A world record I’m not particularly proud of, coming out from bizarre circumstances and a sometimes too instinctive temper.
From Uzbekistan to Iran, by land and without motor vehicles, in 23 hours.
Turkmenistan crossing … in less than a day.
15 and 16 October, from Farab to Sarakhs ◀ Days 383 e 384 🇺🇿 – 🇹🇲 – 🇮🇷 ▶
I anticipated it: I had no idea what would happen in Turkmenistan.
However, I would never even think that I would have chosen to stay for less than 24 hours.
Little, very little, surely too little.
But enough to make me take a fast decision far away from all my initial “plans”.
Essentially, Turkmenistan, after a handshake and a sincere smile from the first frontier military and a pleasant 40km road – in the middle of desert, desolation and cotton fields – to reach Turkmenabat, soon threw me into discomfort and resignation.
Absurd costs for foreigners (hotels from $50 a night and a simple simcard with internet for 2 days for $30 with the easy motivation “these are the rules, if we pay 30 Manat you pay 30 Dollars”), hot furious sun at daytime and cold at night, almost no English everywhere, passport controls every 100 meters and gloomy, threatening looks from the soldiers at every corner.
The few people I’ve been able to talk to (two boys in total) – whom I expressed my perplexity to – smiled at me; how to understand me, in a proud and poor attitude at the same time, knowing perfectly the reality which they probably only dream of escaping from.
Who knows me a bit knows also that I have a generally calm and thoughtful behaviour, but sometimes instinct and feelings fight for their space. Especially these second ones, even if they come too fast and can be potentially badly grounded.
In fact, however, I spent a few hours in the anonymous and dispersive Turkmenabat, seeking a meal and accommodation in the middle of long dark boulevards. Then, considering the prohibitive proposals for a stay in town, I bought a place on a night train to Mary, where I imagined I would have stayed one night trying to bargain once again for a hotel.
At 7 o’clock this morning, however, just after getting off the train and starting thinking what to do, I was approached by a disguised police officer. The third, in half a day. Like the previous two, he also squatted me as if I was an international gangster. He also had the same requests.
No questions, requests:
“Where you come from.” – “Italy.”
“Where are you going.” – “Iran.”
“Where is your guide ” – “Which guide? I’m alone. I came by train. With this bike and a transit visa.”
“Let me see your phone.” – “Why?”
“Let me see the phone.” – “Okay.”
“Erase everything. You can’t take pictures in Turkmenistan.” – ” Ok”.
When then, after 10 minutes, a new soldier approached me and shouted “Passport!” I did not manage to hold an onomatopoeic “Again!? But what the f … ”
Come on, you can not ask me for my passport that way. Again.
I’m a sensitive guy at the end.
Not far from me, an old convoy labelled Mary-Sarakhs snorted a soon departure. Sarakhs, the exit border town on my visa. I approached one of the wagons and, in my embarrassing Russian, I realized that it was the only weekly train to Sarakhs. A clear sign. A frigid rain, soon replaced by a colored dawn, therefore contributed to the decisive choice.
I understood at that moment that I was no longer interested in Turkmenistan at all. Sadly – but not too much – I decided not to stay any further.
Goodbye military regime, goodbye vampire dictator. Terror is not what your nice people deserve.
For me it had to be a simple transit, and a very fast transit it was.
For them it is everyday life.
So, at the end, two observations to conclude.
The first is that I was lucky to get a 5 day transit visa and I threw it away in less than one.
The second – and by far the most important one for me – is that another country has already begun.
A dream I carried all this way, called Iran.