2019-06-07 Day 253 Fri

 No internet but caught up on my blog just photos to sort and upload now.
Our thoughts of travel up to the now very small South Arel sea is thwarted. Not enough diesel in the tank. The Arel sea used to have cargo ships on it and they now lay on the sand. Cotton farming and the use of chemicals during soviet era has purportedly drained the sea and damaged a very large area. The north Aral sea is in Kazakhstan and I think in the same condition.
We settled to drive the road we are on in a big loop.
Driving back through the houses they had outside cooking "ovens" under the shade of the trees.
The road seemed to be better than yesterday. Lots of water about in channels, lots of green, and a lot of square paddocks full of water. Finally we discovered that they flood the paddock then after a period they walk though it spreading seed. I think a grain maybe wheat, as they consume a lot of bread.

 There are quite a number of birds about, but they don't usually sit and wait for us to take a photo!

Back into town to find diesel. I looked up Caravanistan website and found a few GPS locations of black market diesel. We finally found a guy to sell us some, so bought 50 liters out of 10lt, water bottles and used our new funnel-filter for the first time. He also allowed us to fill with water. One litre 7000som about AU$1.40
By now the banks had reopened from their hours lunch break, so went and got out 2 million som (US$250). Back for another 50litres diesel.
Now south.
It takes only four Uzbekistan men  to push a train carriage!

John had a water camp picked out, but the first track we tried stopped at a canal. We then found a track going in right direction and followed that across to the next track and a bridge. There were some signs in Russian and some fire fighting gear.
We continued on the track noticing little groups of ¾ buried bottles of water, we assume for fire control.
Arrived at a little camp spot and saw about 20 deer race out of the water onto an island then continued back towards the chosen spot. After a couple of km’s finally got there. Although the track was within 200m of the river there was no tracks to the water.
Set up camp with some nibbles and books sat down in the shade to then be interrupted by a vehicle and a ranger. In a biosphere park and no camping here. Sounds like we shouldn’t even be here. The guy had some English and was really very friendly and nice about it. He took us back to the original spot and said we could have one night. All good.

Read for a while until a few mozzies, the dark and tiredness drove us inside for a shower and bed.


2019-06-06 Day 252 Thu

No internet but caught up on my blog just photos to sort and upload now. 
John gave the solar panels a clean.

We headed a little closer to town and perched near the river and use internet to catch up with stuff. Still no internet so on closer Still none. Something must be wrong so into town and to the Beeline shop which was closed yesterday. We had finally worked out that yesterday was a public holiday. The finish of Ramadan.
Beeline sorted our SIM in short order. We had not bought a SIM for tourists. Yes $$ signs went through our heads. But easily solved just need to have a balance on sim to pay 500som a day AU10c. Back with comms!
Into the markets for Vanish for the toilet and WD40. We wondered around a lot and found Vanish mainly liquid but that’ll do. Powder was available but in very small packets. WD40 was not available here.
Back into the main building for some frozen chook, and some bread.
We drove NW to lake Dawitko’l Suwsaqlag’ishi, stopping at a lot of gas stations for diesel. Not available. We found one but you need special paperwork to buy it, which we of course, do not posses.
The road degraded as we went and was very slow, every 100m with potholes which people drive around….
The sandy track wound through a small group of houses then out the other side on a less used track. We were surprised that the motor bikes road only on the wheel tracks and did not cut corners.

We arrived at the waters edge on a very pretty lake with 3 small fishing skiffs.
Not long after setting up we had a visitor, on Yes a motor bike and sidecar, explained much.
He was a fishing inspector and said we could not stay. Then we could stay one night. He didn’t have much English but stayed and chatted for 1 hour. A couple of guys came on another sidecar and a push bike they paddled out in the skiffs to bait a set line for the night. They would be back in the morning to retrieve their catch.


The inspector spoke about letting hatchlings go but we were not sure if he’d already done it or was about to

A quiet night.


2019-06-05 Day 251 Wed

Did some maintenance and John crossed a few items off of the service book. Including washing the solar panels.

We pulled the toilet canister apart and gave it a really good clean. 

Then headed for the border arriving about 10am. People traveling by public transport have a few hundred meters to walk to get to customs.

Got through Turkmenistan OK but they were concerned that we did not have a GPS to hand back in. We had expected one but where not given one.
Then onto Uzbekistan which was easy - just took a little while.

One of our first vista's of uzbekistan, our second “Stan”, was this huge graveyard. With massive "tombs". Quiet an amazing site.

We drove towards Nukus. The place is quite clean i.e. no rubbish but it looks quite bedraggled & dirty from sand blowing, old buildings.
Still the old soviet style buildings, big, solid and made to last but not soft on the eyes.

Nukus itself looks more modern. After about 8ATM's we gave up. None were giving money. We found Beeline internet shop which opens at 2pm, but didn’t.

Was suggested we go to bazaar for SIM which we did.
Our opinion of Uzbekistan just went through the roof. The best markets we had seen. Changed some money with some guys with shopping bags of cash. Took a while to count it all out. US$100 netted us about 130 of the 5000 Som notes and a few smaller. 
Islam, a young environment protection student, befriended John and helped us through the market. 
Nice having the fridge full again. Still no greens but cherries apricots peaches capsicums, lettuce and coriander. Also a chunk of beef.

