Firstly – apologies for the “radio silence”, in case anybody got worried not hearing a peep for several days. There has been zero internet access over the last couple of days… and while I knew it was coming, I had assumed I’d have an evening to write an update warning of it in Baku, before I went “incommunicado” for an unknown time.
Also worth noting – likely to happen in the future also, for several days at a time.
Anyway – I’m now in Ashgabet, Turkmenistan – where internet access is very unreliable, so I’ll just post the bones of this ASAP, and flesh out as I can. Photos… unlikely.
12-15 May – Azerbaijan – Caspian Sea – Turkmenistan, 521 miles riding + 13-hour ferry
So – the longest border crossing thus far… 31.5 hours, albeit 13 of those hours sailing across the Caspian Sea.
The original plan – Sheki->Baku – then stay the night in Baku, while we figure out when a ship is sailing to Turkmenbashi (the ferries have no published schedule or regular departure times). Then – as we got to Baku, we are told there is one leaving that very afternoon – and if we can all get to the Port by 16:00 – we’re good to “steal a march”. So… we do…
16:00 – get to the new Baku International Sea Port
… waiting around, change out of bike clothes, go through Azerbaijan Customs/Passport-Control/etc
19:30 – get on Ferry/boat
Midnight – Ferry/boat leaves port
… very calm/peaceful trip across the Caspian Sea… clocks go forward
14:00 – Ferry/boat docks in Turkmenbashi
16:00 – Allowed off ferry/boat, to start Customs/Passport-Control
00:30 – Released from Customs/Passport-Control
The Turkmen border process reminded me of a Scooby-Doo cartoon… one long hallway, with a group of people going in and out of different doors all down the corridor, chasing each other, sometimes doubling back, sometimes just sitting in a queue. Looking back, I can count 7, maybe 8, offices I had to visit.
Anyway – we finally got out of the compound, and arrived at our hotel in Turkmenbashi around 1am. Woke up to discover the hotel is a very long walk from town… so wash the bikes (apparently the President frowns upon dirty vehicles… so getting into the capital could be troublesome with a dirty bike), and then I walk into town. To discover… nothing. A deserted children’s amusement park, and zero shops. No internet cafe (I asked – I just got the shaken head “no” in response… zero internet in the entire town, apparently). Walked back to hotel in stinking hot sun, rather sun-burnt for no result.
Next day (today) – to be the first day riding through the desert. Our first desert-ride turned into our first full-day-wet-weather-ride… nearly 6 hours of heavy rain. On desert roads… obviously not designed for rain… there were floods, patches of wet sand, and long sections which when wet – looked like glass. And… reacted like wet glass also, when introduced to motorcycle tires. I had about 2 seconds of the tires not behaving as I wished them too, and slowed the hell down for quite some time, until I could actually see real texture on the road again.
Anyway – got here safe, to the rather spectacular city of Ashgabat, where we have a day “off” tomorrow. I’m not sure how to describe what I’ve seen of the city so far… the residential areas are hundreds upon hundreds of identical “detached” houses, standing in rows, grids rather… with scores more being built. And then into the city centre – with monolithic buildings everywhere. Marble – everywhere. So – heaps of traditional monolithic marble structures, and then “futuristic”/avant-garde structures around the place also.
For just one example of each – look up the Ashgabat Airport, and the Turkmenistan Presidential Palace (which we’re staying across the road from… and as such, photos are “strictly forbidden” within several blocks of the hotel. I believe there are no hotel rooms with windows overlooking the palace.