A few years ago I travelled from Australia to Switzerland without flying, which involved buying a shitty old Honda in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, and riding it across the country and into Siberia, where I got a lift to Moscow and then rode the bike on through Europe. I spent a lot of time filling out paperwork and waiting around in Russian workshops.

I bought the bike on an impulse because I wanted to see Mongolia properly, which wasn't possible if I took the Trans-Siberian. I'd ridden before, but never off-road. It was a steep learning curve and also expensive. The bike fell over and snapped the clutch handle on the very first evening, so I lay in my tent and stared at the fabric all sad and depressed while some wolves howled and sniffed around my tent.

Although fun, the trip was also challenging. The bike broke down just about every day while I was trying to navigate (basically following power lines) and learn to ride off-road. At one point the bike fell on me and I was trapped for a while in the middle of nowhere until I could get my leg free. Then the bike didn't turn back on. There was also problems with getting enough fuel - I had to carry spare in a jerry can and an empty Sprite bottle.

Overall though it was a great way to see the country. I met some very cool people, had some great experiences and even watched Justin Bieber on tv in someone's teepee.

Other than buying and riding the shit old bike, I was also held up at gunpoint, confronted a thief, stayed with nomadic reindeer herders and Russian scientists, met more wolves, paid bribes, and more. All in all it was very interesting.

Some more details are in the original post over in r/motorcycles.

Proof: Here's an album of photos of the ride from Mongolia to Switzerland - https://imgur.com/a/Gkbe91a

And here is a short memoir I just published in digital ($1) and paperback - https://books2read.com/overland

AMA

Comments: 606 • Responses: 84  • Date: 

cartwheel_guard_pass415 karma

That’s cool man. Were there certain stretches of road where you’d ride and just not encounter other people for days? Were the paths you took pretty common and frequently traveled by others?

youwen422 karma

In northern Mongolia and parts of the west I saw maybe one or two other vehicles per day, but I tried to stick to the most used tracks as much as possible to keep the risk level down. I followed truck tracks and power lines, so there were only really two days that were remote. The other days there were vehicles every hour or two, although they could pass me several kilometres away (no fixed roads).

ChainedMangoJango180 karma

The roads there are crazy I did a exposition there like 6 years ago and roads turn to nothing in an instance I had no idea how driver knew where to turn. So many horses though would love to go back.

youwen191 karma

Yeah and some roads change every year. Every town I got to, I had to ask people about the latest route to the next town. Maps from the year before were basically useless.

travelquestionguy70 karma

How were you able to communicate that with random local villagers? I doubt they’d speak English or German.

youwen119 karma

mostly with hand gestures. sometimes it didn't work, but its pretty amazing how much you can communicate with basic words and a lot of hand movement.

travelquestionguy59 karma

And they were all willing to assist a random traveler? Any stories about people being noncooperative?

I’m guessing it’s a really rare sight for them to see a foreigner on a beat up motorcycle, starting a conversation or asking for something must’ve been awkward, especially with the language barrier. Did it feel that way to you too? How do you get over it?

youwen330 karma

one guy did offer me tea and then stole my iPad mini while i wasn't looking. i realised a few hours later, knowing I'd packed it that morning and there were no other possibilities, and rode back to his house to get it back. he pretended like nothing had happened until I banged the table. then he went and got it out of a cupboard, under a pile of clothes.

Halomir120 karma

That’s bold going back!

youwen165 karma

I was so angry at myself for letting it happen that I didn’t think much about it on the road back. I took myself by surprise when I thumped the table. Took him by surprise too.

youwen156 karma

Mostly, although Europe was harder. People were less willing to help some random guy with a broken bike.

It was a fairly rare sight, I got a lot of attention. It wasn't awkward. Mostly people were interested in my beard or my bike, and would mostly laugh or offer to buy the bike off me.

Although one guy came across me doing a poo somewhere on the steppe (there's no trees or anything to provide cover). That was super, super embarrassing.

