Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Tuesday was a rest day.
Many thanks to Larry Doherty who generously sponsored my two night stay and meals in Zhurihe 😀 Larry kindly pressed the sponsor a day button on my website www.myworldwalk.com

Today, Wednesday I only walked 22kms after a late start. Then, after two kms I got a puncture and popped on my quick release spare wheel. I always like to repair the spare asap. It looks like there are no services for the next 160 kilometres and its bitterly cold with snow in the hard shoulder. Sometimes, I have to walk on it as now the road is a two lane secondary road. When I got to a rare house I thought it best to ask to go inside to repair my spare tyre as its too cold at the side of the road. When I finished, the nice people said I can sleep there. So, that's it for today! I think in this weather it's prudent not to be chasing miles; keep the smiles and to take advantage of safe and warm areas to finish. I settled down to sleep on my air mattress beside a warm radiator!
China world walk blog 1 ( In China I will have limited access to internet, so posts will be sporadic and might be several days in between )  

Crossing from Mongolia to China was pretty straightforward, except for putting Karma through the X-ray machine! As I walked the five kilometres towards Erenhot, the centre of the border city I enjoyed the wide boulevards with a bicycle lane. Yes, China has changed from those old images of bicycles zooming all over city streets. Now people are pretty mobile, driving SUV's and even miniature electric motorcycles, not to mention miniature cars. On the way into the city a man called Has-Erdene who was riding a sports bicycle befriended me. Normally I don't do the guide thing but I planned a rest day and didn't want to waste it getting my bits and pieces done. He gave me great help finding a bicycle shop, getting my Chinese sim and a cheap hotel. So I bought him a Kentucky Fried Dinner and gave him a few euro in Yuans. In fairness he fought hard not wanting to take it, but I insisted as I was delighted.
After my rest day it was time for me to start my China walk, I plan to walk to Xi'an, to Chongqing to Hanoi, Vietnam, about 3,200 kms/ 2,000 miles. I also plan to start easing down, well after I get to warmer weather; darn there is always a reason to keep working hard!
It seems that Erenhot is a centre for dinosaur enthusiasts as many adorned the highway. That first day I only managed 29kms as I left late and then got stopped at a police checkpoint. Although the cops were extremely courteous it was a source of annoyance that they detained me for over an hour. I waited in their office where they encouraged me to rest. A phone call was made to a fluent English speaker who told me that they wanted to drive me back to Erenhot for the night. When I objected they told me a car would be made available to return me in the morning. I still didn't want to have anything to do with this, as I worried the car would not show up. So I stood my ground and eventually I was allowed to camp behind the police office, I really thought they could have let me sleep in one of the spare bunk beds!
Next morning it was chilly but thanks to the officers I warmed up before leaving as they filled my thermos. There was a little more vegetation in this part of China, which is known as the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Province. Many people I have spoken to in the last few days feel more Mongolian. I have even been greeted with " welcome to Mongolia!"
On my second day I walked 30 kilometres and walked across the divided four-lane highway towards what looked like a sterile government building. I checked it out hoping it would be a cafe or a store and to my surprise it was a drab mini-mart. So I finished my day there. Inside the lady tallied the amount on an abacus and showed me the bill on her calculator. As there was a sit down area I made myself comfortable, charged up my devices and waited until someone asked where I was going to sleep. After showing a picture of my tent to the lady behind the counter, she nodded, I could camp on the veranda.
The mornings were becoming increasingly cold and I find it difficult to get going early. My hard shoulder, a full lane, a paved four-metre lane continued for 104 kilometres. It was joy while it lasted. Then on Sunday I only walked 17 kilometres and stopped at a Sinola petrol station in Saihan Tal. I stopped for so long that in the end I just asked if I could sleep on my air mattress in the kitchen. Instead, I was given a room with a bed and a heater. Luxury! Monday, it was cold, so cold I don't take any photos anymore, besides the scenery is not as interesting as Mongolia, it could be Nebraska, at its worst!
Except that a few trees appeared for a while. That day I made great progress and walked 49 kilometres. I walked the second part of my day pretty fast as it was becoming increasing cold. Later I discovered the temperature was -17 with a wind chill factor equivalent of -23. I kept myself well hydrated. However, every time I took a drink it went straight through me. I have to loss so much and with the wind changing direction and whizzing trucks it's not uncommon to piss on my outer snow pants! Within seconds this turns to a piss icicle! Eventually, I made it to Zhurihe with dribbles from my balaclava quickly freezing it to my face. I had to stick a sock as a temporary warming pad to keep my left ear warm. I made my way to a hotel and was refused. Many cyclists have told me this happens in China and as I used their WC I noted that a lot of rooms were vacant for their doors were open for viewing. The startled lady said something like that she hadn't got the power to register me there. Luckily their was another one a couple of hundred metres away. Stupidly I didn't cover up my face and by the time I arrived my nose had almost freeze dried!
It was a fancy hotel. To me that means a credit card accepted, a card for the door lock and light switch. I was thankful for it and though I was over the proverbial barrel I still bargained for it. I never ever take the first price I am offered. They requested 120 Yuans (7 to the euro) I wrote down 80 and was pleasantly surprised when she said 100! Then when I pulled out a couple of hundred Yuans they tried to say.. " per person an it's a two bed room!"
No way! I stood my ground and got it for 100. Just goes to show always bargain for a hotel room, most times I get something cheaper than first quoted.

