8100 km done! The adventure of not going to Turkmenistan
Quite a bit has happened since last time. I’ll try to cook it down. Leaving Tehran, I went straight for the ferry port south of Baku, Azerbaijan. After two days of bus riding, I made it to the port. Just as I was arriving at the port, I bumped in to two Germans in an old Nissan Patrol, who I coincidentally had met at the border the night before as well. They too had been rejected entry to Turkmenistan. As they were in a car, flying wasn’t actually an option. For me, it was all “no flying” stubbornness. Anyway, I rocked up at the ferry terminal and went to buy my ticket. The terminal in Baku is quite basic but has the necessities to live there for a while, including a bank, a shop, and bathrooms, all built in to shipping containers. But then it turned out that my credit card and the bank at the ferry terminal weren’t compatible. To my luck, the Germans in the car were heading to Baku. We had been told the ferry wouldn’t be leaving that day, so we would be fine going to Baku for the night. We drove to Baku, and hung out there for the night. The Germans had such a cool setup in their car. They had installed a kitchen in the back, a tent on the roof, and had packed the rest of the car with toys such as climbing gear, slacklines, and even a paraglider! Spending the day with them and their car was quite an eye-opener. It made me feel somewhat limited in the amount of stuff I’m able to bring with me, and the pace I’m able to travel at. Often have I been longing for the mountains, and had I had a car, bringing the necessary gear would not have been a problem. But that will be for another trip (which I have secretly started planning for already, along with about 10 other trips). The day after, I got the bus back to the port, bought my ticket, and set up camp for the night. At this point I was the only traveler there. The port was actually not nearly as bad a campsite as it might sound. It was actually really comfortable, albeit a bit noisy at times. The day after, the travelers started showing up little by little, and before long, we were a group of 10 people, of which 5 were cyclists. The atmosphere on the port was awesome, sharing travel stories and discussing future plans.
Just as we had put up our tents, settling for the third night waiting for the ferry to leave, we were called by the staff that it was time to board. We packed up our camp in record time and set off for the ship. We got onboard, but the ferry didn’t actually leave for another 15 hours. Guess it was a bit more comfortable onboard though, and they served us breakfast too. The ferry was quite basic. The crossing took us 30 hours, and part of it was quite wavy. We had a good time though, fooling around on deck, hanging with the locals, and simply enjoying each other’s company.
And then finally, 6 days after leaving Tehran, I had made it to Central Asia! The first country was Kazakhstan. Sadly, I only got to spend 2 full days in Kazakhstan. The vibe I got from the place was really cool though. The tiny bit of it I did get see, felt a bit like a soviet time capsule. The port in Kazakhstan was located a days ride from Aktau, from where a few of us was catching a train onwards towards Uzbekistan. Despite being a flat and short day, it was some of the most strenuous cycling I have ever had to do. The headwind was completely relentless the entire way, meaning we spent over 9 hours covering just 70 km. We eventually made it to Aktau and found a place for the night. It was a slightly dodgy hotel in the outskirts of town. The sort of place where you could rent a room by the hour. You get the idea… The morning after we caught the train and set off for Uzbekistan. I got off in Nukus, and the other two cyclist who were with me kept going. Nukus was a pretty dull place, so I set off towards Khiva. To my surprise, it was actually quite touristy. In Denmark at least, you rarely hear about people going to Uzbekistan, or any other country ending on ‘stan for that matter. But it was such a beautiful place, and I really enjoyed my day there.
From Khiva to Bukhara it was time for a whole lot of nothing. The distance between the two cities is about 450 km. After about 70 km, I came across a city that had a Hotel. My front rack had broken lose, so I had to try and fix it before setting off on the 380 km desert stretch. I tied it up with a bit of rope, and set off the morning after. I had been planning on covering the 380 km in 3 or 4 days depending on the weather. On the first day of riding, I stopped after having gone 165 km, in about 11 hours of riding. Just as the sun was setting, I came across a truck-stop with a café. They offered me a room to sleep in as well. I had been planning on camping that night, but the thought of having to set up my tent after 11 hours in the saddle was too much, so I took the room. It was not very comfortable at all. Basically I just slept on the floor at a restaurant, but I was so tired I didn’t really care. The day after, I set off with the goal of riding the remaining 215 km. After about 110 km, I stopped for lunch. At that point I was still doing good. But as I set off, I quickly started feeling dizzy and a bit delirious. I had to get off my bike and sit in the shadow of a signpost for a while before I could keep cycling. I wanted to eat, but I had to be careful as my sources were somewhat limited. Eating now, would mean I wouldn’t necessarily have food later. As I started cycling, again, the road got worse and worse, and before long it was one big pothole hell. The last 80 km felt like ages. At times, I couldn’t even feel my legs spinning anymore. I was going on autopilot. The entire time I was being chased by literally hundreds of flies as well, making the whole experience very frustrating. Riding in the desert was not the most interesting of times, but I did get a few cool experiences out there. I saw quite a few cool animals, including eagles, praire dogs and other fun animals. Also, seeing oasis mirages in the desert was pretty interesting. At one point, I was pretty certain that there was a lake, only for it to disappear moments later. You definitely understand why this would confuse lost, exhausted travelers.
Eventually, completely exhausted and after dark, I made it to Bukhara. I’d covered 380 km in just 36 hours, including 12 hours of sleep. I made it to a hostel and practically slipped in to a coma. In hindsight, riding so hard was probably not the best ide I’ve had. The day after I was feeling sick with feverish chills, headache, aching joints, and nausea. I’ve now been resting for two full days, and I’ve still not completely recovered. The desert took its toll and I probably won’t be doing that sort of distance again anytime soon, but somehow, it was still an amazing experience! I’m now resting in Bukhara, enjoying the amazing sights of Uzbekistan. I think this country might end up as one of my favorite destinations so far.
Riding through the desert of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, I would come across tiny villages every now and then. Of all places, I would not have expected the Central Asian desert to bring back memories of Greenland. But there was a striking similarity in the isolation, the shops, and the general feel I got from these places. It was almost a bit of a nostalgic feeling. Pretty amazing when you think about it, considering these two places are practically opposites of each other…
I’m riding to raise awareness and funds for the association for Greenlandic Children. I’ve been receiving some really generous donations since last time, so thank you so much to everyone who has donated! If you would like to support the project, you can either donate through the link below or spread the word (or both)! Once again, thank you!