VinceIsBoss142 karma

Why were you held up at gunpoint?

youwen355 karma

I actually walked into it. It was in Laos. This local guy with a big spider tattooed across his chest got in an argument with two American backpackers. He followed them back to their hotel (also my hotel) and was holding them in the lobby with a small pistol when I walked in. He held the three of us, but I told him I just wanted to go get food so eventually he let me go (he spoke English). I brought some locals back with me and together we were able to calm him down.

In reality he was scared of the Americans. One of them was like 6’5” and built like a brick shithouse. Apparently he’d lifted the Laotian off his scooter (before he went and got the gun) and thrown him on the ground.

youwen459 karma

I should add a bit more backstory. The two Americans went to stay in this guy's hotel, which would've been basically a concrete shell of some kind. They checked in and went up to their room and found there was no running water, so like anyone would do, they left the hotel. They hadn't paid yet.

Spiderman followed them out, yelling and getting angry, and started throwing bricks at the Americans while some mate of his tried to hit them with a scooter. One of the backpackers was a farm kid from Iowa, fucking massive guy. Eventually he just had enough, and apparently grabbed the dude off the scooter and just launched him through the air. So Spidey ran off back to his place, got the pistol and chased the Americans into the hotel I was in. The hotel refused to call the police because 'this is Laos, the police don't do anything'.

Several hours the police showed up to take a statement from the backpackers, and the two officers just scrolled through facebook while listening to the story. Sad really.

DotaAndKush134 karma

If you were headed to Switzerland from Mongolia and ended up in Laos I think you made a few wrong turns /s

youwen121 karma

I went from Australia to Switzerland without flying. The bike part through Mongolia/Russia/Europe was the last six weeks.

*oops, sarcasm. woosh

DropMeAnOrangeBeam20 karma

How long did it take to get from Australia to what ever port you arrived at? I didn't even think there were still passenger boats that would go that far, really.

EDIT: I mean, aside from like cruise ships.

youwen62 karma

I took a two-week cruise from Perth to Singapore, stopping in Bali and some places in Malaysia/Thailand. It was expensive and pretty weird to do by myself, but it was literally the only way I could find of leaving Australia without flying.

PhnomPenny14 karma

Darwin over to East Timor? I think that's a route.

youwen11 karma

Possibly, I didn’t come across it though. Is it by a private boat?

Kar-Man108 karma

Do you still have the motorcycle?

youwen415 karma

No, unfortunately. I parked it in a corporate car park near my folks’ place in Switzerland and it got towed. To be honest it solved a lot of problems. I couldn’t sell it there because it was too small and shit and I had no way of taking it to a yard to get destroyed. I still don’t know what happened to it. Part of me likes to imagine someone else hopped on and rode it back to Mongolia.

PhnomPenny93 karma

Any issues with getting it until Europe? Ever asked for a license?

youwen261 karma

Yeah massive issues on the Latvian side of the border crossing. Took hours and they eventually just straight up asked for a bribe. I couldn’t believe it. They threatened to keep me in no-mans land between the EU and Russia.

Ghettobooster133 karma

Ooh, hurts to hear that, sorry the behavior of our border agents! The bribe culture has been on a steady decline over the last few decades and, had you reported the agent, they would have landed in some hot water.

youwen118 karma

He was just a bad egg I think. I wish I had known how to report him. At the time I just wanted the problem to be over!

iamtotallynotme69 karma

It couldn't have been one bad egg. Most likely the whole thing was orchestrated until they got exasperated with you not figuring out your part of the script.

youwen176 karma

He walked over to me as I was standing at the bike and goes, ‘how do we solve this?’

I looked at him and was like ‘I don’t know mate, you’re the border guard, you tell me.’

‘30 euro.’

Oh. I see.

