Five short days in TurkmenistanDecember 11, 2019 in Turkmenistan ⋅ ☁️ 6 °C
For me the last of the Stan countries to travel through is Turkmenistan. As an overlander you can only apply for a transit visa, which will only be issued for a period max five days. If you are lucky that is, as not everybody is issued one at all.
The border crossing was quite painful this time, long waiting periods between different stations of the process, manually writing all the data, such as car details, passport details in I don't know how many books, getting visa, dog certificates, getting the GPS tracker so they know you are sticking to the prescribed route ... and waiting and waiting. Then you think you are nearly there, only car inspection left... well think again.... they looked into every nook and cranny, looking for I dont know what and finding some Tramedol on my pharmacy box. Didnt know, you are not allowed to have this. And once they were done, I had to put everything back. All in all this border crossing took 3.5 hrs. Ah well, I have heard of worse ones.
To travel south towards Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan and the Iranian border you have to traverse the Karakum Desert. FINALLY I saw my first wild camel herds. They were drinking the rain water that was collecting in the pot holed road.
Christoph and I definitely had to stop and visit the Darvaza gas crater as well aptly named "Door to Hell". This crater is the result of Soviet-era gas exploration and has, for whatever reason been set alight and is burning since the 70s.
To get there we had to drive through at one point quite deep sand, knowing well getting out of there the next day might be quite tricky particularly for Christoph's 2WD. Sometimes you have to take risks, we' ll worry about this tomorrow. And it was worth it, the crater was really spectacular, particularly at night.
Yeah, and the next day. .. I got through the sand on my second try, could back out after getting stuck, but Christoph was not that lucky. Cars too far apart to pull him out. A Shepard came to our aid, some digging, no luck. How about my maxxtraxx??? Did only get 3 of the 4 locks off, dirt blocked the 4th. That's not good enough, is it? Didn't we get past a drill station on the way out with some trucks parked up, so I drive through the sand again, back to the drill station, asking for help. They cannot take the truck as it supplies the drill with power but two men can come with me to dig and push.
Whilst they are digging and pushing I get to work on my last lock and after a lot of water jetting in with a syringe from my medical kit and poking with a needle from my sewing kit (sometimes the male tools just don't cut it!) I free the lock and with it the maxxtraxx. I am sure this was the last push anyway but my traxx at least came into action and the car was free.
Our further journey was quite uneventful but very beautiful as the land changed more and more into a dune desert landscape with more herds of camels. These animals really fascinate me!
Next morning getting up and out for Rex's morning walk it was freezing cold and the desert wore a stunning coat out of ice cristals. I could have walked for hours but we had to get going and get to Ashgabat, as the next day is the last day on our visa.
Ashgabat, the white, artificial marble city, built for the president but not the people. Bombastic, very white, one of the cleanest cities I think I have ever seen, nearly only white cars driving on huge, wide, quite empty roads, ( the president apparently loves the color white). The traffic and the life on the streets quite in contrast to the busy central Asian car and pedestrian traffic. Here there are neither a lot off cars nor a lot of people in this new part of town. The ones of you who had read Momo by Michael Ende will know what I mean when I say this is what the city reminds me of. The only colorful accents at this bleakest time of the year are the women with their colorful head dresses and the schoolgirls, wearing either green or red long dresses and their little round caps. In addition they all wear their thick long hair in thick, long braids. Must be pretty in summer, when the dresses are not hidden by the winter coats.Read more