Country Profile: Turkmenistan

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Ladies and Gentlemen, the shire boys are proud to introduce the first of our country profiles. We figured that since we had only heard about places such as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan thanks to sporcle.com that a bit of research behind some of these places wouldn’t go amidst. And we figured why not share it with our followers as well as tell them our planned itinerary. To start this series off we figured what better place to start than the misunderstood country of Turkmenistan.

Turkmenistan, the North Korea of central Asia, sounds like one of those places which wouldn’t be out of place in George Lucas iconic Star Wars trilogy (we are going to imagine the last three never happened). From its marbal capital, Ashgabat, to the abandoned holiday resort of Awaza, the ruined city of Merv and its most iconic feature the Darwaza gas crater (or the door to hell to you and me). Driving in from Iran our route through this fascinating country will take us through Ashgabat, before we start a 340 mile round detour to spend one night camping by the door to hell, apparently you can smell rotting eggs a few miles away from the site, but just by the pictures we have seen of the place we are pretty sure that isn’t going to be a problem. On our second day we hope to drive 10 hours before reaching the city of Merv. Once the world biggest city there is nothing left of this historic site but ruins. Still, I can think of worst places to grab some shut eye after a day stuck in our hot, smelly and cramped car while all the time having to listen to George’s endless rubbish. After that it’s another early morning and a rush to Turkmenabat and an almost certain terrible experience trying to enter Uzbekistan at the border crossing (our bet is that the bribe money kitty might have to come out).
Unfortunately we will only be staying three days in this weird and wonderful country, however because of the terms of our Transit visa (which allows 5 days) and the fact that overstaying your visa usually means a stint in prison, we figured a couple of days spare in case of the inevitable breakdown wouldn’t be a bad idea. 

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Over and out,


The Shire Boys x


Ps: We couldn’t finish without mentioning the now deceased, His Excellency Saparmurat Niyazov Turkmenbashy the Great, Father of the Turkmen People. A dictator who came from nothing, an orphan who work his way up through the political system of Turkmenistan. After the downfall of the USSR, Niyazov won the upcoming general election with 99.9% of the vote (It’s worth mentioning he ran unopposed). This guy was, by the sounds of it, one of the most eccentric and totalitarian dictators history has ever produced! A list of the things he banned are as followed: Algebra, P.E and Physics lessons, smoking (after quitting due to a health scare), beards and long hair for men, the opera, lip syncing (yes you read that correctly), ballet, gold teeth and he outlawed having dogs in the capital because he didn’t like there odour. He changed the word for bread to his mother’s name, renamed the month of September after his own book (But that wasn’t enough so he also built a 50ft statue of the book in the centre of Ashgabat), built a few golden statues of himself (including one which rotated so that he was always facing the sun) and tried to built an ice palace in the middle of the Karakum desert (Just because he could). As George so eloquently put it “He sounds like a real dictator, a dictator of the heart.”

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Uzbekistan Embassy

So we made it to the Uzbekistan embassy today with minutes to spare. Our second visa proposal submitted!

This visa process luckily did not require a letter of invitation because of our nationality although it did require the following:

 Copy of every page in our passports.

– Copy of travel insurance.

– Full itinerary of where we intend to visit every day of our stay and why we wanted to visit each place.

– Hotel booking and contact in Turkmenistan.

– Our exact entrance and exit borders along with dates.

-A condition of the Uzbekistan visa for tourists also includes having to check into a local police station every 3 days, failure to do this or not being able to prove where you have been for those three days will result in a heavy fine and probable jail sentence.

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Recommendations?

Taken from: The Shire Boys

 

Below is a list of all countries we shall be driving through, 28 different countries in total:

England, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland.

Throughout our trip we shall be sleeping between our car, tent and hammocks. Normally trying to spend most nights beside the coast, lakes or rivers.

Every so often in order to comply with Visa regulations or in terms of largely Urban areas we may be forced to stay in hostels (Amsterdam, Budapest, Istanbul confirmed so far). If anybody has any great recommendations for these cities, or be it any places to camp or stay in any of the countries we shall be visiting whether it be hidden coastlines, your own homes, caves or lakes we would love you to post in the comments below. That is if you don’t mind sharing your secret spots 

I shall share with you all one of mine. When I was hitch-hiking though Albania last summer with Anna Maria, our car broke down on a mountain pass between Himarë and Dhermi.

From here we decided to hike to the top of the mountain, at this point we saw a deserted beach around 8-9KM away with no route to it, we trekked down to this beach and camped for 4 days without seeing a single person. Although the trek was not easy it was definitely worth it. As shown below, the water was crystal clear and the beach untouched. In the Large 4th image you can see the mountain pass where the first image is taken from in the background.

 

 

ALB 4ALB 6ALB 7

 

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Route Map

This image shows a very rough plan of our route. Being in the spirit of the Mongol Rally, we fully understand plans are made to be broken and are therefore very sure our route shall differentiate completely. But it still makes incredible viewing.

Our route as mapped here from London – Ulaanbaatar – London comes in at 21’486 miles, the circumference of the Earth is 24’901.55 miles. We are one of a very select few teams in the history of the rally who have also decided to drive back from Mongolia.

We would just like to once again thank all of you who have ‘liked’ our Facebook page, sponsored a part of our rally and most importantly donated money to Cammpaign4Rob.

You have all provided us with the huge motivation we need to complete this challenge. Thank you.

Love,

The Shire Boys

finished map

The Pamir Highway

Taken from: TheShireBoys, give us a ‘like’ to keep updated.

The video below shows a 4×4 driving along the Pamir highway. This highway is known as the second highest altitude international highway in the world (4,655 m), the highway starts in Khorog Tajikistan and finishes in Osh Kyrgyzstan. The part shown in the video below shows Afghanistan metres away on the right hand side of the valley.

The highway travels along the Afghanistan border for a long while until the route cuts North travelling through an autonomous region called the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province. For this province we shall require a special permit (GBAO permit) this is because of the high military presence and seven military checkpoints along the route. The border crossing between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan on the Pamir highway was only opened again last week due to fighting between both countries in the region three months ago.

Driving this route in a small car without power steering let alone four wheel drive should be interesting. This route is one of the highlights of our rally, being described as one of the most beautiful yet dangerous roads in the world. We shall be driving the whole highway.