LethophobicKarma33 karma

Holy shit. How much did you have to pay?

youwen126 karma

They asked for 30 euro. After they pulled the 'we won't let you in' threat I gave up and paid 15. It seemed so stupid for such a small amount of money.

PhnomPenny40 karma

Haha, I would be happy with that kind of bribe considering you're probably not legal, so that's a good thing to keep in mind if I come that way myself sometime.

youwen117 karma

They said it was because 'Mongolia is a very far away country'. I said sure, but it's still a damn country and these are my damn documents. It didn't cut it.

bart_is_not_a_horse9 karma

I'm surprised border guards for entering the EU/Schengen area are taking bribes. The people they let in are free to go to Norway or Germany at that point.

I would've thought by joining the Schengen agreement they would've been required to crack down on that sort of thing. Oh well.

youwen4 karma

I was also very surprised and had this exact thought process at the time.

MeatFetus104 karma

How physically demanding was it riding in mongolia? Was it mostly off road or just crappy roads? It has always been my dream to buy a cheap motorcycle there and just explore only Mongolia. I haven't been able to ride in 4 years because of a lower back injury from work. I hope to one day recover enough to do it but i haven't done much research into how rough it truly is there. Cheers

youwen122 karma

Physically not too bad on a light bike, but it was mostly off-road or on very sandy roads. Sand was the worst. I kept having to put my feet down. If you are more experienced and on a better bike I imagine it would be a lot easier.

The other really, really draining thing was the corrugation on well-used roads. It felt like I was sitting on a jackhammer.

So if you have a lot of experience and a bike with good suspension, I'd say it's possible. I wore a lower back brace for support. I bought it in UB.

MeatFetus42 karma

Thanks for the insight! Kind of a broad question but how was the price range on bikes there? I visited brazil and it seemed like most bikes had less guts than an average scooter in Canada, and if you wanted something that was over 150cc the price pretty much equaled to the cost of buying one back home.

youwen87 karma

You can get Chinese bikes at the Black Market for around A$2k (tourist price). The advantage is that spare parts are everywhere all over the country. But they're huge and heavy, and can develop engine problems, which would be a nightmare out in the sticks. I had no off road experience so wanted a lighter bike.

For foreign bikes, pretty much the only place in UB for used ones is the KTM store. They resell bikes people ride there from Europe. They start at around A$4k. Mine was 3.5, they gave it to me for 3 and were super helpful arranging all the kit and documents. Above and beyond really.

Yes, same in Mongolia. Anything over 150cc was far more expensive than the equivalent in Australia - and much shitter.

numbPinkyToe97 karma

Which languages do you speak?

youwen152 karma

English and a bit of German, which was handy in Russia.

numbPinkyToe91 karma

thanks. Good to know that your trip was possible without you speaking russian.

Now I am curios. Is German that common in Russia?

youwen151 karma

Must be, someone there told me it was basically the only foreign language offered in school during the Soviet Union.

Widdlius92 karma

Hey Ewen,

What were your thoughts when you pulled up to the last stop in Switzerland?

Which country that you travelled to had the best food? And why was it Steinegrill in CH?

Cheers, Z.

youwen65 karma

aaaahhhh z! hahahaha

my thoughts were 'where the fuck is z and why is he not in steine with jp'

reverber861 karma

What was your favorite part of the trip?

youwen163 karma

Definitely staying with the reindeer herders in Mongolia and with the Russian family in Siberia. They were so welcoming and hospitable despite limited resources. This was also the most ‘local’ part of the trip, a real insight into local ways of life. I keep in touch with the Russians and intend to go back and find the herders again.

reverber856 karma

What did they feed you? I've seen a documentary about Mongolia and they eat this crazy goat in its own stomach thing that looks terrible but they love it.

youwen116 karma

Honestly I didn’t really know. Lots of boiled reindeer, lots of boiled mystery meat with rice, and sometimes weird things floating in soup. And hard cheese. No goat stomach thing though. That sounds nuts.

reverber831 karma

Was any of it good? It sounds wild.

youwen64 karma

It wasn’t bad overall, but I wouldn’t say it was the tastiest thing ever. Satisfying though.

reverber825 karma

What made you want to do the trip?

youwen48 karma

I'd wanted to go to Mongolia for years, and liked the idea of going from A to B without flying. It took me a few years to save the money and find the time.

