Ashgabat, Turkmenistan: We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto

Turkmenistan, particularly the capital Ashgabat, is a very odd place. I felt like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City.

I kept expecting to see Toto pull the curtain back and reveal the former self-endorsed ‘President for Life’ Saparmurat Atayevich Niyazov (deceased) pulling levers and gears and bellowing into a megaphone.

He was known by his self-given title ‘Türkmenbaşy’, meaning Leader of Turkmen. Bold.

As vain dictators go, he’s pretty high up the list. There’s an enormous gold statue of him that revolves so it’s always facing the sun.

A picture of it is above. To give you an idea of size, if you click on the photo, the two small sheds you can see at the front? They contain a guard each.

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Turkmenistan: An unwelcome guest tries to join me on my first night bush camping

map-showing-route-of-odyssey-overland-istanbul-singapore-journey

The route: Istanbul to Singapore

The overland trip would take six months.  It starts in Turkey and finishes in Singapore.  One third of our time would be spent camping.

However, it’s hard to camp much after Kyrgyzstan, so little camping would be done after this country, just a few nights in Tibet. So really, we camp 50% of the time until we enter China.

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Turkmenistan: The Door to Hell at the Darvaza Crater

sunset-behind-odyssey-overland-truck-and-camping-chairs-karkoum-dessert-turkmenistanThe wonderful roads around Ashgabat soon ran out and we spent many, many hours driving on bumpy, dusty, pot-holed roads. It turned out to be like this for a number of weeks, all the way through Uzbekistan and beyond.  We weren’t to experience smooth tarmac for any great length  of time until we entered China.

Eight weeks previously I had undergone significant abdominal surgery.  I still had a gut full of internal stitches and the bumpy roads for weeks on end caused me significant discomfort. But there was little I could do about it, I was still happy to be there. Bumping along. Day after day, after day.  Continue reading