My next leg in the Gobi is from Airag to Sainshand, 128 kilometres.
Perhaps a little too far for two days. I am thinking of two and a half or three. Last night on the way into Airag I missed the small side road that led to this town. I kept walking towards a neon sign which is a restaurant. I stopped for dinner and realised I was 1.5km past the town. The nice but photo shy people at the restaurant put me up, thank you 😀 I was able to mend a puncture in comfort also, instead at the side of the road. I have some supplies left over for this stage but have stocked up on more for the road from the restaurant. It's a glorious sunny day and only -6! Most importantly no  cold wind. That was the problem two days ago and why it was so nice and comfortable yesterday.

Once I have enough water I won't starve as I am carrying a lot of food. The problem about cooking is that there is no shelter, only the culverts under the road. Even on a sunny day it gets very cold if I stop too long. I miss those Russian bus shelters!

I made great progress today. I walked about 17km with a fierce tailwind and got to a restaurant at the top of a hill. It was the first services in over 100kms. Unfortunately it was closed, so I sat around the back to have a coffee and shelter from the wind. Just then the owners came along. They invited me into their luxury yurt. Which is about ten meters in diameter. We watched the results of the American election come in on their solar powered satellite television. I will be in Sainshand tonight, my last urban area before the border with China, a further 220 kilometres away.
Saturday 52km
It's was very cold due to a strong headwind. Finished at 3am
I slept in the train station about half way to Airag as planned.
Just had breakfast in a cafe with the nice owners, please see last three photos. Now another 50km, it may snow today
hope to get to a hotel tonight. If anyone wants to sponsor this please see the link on either of my websites. www.myworldwalk.com or www.theworldjog.com/blog no need to have a PayPal account, just a bank card 😀👣 thanks. I gotta walk on, am loving this life.
After Kazakhstan Mongolia is the second largest land locked country in the world, roughly half the size of the former. It's the eighteenth largest in the world, after Iran and before Peru. Known as the land of the eternal blue sky, it continues to impress me. Currently I am 75 kms north of Choir; almost half way across the country and not too far from the start of the Gobi desert. It's my favourite country on the walk. Though an impoverished nation there are so many kind and thoughtful people.
(Photos to follow with a better internet connection)