Skiie56 karma

Props to you wanting to see mongolia. I too want to see that country one day.

Overall in costs for the entire trip how much money do you think you spent?

How long was the trip?

Are mongolians really the type to just invite you into their tent for tea?

which language was most popular during the entire trip?

What weather hindered you the most?

What did you do for toilet paper?

youwen86 karma

For the entire trip, about A$10k. But a lot of that was sunk into big ticket items, like A$2.5k on a cruise to leave Australia (to avoid flying) and between A$3.5-4.5k on the bike itself and associated costs (foreign bikes are so expensive in UB). I also spent about A$400 or something on fuel crossing Russia in a truck. That country is just so insanely huge.

The whole trip took 6 months. I was on the bike for about 6 weeks.

Yes, they absolutely are. I was only able to do this trip because of the people that helped me on the way. I owe it all to them - hence the dedication on the first page of the book. That being said, one guy did invite me in for tea and then stole my iPad mini while I was distracted. I realised a few hours later, rode back to his house and took it back off him. He'd hid it in a cupboard.

In Mongolia, most people spoke English or Russian. German was also quite popular.

There was no big weather problem, but I had a lot of problems with spring meltwater in Mongolia. it blocked a lot of routes so I had to take a big detour and skirt the top of the Gobi.

I brought my own toilet paper and tried to go in small villages as much as possible.

mavericm121 karma

do you have a fear of flying you keep mentioning to avoid flying?

youwen46 karma

no, just decided to set that goal as a challenge.

mcatech56 karma

How was cellular service during your trip? Did you ever use GPS on your phone during your trip?

youwen63 karma

Rubbish tbh, although sometimes enough to get a position on maps.me, which served as a rough gps. Mostly though it was educated guesswork and a lot of map to ground work, one village at a time.

Skoparov43 karma

Maybe i'm missing something, but couldn't you just use gps\glonass navigation though? I mean, cellular service improves the precision of positioning through triangulation and whatnot, but you can still rely on satellites pretty much everywhere.

youwen55 karma

Yeah I could've probably but all I had was an Iphone 4.

*edit to add a bit more. Even though I could often see a blue dot on the phone, it was difficult to read local topography and match it up to what was around me and what road I needed to be on. The roads on the GPS didn't match the actual roads, and often the terrain was fairly featureless. So there was a large margin of error that meant I couldn't rely solely on maps.me. It felt safer to follow trucks/power lines.

vbcbandr54 karma

Doesn't Ulaanbaatar have some of the worst air pollution in the world? Why? Is everyone using literal clumps of coal in their stoves to heat and cook?

youwen80 karma

Yes, in winter I think it's the worst anywhere in the world. And yep, exactly - the outskirts of the city are ger slums and coal is the only fuel. I think it's also got to do with the local geography, the city is in a bowl.

buckwurst24 karma

21st worst it would seem https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most-polluted_cities_by_particulate_matter_concentration

I think these are yearly averages, but to be fair, most of North Asia, from Shandong up is filthy in winter

youwen15 karma

that's better than i thought, maybe i saw 'most polluted capital city' or something. it really sucks for the people living there

Skoparov47 karma

Man, that's so cool. Kind of makes you think how much you miss living a regular 5\2 life. By the way, how did you cross the Russian border? I mean, the paperwork and whatnot, I guess you need to have a visa to enter the country.

