Turkmenistan is a country that borders Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to the north, Afghanistan to the south east, Iran to the south and the Caspian to the west.
A three day transit visa was all that I was given to cross 450 km through Turkmenistan, from what i`d heard five day visas are normally issued with the likeliness of sometimes three, I must have drawn the short straw. Any longer time to stay a guide is needed which Is around 200 dollars a day, though still had in mind on arriving to the border that I could make the crossing in three days.
The plan was on the first day to get to Mary which was 170 kms away, the next day to somewhere between Mary and Turkmenabat the third day ride up to the border at Farap and cross into Uzbekistan.
Arriving to the Sarahs Turkmenistan border at 7.30 am from Iran, I walked in a small room, handed a guy in a white coat my passport, noticing a basket full of thermometers on the desk, he handed me one from a jar filled with liquid and ask me to place under my arm, peeling the sweaty base layer away from my skin, I placed the thermometer under my arm pit, after a few minutes handed him it back where he jotted the temperature down on a piece of paper, then i headed to the room adjacent to hand in my passport along with an extra twelve dollars, for some reason I had a two and a half hour wait to get through, i asked the guard a number of times what`s happening, another guard walked over and asked where im heading to, I mention Mary as port of call he then asks what hotel am I staying in, I was planning to camp but didn`t mention that, he then gave me a name of a hotel to go to and that they would phone to say i`m on my way, phone to check my arrival and not to go to anywhere else apart from Mary!
After waiting the realisation of arriving to Mary on time was slipping away, pushing the bike on to the final check points I handed my passport to a guard to be checked, he looked at the passport and replied, ahhh..English man in New York, the words English man in Turkmenistan rolled from my mouth. Pushing the bike up to the next check point, a balaclava clad guard with an Ak47 rifle slung over his shoulder was pacing the pot holed wet road, making eye contact with him, I turned to the guard in the office window to hand my passport, where he replied, terrorist or tourist?, definitely not a terrorist and then again hardly not a tourist i thought to myself with only been given a three day transit visa.
Stopping at a truck stop cafe, it sunk in Turkmenistan felt different from the Islamic republic of Iran, women were not wearing the Hijab, there was two guys drunk sat on a bench drinking a bottle of beer, this felt quite a shock with coming from Iran.
From there I hitch hiked to a side road which lead to Mary and headed a few hundred yards, negotiating my way past a bull in the road, there was no way id make it to Mary with the road conditions and time of day it was, so hitch hiked to Tejen where i stopped in a hotel type place there. Jumping out the back of the cow dung ridden truck, passing a sheep hung up being slaughtered I walked into the entrance lobby come reception, three women with gold teeth gathered round pointing, holding their noses, miming that I smelt and to take my trousers off, for some reason I was starting to feel like I was in Cuba, though never been there.
The next day after the realisation I would`nt make the crossing in three days I hitched a ride to Mary with a 24 year old truck driver, he could speak a little English, I asked him what Turkmenistan people thought of England, surprisingly he said nothing is known about England here, there`s nothing on tv or the media.
Thinking about it, three days in Turkmenistan doesn’t really turn out to be three days, counting the time to get through the border, the one and half hour time difference, the road conditions where the maximum speed for a truck on the main road is 45 kmph, all in all three days in Turkmenistan turns out to be a day and a half anywhere else.
So much happened in so little time, one word can only describe. Turkmenistan!, an interesting friendly place.
Turkmenistan has approximately 5,100,000 citizens.
The official language of Turkmenistan is Turkmen, other languages spoken include Russian (12%), Uzbek (9%) and Dari (Persian).
The area of Turkmenistan is 488,100 square km, or 303,292 square miles.
Turkmenistan exports natural gas, cotton and grain.
The Turkmen currency is called the manat.
The Seljuk Empire collapsed in 1157. Turkmenistan was then ruled by the Khans of Khiva for about 70 years, until the arrival of Genghis Khan.
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