What a stress! Or how I had to rush through a country with front wind, a lot of hills and desert… nevertheless it was a really incredibly beautiful country! I crossed the border at around 14 o’clock, after a two hours of procedure. Although my visa for Iran expired since one day, I was lucky that they would let it go without problem. The crossing of the Turkmen border was though quite an adventure.
1. Go to the doctor, so that he would take your temperature
2. Pass in front of all Turkmen people and go to the first registration desk. A guy would fill in two forms for the material and the money you have, then they would copy your passport.
3. Go to the second desk, so that they would register you a first time.
4. Go to the third desk, so that you could pay 12 dollars entry fee, no idea for what exactly…
5. Go back to the second desk and handle the proof of payment of the fees, then wait for like 30 minutes.
6. Finally you can go the to luggage control. Unlock your whole luggage from the bicycle, pack your medicines out. Each medicine will be checked piece by piece, to be sure it’s legal in the country.
7. Now you can cross the border, yeah!
So I still had 4.5 days to drive 550 km. I spend the first day looking for change and food. The first night, I tried to put my tent not far away from the street. As I was building the tent, I say a man coming on a donkey, his face was totally covered by a scarf and I could only see his eyes… my hearth started beating stronger and I began to sweat a little – where is my pepper spray, I thought. The man took his scarf down to let appear a smiling face with a lot of golden teeth. He invited me to sleep at his home, a little hut made out of mud bricks – a real experience!
On the third day I could reach Mary, a middle sized city with a lot of huge representative buildings. I had time to visit the local museums, which exhibits finds of Gonur Depe, a place I actually wanted to visit (but time was too short).
The crossing of the desert was not so easy, but I had enough water with me. I was tough exhausted all the time and ate at least one kilo dates. Finally, I crossed the border to Uzbekistan 2 hours before closing time.
I could just reach the city of Bukhara, before my bicycle decided to not work anymore. The gear system was stuck again – Tout Terrain produces really bad cycles and I advice you to boycott them! Because of that, I decided to continue the trip by bus and train, while they should send my another part to Ürümqi, China. Sending something to this part of the world takes three weeks! I could fill time up by visiting Samarkand, Tashkent, and then Almaty in Kazakhstan.
In Bukhara I had a big surprised. I didn’t really realize what this city meant, but it was a big post of the silk road and it has the biggest citadel I ever saw, made of mud bricks and wood. The old city is charming, and it’s a touristic city (mostly 50+ German people). I went then to Samarkand, famous for its Registan, a big plaza with three madrasahs. I spend a lot of time with a French girl and a German cyclist. Together we visited places like the cemetery, the antic city of Maracand or the Jewish museum.
Tashkent was in contrast to the two first cities very sad and dark. It’s in majority marked by soviet architecture, the museums though are, like in most worlds capitals, pretty well set. I had really, really a lot of emotions seeing the art of the Kushan Empire (Buddhist art, influenced by the Greek art. Mostly known for the Region of Gandhara), which reached until Uzbekistan. Other visitors were amazed to see a foreigner tourist here – a group of bankers even improvised a little interview to know what I think of their country.
Because I couldn’t change the gears of my bicycle anymore, I decided to avoid mountains and to go through Kazakstan by train. I reached the city of Almaty by train after 30 hours. The crossing of the border was an adventure! The corruption of the police is extremely high: I saw one third of the people paying money to them, because they put them into trouble.
I felt a little sad for a old lady, who seemed to have « too much » food with her (two bags of seeds). One policeman began to eat the seeds and spitted it to the side, while all people around were terrorized. Another policeman seemed to annoy another lady who had a child (and probably sexually assaulted her, since she seemed very uncomfortable and he winked at her all the time). I wanted to punch all of them, but since I had to cross this border I stayed quite…
Once in Almaty, I took time to visit the city. I found quite impressive how much this ex soviet state is influenced by the West. You find western food all around the city. It seems that the Americans help the government to developp the country, in particular by providing specialists for extracting oil (they for sure get a huge commission, no need to invade the country like Irak).
I met a few people there, had a good time chatting with a korean girl, whose grandmother lived in northkorea, before she was deported by Staline in the 50s…