Due to a fierce wind it was pretty cold when I rolled out of Ulaan Baator last Sunday. So cold that I had to stop in a cafe just to check my gps in comfort. Not a good start as I marched towards the Gobi! Eventually, I found the road and battled with heavy traffic, too much for this narrow and battered road to cope with. That night I made it to a petrol station where I camped. Next day, Halloween could have been tricky but it was a treat. This  blog could almost read like a thank you manual, suffice to say that I got to a small town and when I stopped at a petrol station that didn't have a market that the nice ladies brought me into their office for tea and a delicious bowl of beef stew, it could have been just like my mam cooked every Wednesday!
That really pumped me up. I felt like walking a big day and I did, 62 kilometres, just shy of forty miles. I finished at 4 am at a petrol station and awoke the attendant to ask if I could camp. I also left my headlight with her to charge overnight. In the morning I was invited in for tea and soup. I took full advantage of their hospitality by repairing a puncture by their heater. So far it's mostly the mornings and evenings that are uncomfortably cold, that is when I am packing up and pitching my tent. Other than that, despite the temperatures which I have posted, its a sunny chill. I am obviously well wrapped up. I now use map me.com as my mapping source, I have found it to be more convenient than Google Maps. With this I don't need an Internet connection, I just download a map when I have a connection and can check it when I don't have service. Map Me shows where food and petrol stops are, so I usually check in advance. I have found it to be fairly accurate, but happily there are often extra locations which are not listed; mostly mom and pop type operators.
I would like to be in China in two weeks and I need to walk around 40 kilometres per day. There will be days when it's prudent to stop early (as happened the two following days) So, that's what the massive days are for, to make up for my slackness.
After such a long day in which I passed my global 9,000th kilometre I was disappointed that the place I camped in was only two kilometres from a hotel. This happens so much on the walk as mentioned in the last update also.
Mongolia, thanks to galloping Genghis Khan was once the worlds largest empire stretched all the way to Europe. The country has since been under the rule of the Qing dynasty in China. They then aligned  and influenced by the former Soviet Union for seventy years after they helped free Mongolia from their Chinese shackles; more so for fear of Chinese reprisals. Over the years the  Soviets rebuilt many cities, like Darkhan, I was told. Other gifts included whole apartment blocks. With much of Eastern Europe and Central Asia gaining independence, Mongolia decided to ditch their Soviet style governance for multi-party democracy. The country could be economically in a healthy position had they the expertise to capitalise on its huge untapped resources like gold and copper. They asked foreign companies to help with the mining process and has been cut a raw deal. This was an issue in the last general election when the people lost confidence in the previous administration. Newly elected Prime Minister, Jargaltulgyn Erdenebat of the Mongolian People's Party has been left a difficult  task in steering the country back to prosperous times of the mining boom of about ten years ago.


This is the yurt which a very caring family let me sleep in last night! This morning they brought me over to theirs for breakfast of porridge with beef chunks and cheese. Theirs is the first one in the pictures. Mine is the one with the bed and wood burning stove and I was standing outside it.
It was such a thrill! Thanks to Scott Richards for updating my world walk map. Also a long overdue thanks to Tom Denniss for making a few enquirers about my Vietnam and Australian visas on my behalf. Tom has also been great at helping me with some  research which I kinda sub-contracted to him for a whopping $0 fee! And final thanks to my wonderful sister Ann Salmon for making a serious of phone calls to successfully sort out some serious grief I was having. Love you and miss you little sis 😀 xx
Tonight I am in Choir.


My route for the next two days. Choir to Airag. People at the hotel here thought I was saying Iraq! It's 100 kilometres and after my three easy days of 32,34 and 28 it's time to get the feet out! I see nothing on the map, only a village way off my route. There is a remote train station roughly half way, so perhaps I will camp there. Locals tell me there are no cafes but drivers can't be relied on, my experience has almost always been they don't notice the small stuff. I am also told the Gobi begins in Airag, so I guess this desolate 100 km spot is just a warm up, I will see. A half week ago I was trying to stop my water bottles from freezing and either taking them into cafes to defrost on the radiators or just buying more water. Now some people are walking around in tee-shirts! Talk soon, now it's time to stock up and get out the sun hat and sunscreen. Remember that life is precious and that early cancer screening saves lives.

