Five days of transit through Turkmenistan

Km 4773 km – Osh, Kyrgyzstan

 

WEATHER & GENERAL STUFF

We are lucky and get a transit visa for five full days. Turkmenistan is also referred to as the „North Korea of Central Asia“ and therefore it is not so easy to visit the country for travellers. The shortest distance through the country leads us through the Karakum Desert. From those 480 kilometers we cycle approximately half. For the rest we luckily get some help of friendly truck drivers. At first the weather was cloudy and therefore comfortable for cycling. The last days were clearly warmer.

 

SARAKHS – MARY

  • We cycle to the border in Sarakhs – border crossings are always exiting. After two hours (changing money, waiting, passport and luggage controls) we finally cycle through the Turkmen semi desert. We bike for one day and a half, enjoy the calmness of the desert, experience the nature. The side road we chose has very little traffic, only rarely we meet people. After so many curious Iranians we appreciate this. Just nothing – no people and the endless vastness.

  • Some “cycle nomads” cover the whole distance of almost 500 km in the given five days – no shadow, a hot sun, mostly wind from the front and few possibilities to load up with water turn this trip into a special challenge. We respect this achievement and soon put our thumbs out on the street…

  • Aries & Jumah stop their old truck and take us for 20 km. Sitting on the empty loading space we are shaken pretty roughly since the road is rather bad. Before we can say goodbye to the two Turkmens, they invite us for coffee, ayran and then shashlik – one country further and the generosity is still the same.

  • While looking for a camping spot behind Mary we are waved in one more time. Davra and his wife Gulia invite us to their home. Together with their six children we sit in front of the house and eat dinner for the second time. When we were looking for food in Mary we ended up at a family celebration who supplied us with food and drinks. Davra leaves again to buy something for us. When he comes back he unloads different types of drinks for us. As we said, the hospitality and the generosity stay the same!

  • Though it is possible to communicate in English and Turkish, the conversation subjects are limited, because of the language barrier. We learn that Davra manages a shoe shop and Gulia works as a Russian teacher. What do these people think? They do so much for us, indeed, they do everything to make our lives a little more comfortable, giving much and not asking for anything! Why is war actually happening, if most people are so good-natured?

MARY – TURKMENABAT

  • The next morning we cycle some kilometers until Kahraman and his companion stop for us. The two friends drive with two big trucks from Iran to Afghanistan. The bikes are load onto one truck the luggage onto the other. We travel with Kahraman and the luggage and after some hours a little odyssey starts – showing one more time how – while travelling – you get connected to the fate of other people.

  • Kahraman receives a call from his colleague. We didn’t see him in the back mirror anymore, because he took care of the bribes at the last police check point (apparently approx. 400$ between Iran and Afghanistan). After handing over the money the friend drove into a little settlement to fill up the motor’s cooling water. There he got stuck in a sand dune. We drive back, find him after 30 km and try for three hours to draw the truck out of the sand – in vain (several steel cables crack). Finally we put the bikes onto the other truck, leave the colleague behind – he wants to wait for a digger – and continue driving towards Turkmenabat. Since we would like to camp in the desert, Kahraman lets us get off the truck 30 kilometers before the city.

  • We put up our tent behind a larger dune, look at the animal footprints in the sand and see the big moon rise in the distance. The dunes are grown over and host many animals. All in all we see a big fox, desert mice, bugs, lizards, a small chamaeleon, semi wild camels as well as horses and sheep flocks. Alex even discovered a three meter long snake that rose and showed her wide head while he was passing.
  • The border crossing takes two hours again (luggage controls, custom formulars with misleading English translation). A woman that gave us a non-acceptable exchange rate before (Turkmen manat for Uzbek som), gives us bread, tomatoes and water as a present. On both sides of the border uncountable trucks form kilometer long queues, A Turkish truck driver invites us for a tea and tells us that it takes him two days to cross the border. So we can call ourselves lucky.
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