Up to the Caspian Sea

The magnificent buildings in Samarkand and Bukhara visited for the second time in three years will now be added to our store of memories’ record in this blog as we head west again. From Bukhara we have a long haul to reach Aktau some 1,500 km or almost 1,000 ml away. Luckily the temperature is not expected to rise above the mid 30’s celsius. Last time we were here in 2014 it was the mid 40’s celsius, so we are lucky again. An early start from Bukhara, after loading another 28 litres of fuel onto Streak and Storm, sees us wrestle with avoiding potholes close to the city which does not always work as bottoming out the suspension on numerous occasions will testify. Anne has a theory on where the potholes come from, and we now have photographic evidence, they are stolen!

How pot-holes are formed, someone steals the road in pieces

Drivers hoot, flash lights and wave as we slowly make our way slowly westwards of all the ‘Stans’, the people of Uzbekistan are the most enthusiastic towards motorbikes. We also pass a bad accident, one car wrecked on the road, another in the field nearby, probably a front-on looking at the damage, lots of people already stopped so as we move on we are reminded to stay alert.

Waving locals

Beautiful cloud patterns

While we have 14 litres of fuel each extra, headwinds and the fact we are using 80 octane fuel, albeit with a booster additive, means we cannot be too complacent about how fast we travel on the good stretches of road – some fuel we have purchased has sediment which looks like that found in old wine bottles, so do not decant it all into the tank. We do have enough to reach Nukus some 550 km away which we reach after a long day’s riding.

Nukus was once one of the most prosperous cities in Uzbekistan based on agricultural produce but over time diversions of water resources to other regions has reduced agricultural output, and wealth significantly. To the north lies the shrinking remains of the Aral Sea. This was caused by the diversion of water from the Syr Darya River and the Amu Darya River in the 1960’s to support the growth of Soviet cotton production. Work is being undertaken to reverse the damage but it will take decades to achieve. Nukus is a good jumping off point for tours up to the Aral sea bed. Our hotel reception procures more petrol/gasoline, “do you want 91 octane?”. I think they have done this before.

State Museum of Art named after I.V.Savitsky in Nukus

Soviet era art by A N Volkov in the I.V.Savitsky museum

Early morning departure from Nukus

Off to work in Nukus

Extra fuel along for the ride

Time to adjust the extra fuel straps

This may be where the pot-hole pieces came from.

Our crossing back into Kazakhstan from Uzbekistan is relatively painless as borders go, paperwork at a minimum and only a couple of hours’ time. Makes one realise how good the systems we have in place are and the benefits of the EU Customs Union. If Brexit does not come up with an efficient Customs alternative the tailback will reach long past the M20 in Kent.

We had heard that the road on the Kazakhstan side was difficult and this proved to be true, it is mostly dirt, which in many ways is easier than pot-holed tar. We tend to be quicker than the cars across this surface, but we are always listening for a telltale rattle that something has come loose. We only have about 45 miles / 70 kilometres of this surface before we return to tar. It just confirms I am not a dirt rider, I will do it, but it gives me no pleasure.

Glad not to be doing this in the rainly season

Fellow travellers

Out and about in NW Kazakhstan

Hard to see the road markings here

Go for the gap in the middle

Oil and gas fields that feed Aktau port

We are some 20 ml/32 km from our final destination in Kazakhstan, the port of Aktau, where we will board a ship to take us across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan. I glance down at the GPS and see that it has turned into a depth gauge, we are already some 70 meters below sea level! I quickly hold by breath, check for oncoming water from the Caspian Sea that towers above us somewhere ahead at only 27 meters below sea level and try to remember any anecdotal diving information from a friend over long dinners and good red wine back in Manly. Reality returns to my befuddled brain and I I realise I do not need to add a snorkel or oxygen tanks to the fuel and water containers that festoon Streak and Storm, Phew! We are in or close to the Karagie Depression which reaches 132m / 433 ft. below sea level and is one of the lowest points in the world. The name translated from Kazakh is “black hollow”, although the landscape is white and yellow. There are also many reported UFO sightings in the area, although today I think we are the only aliens around.

About to go down below sea level near the Karagie Depression.

We arrive in Aktau, the Caspian Sea now bars our way and we will need to seek passage on a ship to travel further westwards, but that’s for another blog entry.


Dushanbe to Bukhara

It has been 10 days since we left Dushanbe, and wrote our last post!! We have seen so much and have travelled such a long way since then, left Tajikistan and crossed Uzbekistan. Time flies when you’re having fun!!

