THE AMAZING RACE THROUGH TURKMEN?STAN

 

24/07/12 - OK, take two on border crossing, 0800 through first checkpoint and on to next one. Got my entry stamp after paying 12USD entry tax. They checked a couple of my bags and at 0915 i was in the clear. Changed some money and had some salad, bread and tea at restaraunt near border. Only have 5 day transit visa so no time to rest - straight on to Turkmenabat. Villages every 15km. Nothing to see. Navigation was difficult - seemed to be a loop road out of the border, and th roads seemed to go in every direction instead of the right one. Eventually rolled into Turkmenabat at 1200 - straight to train nice marble buildings, square and a park. Many of the young locals are out in the cool of the evening rollerskating, cycling, etc. Returned at 2100 to buy ticket. No lines here, you just have to push and shove to get served. Since i had a height and reach advantage over most of the locals this wasn't a problem, once i ditched my common politeness in about half an hour. With ticket in hand i could relax somewhat. Went to park to rest but locals kept hassling me so back to train station to wait for train. There's a guard here to prevent people from going asleep, so it was a matter of trying to sit up straight as i nodded off to sleep.

 

25/07/12 - 0030 board train - same as chinese trains (6 bunks with A/C - got top bunk) the staff were very helpful directing me to end of carriage to store bike and helping me with my luggage. i fell asleep before the train departed at 0200. Arrived Ashgabat 1620. Straight to ticket office to suss out train to Turkmenbasi. Trains at 1900 and 2000 both full. Told to come back tomorrow to try and buy ticket for same tra?n departures. Later found out that there's also a train at 0600 tomorrow. Rode around town. Tried to find a bus to Turkmenbasi but was told there wasn't one? Was told to try airport, but didn't bother. Eventually returned to train station at 2100, a local man approached me and offered a ride to Turkmenbasi (after 15 minutes of negotiations i had my bike and luggage hanging out the back of his Opel Vectra (we agreed on 100USD to Turkmenbasi) i can't remember my drivers name, but he was an obese 25 year old with a wife and 10 month old at home. We just stopped off at a store to stock up on some drinks for the trip (we were going non stop apparently) fueled up the car, and stopped off at his place to say goodbye to his family. 2130 we were off, wanted to sleep but had to stay awake as i didn't know how much sleep my driver had during the day. He assured me he was ok, but still i wasn't convinced. The road was started off well with a good 2x2 freeway but soon deteriorated to a bad road. No linemarkings or reflectors made seeing where the road was going difficult. On a couple of occassions i had to tell him to slow down - either because the bike was bouncing around in the back, or he was going too fast for the road conditions. He said they were upgrading the road but it would take about a decade to complete! (he also confirmed there was no buses travelling this route because of the poor road conditions) Last couple of hours were tough, we stopped for coffee at an overnight truck stop, and i was nodding off to sleep.

 

26/07/12 - Arrived at Turkmenbasi 0500. Pack bike and ride to store for breakfast and stock up for ship. Ride to cargo ship terminal, arrived 0745 and put into waiting room with a mother, grandmother and child already in there - as usual no one knew when the ship was departing - i just work here! There was a restaraunt upstairs selling basic food and drinks. 1330 they took my passport for registration - the waiting continues. Waiting room was now full with about 20 people (i was the only foreigner) 1630 they started letting us in one by one to pass through customs and get our Turkmenistan exit stamp. They ran a few of my bags through the xray machine. i also learnt that when i was trying to enter Turkmenistan a day early the officers had made a note of it on the computer and the exiting officer asked me about that (bastards) After the slowest ever passage through customs that i've experienced, we were all on board at 1930. Rolled the bike straight on board  and parked it next to some train carriages. Paid 10USD ticket + 90 for cabin (this is the only option) Passport had to be handed over as well. Cabin had 2 single beds and bath/shower, although toilet was blocked and full of sewerage. Staff were mostly russian and helpful - they even let me wander through the bridge. i wandered around the ship and went to my cabin to sleep. They were waiting for the winds to die down before we finally set sail at 2300. 

 

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