With plans to meet up tomorrow, we said our thanks and headed south out of the city to find a quiet camp between the sand and the river.

We were both very tired so read for a while then had a snack for dinner a shower and into bed. Not quite as hot as last night.


2019-06-04 Day 250 Tue

Our new friends left and we did a bit more work on photos and blog. I just seem to get a week behind in a couple of days. We left close to midday and headed towards our border crossing. 

In places the sand dunes had these little stick squares put in I assume to hold the sand in place. 

The road was bad for the next 120km’s and we spent a bit of it driving down the unsealed new road which had not seen any machines for a long while .

 At the turn off to Dashoguz and one border crossing our road became even more uncomfortable and slow.

We arrived into Konye-Urgench about 5pm and drove around a bit. Spent most of our local cash on diesel then found a little store on map (would not have noticed it if we drove past) and bought some yogurt with the remaining cash.

The tallest minaret in central Asia.

Walked around the mausoleums then found a little camp by the river. Just in sight of the road.
It was very hot .


2019-06 03 Day 249 Mon

 We stayed late in camp not wanting to arrive at the next camp in the middle of the afternoon. Would prefer to drive through the heat of the day. The road degraded another degree but still only really bad in the occasional spot.

Arrived at Darvarza fire crater around 1600hrs. Our first stop was straight downwind of the craters hot wash so moved to another knoll over looking it.
Went for a stroll around it about 210m. When we got down wind the heat made the 40℃ seem cold. We could feel ourselves cook!! A few cars pulled up and one stayed - a German couple and 6 month old girl. The red car we had parked beside at customs.

Just before dusk 30 4x4’s turned up and disgorged their passengers. They wondered around then wen to a yurt for tea walking back on dusk.

Had a shared dinner with the Germans and a good chat. Another walk around the crater and then bed near midnight. 


2019-06-02 Day 248 Sun

We arrived at the border town and exchanged most of our Iranian Rial to the Turkmenistan Manat at the official rate getting about 130 for our 1500,000. I bought some frozen chicken pieces and some yogurt. Not feeling apprehensive about this crossing which is great. 
Still no traffic around. We crossed out of Iran with no hassles. We were not separated. A huge complex with a large building straddling the 6 lanes of roads but nobody. We got ushered upstairs by the guard, passed many empty offices to the man who stamps the carnet de passage. This guy then took us down stairs on the other side of the roads then back to the original door. Handed in our passports to another guy we took a seat and waited. It was not long before we were called up and we were free to go.
John went around a fence to go and retrieve our vehicle, pick me up and out the gate into Turkmenistan. We were told to park near a red station wagon then walked back to the gate to show our passports. Another camper arrived with some French couple on their way south. Sadly did not get to talk much as we were at passport control and on either side of the building. 
Next into the building to pay taxes, and to pay for the visa. We had understood, from the consulate in Ankara, that the cost would be about US$250. We waited for the bank to open with the guards ringing the bell repeatedly but no answer. Boss man came out yelled at one of the junior guards and he disappeared through another door and retrieved the banker lady for us.
During this time I asked the guards if I could take my scarf off. Yes. Great nice to be free.
Paid the US$110 for visa and another US$24 for tax. 
All good. Then we were separated. I did not have a book or phone so after I was cleared in I sat in the garden. I was not allowed to find John. It felt like about 45 mins. A long time. I busied myself with exploring the garden and killing caterpillars on one of the rose bushes. The roses were looking very healthy and were about to burst into bloom.
EC finally appeared over the pits and the guard allowed me to go to it. John had been doing paperwork from office to office and had to pay US$200 in taxes included the change of US$9 which became a tip. The guys did not know if tomorrow the roads would be closed for the world cycle day and you need to ask the president. Supposedly on the news tonight everyone will know. However the border officials have all been asked to leave Ashkabat by 0600hrs.

We waited while they had lunch then had our cursory inspection. Neither John or I had declared money so John chased that down, and declared it and took a photo of the paperwork. Had still not seen any other car although a bus did arrive spilling out 10 passengers and their black garbage bags of items.
It all took about 3 hours even with the lunch break. 
Our first “Stan” with a 5 day transit visa. 
Now onto the road into Ashkabat capitol of Turkmenistan. Still no traffic. We looked down over the uniform city. Most of it a formation white color white marble and further away a sea of green roofs.

Onto a 6 lane divided road into the city still no traffic. So neat clean and quiet. What a complete difference to Iran which bustled busily somehow noisily and dirty. The contrast was amazing, quiet serene, streets lined with trees, parks and a little well behaved traffic.

We drove around a bit taking photos of monuments, Down the main drag each roundabout had it’s own big piece of artwork.
We parked in the shade I change out of my longs into a cool dress and John into shorts. We then had a bite to eat. A guy helped us to order and then took us to a table in among the trees. A kind off big flat pie with lamb mince filling quite nice and a bottle of sparkling water (which doubled the price of the meal). 
Finally found a place to buy a SIM but they wanted US$30 for SIM and 10GB. We declined.

We drove north.
For all that we had heard about the bad road so far it was not too bad. It became desert like very quickly and hot - about 41℃. The river marked on the map actually had lots of water so turned off on a small road which ran parallel to it and then left the road in a swale (after dropping tire pressure) and drove through the sand to the river. EC was just visible from the road.