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Turkmenistan Trip Pictures (Page 1 of 2) from May 21 to June 07, 2010

To proceed to Turkmenistan Pictures Page 2 or Turkmenistan Journal.

Our Route through TURKMENISTAN. Covered approx. 2500km (900km in a vehicle and 1600km on the motorcycles)

We left the port of Baku in Azerbaijan on May 19, 2010. Our cabin that we acquired from a crew member for a small sum during our journey across the Caspian Sea.

The ship took the anticipated 15 hours to cross the Caspian Sea. Then it dropped anchor 5km off shore outside of Turkmenbashi, Turkmenistan.

May 20, 2010 past and we still waited out in the open waters, watching the mosquitos on our cabin window.

May 21, 2010. It is a parking lot of vessels on the open sea waiting to port as we are waiting.

We wander the ship.

The crew members hang out, mostly fishing, listing to Russian music and ...

... letting Ruby take the steering wheel of the ship. When asking how many more hours or days we would be anchored off shore. The answer is maybe today, maybe tomorrow.

We actually become lucky. There are (6) more ships ahead of us, which translate to another day on the water, but another passenger pulls rank and we motor into Turkmenbashi on the afternoon of May 21, 2010.

From the ship we can clearly see our hotel which we will be staying at once we are allowed to port (the large building is the Hotel Turkmenbashi).

Oleg, from StanTours picks us up at the port and takes care of the Visa, Immigration & Customs for us. After (5) hrs of paperwork we get to our hotel. The view from our room.

May 22, 2010. From Turkmenbashi we head toward Yangykala Canyon.

The Canyon is located approx. 160km from Turkmenbashi. Only a few sections of road are covered in deep sand, reminding us of Africa.

Mike had to rescue Ruby, as she got hopelessly stuck in the sand. The road ahead.

Our first view of the YANGYKALA CANYON.

It definately surpassed our expectations.

A trail follows the rim of the canyon.

There are a thousand picture opportunities.

This canyon used to be covered by the sea.

The color scheme of the different layers make this canyon very pretty.

We continue to drive along the rim.

Mike poses on a rock for a perspective of shear size.

The bottom of the canyon.

Ruby standing on the edge. Oleg was more scared then Ruby was.

By the way Oleg is our Tour Guide from StanTours. When initially planning on travelling through Turkmenistan we were faced with two (2) options.

Option 1 being a 3-day Transit Visa, which did not allow for sightseeing or deviation of the main throughway.

Option 2 was a Tourist Visa, which required a guide to be with us at all times outside of Ashgabat, but gives us 20 days within the country. Of course we chose Option 2.

While Oleg was preparing dinner, we hiked to the bottom of the Canyon.

Mike is looking for a Shark tooth. There are petrified shells as well.

We strike gold or better a shark tooth.

Happily we return to our campsite. We placed our tent right on the rim of the canyon.

Oleg is busy preparing supper...

...while we are enjoying a relaxing moment.

Chicken the Turkmenistan way.

The chicken is slowly cooked over the coals, allowing for the chicken to retain its juicy content.

No meal is complete without Vodka and Beer.

We watch the sun set on the horizon.

May 23, 2010. There has been only a few camping spots to this point that really drive home how incredible lucky we have been to experience a spot like this without another human being for miles and miles.

A magical moment, as we watch the sun come up.

We had been blessed with only a slight breeze, which made this stay even better.

From the Canyon it is to Balkanabat,...

...which is about 160km through some sand again...

...and the Balkan Mountain Range.

Mike takes a rest in the shade (Coca Cola should really sponsor us, as we seem to advertise for them a lot).

Oleg cleans the truck. All vehicles in Turkmenistan have to be clean or you will be fined (Our motorcycles seem to be exempt).

In Balkanabat we stop for a picture of the Monument to the DESERT EXPLORER.

A couple of children happily want there picture taken with the Monument.

The monument was erected by the Russians.

We get ample opportunities to take pictures of the locals. Especially the females with their colorful pretty dresses are happy to pose for pictures.

In Balkanabat we stay at the Hotel Nebitchi.

Are we ever getting spoilt by these deluxe hotels.

The town of Balkanabat used to be a Oil boom town, which went bust after the oil run out. Ruby is reminded of home and work.

May 24, 2010. A last minute change in the itinerary and we added a visit to Dekhistan to the package.

A 340km detour takes us south through fields of oil pump jacks...

...and hundreds of camels, especially around any rare water hole.

Camels can even be found on the middle of the road. We probably saw more camels in Turkmenistan then on the entire Middle East trip.

The last 40km we fly across the flat takyr (clay) and sandy landscape.

7km north of Dekhistan lies an ancient cemetery.

The SHIR-KABIR MOSQUE-MAUSOLEUM, is said to be the oldest mosque in Turkmenistan.

The mosque has been rebuilt/restored.

Recent excavation has uncovered the base of a minaret.

There are hundreds of butterflies in the shady spots. By luck one is caught on camera close to Ruby's neck.

