Turkmenistan sounded a bite like hell! 500 km through the desert by 50°C with head wind, in one of the worth dictatorship in the world, in 5 days because we got only a transit visa. Add of this, few food supplies point because it is a desert, more exactly Karakoum desert.
We crossed the border with six other cyclists, one Belgian, Luc we met him several times before, one Dutch, the polish couple met the previous day and us. It was maybe our chance because we were few inspected, impossible to control precisely the bags of the six cyclists without to spend lot of time. Despite of it, we didn’t take the
before noon. It was already very hot. Everybody continued his own way.
In our side, we were agree to not ride the 500km. Some people told us the hitchhiking works very well so we tried the first day. After a full truck and a too small car, a pickup stopped. We were on the road for several decade of kilometers with Ovezgeldi and Bibi a Turkmen couple approaching the sixty. Close to their house, they invited us to drink a tea and eat some watermelon, we accepted without hesitation! We couldn’t imagine to meet natives. Then they insisted that we stay the night with in their place, we have already done our kilometers for the day (thanks to them) so we accepted, we could hitchhike tomorrow also!
By chance we wrote our date of birth to give our age, we have never done it before but the son-in-law insisted. Incredible, Fanchon was born the same day as Bibi, the 8 of August. We were the 9, a big family meal was organised to her birthday and the birthday of her daughter-in-law. born the 9. So Fanchon celebrated her birthday with them. For this event, girls of the family lent her a traditional dress. Later, they offered her it. The atmosphere of this night was incredible, full of joy, friendliness, we felt well and integrated. We played trombone and the some traditional songs with his synthesizer. Everybody danced, sang and laughed. This night will stay assuredly one of the best of our trip.
In Turkmenistan we found people beautiful. From the border faces have changed, eyes have been slant and faces have been rounded. Turkmen are not very tall but how they are elegant! Every women wear long colorful dress and a scarf covers their head. A brooch closes the embroidered neck of their dress. All of them wear reckless and a golden pair of earings. Men, as for them, wear often a light long and light coloured shirt witch matches with their trousers. To go outside they add a very beautiful hat of astrakhan. We saw very few European clothes, except in Turkmenabat.
Police officers are very present everywhere on the roads and in cities. The second night we wanted to continue to ride but the road was closed because of the coming of the president Berdimuhamedow. There was one policeman every 200 m on the both sides of the road during more than 5 km, impressive! Forced to stop earlier, we left the main road to pitch the tent but it was not easy with the irrigation of cotton fields. Finally we were welcomed by a family. We had a good meal and had a chance to taste the milk of camel. It was not bad. One more time we met a lovable family.
Big cities were very rare on our way and it was not very to find a little grocery to buy food. There were not really front window or they were very discrete or on a background of Turkmen flag. The national flag fluttered everywhere! Here, there was few advertisers panel except to prompt the country or the president.
Principal buildings such as mosque, theater are made with white marble and are very imposing their heigh is disproportionate. We tried to imagine how could be the capital Achgabat, it should be unreal ! We (would have liked) to go there but we couldn’t. The transit visa obliged us to follow one way, register us to the different check point and mainly go out through the right border.
Our third night was in the desert. The sky was clear and the air fresh. It was amazing and in the same time a bit scary to think we were alone in the middle of nowhere! They were maybe some dromedaries.
The forth day was a bit more difficult to Fanchon who was a bit sick in the evening. Impossible for us to continue, she had no more energy and the night was coming. We found refuge in a roadside cafe where the managers occupied of us. We imposed on her, we were bereft this evening ! She installed Fanchon and fed Gabriel. The day after she went we stayed, Fanchon didn’t vomit again but she she had diarrhea. But we had to leave the country.
Among our meetings in this country, two of them spoke English so we exchanged easily about the life in Turkmenistan. We thought really to find a population austere and oppressed that why we decided to understand.
Houses are built by the state and are sell about 60 000€ with a loan for 30 years. Gas and electricity are free, not really free but they have to pay 1.50$ at the end of the year! The state establish numerous school structures. students can chose what they like. The fuel cost 3 times less than in France and apparently there is no rule disturbing. People look happy.
We have alternated hitchhiking and bike, finally we rode a bit more than 300km. Bicycles was load in their maximum with food and water. Fanchon had difficulty to move hers when she wasn’t riding! The wind was very often from ahead but the temperature didn’t reach 50°C, only about forty.
We left Turkmenistan August the 13th to Uzbekistan.