Archive for the ‘Turkmenistan’ Category


I am lying in my hotel in Uzbekistan with my wheelbarrow of money, exhausted. Not from today, but from the Turkmenistan dash. A 70km ride into the wind with lots of stops meant today was a slow down from the last days, and got us to within a bull’s roar of Burkhara.

Money money money

Money money money

The border crossing was harmless. After our horror Iranian border crossing, we went expecting the worst, and were greeted with smiles and efficient people. Again, we were greeted by loads of people on the road. Everywhere you go, people are lovely. It’s a thing common in the world!

In Turkmenistan they have saved money on road signs. I think I saw about 2 road signs showing directions in the whole country. Crossing into Uzbekistan, we passed a cool one. Exotic places so close!

Exotic places are near!

Exotic places are near!


I have almost cycled across Turkmenistan in 3 days – just 40km tomorrow to the border. Today I drank 10 litres of water and 3.5 litres of soft drink. I cycled 190km through temperatures up to 41.1C, with a moderate headwind from 11 to 4 o’clock. And I met lovely people in the desert. The desert is vast, hot, and beautiful!

Bikes at sunrise

Bikes at sunrise

The desert contains sand, camels, camel signs, and 12% slope signs (even though the slope would not have been more than 3%).

Camel

Camel

Camel sign

Camel sign

Steep?

Steep?

The desert also contains little cute black beetles that patrol the dunes. Their footprints criss-cross the scorching sand.

Beetle

Beetle

And the desert contains little villages on the train line – every 15km or so. When the heat was approaching being unbearable, I went into one of the villages and had a lovely talk with the shop owner and her children.

Shop owner

Shop owner

Desert animals

Desert animals

Hot!!

Hot!!

I also passed 11000km today – in the morning before the wind and the heat started.

11000km

11000km

I cycled on into the evening, and arrived at a hotel in Turkmenabat, only to be called out to by Thomas. Huh? He was miles behind me. He had taken a bus 80km back as it was too hot and too far to Turkmenabat. We are now all ready to leave Turkmenistan within the 4 days. I am proud to have made it.


Today was the day to put the foot down on the accelerator and make some kilometres to cross Turkmenistan in four days. The wind didn’t agree with this plan, made it a long day, and meant I left Thomas who was slower in the wind. Other than cycling, I tried my hand in making Turkmenistan savoury pastries – I wasn’t too good at it.

Sleepy dog

Sleepy dog

I was kind of waiting to enter the centre of the city of Mary where there were shops, people walking around, and a pleasant atmosphere. I kept on cycling on the main road, passed some big roundabouts and some impressive official buildings adorned with the president’s picture, and came out the other end. My conclusion: Turkmenistan cities are not that exciting – I much prefer the endless roads spanning the flat desolate plains. I love bleak and dry landscape. Here is a photo of the big mosque in Mary.

Mosque in Mary

Mosque in Mary

Before Mary I stopped at a tiny shop with nothing – except some lovely people that were making lunch for their family and customers. I was allowed to try to make a savoury pastry before it was stuck to the side of a clay oven. It was fascinating to watch it being made, even if my attempt to make one was a failure.

Preparing lunch

Preparing lunch

I am staying at the last café for 60km of desert. The last stretch to Turkmenabat is long, desolate, and empty. That’s for tomorrow..

P.S. I was about to go to bed and Thomas walked in to the café where I was sleeping. A big congratulation, and then he sat down to eat. He had cycled on through the evening, and joined me for the night in Zehmet.


A lizard darts across the hot, dusty road. We stop, and watch the black beetle waddle past. On either side is a flat, bare expanse – just a few shrubs dotted around, and the sun blasting down from above. Turkmenistan nature. And the people! Beautiful, friendly, and such wonderful clothes. We’ve now tasted Turkmenistan and are addicted.

In the Turkmenistan desert

In the Turkmenistan desert

We greeted the same unfriendly people at the border crossing at Iran. They were surprised we were back so quickly from Mashhad. Our papers were checked, and it looked like it was going to be another long affair before they waved us through.

We crossed the bridge over the wet patch in the dry earth that is the border. Our first experience with the beautiful clothes of the beautiful Turkmenistan people. A camouflage uniform with a floppy broad brimmed hat. A belt with a shiny metal buckle with the Turkmenistan stars.
‘Welcome to Turkmenistan!’

The women all wear a bright, colourful head scarf – such colour matches their broad smiles and the twinkle in their eyes. A small boy introduces himself in English, and asks how he can help. Everyone waves and everyone looks happy.

And then an indication of the other aspect in this country – the Turkmenistan state is watching. In the evening we are taken to our hotel room / dining room and are told to not to leave it. It is a holiday, and the hotel is meant to be closed. The hall lights are off, and the water is turned off. If the police find they are open on this happy holiday, there will be ‘problem’. I know there is a language barrier, but understand the importance of keeping quiet. Who knows what is allowed and what not on this joyous occasion adorned with a holiday.

A highlight of today was the cycling. The road was small, and void of people – a truck or car passes every half an hour. Stop, and the silence reigns. It was warm, and the steady side wind worked as an airconditioner. The road was often like a slalom course through the desert. Avoiding the holes called for concentration.

The Turkmenistan desert

The Turkmenistan desert

The Turkmenistan desert

The Turkmenistan desert

On speaking to an Italian cyclist, we realized that the total distance to be travelled is under 500km. We’re going to try to do it – cross the country by bike in 4 days – not 5. We don’t have 5 days in our visa any more. It is going to be a real Turkmen dash.