We leave Dushanbe just after sunrise as we have a long day ahead of us, with a border crossing and some dirt road. I will be very happy if we make it to Shahrisabz in Uzbekistan tonight so that we can get to Samarkand the next day – we have been delaying our arrival in Samarkand for one reason or another. We head out of Dushanbe on the M41 heading west. The lighting is a soft golden glow – I could nearly become a morning person it is so beautiful at this time of the day. For the next hour, as we ride from village to village, the road is divided with thousands of roses or gladioli, and lined with huge posters of Emomali Rahmon, who has served as President of Tajikistan since 1994, either picking apples in orchards or opening aluminium plants. The curbing is freshly painted – it feels like we are going from a village what would have been voted tidy town to the next tidy town. We also see women collecting litter from the roadside drain, and people standing by the side of the road waiting for a lift to work, young kids travelling with their donkey and cart or odd cow. As pretty as the villages are, it is obviously a hard life here. It has been a short stay in Tajikistan, we haven’t seen a fraction of what most people visit Tajikistan for, such as the Pamirs, because I suffer from altitude sickness so badly, but we have enjoyed every minute of our stay: stunning scenery, gentle smiling people and the easiest, calm driving style of all the Stans. I know the cars are terribly underpowered here, but the Tajiks nature is palpably different.

Another fabulous mosaic – Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Leaving Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Leaving Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Tajikistan president Emomali Rahmon

Leaving Dushanbe, Tajikistan

Tajikistan village

Our crossing from Tajikistan to Uzbekistan was fairly quick – 2.5 hours. Leaving Tajikistan literally a few minutes. We met an Australian Dave, travelling in the opposite direction to us, who had just spent 2 days at the border. He didn’t realise he didn’t have a double entry visa and now, no one wanted him in their country. Luckily one officer was going to take him to town later to get his new e-visa printed. The Uzbek usually check bags very carefully but apart from asking Anthony to show his iPad to check for any pornography and checking some medication, it was painless and pleasant enough.

As soon as we enter Uzbekistan, we are welcomed with waves and loud hoots. How great to be back in this country!! But is amazing how brutally different driving styles can be. It is everyone for themselves here. It reminds me more of India. Especially as we get to a market part of Denau, a small town of just over 100,000. The ‘road’ is all broken up, 2 lanes are in fact 5 lanes and the hoots are no longer welcoming but get out of my way! It also doesn’t help when a group of women stop to chat and welcome me, holding my hand and the cars behind want me to move on!! Oh how I would have loved to take a photo of them, all with gleaming gold teeth, but mostly with gentle and happy smiling faces. Car drivers don’t usually understand the predicament of a motorcycle rider being stuck on the wrong side of a pothole: if you suddenly have to stop in the wrong place, your feet search the ground until you realise it is not there and you go over. Luckily we didn’t go over because we stood our ground where it was best for us to wait for the traffic to move forward again but it was the least pleasant riding experience on this trip so far. 45′ later though, we are out of the madness. We continue riding south west for another 50 kms, getting the closest to the Afghan border just a further 100kms south, enjoying the last of the green valleys and cotton fields before turning north west towards Boysun and back onto the main road north to Guzar. It is now hot and dry out here!!

Denov, Tajikistan

Denov, Tajikistan

Cotton – grown throughout the Stans

Our last patch of green before 2 mountain passes Uzbekistan

A couple of Czech riders we met earlier were stopped on the side of the road so we pulled over: they had just found some fuel. We don’t quite understand the shortage of fuel in Uzbekistan. It is worse now than 3 years ago as cars have had time to convert to methane or propane and every petrol station has either converted or mostly simply shut down. So we have to look for the tell tale water bottle on the side of the road, or stop and ask. This time, the transaction is made from the back of this guy’s boot/trunk. We bought some Octane + in Dushanbe to boost the fuel composition and have cut up some pop-socks to use as filters. We are now good to get to Samarkand which is a relief. Interestingly, we have seen more travellers today than we have in the past few months: 1 set of Czechs, 1 set of Slovaks, a cycling Dutch couple and a few Mongol Rally cars. That rally sounds like a lot of fun: I think about 300 cars enter the London to Ulan-Baatar ‘race’. The rules are simple: you can only enter a small underpowered cheap car, 1 litre or less, you have to fix the car yourself when it breaks down and raise a certain amount of money for charity. It was a perfect opportunity for us to convert some left over Tajik money.

