Camp Khatan Ugij, Mongolia.
Day 6 of the 2018 BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy proved to be unique in the history of the event. Scouted, planned and prepared was a 283 km course taking in the plains and mountains of the region, but with the route falling within an area experiencing an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (among the livestock) the course had to be adapted. Instead the GS riders needed to follow the highway most of the way to their destination, Camp Khatan Ugij. But this didn’t halt the special tests and in the morning came SP14, ‘Time Trial’ where each of the team members had to ride a trials course through a stand of trees on the banks of the Tamir River – the trick being each had to replicate the time through the course of their teammates. So if the first rider completed the course in 1:30 minutes his two team mates had to get as close as possible to that.After the special test the GS riders took to the road to reach their overnight bivouac.
Yet the time was used creatively, ostensibly with a visit to the historic 16th century Erdene Zuu (Buddhist) Monastery, once home to as many as 1500 monks. But as well the GS riders were experiencing modern Mongolian culture as they dropped in on local stores and even a coffee shop along the way, each being excellent opportunities to converse with the local people. Failing that, the GS motorcycles are always a good starting point for conversation and many times local motorcycle riders (typically riding Chinese-made 125cc machines) would compare mounts with the GS riders using the common language that is the feeling and appreciation for the motorcycle. And while the GS riders are protected by their BMW Motorrad Rallye suits it was interesting to see the locals riding in traditional Mongolian dress of tall leather boots, loose breeches and smock-type coats, topped with a broad-rimmed felt hat.
In all the GS riders made the most of the relaxed time schedule; having so thoroughly experienced the land, now they were taking the time to connect with the culture. And in a final act of community the entire GS Trophy contingent came together to ride the last kilometres into the bivouac – quite a sight as the fleet of GSs plus the support vehicles rode in convoy.
Once the teams were in camp the competition started again with an archery contest (archery being a traditional Mongolian pastime). Here the Indian team impressed when one of their guys scored two impressive on-target shots – only on the wrong target! And still they finished third… A great challenge that was both competitive and entertaining.
In all, a great day. The loss of today’s planned course could have been a disappointment, but instead the riders capitalised on the free time to enjoy their GS community and together discover new depths to this unique wonderful country.
David Vaughan, Team USA: This whole experience has been excellent, and now we’ve got to mountain country which I like a little bit better than the desert. I’m from Florida, I should love the sand but actually there are a lot of trees at home, not just palm trees, so yes, after the grey and earth tones of the desert where there seemed to be no end to the earth, the greens of the mountains came as a sight for sore eyes. And the temperatures have come down, we’re not dying under the sun anymore! And what an experience, I’m still very surprised I’m here right now, I’m literally the other side of the world from my home, my wife is 12 hours away in terms of time zone. Never in a million years could I picture myself in Mongolia, ever. It’s an excellent experience to be here and for BMW Motorrad to put on an event like this, that they can make this happen with this many people, logistically is absolutely amazing.
Ezelda van Jaarsveld, Team Eurafrica: I’m definitely enjoying this day, which is a bit odd as we’re riding on tarseal! But I’m noticing the small children who hear us coming and run to the road and wave to us and of course we’re waving back – it’s awesome to see the excitement on the faces of the little ones. And other children you’ll see herding the flocks of sheep or goats, some on horseback some on bikes – that’s new to me. I’ve enjoyed every day; not just the ride, the culture, but also the community within the GS Trophy, meeting the guys and chatting with them, even where the language barrier is difficult, it’s quite amazing. For me this is the top of the list of my life experiences, by far, its one of those things where you might say, ‘I wish I could have done that’ and so for me it’s a dream come true.
Daniel Hoyos Arango, Team Latin America: Our GS Trophy has been a lot of fun, we’re so happy to be here and we’re doing great, coming in to today we were second in the competition, but we’re having a lot of fun. And the bikes, the people – everything is beautiful! We knew we could make a good presentation in the competition but we’re very happy to be doing so well, it’s like a dream to us. And it´s been wonderful to come together as a team, we are from two different countries, from Guatemala and Colombia – and even the two guys from Colombia come from different cities – so for us to train together was impossible, so we’ve been doing our best, we’re delighted. And Mongolia is for us beautiful landscapes, beautiful people, a country made for the ride.
BMW Motorrad International GS Trophy Central Asia 2018.
Day 6 overall standings:
1 South Africa 259
2 USA 194
3 Mexico 162
4 Latin America 154
5 France 149
6 UK 147
7 Korea 142
7 Russia 142
9 Germany 134
10 Argentina 117
11 Ausamerica (female team) 110
12 Australia 106
13 Canada 105
13 Southeast Asia 105
15 Japan 90
16 Eurafrica (female team) 84
17 China 79
18 India 78