I didn't answer a question about how the nomads fuel their fires correctly. Mostly animal dung and coal. There is a coal mine in the Gobi.
A couple of low distance days walking mostly in tough snow and wind conditions took me to Bayangol. My progress was slow but I was feeling confident that I would escape Mongolia before the really harsh weather hits. October and November are said to be cold months, December is when the cold really begins to bite. By this stage, the snow had melted for though the lows were around -10-12 C a strong sun fought its way through patches of black clouds. That night I made it to a cafe where the staff allowed me to sleep on a sofa in an upstairs lounge. As mentioned before when I want to eat in a restaurant I have a few techniques and depending on my mood, I decide which one I will inflict on the staff! By far the easiest one is to show a photograph of a dish. Believe it or not, the Moo Moo, Oink, Oink, Baa Baa or clucking with my flapping wings is often greeted by blank stares. Once or twice the cashier tried to charge me for a strangers breakfast when I pointed at another diner's plate and then to myself meaning ' I want that too' This has been taken for... " You want to pay for his meal!" Then there is the picking the most expensive thing on the menu and waiting to see what arrives! This is obviously only used in countries where it's affordable. However, that has its drawbacks as more than one occasion I have ended up with an aperitif with little eating! My latest technique is to throw a dart at the wall menu, except I don't carry around darts. I modified this by closing my eyes and throwing my hand at the menu, as seen in one of my photos! On that occasion, I ended up with a bowl of beef soup :(
Next morning at a village coffee stop I met a woman called Tuya from Ulan Baator and after we exchanged contact information she offered to take some of my baggage on ahead. I decided I would give her Karma and just walk with a backpack containing some food, my sleeping bag, and a lightweight tent. However, no sooner had she pulled away when I realized that this was a mistake! My days of humping a heavy backpack were well and truly over! That day I struggled to 27 kilometres and camped in a field behind a ditch. Finding discrete camping places is not as easy as in Russia due to the lack of forestry. In the middle of the night, I awoke to the sound of a dog and a galloping horseman! Luckily he rode in a different direction. In the morning I walked to the top of a hill where there was a cafe yurt, a round nomadic tent where a friendly man and his daughter cooked me my breakfast of four hard boiled eggs, some fried bread with minced meat and coffee. It was such a pity I hadn't gone that bit further the previous night as I am sure I could have slept there, or at least camped in a secure spot on their property. The friendly man helped me put my pack on for I was struggling badly. It was a long day, mind over matter, embarrassing pain and discomfort. That nightI made it to Jacks Cafe which was a popular stopping point for tourists and truck drivers. I could barely move when I took my pack off. It was a long 99 kilometres to UB, how would I manage, I had thought I would have made better progress, how wrong I was. I decided to sleep there. later that evening Tuya phoned to see how I was. She had been concerned as she hadn't heard from me in two days, mainly due to a poor telephone signal and my phone battery crashing. Previously she had been an English language teacher to the manager of Jacks Coffee and after a phone call had arranged a complimentary nights stay in their adjoining hotel! When she said that she would help ,e in whatever way she could I asked her to please come back with Karma! The weather was due to change and as she didn't like driving in inclement weather to her credit she hired a taxi man who made the 200 kilometre round trip from the capital with Karma, all for 24 Euro, and I was only too willing to pay!
I walked 36 happy kilometres that day, reflecting on how much easier it is pushing a cart, even up steep hills. I would think long and hard before I abandoned my buddy again! I made it to a restaurant where I produced the note that Tuya had written for me saying that I was walking around the world. On the other side a request in Mongolian to sleep there. I pointed to a spot and asked if I could camp. No sooner had I walked over to the patch of ground when the security man invited me inside for tea, bread, sugar, and butter sandwiches. They were a friendly bunch of lads and after I pointed to a picture of a bear on the wall I was brought outside to see that they actually had a small zoo. One of the lads went inside a bear cage and it was obvious that the bear didn't appreciate being awoken at midnight for he was pretty cranky. There was also a couple of cages containing wolves. I was given a sofa to sleep on that night and it took me a long time to sleep, for the bear growled his discontent at being disturbed for a long time after.
In the morning I got a better tour of the zoo and then by the time I got started it was almost noon, for the family insisted I stayed for a long time-consuming breakfast. Mongolians are fond of their meat, I don't think it's a destination for vegetarians! I have been told that one of the reasons they eat vast quantities is because not only do they need the extra protein because of the harsh climate, but also because there is a glut on the price as so many farmers want to quickly due to the short lifespan of the animals that die because of the cold.
That day the weather was pleasant and I walked long and hard. By eleven o'clock I got to a petrol station on the outskirts of the Mongolian capital, home to half of the landlocked countries 2.8 million people. I asked the woman who worked there to call Tuya and while I waited she invited me inside for a bowl of beef stew and tea, for it was a bitter cold night. Tuya'shouse was about 10 kilometres and despite the offer of a bed in the petrol station office I walked on for Tuya understood I need to get to the Vietnamese embassy the next morning. So when she insisted on wanting to help me in whatever way she could and it was not too late for her; I said thatI would meet her in two hours on the road. Sure enough, she was there, along with Tsogolo, the taxi driver who had driven her to Jacks Coffee a couple of nights ago, for he had become curious of my mission and now we were all friends! They escorted me to Tuya's house where we celebrated my arrival until 4 am. I had walked 55 kilometres that day. It was difficult getting up to go to the Vietnam embassy that morning! First I had to get visa photos and sure enough, Tuya knew the place. thanks to the Vietnam Second Secretary Mr. Do Dinh Tu for rushing through my multi-entry visa. I picked it up the next day, Friday and saved me a couple of days.
Mongolia world walk blog 1

Latest: 8,738 kilometres for 212 road days. I have taken a lot of photos but am experiencing downloading problems. Hopefully, I can post them later. Also sorry for any typos as it's almost 3 am.

