After slowly flinching from one border to the other, a veterinarian who is afraid of dogs and two more hours of waiting due to computer problems, first of all the headscarf flew to the farthest corner of Ernst. Finally somehow more free again. We thought. The now following -STAN states were actually also mostly Muslim, so we let ourselves be surprised.
Also surprising was how you learn to hate a country so much before you actually get in it. Turkmenistan. Unwilling to book an overpriced tour in order to get a tourist visa, we had got ourselves a transit visa. A 55 Dollar fee and 10 days processing time, had it already cost us with the application in Iran. Now we stood like at every border, walking from one window to the next. Passport control, car control, health check, pay fee. Suddenly we fell out of our mountain pines! In fact, we were supposed to pay another 210 dollars just to be allowed to enter this country! Of these 50 dollars were for the use of a bridge, because we had such a big truck, then there was the setup fee for the GPS which we had to carry, but only got pressed into our hands, of the 3 dollar disinfection fee, because we had to drive through a sink filled with water, we do not even start. Oh yes, the payment fee also came on top of that. Thus only the existence authorization fee, respiration fee and gender fee were still missing. It sucked. So much money for a transit, which lasted afterwards (with overnight break) only 22 hours. Well, what did we want to do, there was no other way for us right now.
So we got Ernst and off we went. Turkmenistan – according to Wikipedia one of the most undemocratic states at all. Even the satellite dishes on the facades of the houses were forbidden, in order to be able to receive only state television. So much for the Internet. Our fears, went in the similar directions as it went us before with Iran. But when we drove through the first village, we noticed: The people here also cannot be kidded. If the bowls are not allowed on the façade, they just go on the roof or in the garden.
And the people were very different from Iran in other respects, too. The women wore colourful long dresses, each one looked differently colourful and nobody wore a veil or a headscarf anymore. Oh how nice it was to finally be able to look people in the face again. And although Turkmenistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, the people on the streets looked incredibly happy. Maybe it was due to the free salt, bread and diesel that the state generously gave the inhabitants.
In any case, it wasn’t on the roads. And when you say streets, you actually mean the worst category. Yes, there is asphalt where you should drive. But it is full of ruts of death (about 30-40 cm deep), holes, so deep and sharp and sudden that every car gives up voluntarily and the roadsides were marked every kilometer with destroyed truck tires. So that was death hell for every car. We fought our way over this mogul track, sometimes blown over by sand dunes. Because here was also the Karakum desert, the driest place in the world. We hurried to get through this country as fast as possible.
But that was easier said than done. Wadentiefer potholes, one beside the other, ruts of death with edge heights of on average 20 centimeters and on the road blown dunes, made the progress not exactly easy. Ernst had to endure a lot on the Turkmen roads. When it was then in the middle of the night and Google Maps was guiding us 25 km into a dead end street, we stopped our attempt to ride through the country and looked for a relatively hidden desert standing place.
Early awakened by heat and a shepherd / shepherd / priest / resident, who also did not leave, we set off to cross the rest of the country. The landscape turned out to be not very varied, but if you took a closer look, you could see this dryness blooming.
We stopped in Turkmenabat, a city drawn on a drawing board. Straight, wide, tidy streets, well-kept houses, shopping centres. A total contrast to the many kilometres in the driest desert of the world. Unfortunately we don’t have any photos from there, because, as I said, we had to hurry. Our conclusion is that we don’t want to visit this country again.