Turkmenistan is one of the most difficult countries to enter … yes, more difficult that North Korea. Even the 5 days transit visa is not guaranteed. I was really happy to have the greenish sticker in my passport. Don’t expect many interesting photos because there it is prohibited photograph almost everything: monuments, administrative sites, bridges, …
Punctual at 8:00 I was at the iranian border where I met Marc and Peter, two german guys going in the same direction … the first ones! On the road I just met the lovely ukrainian couple Iryna and Andrej (in Armenia) but they were going in the opposite direction …
Cycling in the nobody land for me it represents the end of a chapter and the beginning of a new one … excitement, expectations, emotion and even a bit of nervousness … it is like to receive a book with empty pages that you have to fill day by day … and you hope to do a good job.
On the Turkmen side two soldiers welcomed us: asian strokes and brilliant smiles … how old are they? 16??? “So Mr., are we in Turkmenistan??”, smiles: “yes, yes” … “F..k off the jihab!” (sorry) … “yes! yes!” and they made a gesture like saying “throw away that stuff“.
I heard much about the Turkmenistan border. I was ready to NOT receive the red carpet and to show them EVERYTHING: medicines, photos (ALL), iPhone, Computer, Kindle and all my stuff in my 6 bags … ??! Is it already over?! They were really lovely and very polite. A police man even helped me to fill up some papers. At 11:30 we were on the road and we took a shortcut.
Shortcut means shorter but not necessarily better. Here I had the most spectacular angel flight:
Because of the strong shaking I lost my petrol bottle that finished in front of the front wheel… 3 1/2 somersaults with 3 1/2 twists … Marc was behind me: “How was it??” ….”Mmmm well, not so bad“. Fortunately nothing to me or to Bicio happened.
The first 100 km were absolutely in the desert. In 100 km we met maybe 3 cars going in the opposite direction.
Before reaching Mary we split. We had different plans and, for several reasons, I was also happy to continue alone.
How was it? … mmmm well … Take an exercise bicycle, put it in a sauna installed in a wind tunnel (with hot upwind of course) and pedal for about 520 km … voilà, you are cycling in the Karakum desert … but wow! I couldn’t believe I was really there!
… My visionary friend Alain (Tranchio) had predicted this …
No, I didn’t go home … I just prepared my home. There I am, camping in the desert … A warm soup with bread, a cappuccino with biscuits and billions of stars. A M A Z I N G. I was exhausted but I couldn’t sleep that night. Not because I was scared or similar, but because I was contemplating the milky way, Hercules, the Swan, Arthur, the 7 Sisters… oh wow the Scorpion is so clear!
To escape the wind and the heat the best time for cycling are very early in the morning and late in the evening. At 10:00 there are already 41 °C (increasing up to 48 °C) and the force of the wind doesn’t allow you to exceed 7-9 km/h … and here comes the mind: it’s all a matter of the head … just keep going!
Left: can you see the car in the sand dust? Me neither … Right: happy tourist.
Then…BOOOOOM: Carpaccio!! I would like a carpaccio!! Or a cold Cola with lemon and some ice!….STOP! Don’t think! Keep going …. (Josephine was excellent!)
Finally, after 4 days I reached Turkmenabat, where a cloud of smog welcomed me… it was even difficult to breathe. But most difficult was to find a hotel. At 21.15 I was still around looking for a guest house pointed on my GPS …“No, no, no room here!”… It happened also in Iran: in Maps.me there are indicated hostels and guest houses that actually doesn’t exist or are completely wrong placed. Well! I’m on the road. I should find a place where to pitch the tent and no shower for today. But, again, the children saved me … they are the most efficient means of communication existing: some men and women came to me.
The locals are strictly forbidden to come in contact with tourists (and vice versa) but I menage to be invited in their homes (again!). With the complicity of the neighborhood I spent the night at Sofia’s home: “Putin (thump up), Amerika (thump down)”… she was so lovely and she had very nice sense of humor!
The 5 days were a fight against heat, wind and time. I did it. I cannot tell you much about the country but I was still fascinated by it: beautiful women in colorful dresses, golden smiles, friendly, polite and gentle people. I saw people with blond (even red!) hair and green eyes, others with sharply Asian faces. Really interesting. Passing by Merv I could see the walls of what was the largest oasis-city along the silk road (I had really no time to see the archeological site there!) … Donnerwetter! I think that Turkmenistan can be a very interesting place to visit.
The 5th day I was back in a border check. This time was more tough. The border police was a woman. Serious face: photos, medicines and 4 bags checked. Everything fine. She even smiled to me!
On the Uzbek side: there was NO ONE. Am I in the right place? A young border policeman arrived. Serious and not very motivated … he cannot speak english and me unfortunately nieto parusky. He wanted to check my medicines. He asked me about VALVERDE … Valverde is a natural product used in case of constipation, you take it in the evening and the morning after you can see the light again … ok, now explain it to him … and there I am, in the checking post miming what VALVERDE is … he understood! He smiled … it has been almost 3 months that my life is like a mime artist life. MY mime artist life. The atmosphere relaxes. Now he want to see the pictures in my phone. He started to smile … oh, oh, he started to laugh! But what do I have in the phone??? I ask him to show me … aaah yeah! Those …
Me and the lovely Rosy (Irland: thump up) in the Imam Reza complex (Mashhad)… hard time.
The policeman congratulates me for the photos and wishes me a good trip in Uzbekistan … he even helps me to load the bike … maybe is my alpine charme … The silkroad trip can continue!