Dutch cyclists, they have some tough passes ahead of them!

Forces of nature, Uzbekistan

Surxondaryo Province, Uzbekistan

Surxondaryo Province, Uzbekistan

Surxondaryo Province, Uzbekistan

Surxondaryo Province, Uzbekistan

11.5 hours after we left Dushanbe, we arrive in Shahrisabz pretty exhausted and find ourselves a hotel. A have a surprise for Anthony tomorrow as he has no idea what’s here!!

Shahrisabz, founded more than 2,700 years ago, is one of Central Asia’s most ancient cities. And like the rest of the area in this part of the world, had a fascinating but turbulent history. For the purposes of keeping this post brief’ish, I will let you read https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shahrisabz if interested.

Shahrisabz council have done a fantastic job reclaiming land and highlighting its key historic monuments by linking them with a new park.

Ak-Saray Palace, Shahrisabz

Ak-Saray Palace, or “White Palace”, Shahrisabz

Wooden door, Shahrisabz

Dorut Tivolat complex with Kok-Gumbaz mosque, Shahrisabz

Kok-Gumbaz mosque, Shahrisabz

Dorut Tivolat complex with Kok-Gumbaz mosque, Shahrisabz


Dorut Tivolat complex, Shahrisabz


647 year old tree, Dorut Tivolat complex, Shahrisabz

Having spent a leisurely 4 hours here, we make our way to Samarkand. Those of you who followed our first RTW know how much we loved Samarkand and how excited we have been to see our friends there again.

Even though it was long and another stinking hot day, I couldn’t resist going see the Registan again as soon as we arrived!!! We are grateful we have seen this place before in all its glory because it was closed when we arrived for the rehersals of the Music Festival dance routines in a few weeks, with huge platforms, light structures etc. Visiting hours have been reduced to 11am to 4pm. When I visited it again the next day, it didn’t have the same peaceful feel I had remembered from our first visit. It felt more like a work site. I still enjoyed seeing it close up though – the workmanship, the colours, sheer beauty, majesty, balance, and even the serenity was still there in places. I felt sorry for first time tourists though. I went back again the next day for a leisurely stroll. Here are a few photos – I had to restrain myself!!

The Registan, Samarkand – not quite the same set upmfor the festival

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Aziza, an Uzbek tourist wanted her photo taken witth me

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Registan, Samarkand

Seeing our friends again was wonderful. The look in Jamkur’s eyes, the sight of him and Anthony walking towards his garden, arms around each other. A special moment. We are greeted with a huge table beautifully decorated. Anthony is invited to Jamkur’s cellar to choose a drink. Anthony picks a ‘port’ while Jamkur has a bottle of vodka. That home brewed fortified wine is amazing: Jamkur made it from the grapes and mulberries in his garden. More and more bowls of fruit, sweets, various delicacies being brought. Eat, eat we are told. Then a huge bowl of soup is served. Then osh, or plov – a local rice, carrot and meat dish. Gradually, the various members of Jamkur’s family arrive, eating as they arrive. Akbar, Aziza’s elder son is our interpreter until Aziza arrives. Each arrival is an excuse for another toast! Any topic is another excuse for another toast. But we don’t throw back a full glass as Jamkur does.

With Jamkur’s family

Laziza, Jamkur and Aziza

Jamkur and Kirio

Our ride back to our hotel in Aziza’s car is interesting. Experiencing the erratic driving style at night, around road works, traffic lights which everyone seems to ignore was interesting. Both Anthony and I had the same sensation: it felt as if we were on a Scalextric track, with us and all the other cars swerving around each other, just avoiding a collision because we were on invisible tracks! It was fantastic!

In our Samarkand hotel neighbourhood:


Local plov seller, Samarkand

The most delicious Samsas, meat pastry, Samarkand

Had a t-shirt printed for Jamkur

Local market, Samarkand

Lovely Uzbek lady

The next evening, we returned to the Korean restaurant where we first met Aziza 3 years ago and got to see Jamkur, his grandson Akbar and son-in-law Jura again the next evening – sadly Aziza was taken ill at the last minute. Still, it was a lovely evening – once again, we so wish we could communicate in Russian better…

We leave at the slightly more civilised time of 7:30am the next day as Bukhara is only 280kms away. The first hour out of Samarkand, the road is surprisingly bad, with massive potholes! Then we have an easy ride to Bukhara, successfully finding fuel on the side of the road.