Mongolia has been a country which has excite me for over thirty years. The land of Ghenkis Khan, yurts and nomads tending their livestock in harsh winter conditions. 
What doesn't excite me is the money! 2,500 tengets for a euro, and for even a small amount of euro one gets huge wads of the Mongolian currency. Normally I am pretty good at conversion rates and was proud of myself at picking up a 20,000 note an saying to the banker " More or less.. Eight Euro!" 
A little later in a store I was doing what I normally do with coins, I asked the cashier to count out my notes. Yes it's a head wrecker!
The countries economy is pretty much in the toilet, it is not so long ago when it was amongst the fastest growing in the world due to a mining boom, but now with a slow down in the Chinese economy Mongolia's currency is the worst performing currency in the world. 
My first day in the country after I crossed from Russia I was so excited. The road I am walking on is narrow and could best be described as secondary, but to me anything is better than sand. I walked up a long steep mountain pass and back down again. I was headed for Suhbaatar which was an easy 24 kilometre day. 
I had planned to pay a visit to an Irish bar there but by the time my hotel sorted out the hot water for my shower it was too late and I didn't bother. 
Though there was no mention of snow in the forecast the next morning I was walking out of town in it. That day I put in a big 43 kilometre day. I was well wrapped. On my feet I wore woollen socks and waterproof running shoes that I wore in last years North Pole marathon. No laces, just pull cords which prevents water getting in. At that race they kept me warm and dry at -50C, with the wind chill factor. The race advice was to wear a base layer, a fleece and a windbreaker. You should feel just a slight chill, with experience you will gain more confidence. Too much clothing causes overheating and of course sweat can lead to hypothermia. I believe it's more problematic for the runner, however the walker still needs to be careful. I have two base layers, two fleeces a lightweight jacket and a windbreaker. I use the layer system, pulling on what I feel comfortable with. I have a selection of balaclavas, bandanas and wollen hats. And just to cover all eventualities I have two pairs of waterproof neoprene socks. On my hands I wear mitts which keep me toasty. I also have a pair of heavy duty gloves which are fur lined and I use them as a pullover my mitts to keep them dry and the wind away. I wear snow pants just about 24/7 for the only things I take off once in my sleeping bag are my shoes and windbreaker. Sometimes I use two sleeping bags, I push my summer bag inside my regular one. I sleep on a Therma-rest (Irish made) air mattress which I love. Underneath that I have a foam mat. It's important to get up as much as possible off the cold ground. I always sleep well and am never cold. 
I also pull on crampons onto my shoes. The spikes helps greatly when the road is slick.
On the road I met a German man called Andy. He is driving a camper van around the world. He gave me the most welcoming news that the Gobi desert is now warm. I look forward to that. That night I made it to a toll booth which had a nearby restaurant. There was nobody about so I just camped there. 
It took me a long while to get going next day as I waited for the chill to leave the cold morning air before I got out of my tent. I wasted so much time it's crazy. If only I could start early, I would finish earlier, a vicious circle I have tried so hard to break, but I really am a night owl at heart. My pace has dropped to between 3 and 4 km per hour as much of day I have to push Karma through slush, which is hard going. I also carry a heavy backpack. That day after 26 kilometres I made it to a small settlement which had a couple of yurts and a barking dog. I pitched my tent on the edge of their  field. In the morning a man came over to check me out blowing cigarette smoke into my tent as he spoke. Usually I have Karma parked outside and just zip up the mosquito netting so as I can keep an eye on her. 
Walking towards Darham  I had the most wonderful day. All day long I passed fields with picturesque mountain vistas. Cowboys rounded up their cattle which often strayed onto the road. There was also a herd of about forty camels which grazed in the almost barren fields. There was also the horrific sight of a dead cow surrounded by buzzards.
This is a problem for Mongolians. 
If the winter after a summer drought is harsh many people lose their herds as there is insufficient fodder for the grass can't grow in the drought. This is called a 'dzud' The situation becomes pretty dire in harsh weather where cows and sheep literally die due to the lack of nourishment as they are unable to cope. A few years ago 8 million cattle were wiped out. Farmers often have to sell their cars just to pay for extra hay. Many of these people depend totally on their livestock to survive and end up in poverty due to the harsh climatic conditions. 

Eventually, I made it to Darham and found a really nice motel.
On my left are the Urals and to my right the sign says it's the start of Siberia :)
Thanks for great support today from Leonoid, Sergey Komelkov​ and Dennis as I walk through Chelyabinsk at the moment. I am walking towards Kurgan and Irkutsk