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Current Location : Bishkek, Krygyzstan (Google map)
Last entry date : 23 May 2008

Behind these beautiful layers of mountains lie Turkmenistan, some 30 kms away

After Marc and me called it quit at Quchan Iran on 11May08 evening there was another 80km of mountain road north to the frontier. Look at above photo. The road to the border was the one of the most beautiful stretch I’ve seen so far. There’re almost no one on this road at this hour, and its so so quiet as the darkness sets in. Just me and the cold mountain air. When I reached the frontier at 1900hrs, of course the customs gates were closed. A surprised Iranian soldier rushed over to check my identity and pointed to the only hotel in the village (am really surprised to see a hotel given the size of the village) or if I wish, he’ll allow me to camp next to their caravan post. I took the hotel.

Turkmenistan is the 1st of the 4 Central Asia countries which I had planned to cross. A traveler quickly find that there is a Russian twist here in the way their system works. The exit from Iran took 1 hour, the entry into TM (Turkmenistan) took another 3 hours (including the customs being closed for lunch, of course). Went through 7 stations, most asking the same questions and checking similar papers. I came through with various bits of handwritten papers (big trouble if I loose any, they say) and many dollars less for these papers. That morning I saw less than 5 ordinary people trying to cross the TM customs.

Ashgabat, the capital is 35km down the mountains. Suddenly here there are modern designed high rise buildings, stretch of lovely huge fountains along 4 lane boulevards, expensive cars on the roads, etc. The air smells of petrol dollars. Policemen stood at almost every corners of the capital. Within 1-1/2 hrs inside Ashgabat, I was controlled 4 times and checked that my passport and bike papers are in order. However, the locals gave thumbs up when they saw the bike. Later did I learn there are no motocycles at all in TM. Luckily my pal Alistair stationed in Ashgabat helped me with the stay here. Had a great time catching up with Alistair. But kept wondering during this time just how strange this city is.

2 days later on 13/May/08 I rode east in hot weather towards Mary. The desert heat is like an oven inside my bike jacket. The locals know exactly where they are going. There is no need to look for road signs as these are hard to come by outside Ashgabat. Its here that I also discovered that there are police roadblock and checkpoints at entry and exit to every city or town. Sometimes I get called over to show my papers, sometimes not. For a traveler its hard to understand – even a waste of time as I’ve been controlled many times before and after entry. That day I met up with a sandstorm out in the desert and do not understand how I deviated from my route by 50kms to the Serachs TM border crossing into Iran !! Too late once I’m stopped by the border police or soldiers. A traveler to TM must declare his route at entry and not deviate from it. Instead of telling me to turn back that late evening, the officer at the checkpoint began holding onto my passport and went on about the trouble I’m got myself and himself into. Later when he started writing down figures with a few zeros, I understood its pay time for him. I refused all his suggestions and 45 minutes later he let me off riding back into the sandstorm after he was happy with my offer for a few packets of cigarettes. I have the impression this trick has been applied many times before to lost tourists. That evening I ended up late in a local roadside eatery cum motel. The host family cooked and fed me. However the motel had no bathroom nor toilet. The ordinary folks here are more reserved, but friendly once the conversation gets started.

The 4th day in TM its was more than 250 km ride across the Garagum desert to the Uzbek border. Another sandstorm came up which meant another slow traveling day. Fine sand flew in all directions into my pockets, my eyes, across the road, etc. Another new experience. The more perturbing information that day was that the last gas station had 3rd rate quality of petrol for the bike (only 80 Octane type available which in reality is less than that) and the next station was 150 km away across the desert.

Once again, when I arrived at the frontier it was closed for the evening. By chance I met up with a driver from Kurdistan Turkey named Ridwan who readily offered me the 2nd bunk bed inside his truck if needed (would have camped otherwise), and a dinner as well inside an odd container structure converted into a restaurant just before the customs gate. We had shashlik meat BBQ in company with another Iranian driver called Hoseini, and hundreds of flies. I had my truck hotel and did not need anything else until the customs re-opened the next morning at 09.00hrs. Maybe just a good bath to get rid of the fine sand layer stuck to my whole body.