Our fuel seller – notice the bottle of fuel on the side of the road

This Uzbek stopped for a chat and asked if we’d swap bikes!

Just always watch out for traffic

Love the school crossing lady sign

We get to Bukhara in time for lunch – it was funny returning to a restaurant we had eaten at 3 years ago.

I am so happy to be back here as I particularly love the monuments in Bukhara, devoid of bright decorative tiles. The craftmanship of their brick work is breathtaking. Somehow I find the courtyards so much more peaceful than in Samarkand. I cannot help taking more photos of this unique place.

Back at the Chinar restaurant, Bukhara

Khanaka Nodir Devan Begi, Bukhara

Poy-Kalyan, Bukhara

Poy-Kalyan, Bukhara

Poy-Kalyan, Bukhara

Kalyan minaret, Bukhara

Kalyan minaret, Bukhara

A selfie in Bukhara

Kalyan Minaret, Bukhara

Kalyan Minaret, Bukhara

The smartphones have taken over here too

And no visit to Bukhara would be complete without a visit to my hairdressers here!!

First a hair wash

My cheeky and lovely hairdressers, Bukhara

Our guesthouse owners offer to cook dinner for all their guests and we have our best ever plov.

Our host preparing dinner


Good night Streak and Storm, see you in the morning

They also promise they’ll have the 30 litres of fuel overnight and waiting for us, for our 6:30am departure. And sure enough, the 10L containers were there. We have some long days ahead of us now, Nukus, 550kms away is our next stop. We are not stopping in Khiva this time as we really need to hurry up and wait for our ferry across the Caspian Sea from Aktau…

– Anne

Photos of Khiva and Turkmenistan finally uploaded

As promised, we have started uploading photos and videos we have been unable to upload for the past month.

Khiva – photos

Leaving Khiva for Turkmenistan – photos and videos

Leaving Khiva for Turkmenistan

We learnt today, 17 August, of the passing in Brisbane of our good friend Keith. We have known Keith and Olivia since we moved to Brisbane in 1989, by frequenting the Oriental Bangkok Thai Restaurant in Spring Hill. Keith and Olivia enhanced our limited knowledge of Thai cuisine and Australian red wine in those early days in Australia. A friendship grew from those days and has continued ever since. Keith, we will miss your stories, your humour and the twinkle in your eye. To Olivia, Kelly and Kim, our heartfelt condolences, and our thoughts are with you in this difficult time.

It is hard being away from loved ones when they have been ill, or in hospital… We continue our discoveries with a heavy heart…

(Post updated 19/9/14 with photos)

Khiva was a complete surprise to me. I had done no research, leaving that to Anne, so was initially under the false assumption that we were to see a city of ruins. What a wonderful revelation. As we walked the paved streets, among the buildings and walls, the sellers of sunglasses, toys, food and souvenirs made me realise that nothing had changed here in hundreds of years, only the products being sold. We would like to stay longer but we are already a day into our five day Turkmenistan transit visa, so we need to move on.

We now had to reach the Turkmenistan border some 70-80 kms away. The crossing we had selected was less frequented so we hoped for a quicker crossing with less traffic. An hour later, following the GPS route, we are looking at an earth barrier across the road, and surrounded by Uzbekistan soldiers from the adjacent army border post. No sign of customs or immigration here! Wrong Way Go Back? Err no!! We are now caught up in some army admin. process and cannot leave – they speak no English, so we must wait. We manage to hold onto our passports at first, but when lunchtime comes, the soldiers realise that if they take our passports, they do not need to leave anyone outside. It is never good to be separated from your passport – the power to leave has transferred to someone else and you are now dependent on their actions.

We spend time watching kids play, sheep eating, and soldiers wandering in and out to look at the bikes. All attempts at communication are met with sign language we take to mean just five minutes more. We give the children some Australia kangaroo stickers, and later they return with lovely fresh tomatoes for us.

The arrival of a policeman means we can leave with him and the resulting army paperwork and our passports which he holds onto to find an government interpreter back in the last village. We know we have done nothing wrong, but still have no idea why we had to wait for three hours. We are then told by the interpreter, ‘no problems, we have done nothing wrong and we can go’, once again in German, our strange language of communication which seems to pop up in places on this trip. Many German speakers were displaced after the Second World War in this region and their children today still have the language.