youwen122 karma

I knew before leaving that any route I took would need to pass through Russia at some point. The only embassy outside Australia that would give me a visa was in Cambodia, so I picked the visa up there. It was bureaucratic but not too difficult. I was lucky with the bike, I met a Russian friend waiting for the Mongol-Russian border to open. He helped me navigate all the border formalities. They were very welcoming in Russia though. The gate into Russia was guarded by this mean looking soldier. He waved me over just to say 'welcome to russia' and he hoped I had a great time.

bippity1214 karma

What dates did you put down for your Russian visa? Presumably you didn't know the precise arrival date, did that matter when applying for it?

youwen24 karma

From memory it was one month to be used within the next six months. So exact arrival date didn’t matter.

black_flag_4ever45 karma

Did you test drive other motorcycles first?

youwen108 karma

Not in Mongolia. This was literally the only bike in the whole city that was in my budget, and wasn't from China. I paid the premium for a foreign bike because I'd heard the Chinese ones get a lot of engine problems, and that was one thing I really wanted to avoid. Even though it broke down a lot the engine never had any problems, so it was worth it.

PicsOnlyMe53 karma

Chinese bikes are shit!

The back wheel of my Zhongshen fell off while I was going around a fucking corner.

youwen35 karma

Well, I'm glad to know I made the right choice because I wasn't sure at the time. Thanks!

i actually can't believe the wheel came off. that's insane.

PicsOnlyMe19 karma

Awesome trip mate. I might just follow in your footsteps soon, in a Landcruiser though 😊

youwen14 karma

much more comfortable.

APicketFence28 karma

Are you a fan of Top Gear and The Grand Tour?

youwen48 karma

I used to watch Top Gear a lot but never made the transition across to the grand tour. I loved their old specials, especially Bolivia.

sabre25228 karma

They do some great specials for Grand Tour. Starting next season, it's all going to be exclusively special-type episodes.

youwen14 karma

I’ll have to start watching again, that’s great.

907flyer40 karma

The Grand Tour actually just did a special where they ride across Mongolia in a car they built from scratch. Best episode of either show I’ve seen yet. (Last season, 2nd to last episode)

youwen12 karma

now i'll have to watch it! that's awesome

50MillionChickens16 karma

Please tell me you've watched the Long Way Round with Ewan McGregor and his mate biking all the way through Mongolia/Asia.

youwen20 karma

This is what inspired me to go to Mongolia, back when I was a kid.

Miserable_Bugger20 karma

If you say you went from Oz to Switzerland without flying....how did you get from Oz to (presumably) China/SE Asia?

Never mind, I’ve read more and see you took a cruise!

youwen17 karma

yeah, princess cruises. it was pretty odd but the only way I could do it.

Miserable_Bugger11 karma

I’m friends with Ozzie travel author Peter Moore. He tried to get from London back to Oz without flying (as chronicled in his book ‘The Wrong Way Home’ - great book) and he just could not find any way of getting from SE Asia back to northern Australia, and ended up having to fly.

youwen18 karma

Yeah I was so lucky the cruise was leaving when it did. I searched all kinds of things - crew positions on small yachts, passenger on a cargo ship, etc. Nothing. If that cruise wasn't leaving Perth I would've had to fly, no doubt about it.

IamGenghisKhan18 karma

How did you get the required Visas? And how did you do immigration when you crossed international borders on a dirt bike presumably from in the middle of nowhere.

youwen35 karma

I got most visas at the border crossings, except Myanmar (embassy in Bangkok), Russia and China (embassies in Phnom Penh).

I had a lot of help from locals at immigration. I got every document I had translated into Russian so I basically just hit every customs officer with a wall of paperwork. They got what they needed, except for one guy that asked for a bribe.

Decker10818 karma

Did the journey change your world view and values?

