The bike had pinned me. No matter how I tried to scoot I was trapped. And I was not able to use my right arm to help pull me out. I knew the rear wheel had come out from under me, but I could not figure out how it had happened as I tried to get out from under the running machine.
My Mongolian summer stopped abruptly 3 hours east of Bayan Olgii, Mongolia about 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday July 9. Our group consisted of Tom Bosman, my Belgian roommate and travel companion for the past 40 days, Uwe the German motorcycle mechanic working in Sweden, Chris the Australian adventure rider, and Thomas, the German engineer with enough guts to travel to Mongolia by himself.
|The Road to Bayan Olgii from Russia|
We had met two days earlier on the Russian-Mongolian border high in the Altai. It did not take long for everyone to agree that it was safer and best to travel as a group. So after a long and cold border crossing we had checked into the Blue Wolf Gert Camp in Bayan Olgii for a couple days and were underway on Wednesday morning. It was just about lunch time and we were looking for the lakeshore to have lunch.
There are few paved or maintained gravel roads in Mongolia, or so I had been told. There were a few short stretches of paving near major towns. But we were nowhere near a town and had been on dirt all morning. So I was not surprised when we had to cross a dry wash. It was a bit steep and the approaches were rutted, but did not look dangerous. As I got on the opposite side I had to ride the crest of some erosion, and when I did my rear wheel lost some traction just as my front hit a crevice. So the front stopped. The rear kept going. And I ended up underneath.
|Mongolia for as far as the eye can see|
The impact tore my right pannier off the bike, drove my right shoulder into the rocky soil separating my arm in the socket, and landed on my right foot tearing the leather off the boot and spraining the ankle. I yelled for someone to turn off the bike, which was done and then the machine was pulled off of me. I thought it would be alright until I took off my coat and felt the huge lump on my right shoulder. This would not be good.
The decision was made to go to what looked like a village about 2 km away to seek some help. I could not ride. About 30 minutes later a Toyota Land Cruiser appeared with “the Doctor”. The village was a Chinese titanium mine and the doctor was their medical officer. I did not ask to see his diploma or certificates. I was happy for any help. But it was all in Mongolian and Russian. They injected some pain killers and I sat there shirtless as time went by.
About 1 p.m. I was informed that this was a mine and that they could not use the company equipment to transport me to a hospital in Bayan Oglii. But they did not kick me out of the Land Cruiser.
|Downtown Bayan Olgii|
By now Tom and the others had moved my bike to the mine. It was apparent there was not much my friends could do and I told them it was alright to go on without me. I thought I would have to hire a car from town to come out and get me.
Then one of the miners asked if I would pay to ride to the hospital. They wanted $250. I said OK and a phone call was made. The lady on the phone spoke English and informed me they needed $200 to transport me to the hospital in Olgii. I said Ok and my stuff was loaded in the Toyota. I was taken back by three guys – the Doctor, the brothere of the lady on the phone , and another guy.
For the next 2 ½ hours I bumped along back to Bayan Olgii. It was pretty brutal because by now my injuries were starting to really hurt. I could not lay down. I had to hang on with my remaining good arm.
When we got to town I was not taken to the hospital. Instead I was informed the guys had to get back to the mine. So I dug out $200 and handed it over. I was loaded shirtless into the car of the lady, who spoke great English. Mairash and Tolepbergen, her husband, would eventually be my ticket out of Mongolia. She was going to take me to the State hospital but I said a private hospital was good too. So she brought me to Dr. Kabil. He took a look at me and figured out I had separated or dislocated the right shoulder. He injected pain killer and proceeded to pop me together. It was meatball medicine. No preliminary X-ray because that was at the state hospital. But after it was done he called his buddy at the state hospital and I was taken over there for X-ray just to make sure I had been put back together properly. It was explained, in Mongolian, that I had no broken bones. So they did what they could for me.
Then Mairash took me to the best hotel in town, which is not much. She told me that on the next day she would help me retrieve the motorcycle. And then I was on my own. I went out and filled a prescription for some pain killers given by the Dr. Kabil. I found some food and went to bed.
|Mairash and Tolepbergan - took care of me and my bike|
Thursday morning I slept in. My pain was now very intense. I looked at my riding boots and decided that they were toast. Even if I had wanted to ride out of Mongolia my boots would need to be replaced. But I was going nowhere. So I went over to the Blue Wolf to see if I could hire a guide who spoke English to help me get the bike out of Mongolia. This is where the story gets crazy.
I had imported the bike as a temporary import. So that means I need to take it out with me. The Mongolians do not want old vehicles dumped in their country. So there is a hefty import tax for older vehicles. Mine would be about $2000. I thought that cannot be so. I showed up at the customs house with my translator and was called by Mairash, who had just been there. The guys who ran it were gone for a national holiday, which started the next day. They had just taken off early and would not be back until Wednesday the 17th. There was no way I wanted to sit in a hotel room in pain for 6 days.
So Mairash and I went to a Notary and I gave her power to sell or give away the motorcycle so I could leave country. As it turned out I did not have to pay $2000. I also looked at transporting the bike to Ulan Bator (UB), and then to the USA. I got a best guess of $4000.
By now MedJet had put together an evacuation plan that called for me to fly to UB on Saturday and on to the USA on Sunday. So on Friday I hauled all my stuff to Mairash’s house. The bike was there. It kept blowing fuses, but I got that sorted out. Mairash was going to sell the bike, pay any duty, and send me the difference less some commission.
I later said I would pay the duty in UB at customs because they had to be open. When I got there they said customs was not open because of the national holiday, but it was OK to leave the country because I had the POA. They just assumed it would all be taken care of. So when I left on Sunday there were no customs officers. There was not request for my customs declaration. I had been led to believe that I needed to present my arrival customs declaration upon departure. Not so.
But the way it all settled out is this. I left all my stuff in Mongolia. I gave it all to Mairash and her husband Tolepbergen. I reckon they will sell it or keep and sort out all the import mess. And if they don’t, so what. Will I be banned from Mongolia? I’ll take my chances.
When I got back to Omaha it all started to fall in on me. I had lost over 20 lbs. I was down to 155 lbs with a 31 inch waist. But I was suffering from exhaustion, jet lag, and shock. I am good for about 3 hours in the morning. After that I sleep.
I am with the family in Colorado now resting up.
I met some great people on this ride. Tom Bosman and I were thrown together in Baku. We survived some really bad experiences and some really great experiences together. I met Helge and Werner on the Pamir; and Thomas, Chris, and Uwe in Russia. I am not happy I crashed. But I am happy I took the trip. I will just take the recovery as it comes.