Lynn & David travelling from Turkmenistan through the Caucasus to Turkey travel blog

Underground cave steps

Underground cave pool

Belinda, Fran and Lynn in Turkmenistan

Anna, our guide in Turkmenistan

Akbar-Teke Turkmen horse

Akbar -Teke Turkmen horse

Akbar-Teke Turkmen horse

Lynn and friend at the horse stud, Turkmenistan

Lynn and David at Darvaza Crater, Turkmenistan

Lynn and David at Darvaza Crater, Turkmenistan

Darvaza Crater , Turkmenistan

Darvaza Crater, Turkmenistan

Darvaza Crater, Turkmenistan

Lynn at Darvaza Crater, Turkmenistan

Mud Crater, Turkmenistan

Young girl in Yerbent, Turkmenistan

Boy, Yerbent, Turkmenistan

School, Yerbent, Turkmenistan

Bread oven Yerbent, Turkmenistan

Urban streetscape, Yerbent, Turkmenistan

Truck going nowhere, Yerbent, Turkmenistan

Saturday 30 April 2016

Out of Ashgabat

After breakfast today we headed off in the bus for activities outside Ashgabat. The first place we went was a thermal underground lake where we went swimming in a warm sulphur spring. This place was about an hour to the west of Ashgabat and once we arrived, we walked down 360 steps smelling the sulphur all the way, got changed into our swimmers in some very basic change cubicles and spent 20 minutes in the water (longer was not encouraged due to health issues). We amused ourselves by recalling some relevant scenes from the movie Dantes Peak (you have to have seen it to understand…), then changed into our clothes again and walked back up the steps to the top again. We then had lunch of shashlik and salad at the little restaurant set up at the site and, after lunch, we drove to our next stop, a horse stud, and were shown the beautiful Akhal-Teke Turkmen horses that they breed and train for racing. The owner told us about the place via translation by our guide. It was a beautiful place and the horses were wonderful. They are fine of body with long thin legs, a long thin neck, and very short fine hair that changes colour in sunshine due to an undercoat of a slightly different colour. We then went and looked at the memorial to the first president of Turkmenistan, Niamov, who died in 2006. The monument was absolutely stunning and also included his family. His father died in 1943 during the war and his mother and two brothers died in the 1948 earthquake whereas he was saved by being passed out first through a window by his mother. We then visited the mosque right next door that is dedicated to Niamov’s memory. It is the largest in Asia and was completed in 2005 and truly is a beautiful building. After our mosque visit, we drove back to the hotel in the city. We went out to dinner with Fran and Belinda to the restaurant we went to earlier in the week and had a very nice meal. Home, packed up yet again and to bed around 11:30pm.

Today was cloudy and a lot cooler than yesterday – only about max 23C.

Sunday 1 May 2016

Ashgabat to Darvaza Gas Crater

Although it was a free morning the group decided to meet up at 8:30am after breakfast and catch taxis out to the large market near Ashgabat where handicrafts and all manner of other things are sold. There are few official taxis so we all stood on the footpath outside the hotel and waited for some private citizen running an unofficial taxi to come along. Very soon we had 3 cars stopped and negotiations began. Three of us went in one car and paid a total of 15 manat and the other 2 went in a different car and paid a total of 30 manat. (1 manat is approx 40 cents). When we arrived at the market we looked at some of the stalls and Lynn particularly found it interesting to see the local women buying material and embroidery pieces that all form part of the local dresses. Amazing hats for men were also for sale, and also the frames that go under the scarfs the women wear. We all bought some bits and pieces and then afterwards met at about 11:15am for the taxi trip back to the hotel. We had to check out at 12 but it took us a lot longer than the anticipated 15 minutes travel time due to the large amount of traffic on the roads. Apparently some roads were closed due to May Day planning. We finally arrived back about 10 minutes late and raced up to get our bags that we had packed last night. We then checked out and left our big bags at reception because today we were travelling out to the Darvaza Gas Crater until tomorrow. We were all picked up at about 12:30pm and headed off in two 4 wheel drive vehicles, stopping first for a very nice but huge lunch in Ashgabat. We drove north from the city for about 2 and a half hours. We finally arrived at the gas crater and got our first glimpse of it in the daylight. David thought it would be bigger as it is only approx 70 metres wide and, sitting in the middle of a vast landscape, it doesn't look very impressive at first look. But impressive it is – flames leaping high, others lower but continually flickering, the noise of the flames, the heat! And the daytime sight is nothing compared to the night!! The crater is alive and is a powerful beast that is almost hypnotic. We walked around the rim, had fun taking a series of shadow photos and for a time were the only people there. Eventually we walked up the hill to where the drivers had set up camp and readied our tent for the night. We sat on a large blanket and, as the sun went down, enjoyed a meal of salads and barbecued meats washed down with soft drink. Then the main show commenced – we walked back down to the crater as night quickly arrived. The crater was red with flames and it was very exciting. We spent a couple of hours, firstly doing group jumps against the backdrop, then walking around the rim, then staring at the flames. They almost draw you in! Back to camp we had a coffee and then turned in. Lynn awoke just before 6am and David also got up shortly after. We both had breakfast and then walked down to the crater again and once more walked the rim. The wind was from the opposite direction but was just as hot when it blew directly at you. Back up to the camp and when it was packed up we all went to say our goodbyes to the crater. On the road again we stopped after a short time to view a mud crater which was an old gas well that now has bubbling mud and some flames at the bottom. A little further down the road we stopped briefly at another crater now filling with water and plastic rubbish. Back on the road we headed off to Ashgabat and our temporary home of the Grand Turkmen Hotel. We took a short diversion off the road to drive and walk through the village of Yerbent to see how rural people live – very different to the city. The houses were a bit run down and the ‘gardens’ messy bit broken bits and pieces. Each house had a brick bread oven outside and a couple of camels ambled down the street. It all looked a little depressed apart from the school yard where children were playing like children the world over. We arrived back at the hotel at midday and checked in. We walked over to the market to find some lunch and were horrified to find it closed. However we did managed to find a couple of meat filled pastry things which were delicious so all was well. Back at the hotel, after eating our lunch, we did some washing and settled down for a rest. Tonight we went out with the group for a farewell dinner to a nearby restaurant and then walked back to the hotel and said our farewells to Fran, Belinda and Anna.

Great couple of days and one more thing ticked off Lynn’s Bucket List.

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