Your story kind of reminds me of this Argentinian guy who made a similar bike trip throughout South America and ended up becoming a revolutionary.

youwen34 karma

I think it made me more confident. I used to avoid confrontation like the plague but now I feel more able to say what I think. It also made the world feel bigger in some ways and smaller in others. Bigger in that people's lives are so different: smaller because now I can just about visualise how the land and climate gradually changes from Singapore to Switzerland.

chesterluno18 karma

What's your dream bike?

youwen36 karma

we've got an 88 year old sunbeam in the family, it's heavy af but I'd have to say it's probably my dream bike to ride

Dildonaut42012 karma

And what would you say is the best bike for such a trip? Also what gear do you feel is absolutely essential?

I plan on doing something like this in the future, might as well gather some info

youwen38 karma

It's a balance between weight and power. Lighter bikes don't get bogged, but this one couldn't handle altitude and was so frustratingly slow on motorways. Somewhere around 500cc is probably ideal depending on where you're going.

Essential gear - helmet, emergency beacon, very warm sleeping bag, very warm clothing, gloves, map, gas bottle and cooker to boil water.

things I didn't have but wished I did - different size screwdrivers, warmer clothing, spare fuses for the bike.

things I had and wished I didn't - too much useless clothing

Dildonaut42013 karma

Thanks for the answers. If I may, some more questions. Any trouble getting food and water in Mongolia, or was there always some village every day or two, how did you did pay for stuff? Do they accept good old reliable dollar?

And how did you break it to your mom, that you are about to ride across 2 continents without a reliable way to contact anyone, without her killing you on the spot?

youwen20 karma

There was always a village, never more than two days. I paid with Mongolian tugrik.

Honestly, I actually didn't tell my mum what my plan was until I'd already left, and even then I kept the details sparse, just telling her what she needed to know and updating by whatsapp as frequently as possible. She knew I had an emergency beacon so that helped ease the nerves.

tegan8r15 karma

Did you need to report to any sort of customs or anything while riding through various countries? Or was it somewhat free reign unless you were pulled over? This sounds like an amazing way to travel man, nice work!!! :-)

youwen38 karma

Thanks! No need to report to customs in each country. I actually never got pulled over, even while riding at 60 kph on the autobahn with a Mongolian license plate roped to the back of my pack. So free reign.

There was still a lot of paperwork though. Once I entered Russia with the bike I had to leave with it as well. That was a strong motivator. But there was always people at the customs houses willing to help out.

tegan8r10 karma

That's actually really cool to know!! Not a bad way to travel at all it seems. Does this mean you could get away with staying as long as you wanted in each country? What was the total duration of your travels?

That's awesome you had support along the way. I feel the universe always provides, even if there's scary moments.

youwen21 karma

No, unfortunately. Each visa has a time limit, generally a month. Some countries are more relaxed if you stay over that limit (Thailand) whilst others will give you a hard time (Russia). So technically you could hang around but it would make leaving a whole lot harder. I travelled for 6 months all up.

So much support. It was nuts. I owe people so much and it was frustrating that there wasn't more I could do for them at the time.

tegan8r8 karma

So you did require a visa for each? Yeah leaving would become difficult but I was picturing just crossing borders and maybe being able to get away with it haha. I'm an Aussie that really hasn't done as much travelling as I'd like to yet. So visas still required, but no need to go through customs like you would at an airport?

That's so sweet though. I think its amazing and the friends you'd meet would be incredible! Who knows, pay it forward perhaps if you get the chance. Where's home for you?

youwen17 karma

Most visas you can get at the border crossing. I travelled on British and Australian passports. The three I needed to get before the crossing were for Myanmar (got that one in Bangkok), China and Russia (got both those in Phnom Penh.)

You cross customs at every border crossing, whether by road, rail, plane, boat. In theory you could hop a border, but then you'd need to hop the next border as well because every country checks you in and out. So if you are trying to get out but you don't have an 'in' stamp they'll flag you. And some borders are patrolled by the military (Mongol-Russia, for example) so you're running a very high risk.

I'm in Sydney atm. I'm about to mail a copy of my book to my friends in Russia. They were so generous. I pay it forward as much as I can now.

