Uniformed officers wearing large Russian hats await us at the Turkmen border. It appears that we’re about to be catapulted back to Soviet times. We start with seeing the doctor (yes, we’re in good health sir), then passport control, then about four different customs officers each writing a line in a large book, and finally immigration to get our entry stamp. We also pass by the ‘bank’, where we have to pay the passenger entry fee, vehicle transit fee, road insurance, document processing fee and vehicle disinfection fee. We also get a fixed itinerary and have to pay a fee per kilometre to compensate for the cheap subsidized fuel. Total cost for our two days crossing of the beautiful country of Turkmenistan, where there’s nothing to see but desert, two boring potholed main roads and a surreal city or two: 138 USD, transit visa and the (for foreigners) ridiculously high bridge toll in Farap not included.
At the first police checkpoint we discover that the fixed itinerary is no joke. We’re sent back and have to take the truck congested main road via Tejen, quite a detour (zoom in on our route to see where we got turned back). We end up driving in the dark, quite dangerous if the opposite traffic doesn’t see the need to turn on their head lights! When we finally reach Mary, we get a cold welcome by a sleazy short-skirted Russian receptionist (a bit of a shock after Iran). All shops and restaurants are closed by now so I dine on water and honey, while An crashes on the bed.