We think that all this waiting was a process that needed to be followed by all concerned once it had started. No point in getting frustrated as this is part and parcel of travelling. We have lost three hours so today’s travel plan is history. We need to backtrack and find the open crossing some 10km further north. As we ride on, we are feeling that we do not want this pointless delay to affect our view of the Uzbekistan people, we stop to check directions and a man comes from his house with a bottle of cold water for us. Confirmation of the wonderful nature of the Uzbek people and their generosity. I now understand why Uzbekistan requires visitors to prove they have stayed in hotels every night of their stay as without this, the Uzbek people would probably invite all the tourists home and the hotels would be empty!

The real border crossing between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is discovered and crossed in the usual four hours, two per side – see border crossings for more details of this process.

Anthony can take his nap anywhere - here at a petrol station in Turkmenistan

Anthony can take his nap anywhere – here at a petrol station in Turkmenistan

We travel as far as Dasoguz, where both the Turkmen border officials and the GPS indicate only one hotel in the city, which seems a little strange for a city of that size, but we find it ok. However no room for us, they are full. We can however stay at the annex, which is three buildings and one street away, an odd building with our room containing six beds, formally a function room with a shower and giant spar bath down the hall. Our first night in Turkmenistan.

Riding from Dasoguz we are heading for the Darvaza Crater, more commonly known as the “Door to Hell” en route to Ashkabat. This crater was created in 1971 when a Soviet drilling rig collapsed into an underground cavern releasing natural gas. The engineers at the time decided to burn off the resultant escaping gas for health reasons, the result of which is still burning some 43 years later, even longer than I have known Anne, with no sign of it, or us, ever ending.

The road south has four lanes, except 2 are unused and appear to have been so for some time. These lanes are used for overnight parking and from time to time disappear completely. Our two lanes vary from quite reasonable to heavily potholed. At one point as my suspension bottoms out again, I end up swinging onto the dirt, with my handlebars moving side to side, not quite a tank-slapper, but the ground starts to look awfully close at times, bit more power and out of trouble I get, I am lucky. (Anne says she did not enjoy seeing that, but did remember to shout “relax the shoulders” which helps).

Each day has been hotter than the last with the mercury creeping past 40 degrees Celsius. We stock up on water and now have over 17 litres between us. As we ride closer to our destination, the temperature rises, we pass 43 degrees Celsius and peak at 45 degrees. Water is going down fast, but not fast enough for us to spot a leak in a water bottle that has become damaged on the rough road. This combines with a damaged tin of fish to create a small pond in our wonderfully water tight Jesse aluminium motorcycle top-box. The water then flowed into my documents, money, my iPad mini and various assorted pieces of equipment. Sadly Water and iPad do not mix well, especially when you move the iPad and see water running on the inside of the screen. I had been wondering how to get rid of the petrol smell in my top-box from an earlier refuelling exercise from additional fuel storage, problem now solved, the smell of fishy water replacing the petrol smell.

Gettting hotter on our way through Turkmenistan

Gettting hotter on our way through Turkmenistan

Washed and dried the fishy smelling contents of Anthony's top box

Washed and dried the fishy smelling contents of Anthony’s top box

Our first aid waterproof bag was not that waterproof and became very fishy smelly too

Our first aid waterproof bag was not that waterproof and became very fishy smelly too

The GPS had indicated some sort of Park entrance for the Davarza crater, however that information was long out of date and Anne’s research indicted 10km of dirt and deep sand, way beyond our off-road capabilities. We found a local ‘fixer’ who arranged for a 4 wheel drive (4WD) to take us to the crater. Another couple arranged for us to stay with a local road construction crew camp who were established on the hillside near the almost invisible track to the crater. Going up the first sandy hill, reminding us of soft beach sand driving in Queensland, validated that we had made the right decision of hiring a 4WD. Sliding from side to side, up and down we moved closer to the crater. I had not seen pictures so had no idea what to expect. We crest a rise and below is a brown barren visa with a 70 meter diameter crater holding centre stage with flames burning all along the far side. Quite spectacular. We approach closer on foot and see dozens and dozens of separate gas fuelled flames burning, we can feel the heat but are wary of getting too close to the edge in case of overhangs.

