Aka: Highway to hell
Aka: A brief history of human suffering
Aka: Max Max: Turkmen Road
August 5th, 2016 in Denov, Uzbekistan
But we were not there yet! After spending the night puking his guts out, Robin were by no means the fastest cyclist under the sun. Afraid that it might have been the water that caused it, we purified some and set aim for the next “town”, some 25 km away, to replace the rest. When we got there, it turned out to be nothing more than workshops. By now, Robin was white as a sheet so one of the workshop owners insisted he'd come in, drink some tea and rest for a while. What we didn't realised until later was that he then also called for an ambulance. After a lot of negotiations with the paramedics (they wanted to take Robin to rest, we tried to explain that we didn't have time for such luxuries), they agreed to let us continue as long as we rested at the next restaurant.
What followed was a painfully slow (and also just painful) day towards the border, having to stop and rest more or less every hour. We finally made it to Sarakhs and the Red Crescent (Red Cross) two hours after dark. The Red Crescent is everywhere in Iran and the place by the border is well known for letting cyclists crash there. And after the day we just had, a shower and an air conditioned room was exactly what we needed.
As we ended up only doing about 40 km the first day in Turkmenistan we were desperately behind schedule. So the next day we got up with the first light to make up for lost time. And with nothing but desert for the first 100 km we were forced to do so sooner rather than later. With almost a full day’s distance covered before lunch, we manage to cycle a record breaking 188 km that day which more than made up for the day before. Not at all bad considering the state of us!
Cycling through Turkmenistan was exhausting and one of the worst thing we have ever done. And looking back, we can't really say we've experienced Turkmenistan as there was never any time to explore and we were obviously too tired and stressed to even try. What we did glimpse however was an odd country.
Turkmenistan is the least-visited of Central Asia's countries due to the difficulties to obtain a visa. And if you go for a tourist visa you will need to be accompanied by a guide for the entire time making it both expansive and obviously annoying. The transit visa we were on does not require a guide but instead it is painfully too short to both cross the country and experience anything on bicycle. Therefore, cycling through we mostly just experience the road, the desert and our own misery. And off course the grime toilets…
On a more positive note we have the Turkmenistan women. After Iran, where the black chador was boringly common, (for obvious reasons) the women in Turkmenistan with their colorful dresses was a pleasant change. Their dresses was every color imagined with bold patterned. And sometimes they were figure hugging or even short! It was such a difference compared to Iran. Even the cleaning ladies were fabulous. And Ida was obviously happy to be out of the hijab!
We reached the Uzbekistan border shortly after noon on the last day, quite pleased with the time we had made. With half a day to spare, we should have no problem getting to a hotel on the other side before the sun set...Or that's what we thought. The border crossing on this side made the Iranian side seem lighting fast. Not only were we forced to fill out the forms in Russian that we got out of filling out on the way in, we were then asked to empty all our bags…twice (once on the Turkmen side and then once again on the Uzbeki side).
Things didn't move along quicker when they found some spices that we had bought in Iran that looked like big chunk of hashish. There would have been five or six different officers smelling, tasing and trying to get us to confess for a good half hour before they let it go....
When we finally were allowed to continue into Uzbekistan we cycled to the first restaurant we could find ordered our first beers in over a month and celebrated that we had conquered the Turkmen-dash! The Central Asia chapter of our journey had now properly begun!