Travel Diary : 24 hours in Turkmenistan
If there is a country where I don't see any reason to go back, this would surely be Turkmenistan.
From the request of the visa until the exit of the country, the Turkmen officials made me understand that at no moment, I was welcome in this part of the world.
22 days waiting, for a 5 days transit.
The biggest part of the Turkmen adventure happened in the offices. In Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, it was not difficult to find the Turkmen embassy. A huge white marble building surrounded by Uzbek policemen.
Even if he embassy is huge, I have to wait outside although the temperature were negative. The embassy is supposed to be open from 9am to 12am, from Monday to Wednesday. As the opening time is indeed short, it is recommended to come earlier to be sure to be welcomed. I arrive at 8am and write my name on a list. I will be the 13th person to pass.
The door opens at 10.15am.
Today, the embassy is only open 1h45. I just ask for a transit visa because the tourist visa is really expensive. The consul ask for the exact places where I will enter and exit the country. My exit suggestion is refused, because too near from the capital Ashgabat, where I am supposedly not very welcome neither. Then, I am asked to come back in “20 days” to get my visa.
As my Uzbek visa finishes in 10 days, I have to exit Uzbekistan. I make my visa for Tajikistan, where I will have the possibility to wait until my Turkmen visa is ready. It takes one week. Once in Tajikistan, I ask for another visa for Uzbekistan, so I could reenter it. It takes another week. 22 days after my request, I go back to Tashkent and I get my Turkmen visa. I arrive at 6.45am, I am the 5th on the list. The door opens at 10.30am. My visa is granted, but I am asked to come back at 4pm to get it.
My Turkmenistan visa
The Turkmen border
The two immigration buildings between Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are a winning pair for those who like police-state. Soldiers everywhere, passport check every 10 meters...
The Turkmen military forbid me to walk the 100 meters separating the two immigration buildings. They obligate me to take a minibus. After half and hour of unfruitful talk with soldiers who don't want to listen anything, the minibus driver arrive and invite me to reach the Turkmen immigration building for free. We reach this one in less than 40 seconds.
I enter the Turkmen immigration building. I go through quarantine, then arrive in front of the officers supposed to stamp my passport. Everyone goes, except me. They interrogate me.
My transit visa of 5 days diminishes to 3 days in just few minutes. I don't even dare to tell them that I am going to travel by hitchhiking...
Then a big machine scans my bags. Another officer interrogates me.
It is 4pm when I finally enter Turkmenistan. I lost 3 hours to cross this border, but more important, I lost 2 days of my visa. This is not the moment to take my time.
Surprisingly, Turkmenistan is quite easy to cross by hitchhiking. Maybe because everyone transits. Maybe also because the whole country is a desert and there is nothing to do between the few cities.
Turkmenistan is a huge desert
I refuse to go to the hotels that have been booked for me. I quickly cross Turkmenabat, before that truck picks me up before dark and drive me up to Mary, 200 kilometers further. I arrive late at night, find a place to sleep outside, in front of a concrete manufacture. I go back on the road the next day. It remains 280 kilometers to travel before reaching Iran.
Hitchhiking was quite easy in Turkmenistan
A car stops. It's a Turkmen couple going to Ashgabat. The man sells leather coats, that his wife makes. He wants to sell me one for 30 euros, which is for him the equivalent of 100 dollars. Too bad that I don't have euro with me today. They drop me in the junction of Sarahs, where a last truck pick me up on the way to the Iran border.
My last driver going to the Iran border
Going out of the country was much easier than going in. The immigration employees seemed even happy that I leave their country. I have to admit that I was too. During this transit, I was controlled 3 times by the police, who recorded my passage on a book. The last time, they ask for the plate number of my taxi. I showed them my truck and we concluded this story by saying that I was a simple pedestrian. The “hitchhiker” case didn't exist in this country.