Sandy road towards the Dervaza crater, Turkmenistan

Sandy road towards the Dervaza crater, Turkmenistan

The 2 men show the scale of the Dervaza crater, Turkmenistan

The 2 men show the scale of the Dervaza crater, Turkmenistan

The 2 slow Speeds by the Dervaza crater, Turkmenistan

The 2 slow Speeds by the Dervaza crater, Turkmenistan

We spend time, watching and reflecting on nature’s power from a hilltop as the sun goes down and Anne taking an amazing variety of photographs. This is a remote unique out of the way place, but a must, if you pass this way. Off to our road camp for a night’s sleep in our tent and 5am start to get on the road by 7am before the heat builds up.

Our campsite at the friendly road construction  site near the Dervaza crater, Turkmenistan

Our campsite at the friendly road construction site near the Dervaza crater, Turkmenistan


Lovely cool early morning morning ride towards Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Lovely cool early morning morning ride towards Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

While we have avoided the early morning heat, we now have to contend the morning commuter rush of sheep, goat and camel herds moving out to graze. Sheep and goats at least have the decency to stay close together as they cross the road, camels do not and will cross in their time, not yours. Still, adds to the riding fun!

We came across many camels in Turkmenistan

We came across many camels in Turkmenistan


Garmin, our GPS maker, do not produce or sell detailed maps of the Asian regions, so we rely on free maps downloaded from third party websites. Some of these maps do not support route planning in all areas as we found when we approached Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan in search of our preferred hotel, the Nisa (or Nusay), in the centre of town. As we have only one night, a central location makes sense.

My navigation is based on using a target pin on the GPS map and navigating right and left down the streets reducing the distance to destination; I am sure there is a better way, but this works for us. We started to see massive gold painted statues of the former President from time to time – while he died some eight years ago, his presence is still around for all to see.

We wend our way towards the GPS target pin, around one way streets then suddenly we were alongside the President’s Palace! We had heard that the structures were lavish in the centre, but I had not seen pictures: something to behold. I tried to think of what they reminded me of, British Palaces, French Chateaux – neither seemed to fit. Then it came to me, those old Hollywood movies that featured the buildings of Imperial Rome with all their grandeur, designed to impress those of us from the colonies. A roundabout with the column topped by a three headed eagle is the centre piece, with our selected hotel on one corner, looking like a Government building across from the Ministry of Defence and the Presidential Palace. What a location!

The "dead road", Ashgabat, Turkmenistan - the small no entry sign can be seen just behind the base of the column on this photo

The “dead road”, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan – the small no entry sign can be seen just behind the base of the column on this photo

We check in and ask for a room overlooking the President’s Palace, but are given a room on the other side instead – must be because we look like dirty unwashed bikers who have been sleeping in the desert. We explore the hotel and find a passage way with a great view of the palace and a perfect photo location. On a nearby wall is a floor plan, which shows that no room overlooks the Presidential Palace, all have windows angled away or look into internal spaces. At least we can see out.

The outside windows of the hotel are not room windows and angled internal spaces ensure photos cannot be taken from inside the hotel

The outside windows of the hotel are not room windows and angled internal spaces ensure photos cannot be taken from inside the hotel

Photos of the presidential palace cannot be taken from the Nissa hotel rooms windows, which are carefully angled - Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Photos of the presidential palace cannot be taken from the Nissa hotel rooms windows, which are carefully angled – Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

We walk up the road between our hotel and the Ministry of Defence, past giant gates, fountains and trees, air conditioned bus stops and cameras on every lamppost. No photos allowed of Government buildings or our hotel and reportedly if you take one you will be made to delete it, or worse, loose your memory card. At the shopping centre entrance, I am given a flyer for iPads: great, we go to the store and one hour later I am back in business with a new iPad mini, same as before and on which this blog entry was written. I thought I would have to wait until Dubai to replace the waterlogged model.

Oops, photo of our hotel was taken just before I was told no photos were allowed, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

Oops, photo of our hotel was taken just before I was told no photos were allowed, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

As night falls, we take our last photos of the Presidential Palace and the street outside, which a local referred to as “the dead road”. You may have noticed in the previous photos no traffic, as this video confirms:

In addition, at night, the painted lines reveal they are lights. A single policeman and a small no entry sign are the only deterrents to travelling up this street, but they really work, given the volume of traffic: no one, including us, want to find out what awaits on the “Dead Road”. We will leave that to braver souls than ourselves.

The "dead road" with lit street markings and synchronised coloured fountains, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan

The “dead road” with lit street markings and synchronised coloured fountains, Ashgabat, Turkmenistan


PS. Photos and Videos have proved impossible to load in Iran, we have tried for a week, so to keep you all updated we will go to text only and add the photos when we get to Dubai.