*and yes, in Asia you need a visa everywhere on an Australian passport.

Raskolnikoolaid15 karma

How old are you? Did you save up and then left your job? What's your field?

youwen21 karma

I was 23 at the time. I saved up for several years, mostly through the Army reserve.

haarp18 karma

how was the driving through europe like? (attention from cops, shitty bike on fast roads...)?

youwen18 karma

no attention from cops, funnily enough. but yeah, 60 kph on the shoulder of the autobahn was dodgy. cars slamming past at twice my speed. wouldn't do that again.

Ph4ndaal12 karma

How did you manage to travel through all of Mongolia and still call yurts teepees?? :)

youwen25 karma

I was staying with Tsaatan reindeer herders, who live in structures called ‘Ortz’. These are equivalent to Native American teepees - the Tsaatan are descended from the tribes that crossed the Bering Strait into North America and retain a number of similar cultural traits.

Nuns_Have_No_Fun_66610 karma

How did you have your money? I mean obviously most places would not accept a debit or credit card, but also a wad of cash is asking to be robbed. Especially as a foreigner.

youwen14 karma

I had a small wad of cash that I'd top up every few days from ATMs. most places do actually take debit cards, there's atms everywhere.

Nuns_Have_No_Fun_6668 karma

Thank you. Very surprising that being that remote there would be atms and credit card takers.

youwen10 karma

in the main towns, which were a few days ride apart.

BroaxXx10 karma

What prior experience did you have? How good were you with motorcycle repair, off-road driving (apparently very inexperienced), camping in the wilderness, etc? Did you take time to learn new skills prior to the trip? Did you learn much along the way?

Basically... How did you manage to do such a thing?

youwen27 karma

I had a bike license and previously owned one for six months. No idea how to fix bikes, never ridden one off road. Quickly learned those two things.

I was in the Army so camping, navigation and what/how to pack were familiar.

I learned heaps, particularly from all the mechanics I met along the way. they were very friendly and none of the Russian mechanics let me give them any money.

honestly, this might sound hard when you're reading about it on the internet, but many people do much harder things in their day to day life. like anything, this was a matter of solving one problem at a time. eventually i'd solved enough problems and made it back home.

Dlrlcktd9 karma

If you were to continually replace parts on the motorcycle, at what point would it become a new motorcycle?

youwen14 karma

I asked myself this every day in between bouts of self-doubt haha

EarlyCuylersCousin9 karma

Did you paint it red? It looks white in that one picture where you are buying it.

youwen44 karma

Now this is a story. So when I bought it, the bike was white. When we went to register my ownership, we found that the bike's paperwork claimed it was red. Not a fleck of red on it, had probably never been red at any point in its history, but that's what it said.

The woman behind the desk in Ulaanbaatar wouldn't accept that it was white. We kept asking her to just change the paperwork, but she refused. It was actually easier to paint the bike red.

So that's what we did. Went out and bought spray paint, went back to the KTM store and made the damn thing red. Unbelievable really.

youwen21 karma

like seriously lady? just make one mark with your pencil. honestly

Boogalooby9 karma

Had you ever done a trip like this before? How did you have the guts do to something like this?

youwen9 karma

No, nothing like this before.

Chrisstar568 karma

You said you were camping. Any problems with authorities?

youwen30 karma

Not in Mongolia. It's so sparsely populated, I was often the only person within the horizon. Although one time I camped outside a town and a drunk guy grabbed my foot through the tent fabric. I nearly shat myself.

Camping in other countries, I just kept to very hidden spots, in woods or off-back roads.

pelochan8 karma

So, are you a Mongolian descent?

How do you able to keep a conversation with the mongolian herder, did he/she know english?

Which country’s border bothers you the most?

youwen11 karma

I'm not Mongolian. Some herders couldn't speak any English. Those conversations were mostly by hand. You can get a surprising amount of information across that way.

