15. Travel report: Turkmenistan 22.6. - 26.6.2008
In the shade of a massive caravanserai - maybe Marco Polo also stayed here, at a time when trading was much more risky than nowadays and caravans found shelter behind these thick walls – we put up our tent for the last time before we reach the border of Turkmenistan. The border crossing at Sarakhs is slow on the Persian side. But the Turkmenistan customs officers worked efficient, so 3 hours later we sat on the bikes again – together with Maarten and Janneke from Holland.
For the transit of Turkmenistan we have only 4.5 days left, since it was not possible to obtain more than a 5 day transit visa. 510 kilometers had to be cycled in this time. Head wind was blowing strongly; Pius and Maartens alternately take the lead. It is a tremendous challenge to cycle on this bad road with this constant shaking and the heat did not make the situation easier. In the evenings we are exhausted and fall moaning on our mattresses. Once we had the chance to stay in a Hotel. What a disappointment. We had to pay 40 Dollar for a room, and when we saw this shabby worn room, with a dirty, 50 years old toilet – we just could not help laughing aloud. But we have to say that the most important thing, the shower, was working.
The landscape is flat steppe, where it is well watered cotton is grown. People are good-spirited and open minded – and for us women it means, there is no more veil, long trousers and long sleeved blouses to be worn - what a relieve. The only use of the veil now is to keep the water cool for a while (water the veil, wrap the bottle with it and let the wind do the work). Yes, wind. The wind is the big topic. It winds so strongly that the sand gets blown across the street, and each time a truck comes along, we see-saw and we grind our teeth.
The last day Maartens suffers from diarrhea, feels very ill and has a very hard time to cycle. Just 5 minutes before the border is shutting down, we get there. We have done it! And one day later, we clink the beer glasses in Buchara with our lovely Dutch couple and are happy to have succeeded. We are happy to have met Maartens and Janneke. Without them, we would not have been able to cycle this transit.