Pedaling from the Black Forest to the Yellow Sea
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Day 140 (Turkmenistan/Uzbekistan): nowhereland - Olot (borders make no difference)

daily distance: 124km
total distance: 8797km
riding time: 10h

When I set out from the construction crew trailer the wind was blowing as fiercely as it had the night before. This was just before 6am and it was not a pretty sign. I had hoped for some dying down, but that was not to be. It also meant another day of fighting wind, sand and traffic blowing the latter my way. Just as the night before the wind was blowing the sand towards me.

I had 25km to go to the next Kafe and so I tried to compartmentalize the distance, knowing that it would be the only way for me to make it manageable. This is of course all a head thing … The road was in decent shape, so that helped. But it also headed directly into the wind. The result was not pretty and made for slow progress throughout the day.

I was ready to bag it and get into a car several times. “You can somehow get through this” was something that a little voice kept telling me in the back of my head. And I am glad it won the day. Once at the Kafe I did some vile breakfast, fought off the screwing over that was about to happen and moved on (the usual triple the price and the like). Different predictions for how long it was to take didn’t help the mental game and it turned out to be longer than either prediction. But there was always something to keep things moving, I saw a landmark and went for that, did other mindgames, just to get my mind off of that damn wind.

Behind meĀ …

and in front of me …

Turkmenabad greeted me with a giant factory which was visible very early on. Good thing that chimney. The road in was atrocious (full of holes one could say or the chicken finds a bit of asphalt would be another) and also fully into the wind. There wasn’t a whole lot to appeal to the senses and so I moved on after trying out some “cocktail” and the local version of soft drinks. Essentially some syrup over which the vendor pours sparkling water. A bit on the dangerous side for me, but I wanted to try what people had here. Good flavors once you get past the radioactive colors.

Here is how a construction worker explained the way out of Turkmenabad to me …

On my way to the border I met two motorcyclists from Iran on their way to Shanghai …

More wind fun was in the offing. The road zig-zagged like crazy, changed directions often and drove me nuts. Once going north, it went south and then all over the map. The final 10km were again fully into the wind. I decided that at this point I had paid my dues to the gods of wind. I can only hope things improve from here.

The border crossing was relatively easy. No one harassed me - apart from some searching on the Uzbek side. It is a bit more high-tech than the Turkmen one. They wanted to search all my bags. Go ahead, be my guest. They chose the clothes pannier and I happily showed all the worn biking shorts and the like. After a few items I was told to close the bag and they moved everything into an x-ray machine. Some pointing here and there (tent poles) and then it was over. Lots of paperwork to follow and I was out. Or so I thought. More checking of papers again - making little sense to except to keep some officials happy. Here is the nomansland between the two border posts.

Nothing had changed. Of course nothing would. The wind was still the same. The road slightly better though. And why should it. I left one country, heading for another. The man-made fences may be one thing, but nature has a different way of dealing with things.

After leaving the border post, I was checked again after only 1km - and someone asked for money. I refused. It was a bit of back and forth. You are military, fine. Then check my papers, but leave me alone. I was a bit angry and wasn’t too happy about the next unofficial checking coming up soon enough. Just said hello and moved on.

The wind still in my face, I covered another 20km on the Uzbek side becoming a stoic and after being refused to pitch (essentially they asked for $20), I found a wonderful place. The family is great, I am sleeping outside and feel privileged yet again.

Some may wonder why I didn’t use my five days on my Turkmen visa. I sort of ran through the country. I would have rather spent more time. The little glimpse I had was not enough, but the hospitality was wonderful and I was treated just as good if not better than in other places. They just need to get rid of this stupid rule of 5-days transit visas. Essentially, it came down to not wanting to be late. The wind could have really pinned me down in some place. I just didn’t want that to happen. And so it went. Had Turkmenabad been a bit more inviting, I would have stayed. But it wasn’t.

On the way out, I also was witness to how corruption works in this country. Very openly. At a checkpoint, people just give money to the police, are then free to move on and the money was split right before my eyes. Kind of interesting.

To end on a lighter note, here is some evening serenity …


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