the twelve miles back to his ger.
++++++ (To be continued) ++++++