Mar 21

Hurry Up and Wait (Destination: Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan)

Sat, Nov 9, 2013

Happy Early Thanksgiving to my family in Minnesota! I would have loved to call my family today as they celebrated and early Thanksgiving before my aunt and uncle move south for the winter but we were far from internet access all day.

Today would be one of the longest driving days of the trip – 600 Kms from Ashgabat to Turkmenbashi port. This morning at breakfast, I met some folks from a Road Scholars (formerly Elderhostel) tour. They were going to 5 of the ‘stans in only 16 days. They were fascinated to hear about our tour and a few of them came out to see us off in our truck this morning.
After some driving, we stopped to take photos of a green domed mosque, the 2nd largest mosque in Turkmenistan which some of us had visited the day earlier.  We had our lunch at the half way point between the two cities.

In the afternoon, we passed thru the desert that had very little vegetation, with exception of some small bushes that were blooming with pink and red flowers. We saw quite a few camels this day too – all the one hump middle eastern type. We were given the rules for a game of “Murder on the Caspian” – a game where we would randomly draw a person to “kill”, the murder weapon, and the place or time they need to be killed. I drew Rich, with a tea cup, in a cabin – this one would be easy! The rules were if you killed someone, then you took their assigned victim. But if you are killed first, then you are out of the game. We would be starting this when we get on the ship.

As we approached the Caspian Sea, we were about 80 feet below sea level. We arrived at the port at 7pm and there was a ship in port, but the train cargo for the ship had not yet arrived to port. We were still hoping for this to happen tonight so the cook group made a quick dinner of Sloppy Joes. A bit later we heard the train wouldn’t be arriving until at least morning so we would be staying at the port overnight.  Luckily, there was a waiting room at the port, so I set up my mat and sleeping bag in a dark corner.
Steps: 8,836

Sun, Nov 10

What a great sleep I had last night. Besides the snoring from a couple others in the waiting room, it was so warm and relatively quiet. The train we were waiting for still was not in by the time we awoke, so we will have a longer wait before crossing the Caspian. I was on cook group today, so we prepared a breakfast of fried eggs and bread.

There was a ship graveyard on the other side of the wall where we had parked the truck. There was some debate whether we were allowed in there or to take pictures given the big restrictions on picture taking in this country but several of us spent awhile in the ship graveyard, openly taking pictures and the guards didn’t say a thing. Then, I thought of a good idea to keep us busy while waiting for the ferry to depart. I created a list of 20 items that I had noticed in the ship graveyard that included a ladder, a matchbox, dead snakes, and a 5-pointed star. With this list, 7 of the other passengers went on a digital camera scavenger hunt and a couple others without cameras also played along.  It was a great way to waste an hour.

By noon it looked like we would be leaving sometime in late afternoon or evening so we decided to just make one big meal around 4pm so we cooked some popcorn just after noon. I played a strategy game called “Backpacker” with Bree and Linc for a couple hours and then took a short walk. At 3:00, I had to help prepare dinner of cheesy pasta and at 4:00 we ate. Shortly after, the Turkmen customs officials said we needed to get our items from the truck so it could cross thru customs. We spent the next couple hours in the waiting room and finally started our exit at 7:00.  There was an incredible sunset while we waited.

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