| The beaurocratic red-tape hassle lasted all of two hours at the Turkmenistan border, but in the meantime we couldn’t stop gazing in wonder at the Turkmenistan women who with their colourful, figure-enhancing dresses and beautiful almond-shaped eyes were a real sight to behold.
Later in the afternoon, we pedalled off towards „Mary“ the third largest city in this land of deserts, which lies about 210 km north-east from here. The warm headwind blew mightily in our faces, forcing our average speed to drop to around 10 km/hr.
On the way we met up with four Turkmenish trucks parked on the side of the road. They were transporting brand new Nissan jeeps to Kazakhstan, and since our transit visas with the bikes were only valid for five days, leaving us not too much time to experience the city life, we decided to load our two-wheelers onto the trucks for the trip to Mary, and then from there we would ride through the south-eastern Karakum desert.
After we’d agreed on a fare with the truck drivers, we loaded our dusty bikes into two factory-new jeeps!! That was the end of the good roads though, and the following 200km long journey took over six hours to complete, of course including time for a few breakdowns.but we entertained ourselves with the truckdrivers despite the language barrier and time just flew by.
Around this flat and sparsely populated area the landscape is dominated by huge cotton fields
We arrived in the city of Mary at around midnight, and due to the cheap price, we overnighted in the hotel Sanjar which had been condemned by other travellers because of a plague of cockroaches. In the first room the air-conditioning didn’t work, in the second the door lock was broken, and in the third, the entire washbasin broke off the wall and crashed to the floor because the mounting brackets were completely rusted through. We were really pissed off when the receptionist reckoned we should pay for the damage, but he gave up with us after a short arguement..
Early next morning we left the hotel, and went to the bazaar to eat breakfast. Some men and women who were working there came over to sit with us and again we were amazed at how humorous, helpful and uncomplicated the Turkmenen are.
The city Mary was rebuilt last year by the since deceased President Niyazov, alias „Turkmenbashi“ (Leader of the Turkmenen). To do this, land was ruthlessly confiscated from the people, without recompense, and then used to build parks, golden Turkmenbashi monuments and government offices. However, these offices and buildings are nothing but prestige objects because Turkmenbashi ruled the country alone, and so had no use for governmental institutions.His ego had no limits and his image cult is absolutely crazy ,resulting in enormous photos of Niyazov being hung up all over the place.
At 3 o’clock in the morning, it was relatively cool when we started the ride through the Karakum desert, however already at 10 o’clock the sun was beating down on us and our drinking water was almost boiling. The heat and the headwind slowed us down almost to a stop while we searched in vain for a bit of shade under a tree. Apart from these hardships, the vista of the seemingly unending sand desert was very impressive along with the occaisional dead dromodar on the side of the road which had been hit by a truck.
Finally, after 300 sweat-drenched kilometers, the city of Tukmanabad appeared like a „Fata Morgana“in the far distance and we spent our last evening here in this land. In the morning, we went to the bazaar to stock up on provisions for the next leg of the trip and were suddenly surrounded by curious Turkmenen who showered us with gifts of fresh fruit and bread.
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