Day 136 – Turkmenbasi and the Caspian Sea

5th December

On the train to Turkmenbasi, Turkmenistan / トルクメンバシ行きの列車にて(トルクメニスタン) 

The Caspian Sea is a deep aqua blue, at least here in Turkmenbasi. Turkmenbasi itself feels like the end of the world. Old Soviet apartments with small wooden framed windows. None seem to have been constructed as if there was a sea to look out on. No bay windows with a view of the sea in this town.

Now it just so happens that the Caspian Sea ferry is not a regular service. That is, it is entirely possible to have to wait three or more days for a ferry to arrive.

However, by some great divine intervention – I prefer to consider it due to my great foresight and planning – there was not only one ferry today, but two. I was in the enviable position of being able to choose which I would travel on. Not that there was much difference. They were both the same black and white, and were identical in shape.

One of the Caspian Sea ferries, Turkmenistan / カスピ海のフェリーのひとつ(トルクメニスタン)

I chose the ‘Azerbaijan’. Here is a run down of costs:

Payable at the terminal:
Ticket – US$45
Bicycle fee – US$5
Documentation fee – US$12

To be paid on the boat:
Bicycle fee – US$5 (yes, again)
Bicycle security fee – US$3
Cabin fee – US$10

Total: US$80

The money you pay for a bed (cabin fee) is negotiable. The steward first started at US$50. This was for my own room with shower and toilet. I said he has to be joking (it was in very bad condition), and that I would be perfectly happy to sleep on the floor of the seating room.

Hearing this, he quickly dropped to US$25. I said no way, but if they would consider US$10, then I would take it.

It seems that US$10 for a bed is standard – some other Turkmenistan citizens on the boat said that they also paid US$10.

All payments are made in US dollars only, including the payments at the terminal. It is a wise idea to have lots ot small denomination US dollars – change is not always available.

Meals on board are catastrophically expensive unless you are willing to haggle lots. I didn’t end up eating at the kafe on board since I had my own food, but I was quoted US$10 for fried potatoes and eggs. After saying that it was too expensive and that I would eat my own food, the price dropped to US$5.

The Caspian Sea on the Turkmenistan side is beautiful (photo taken on the 'Azerbaijan' ferry / トルクメニスタン側のカスピ海はとてもきれい

I got onto the boat at 4pm, but the boat still hadn’t left the dock when I went to bed at 9pm.

Day 135 – Ashgabat (English Summary)

4th December

English Summary:: I had a day while waiting for my train to Turkmenbasi to ride around Ashgabat – the canvas for the President. Statues of him are everywhere. His books (he writes one every year, and citizens are supposed memorise them) are enthroned on high. What a crazy, crazy place.






Day 134 – Out of the haze and onto a train

3rd December

My temperature at 1am this morning was still 40.3 degrees. By 4:30am however, it had fallen to 38.4, and by 8am, it was a normal 36.7.

Had this happened a day later, I would have been in a tent in the middle of the desert on my way to the town Merv. Sweating like I did when coming down off that 40 degree fever, I would have been in serious, serious trouble has I been in a tent whose temperature would surely have been below zero.

I still have crazy diahorrea though. The food here in Turkmenistan is terrible, so even though I am very hungry, I don’t have an apetite. I ordered a pizza (pizza is my favourite food for when I have no apetite) at a fancy ish restaurant, and was served a pizza consisting of cheeze, mutton, onions, and of course, salt. Way too much salt, way too much mutton, and way too much onion in this country. They have pies of the same constituent here. They are terrible…

So at least all is well as far as the fever is concerned, so I was able to buy a ticket for the train bound for Ashgabat. Leaves at 6pm. Cost of ticket is 40,000 mannat (less than US$2). Gets to Ashgabat at around 8am tomorrow.

I get to the train station at 5:30pm, and am told that I can’t take my bike on the train, because there is no baggage car. No dramas however as there is another train at 7pm with a baggage car.