The latvian border for sure. They kept me for hours and then made me pay a bribe.

The_harbinger20208 karma

What about gas? I never understood how people did trips like this on bikes (and I ride!) That bike looks like it gets what, 100 maybe 150 miles a tank. I dont imagine there being gas stations every 100 miles in Mongolia. And carrying a 5 gallon tank on a small bike is hard

youwen10 karma

Yup it was. The main tank and reserve did 200 km, and a jerry van took me an extra 100. But petrol was sometimes 300 km apart. So I bought a sprite bottle, emptied it out and filled that with a few more litres to give myself breathing space. I used it more than once. You can see it in one of the photos.

The_harbinger20208 karma

wow im surprised a pop bottle was enough to tide you over, I would have carried a minimum half a tanks worth of extra gas.

youwen5 karma

Just enough.

BDMo8 karma

This is great! Thank you for sharing. I'm buying the book shortly.

Did you have to pack and stock rations every chance you could just to be safe?

Did you use solar chargers or battery packs for your portable electronics? Was it hard to keep these things charged at times?

How did you clean your clothes for 6 months... How frequently?

Thanks again!

youwen12 karma

Thanks so much! I packed some food but there were enough villages that I didn’t need to use it much.

I bought a battery pack that could charge my phone 4 times over. One of the best things I had. Actually someone else asked me what was essential kit - absolutely this battery pack. Lifesaver. I still use it now actually.

I changed clothes regularly before Mongolia, but then I basically wore the same pair of dirty chinos for a month. Pretty gross.

shadowpawn7 karma

What sort of MotoCycle Driver's licence is required?

youwen8 karma

I had an Australian license and got it translated into Russian

ruslan407 karma

Read through the whole thread and wow -- what a great experience! Thank you for doing this AMA.

I was curious if you've run into any issues with wildlife, particularly in Russia. You mentioned wolves sniffing around your tent... How did you deal with that? And just wildlife in general while camping?

youwen26 karma

No problems in Russia, but yes wolves in Mongolia. I thought they were mostly in the north. When I was further south, I ran into these guys laying fibre optic cable. They invited me to camp with them for the night. They asked what I was sleeping in, and i pointed at my tent.

They thought I was crazy. “What do you do about the wolves?”

I said I didn’t know there were wolves this far south and asked what they were sleeping in. they pointed at their trucks. “Because of the wolves.”

They gave me a machete to sleep with.

youwen13 karma

In terms of how I dealt with it, I just lay very still and hoped for the best. And made sure to keep food outside the tent.

fakeCap6 karma

While travelling was the thought of dying passing through your mind often?

youwen12 karma

only once, when the bike fell on me and I wasn't sure if I could get out. Thirst would've likely killed me before help came, even if I activated the emergency beacon. Otherwise no, although I was always trying to keep risks low.

enlguy6 karma

You traveled from Australia to Switzerland without flying?

youwen8 karma

yep, cruise ship to Singapore, trains and vans to Ulaanbaatar, motorcycle to Novosibirsk, truck to Moscow, same bike onwards to Switzerland.

janejohn6 karma

Did you listen to any music to keep you going?

youwen14 karma

Yes although the motorcycle helmet made inner ear headphones painful. I could only listen for 30 min at a time. I actually listened to loads of really aggressive Irish folk music to get me through the hardest parts. Nothing gets your heart racing like some angry Irish guy murdering a fiddle solo.

At night I listened to the Hamish and Andy show podcast in my tent. Often they were the only other human voices I’d hear all day. They kept me sane.

SkinxR6 karma

My dad is going to drive his car from switzerland to china in october, do you have any advices for him?

youwen12 karma

Watch the driving rules in China, from memory they don’t let foreigners drive unaccompanied.

Take your time in Russia. There’s a lot to see, especially in southern Siberia. The mountain valleys are stunning.