The Blue Waves Motorcycle Rally is definitely not your typical two-wheeled event. It’s a 1500-mile ride across the Mongolian backcountry to deliver new motorcycles and gear to the park rangers of Lake Hovsgol National Park. It’s also part of a larger effort by the Blue Waves Campaign, the Lake Hosvsgol Conservancy and the Mongol Ecology Center to improve the infrastructure and capacity of the park and its management team.
Estimated to be over two million years old, Lake Hovsgol is one of 17 ancient lakes in the world. Its shoreline stretches 257 miles and it’s ranked the 16th largest lake in the world by volume, holding 70% of Mongolia’s fresh water reserves. Known by Mongolians as “Mother Sea,” Lake Hovsgol is home to a diverse array of plant and animal species and is held sacred by many in the country.
In 1992 the Mongolian government established the Lake Hovsgol National Park which covers 2.5 million acres (bigger than Yellowstone National Park), and it’s the job of 15 permanent rangers to patrol and protect the area day and night. That amounts to over 160,000 acres per ranger... a difficult job even if well outfitted, and the rangers are presently strapped for resources.
A group of Lake Hovsgol National Park Rangers with Robert McIntosh (front row, third from the right) and Douglas Morris (front row, far right).
Rangers often make use of motorcycles to cover their respective areas, but those rides are out-of-date and ineffectual considering the demands of the landscape. Lake Hovsgol Conservancy co-founder, Robert McIntosh, witnessed the effect of such dilapidated equipment when he saw the chief ranger’s bike break down while in pursuit of a law-breaker. Immediately after McIntosh began planning ways to get new bikes and gear into the hands of rangers. Since then a handful of other rangers have been injured on the job as a result of the inadequate gear as well.
Wesley Thornberry, a photographer that splits his time between San Francisco and Ulaanbataar, Mongolia, is one of the organizers of the Blue Waves Motorcycle Rally. He explained that the project is only about six months old and that negotiations are ongoing with OEMs, so there’s no word yet on the make of motorcycle the rangers can expect. They will be small 250cc mounts, however, and will be carbureted to ensure reliable operation in the Mongolian weather.
The Mongolian government has agreed to pay for all parts and maintenance once the bikes arrive and the Mongol Ecology Center is covering all overhead costs for the rally. This means that any donation to the effort is entirely committed to the rangers’ equipment costs.
Munkh-Orgil Erdenesukh is one of the riders participating in the Blue Waves Motorcycle Rally. He's practiced Sumo wrestling in Japan for 12 years and has been an avid motorcyclist for much of his life, competing in his first race at 16 years of age. He's also an accomplished motorcycle rally organizer.
Once the bikes and gear are secured, a group of riders that includes native Mongolian motorcyclists as well as life-long riders from the United States, including landspeed racers Andy Sils and Erin Hunter
, will embark on the 1500-mile delivery expedition. The plan is to cover close to 150 miles a day, and they will face all manner of terrain along the way. A documentary crew will follow along to record the journey and will later produce a film highlighting the adventure and broadening awareness of the region and those that care for it.
Rangers will receive two days of training with their new machines once delivered. There will also be a media event at the lake with Mongolian pop-star Naran, who will journey with the documentary crew as well, before the volunteers make the trip back home.
In addition to outfitting rangers with better equipment, the Mongol Ecology Center is working with the United States National Parks Service, the European Union, USAID, Global Parks, Rutgers University and others to develop infrastructure solutions such as entrance stations, sign systems, exhibits and access roads among other capacity enhancing efforts. Work is also underway to hire more rangers for the park as well.
To learn more about the Blue Waves Campaign or to make a donation to the effort go to www.bluewavesmongolia.org
Click here for more information on the Lake Hovsgol Conservancy
Click here for more information on the Mongol Ecology Center
The video below profiles one ranger that has been tasked with patrolling the same area of Lake Hovsgol for 20 years, and he further outlines the challenges that he and other rangers face.