Inside the mosque.

Ornimental tiles that make up the decoration.

This is the only original protion of the mosque.

The beautiful decorated niche.

Some old inscriptions.

Wall fresco.

In close proximity are the unique gravestones of a cemetery that dot the barren landscape.

Unique due to the shape of the tombstone, which represent the horns of a goat.

A cup is either imbedded or placed on the top of the tombstone, to allow the souls a drink of water.

Further spread out are the ruins of (5) mausoleums. 100's of Butterflies.

Not much remains of the Mausoleums.

An example of how dry the area is. It is hard to believe that an ancient settlement used to reign here.

Just south of the cemetery is ancient DEKHISTAN (also known as Misrian).

The ancient 11th century silk road oasis city is surrounded by a now grumbling barely recognizable city wall with numerous towers.

Excavation surrounding the mosque and minarets show the outlining walls of residential houses.

All that is left inside the walls are a couple of towering minarets and the entrance portal of a mosque.

Beautiful decorated portal.

Mike gives perspective to the size of the entrance portal of the mosque.

The bases of columns have been reconstructed and one fallen column remains from the original structure.

The entire grounds of the site is littered with pieces of artifacts (pottery, tiles and even coins).

This minaret is accessible.

We climb to the top...

...for an amazing few of the surrounding area.

After the abandonment of the city in the 15th century due to lack of water and other natural resources, the city fell into ruins.

Another of those places in the world that does not get overrun by tourists.

A tricky descent, as most of the steps are missing.

The second minaret...

...depicts some decorative inscriptions.

On the way back across the flat takyr (clay) and sandy landscape, we encounter a picture...

...that reminded us of Africa and maybe the Paris Dakar Rally.

After (5) hours in the desert we return to Balkanabat, only to head out again for a 190km ride through a sandstorm. Exhausted we arrive in Parau Bibi.

The mausoleum of PARAU BIBI is a pilgrimage place.

While Mike rests, Ruby makes friends with the pilgrims. A woman shows Ruby how Plov is made.

Plov, a dish consisting of rice, meat and carrots, a typical central Asia dish and we love it. Cooked here in a kazan over the endless free supply of natural gas.

Water for the preparation of tea is continuesly simmering away.

Ruby was making friends left and right.

This woman wanted her picture taken with her mom.

Ruby is bombarded by questions, not much English was spoken, but we were able to communicate via sign language. The laughter and instant friendship was caught on camera, as a local took a picture of us with our camera.

Oleg is preparing Chili at the communal kitchen.

Exactly what we needed for supper.

Permanent pilgrimage tents/housing is set up, we pull up some carpets and our sleeping bag. Our home for a night.

Oleg is bundled up sleeping close by.

May 25, 2010. Fresh water is provided by a still active karyz irrigation canals.

These canals are unique to Central Asia. 5-10m deep and connects to the horizontal water channel. The vertical holes were required to access the water channel below for cleaning.

We proceed to the base of the shrine.

269 steps lead to the Parau Bibi Mausoleum, tucked into the hillside.

The mausoleum.

We watch as women climb the rocks around the mausoleum ...

...and place their backside into the niches of the hill.

This is supposed to improve your fertility.

We return to the main highway and after 150km turn toward the mountain range.

Our destination is NOKHUR, a small village, very close to the Iranian border, located in the Kopet Dag Mountain Range.

We stay with a local family. Gaib and Enebai welcome us with open arms.

The bathroom, though primitive, is deluxe.

Several open natural gas flames from pipe openings continuously boils the water in the vertical vessel and at the same time heats up the room.

A very generous snack is prepared outside under the shade of some leavy trees.

Being at the higher elevation, temperatures are pleasant.

The snack consists of peanuts, chocolate bars, bread and a homemade pickled salad, accompied by tea.

Refueled, we jump in with Oleg and his Toyota to explore more of the village and its surrounding mountains.

The village streets are narrow and the houses are surrounded by high mud brick walls.

In the centre of the village, Oleg shows us a traditional Turkmenistan House and outlines its method of construction.

Traditional roof construction.

Close by are the remains of a yurt manufacturing place.

On the outskirts of Nokhur lies a unique cemetery.

At this cemetery each grave, has a wooden vertical post (acting as a gravestone) ...

...with a horn of a mountain goat strapped to it.

The wooden post has steps carved into the sides to help the souls/spirits step up toward heaven.

Beyond the cemetery is QYZ BIBI, another pilgrimage shrine.

A huge tree is covered with pieces of clothing ...

...and configurations of baby cradles made out of fabric.

Similar to Parau Bibi, pilgrims visit this site to pray/wish for healthy children.

Amonites can be found everywhere along the mountain range.

We continue on a dirt road to gain elevation to a view point.

The Nokhur inhabitants are a unique tribe and Nokhur the main (largest) village of numerous other ones dotted in the surrounding mountains.

These houses are occupied only in the summer, ...