All checked in baggage gets checked in at a different building. It cost 20,000 mannat for the baggage processing fee, and I was asked to pay 50,000 mannat to the baggage handler because it was a heavy bike. What a joke. Not wanting to tick anyone off however, I paid all requested money, and all was well.

I am on a train bound for Ashgabat. It has really bad toilets.

Turkmenistan railways train toilet – not pretty (between Turkmenabad and Ashgabat, Turkmenistan) / トルクメニスタンの列車のトイレはひどい(トルクメナバッド・アシュガバット間の列車にて)

Day 133 – Look Mum, I’m floating! (English Summary)

2nd December

English Summary: Woke with 38 degrees celcius teperature. Had to get food, so floated to nearest convenience store and bought yogurt, fruit juice, cheese and ice cream. I have diahorrea too. Watery. Temperature at 16:30 was 39.8 degrees. Teperature at 20:00 was 40.4 degrees.


Oh great President Niyazov (Turkmenabad, Turkmenistan) / トルクメニスタンの大統領の像(トルクメニスタン、トルクメナバッド町)




Turkmenistan money – this is about US$10 (in the largest denomination notes) / トルクメニスタンのお金が安い!これが1000円くらい

Day 132 – Turkmenistan border to Turkmenabad

1st December

I woke to -16 outside the tent. According to the thermometer on my watch, it was -1 inside the tent. Can two layers of nylon insulate up to 15 degrees? I have my suspisions about the inside tent reading.

Everything at this temperature is ten times as difficult. Undoing your fly to relieve yourself, pulling tent pegs out of the ground, stuffing a sleeping bag into its stuff sack…I didn’t even try to cook my porriage for breakfast. But that was more to do with the fact that the water in my bottles inside my tent was frozen.

I was packed up and waiting at the border gate by 7:30am, but had an excrutiating 1..5 hour wait to get into the customs and immigration building. By the end of the first hour, I had pulled my sleeping bag out and had wrapped this around me to keep warm. Even then I was very cold. I was just keen to get cycling to warm up.

The border crossing was straight forward. The only catch that was different from other borders was that I had to pay $12 (in US dollars) for a ride in a police car to Turkmenabad.

I’m sorry, can you repeat that? A ride in a police car to Turkmenabad?

Well, that is what the rule book says, but the sight of a fully loaded touring bicycle was enough to put them off, and I did not have to ride with the police to Turkmenabad. I did however still have to pay the $12. According to other cyclists I have spoken to, this is standard. No big deal. The immigration and customs officials were the most professional and well groomed of any officials I have met anywhere so far on this trip, so the whole process is all perfectly pleasant.

The immigration building is however open at both ends, which means that a cold breeze wafts through all the time. I was very cold by the time I had finished, and even the short 45 minute cycle to Farap did not warm me up. In fact I was colder.

I was quite throrougly not in a good way by the time I had arrived at Farap. I went to a small cafe and ordered permenyi (meat filled pasta), but couldn’t stand the sight of it let along the taste. The 750ml of weak hot tea I drank did not stop my shivering either. At this point I thought I may have mild hypothermia.

If there had been a hotel in Farap, I would have stayed there. There isn’t, so on to Turkmenabad it was.

What a ride. Nothing to eat, very cold, and legs that felt like lead. My body ached – back, pelvis, shoulders. I had to stop often to regain some form of strength. At one point I needed to pee. Standing up off the bike I felt as though I was floating, but feet were of lead.

Out of sheer neccessity and need for a warm bed, I made it to Turkmenabad, checked into one of the two open hotels, and promptly collapsed into bed. My body  temperature at around 5pm was 38 degrees celcius.

Day 131 – Buhara to Turkmenistan border(English Summary)

November 30

Distance / 距離: 110.63km
Time / 時間: 6h 32m
Average speed / 平均速度: 16.9km/h
Distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 415.73km

English Summary: Smooth, easy riding today. Got free hot bread from a bakery. Maximum -3 degrees in middle of the day. Tried to get across the Turkmenistan border a day early, but they have eyes like hawks and noticed the date on my visa. Was told off by Uzbek border guards for lighting a small fire next to my tent.