32 Responses to « Turkmenistan – Adapting to police checks, desert heat…  »

  1. On ne se lasse pas de tes photos; celles la en plus ca faisait longtemps qu’on les attendait!!! On t’embrasse très fort a ce soir et prend soin de toi!!

  2. Johanna & Christian23 May 2008 à 9:03 pm

    I’m very jealous I have to say…what an adventure you’re having. The photos and comments are great.
    It must have been nice to see Alistair and catch up with work… I am sure you are missing it terribly!! Hee hee!!
    Looking forward to more photos and commentaries.
    Take care,

  3. Hey Sheen, you finally got the chance to take the photo you always wanted to take. The one where your bike is with a beautiful empty road at the back and hills on the side…Can’t decide which one I like most, they are all so nicely taken. But I really like the photos ot the locals. Love, Lydia

  4. coucou mon papa, c’est bien ce que tu fais ( ton voyage, tes photos, tes enfants … ^^) je t’aime et continue ton rêve parce qu’on a qu’une vie ! on est tous avec toi

  5. Nice photos Sheen. Good luck for the following of your trip and take care of you; Have a nice week end.

  6. Kenny and Cecilia25 May 2008 à 1:22 pm

    Hello Sheen,
    Another interesting and exciting update and photos this time from the land of …tans'(Turkmenistan,Krygyzstan etc…)Take good care,continue enjoying yourself with a little extra rest if needed.Your friendliness is reaping many friends and help on your trips.Looking forward to more updates from you….God Bless.

  7. annie jeanmichel erwan gwen25 May 2008 à 3:19 pm

    hi sheen
    ton blog c est mieux q un reportage.c est un voyage que je partage chaque fois que tu envoies des photos et des commentaires.c est vraiment genial ce que tu fais
    a bientot et continue de nous faire rever

  8. Hello, Sheen!

    Nice to hear from You! Its great that You are on the road to Karakol.
    Tashkent guest house meeting was great. Greetings from all crazy Lithuanian guys!
    > Jonas (the long one) 🙂

  9. Siew Hoon & Victoria26 May 2008 à 12:30 pm

    What an interesting experience in the desert & sandstorm. Great photos, & also friendly people. Take care.

  10. Hello Uncle Sheen,
    Phoebe here.Nice to see you enjoying riding on your bike to so many countries.Take care and have a good rest Uncle Sheen.Hope to see you soon.

  11. Salut Sheen
    Alors sans hésitation, en cette période de Festival de Cannes, je te décerne la palme d’or du meilleur reportage photo en temps réel live, avec prix spécial du jury. C’est super tu as l’air en pleine forme, toujours souriant et frais comme au 1er jour, malgré tous ces kms… à ce demander si tu n’as pas un camion d’assistance qui te suit avec masseurs, maquilleuses, cuisiniers, etc…
    En plus, sur tes photos on a vraiment l’impression que tu rends heureux tous les gens que tu croises !!!
    BRAVO !!!!Excelllente continuation.

  12. “C’est justement la possibilité de réaliser un rêve qui rend la vie

    “Certains ont peur de réaliser leurs plus grands rêves, parce qu’ils croient ne pas mériter d’y arriver, ou ne pas pouvoir y parvenir”

    “Souvent le voyage est plus enrichissant que la destination finale”

    C’était la minute philosophique inspirait par ton formidable périple:
    extraits de “l’Alchimiste de Paulo Coelho”

    Enjoy your dream
    Ride safe

    Bernard G.

