This is the second in the Turkmenistan series, all published around the same time. You may wish to read the first part if you haven’t already.
Long hot days crossing Turkmenistan means on the road around sunrise, ride until the heat gets too much, then seek shelter for the hottest part of the day, before doing a few hours later in the afternoon. I’m now drinking huge amounts of water, including the “Gazly Su” that is sold everywhere – carbonated water with a shot of syrup, around $0.20 for a 1.5L bottle. Unfortunately drinking this will come back to haunt me in a few days…
Leaving Ashgabat, I was pretty grumpy with the police, especially after being harassed for wandering around at 11:30, after the pub closed. Seems they didn’t like that. But as the day goes on, and I meet more local people, I’m much happier. Late in the day, a car pulls over ahead of me, and the driver jumps out with a fresh loaf of bread, hands it to me, and leaves. Doesn’t even want to stop for a chat, just wanted me to have the food. Getting water at Kaka everyone is nice, and offers me a place to sleep, but I want to push on a little. Stop in a field, the local shepherd comes over on his donkey for a chat, and to watch me cook dinner. He then leaves me alone with the spiders, which are now around the size of my palm. Yikes.
The following day I stop at Tejen for lunch, at a cafe/bar. I get invited over to another table, where a few men are having some food and drink. Suddenly there are shots of vodka being poured, and toasts to Turkmenistan. A few more shots, and I am everyone’s best friend. A few more shots, and I realise I really need to get out of here. Finally they let me go, and I wobble off on my bike, off into the blazing sun. No way I should have been out in that, and 20km down the road, at a police checkpoint, they grab me, and tell me to sleep in the room they’ve got. Not sure if they knew I was drunk, or if they thought I was suffering heatstroke, but it works out very well.
Normally if you get picked up by the police you’re in trouble, but in this case it would have been the other way around. There are no towns for another 50km or so, so stopping with them was great. Later that night, after I’ve slept for the afternoon, and feel much better, they wake me up for a communal meal with them by the side of the road. Really nice guys, and they made me feel better about the Turkmen police.
Then push on towards Mary, and Merv. Tried riding around Merv by myself, but it was just a big pile of mudbricks, and it takes quite a bit of that to get me excited these days. Think I needed to have a guide. The abandoned factories on the edges of a World Heritage Site are a particularly nice Soviet touch. Found a nice family who let me camp on their property – suddenly Dad was out levelling a patch of land, the kids were out – sweeties for them worked well, Mum was offering food, all very nice. We were being eaten alive by mosquitoes, and I got out some DEET – they’d never seen anything like it, and were extremely impressed. Guess you can’t get that here.
Feeling tired, the driest 250km to the last town near the border coming up…