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Discovering Turkmenistan - by Jeroen bleker

Mary, August 31, 2016

'Turkmenistan is a beautiful country, thank you mister president for welcoming us here', is what we said to the national TV of Turkmenistan. The country we are in now is strange in multiple ways. The beautiful (but empty) city of Ashgabat impressed us with all the facilities it has. The environment feels like the perfect historical metropole, although it has been built just recently. After the Turkmenian camera crew arrived this morning, we got a tour through the city. The monument of neutrality was impressive and the view we got from the top of the building is gorgeous: we could see all the beauty in the surrounding. When Remco and Daan were at this location during their trail trip in March, they were only allowed to take pictures from the building from 500m distance. I assume the place serves mainly as a showcase for foreign visitors who could stimulate tourism in the city.

During the citytour, we had the feeling to be living in a movie (inception?). The only people that seem to live in the luxurious environment are those who clean and maintain it. Behind the mountains is where the real 'Ashgabats' live: a place we were not allowed to visit.

When we left the city at noon, the perfectly maintained streets changed to long, desert-like national roads. With a speed of 80km/h, we rode over the bumpy asphalt. While we were swapping our batteries in 40°C, two honking motorcycles stopped next to us: the Dutch adventurers that we had met during the border crossing! The couple joined our convoy and stayed with us in the luxurious (but again empty) hotel in Mary. Dinner was good, and we even got email to work! Furthermore a couple of people decided to take a swim in the pool, what a delight compared to the heat outside. The charging however took a long time as the fuses kept breaking. In the end floor 2 had no lights in the hallway, some rooms had no air conditioning and the electrician had a nice job resetting all the fuses the next day…

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