From Mary in Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan and Samarkand!

[Day 16]
Early start from Mary and Hotel Yrsgal, which was just fine, serving us what we needed: beer, food,sleep

Part of the paperwork when crossing the border to Turkmenistan was this piece of paper saying exactly which way we were allowed to drive. And we did follow this route! Because we had transit visas (which is close to impossible to get for tourists) we were however allowed to drive alone, without a guide – which you have to do when travelling on a tourist visa.

Not entirely fair to say that Turkmenistan was mostly nothing. Driving towards Turkmenabad, we discovered that they have a train, police check points (almost everywhere), parabolic antennas, weddings and nicely dressed women (and cars), a lot of sand dunes (Karakum Desert, covering 70% of Turkmenistan), another camel (tied up, so they wouldn’t lose it), a system to keep sand from hitting the road, and more of nothing

Getting closer to the border crossing, driving through Turkmenabad and towards Farap, we saw more citylike areas than we had done earlier on in Turmenistan. Almost at the border, but paperwork started a couple of kilometers before, with a police checkpoint, giving us one little piece of paper that we had to give to the military 100 meters away. What this piece of paper was about, we have no idea

We were worried that crossing this border to Uzbekistan would be as time consuming as yesterday at Sarahs on the Turkmen side, but this time it only tooks us 3 hours! Half an hour to wait for the border to open after lunch break, and 2,5 hours to get through. Getting out of Turkmenistan was no big challenge (they don’t really want foreign people in their country, so that makes sense), and the border facilities were much better than when we entered. Getting into Uzbekistan took longer time, but was a pleasant experience all the way! People were smiling and polite, and someone were dealing with our papers all the time – no unnecessary waiting while .. who knows. On the other side of the border we were met with the opportunity to buy insurance, and we saw this little thing in between sand and garbage

On the Uzbeki side there were more people and happier faces than we had seen most of the time in Turkmenistan. Roads improved and colours returned. We had difficulties finding a fuel station with diesel. Or: the few we found had a long queue, and since we were still optimstic, we kept going, hoping that things would improve closer to Samarkand, but it didn’t, and we used the first extra can of diesel. We did however see a large number of fuel stations, most of them closed, and a number of them never finished and then just abandoned. Women in beautiful dresses (have to admit that they also had that in Turkmenistan). Late night when we arrived in Samarkand – the center of the Silk Road, but we were determined to get there tonight, as we had a hotel booked, which we originally booked because we needed their invitation for the visa. And we were so happy we did! Arriving 11.30 pm to a beautiful hotel – The Grand Hotel Samarkand – with cold beer, too late for dinner, but bread and almonds was just what we needed!

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