The heat of Turkmenistan will probably be our lasting memory of this country. With temperatures reaching 53celcius on a daily basis, it is difficult to comprehend why people live in this place. The change of culture between Iran and here was however welcomed. Women were treated with more respect and no longer bound by law to cover up. The Soviet past was visible in the buildings, vehicles, food, and of course, vodka. After sand, the most common sight here was large photos and statues of their former president, Saparmurat Niyazov, whose book has been put into orbit around the earth! Cycling also felt a lot safer, as drivers were less erratic and had respect for one another. One thing that was quite shocking to see was the locals drinking out of the streams and rivers, the same ones that they bath in and had directed me to for the toilet.
Our first night in Turkmenistan was spent with a wonderful family, living a nomadic lifestyle in the desert. After being called over for chai, it was not long before we were given fruits, dinner, juices and lashings of vodka. We watched the video from the wedding of one of the sons and kept the children happy by showing them our bikes. We had never seen such well-behaved children before, each one not only doing exactly as told by their father, but doing it with enthusiasm.
After an early start to avoid the sun, it wasn’t long before food poisoning aka ‘The dog’ caught up with me (Jon) and Tim following some tasty lunchtime soup with unidentified (possibly, but hopefully not human) bone. Sapping the bodies water and energy, this unfortunately made cycling across the remainder of the Turkmen desert too great a risk to attempt, so we took the train to Turkmenabad.
After waiting for over an hour in the burning midday sun at the border whilst the guards finished their lunch, we had Uzbekistan.