Mongolia and back overland – The route
To be honest (as promised) the route was sketched before the actual decision to go (well, sort of, but I think you know what I mean). Just to have a rough idea of what was laying ahead, a quick Google Maps session showed the approximate length required: somewhere around 25.000 Km. So there was work to be done, but a definitive go: it was doable in the time I had available.
The initial plan was to go through Republic of Moldova, then Odessa in Ukraine and from there through Russia all the way to Baikal. A “quick and dirty”, fast route to reach Mongolia ASAP. After Mongolia there were in order: Russia again, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey, Bulgaria and back to Romania. More specifically this route, available here.
But (of course there is a “but”, there is always a “but”), it meant a lot of riding through Russia and I had no certainty I had enough time to cross Mongolia as well, and still stay within the 30 days of the touristic visa. Plus there’s A LOT of riding through the looooong and boooooring (I thought so at the time) stretches of southern Russia, not quite so appealing.
So here it is, take two of the route, available here. I have incorporated some of my friends and online advisers advise (yeah, pun intended :P), mainly to spend some more time in Kazakhstan, versus Russia. And, more importantly, to start the route in reverse: Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, Russia again, Kazakhstan, ferry over the Caspian Sea and then back towards home, with a loop via Odessa and Chisinau. It was looking fine and, more importantly, it did included a lot of good suggestions (and it was actually possible to ride, unlike take 1 which had some impossible quirks about it). Thanks a lot for all the help I have received from this forum: https://motociclism.ro/topic/751282-siberia-mongolia-stan-uri-2018/ – a lot of really useful stuff.
And that gets me to the take 3 (and the last one) of the pre-made routes. Since I did not get the Turkmenistan visa in the end, and Iran was already out of the cards for this year’s trip, I had to do some adjustments. The “final” version is available here. Main changes: skipping Iran, Turkmenistan, Odessa and Chisinau and adding some central parts of Kazakhstan: Baikonur Cosmodrome and some more time to spare in Uzbekistan. Other than that just some small bits and pieces, some of which some turned out to be real gems: Song Kul lake, Charyn Canyon, etc. So the final route was the following: Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan (Armenia was postponed for the return way while already on the trip), ferry over to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Mongolia, Russian Federation, Kazakhstan (yeah, the third time…), ferry over to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Georgia (there is no open border crossing between Armenia and Turkey or Azerbaijan), Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania.
Since I’m honest all the way and this is an actual “after” post, the real final route was a bit different. It’s available here and except for the Mongolia part (and a bit before and after) this map is based on actual GPS tracks. A wee bit under 30.000 Km – so I still have my skills of lengthening any routes that I’m planning :D. My Garmin Zumo tricked me into losing some of the recorded tracks, so the Mongolia parts had to be recreated manually.
So here it is, the long story of my short planning for a not so long ride :D. Next article will be about the visas required, a logistic nightmare in itself…