...where locals attend to herding goats and producing dairy products.

Old Russian Radar Station, no longer in use.

A scorpion, reminding us to watch out for the unknown.

Beautiful flowers pop up as summer arrives in the mountains.

At around 1700m (as per Mike's watch) we reach a look out point, which gives us a view of the vast steppe below.

Another detour takes us to a remote waterfall.

In the country side, we see elderly men dressed in traditional dress.

Our homestay, a traditional mountain house, reminding us instantly of our time in Yemen. A large room covered in colorful red carpets and cushions with pillows for a bed.

The toilet is two (2) houses down the road and consists of a 2x2m tiny outhouse with two (2) holes in the ground. It is always kept clean and used by the family.

We take dinner outside again. The amount of food served is staggering. A whole army could be fed. While Enebai serves Plov, salad, bread, peanuts, chocolate, her husband Gaib joins us for dinner. To drink we have tea and fresh sour yogurt milk.

May 26, 2010. A beautiful day greets us.

We have a great view of the village of Nokhur ...

...and Kopet Dag Mountain Range from our homestay.

Another huge feast awaits us for breakfast. This time the main dish is potatoes covered by fried eggs.

The drink provided beside tea is a huge bowl of warm fresh milk.

Dairy products are produced right here, it does not get any fresher than this.

We take a stroll over to the neighboring house.

Most motorcycles are old Russian models.

We enter a private home, a 2 year old boy sits cross legged on a carpet stuffing his face with breakfast.

Kids are sleeping on the floor and in the back room a women illustrates to us the use of a loom to produce silk scarfs.

Always on the lookout for unique items to purchase for our home, we add this scarf to our collection.

Enebai, provides some local dress for Ruby and ask for a picture to be taken. At first we could not get her to smile, but then a bright smile showing her golden teeth.

From here it is back to the flat steppe and heat.

Our first destination is the MURCHE RUINS.

All that remains of the original village of Murche is some mud brick walls.

During Russian occupation the people where relocated into alternative housing a kilometer down the road.

A significant building remains dating from the 15th century, which is a square roomed mosque. Typical to a mosque at the time in Turkmenistan.

The roof is supported by wooden columns with capitals in the form of goat horns.

Close by is the reconstructed Zenni Baba Mausoleum,...

...a place of worship for people with domestic goats and cows.

Inside the Mausoleum.

Another amonite.

We continue onwards to ROW ATA UNDERGROUND LAKE. Before entering this sign outlines the things that are not allowed. Makes for interesting reading.

There are not many places in the world where you can access a underground lake located 65m below the cave like entrance point within a mountain.

Beside the never ending stairway descending into darkness the underground lake has been left natural.

The lakes temperature is a pleasant 27Degree Celsius.

It is a bit spooky/weird as you start swimming deeper into the underworld.

The cave lake is not lit and therefore it does make your mind question what lies below and ahead. Creatures of the unknown or just Ruby with a couple of other tourists.

Just off the main highway in Geok-Depe at the Turkmen's last stand against Russia, now stands the very large, empty SAPARMURAT HAJI MOSQUE.

One might find 40 Muslims on a Friday inside the prayer hall, otherwise it is deserted.

To no surprise to us, the largest mosque in Central Asia was built by former President Niyazov, is called the TURKMENBASHI RUHY MOSQUE.

The structure and inscriptions do not conform to any normal mosque.

Beside the mosque is the former President's grand mausoleum.

In Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan, we stay at the Hotel Aziya. The parking lot shows our lonely motorcycles.

May 27, 2010. Our first oil change at 12,000km. The shop didn't charge us for using the premises.

Mike changes the oil and filter on his motorcycle,...

...while an eager car mechanic copies every movement Mike makes to change the oil on Ruby's motorcycle.

In Ashgabat and immediate surrounding we are allowed to travel unescorted (without guide). The famous WALK OF HEALTH STAIRCASE.

A truly amazing 37km of concrete path/stairway winding its way up and down along the Kopet Dag Mountains.

May 28, 2010. Not far outside of Ashgabat lies the ruins of the 3rd century BC Parthian capital NISSA.

Nissa, was mainly built out of mud-bricks and fallen to the same fate as many of the other ancient sites, ...

...erosion via rain & wind has leveled most of the houses, fortress walls and towers.

In addition once these sites are excavated and exposed to the elements it speeds up the decay if no proper preservation measures are implemented immediately. New mud bricks are created for preservation.

All artifacts found during the excavation are now displayed at the National Museum in Ashgabat.

On June 04 we visited the museum and were surprised to see the extend of artifacts that where unearthed at Old Nissa.

One being rhytons-horn shaped vessels of carved ivory painfully restored to preserve them.

Back at the actual Nissa site excavation is still on-going, ...

...some of the building have been rebuilt to preserve them.

A maze of walkways.

To see more great pictures of the second half of our journey through Turkmenistan, proceed to Page 2 of the Turkmenistan Photogallery.