  13. Coucou mon parrain!!!!
    ca faisait trop longtemps que je n’étais pas venue sur ton site…
    J’ai enfin pu lire tes messages et voir tes magnifiques photos! Ca m’a donné envie de partir à l’aventure moi aussi!
    C’est bien de découvrir ces pays sous un autre visage car on n’en entend que du mal aux informations.
    Moi tout va bien en Australie je profite à fond, le week end dernier j’ai vu Lucille et son mari et ses 2 filles ils sont vraiment adorables, très très gentils!
    je t’aime fort je t’envoie de gros bisous, profites bien de ton voyage et à bientot jespere!
    Kisses from the australian girl! oriane

  14. coucou

    ca fait plaisir de te voir si heureux et que tu ailles au bout de ton reve
    tes photos sont tres belles

  15. c’est très bien mon papa, je suis très fier de toi! jai hâte de te revoir! bisous je t’aime: ton fils adoré

  16. qu’est qu’il est beau ce site!!! 🙂 Love, Lydia

  17. oups…il manque un mot a mon message!! Je voulais ecrire : qu’est ce qu’il est beau ce site 🙂

  18. Hi dad!!! je suis heureuse de voir que tout va bien. tout le monde est derriere toi. Jadore regarder tes photos, souvent, ca me change de ce paysage nicois , en plus il ne fait vraiment pas beau ici. bientot la chine!!! gros bisous!

  19. Hello All,

    thanks for visiting and your comments. Got some great photos to be posted for Uzbekistan, Khazakstan and Krygystan once can find one good internet cafe that can do the trick.

    For info just crossed into Xinjiang Korgas China this afternoon, but bike still in chinese customs due to one new rule. Agent is trying to sort it out – I am told I am the 1st bike to try to cross this year (where are the others ??)

  20. coucou my dada a moi j’espere que cela se passera bien en Chine ! je t’aime tres fort et on pense tous tres fort a toi !! WE LOVE YOOOUUU


  21. WAOUW!! deja en chine! ca va vite!! 🙂 je suis tres fiere de toi! continue la poursuite de ton reve 🙂 bisou, on t’aime

  22. Siew Hoon & Victoria28 May 2008 à 7:18 pm

    Hi- Sheen,
    Wow, you’re already in China ! Nice hearing fr. you. Take care.

  23. ca y est tu es en chine!!!Quelle chance. J’aurais adoré faire cette partie du voyage avec toi! Fais le plein de souvenirs! Love, Lydia

  24. Hi Sheen,

    Probably by now you’re in XingJiang.

    Have been fairly busy but still keeping an eye on your website and your trip. Have received your email as well. Thanks for taking time out to write us.

    Oh, I believe those fellows in Malaysia are very kin to serve you with a very nice cup of “Kopi-O” or “Teh tarik” when you arrive there.

    Keeping up with your good spirit and take good care wherever you’re.


  25. J’avais un peu zapper ton périple. Mais aujourd’hui j’en ai le souffle coupé. Que c’est beau. Il va falloir que je trouve du temps pour me connecter plus souvent.
    Tu avais une chance à saisir, tu la fais. Et moi pauvre pantoufflard je rêve.
    Bonne route et à bientot.

  26. Laura (Martin)1 June 2008 à 6:46 pm

    La Chine?
    J’attends les photos avec impatience!!!
    Courage pour la suite, et a bientôt.

  27. Hi Sheen,
    Already in China, which part of China you are now?
    Great photos,still waiting for it.
    Take care, have good rest and safe journey.

  28. Hello, Sheen

    I’m already 2 weeks at home after our old car trip to Tashkent and already want to go to another journey. So, I know, that might be you are tired, but happy! Hope and wish. Stay safe and go for IT. Lithuanians support team 🙂

  29. annie jeanmichel erwan gwen3 June 2008 à 7:23 pm

    bonjour sheen
    j espere que ton voyage en chine se passe bien
    et que tu reviennes vite a gattieres
    tu manques beaucoup a gem
    bisous gwen

  30. Hi Sheen,

    Got a missed call from you (Skype) @ 1.57 pm ….. was out for lunch! Anyway, hope you are progressing well along your route and on time. Do be extra alert …..


  31. salut papa tu nous manques, tu nous fais rever avec tes rêves ! ^^ on pense a toi j’ai hâtee d’etre en juillet ! =) bisous je t’aime très fort

  32. pas mal le voyage trop bien le site

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