Ashgabat, Turkmenistan (Silk Route Scouting Report)
I am currently in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, a city completely destroyed by an earthquake in late 1940s and then rebuilt Soviet-style in the subsequent decades by the communist regime. Since the break up of the Soviet Union there has been a frenzy of construction, with marble-facade buildings popping up almost overnight. It is amazing of what a wealth of natural gas and oil can do to a country of five million people!
But I am getting ahead of myself. An official from the Ministry of Tourism of Azerbaijan told me not to worry about getting our trucks on the ferry across the Caspian Sea; “the ferry is big enough to take a train”. I thought he was kidding.
I was finally told to board the ferry and it was quite a surprise to see that a whole freight train already inside the belly of the old ferry.
Thankfully the weather was calm and I did not have to worry about an accident and a possible hasty sinking of the ship due to its weight.
The 13 hour crossing was uneventful as was the border crossing of all 13 passengers. A thought crossed my mind when waiting to clear all of the port formalities in Turkmenistan; How long will it take to clear our upcoming caravan of intrepid cyclists?
I was met by our local support who then drove me to Ashgabat. I will not write about the route as I really do not want to spoil the surprise though I will tell you that, though you may be a world-weary traveler, there is nothing like Ashgabat out there – at least nothing that I have seen!