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August 20th 2016
Published: August 20th 2016
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BORDER CAMP TO DESERT CAMP. 17 AUGUST 2016. My stage 4 TDA stage 77

Distance: 80.3 Kms SubT. Kms 474.1. kms Road Condition: 50% broken road/deep potholes, 50% decent bitumen. Weather: 39c blue sky

Time in Saddle: 3:20:29 hrs Av Speed: av. 24 kph. Av Cadence. 66 Rpm

Elevation: 255 m up; 225 m down

Calories burned : >5000.

Ate Breakfast at 6.30, departed at 7.30, entered Border Post, 50 m away at 9am, left border at 2 pm. Endless bureaucratic nonsense on Uzbek side, checking you had declared all money spent, retained against what was brought into country. Then on Turkmen side, thorough x ray and baggage and vehicle checks.

On road in heat of day. rode to a hot restaurant lunch, not bad, but didn't entice afternoon riding!

Road in afternoon average, the broken surfaces become tiring on the arms and seat, but you cannot afford to become in attentive. Traffic mostly trucks. Generally a wide berth is given.

Turkmenistan is more Russian influenced than the other 'Stans' and its President looks like he is from the old Politbureau- very dour appearance, his photo is everywhere. There is a law here about dirty cars! All gleam!

Main industry is oil and gas, 6 million people, again many watermelons, pumpkin and tomato street stalls. Goodness knows how many of these products are consumed.

Desert Camp a sheer delight! Looks like a toilet stop for the truckers. Only sign of life was sand coloured marmots, think rats!

DESERT CAMP to TRUCK STOP. 18 AUGUST 2016. My stage 5 TDA stage 78

Distance: 140.6 Kms SubT. Kms 614.7 kms Road Condition: 50% broken road/deep potholes, 50% bitumen. Weather: 40c blue sky

Time in Saddle: 5:58:56 hrs Av Speed: av. 23.5 kph. Av Cadence. 63 Rpm

Elevation: 400 m up; 350 m down

Calories burned : >5500

A day much like yesterday. Scenery- desert- Karakoram.

My rear end is quite sore. I think I brought the wrong saddle. The one that came with the bike, not the one used on past rides. A big mistake. Hopefully my rear will numb out!! It does encourage me to get out of the saddle which apparently is a good thing! Too much weight lost from this zone!! Can already feel the pounds melting. The heat, large calorie burn and smaller calorie intake. Food on ride is average, the bread at lunch is rock hard and barely cuts with a knife. I largely eat off the bread, the tomato and cheese and toss the bread shell. Dinners have been a mix of pasta/ noodles, bbq chicken pieces, ie, bbq by the cook, not bad, lamb and salads. Eat enough but little calorie intake! No alcohol. A few cokes during the ride. Am forcing myself to drink more water, 3 litres, but maybe not enough as " oak chardonnay" in the jargon, still flows!

Very noisy night, a barking dog mostly and heavy transport.

On TV here the Olympics is broadcast, from the Russian influenced perspective.

TRUCK STOP to MARY. 19 AUGUST 2016. My stage 6. TDA stage 79

Distance: 76.06 Kms SubT. Kms 691.3 kms Road Condition: 20% broken road/deep potholes, 80% bitumen. Weather: 40c blue sky, medium cross wind.

Time in Saddle: 3:23:22 hrs Av Speed: av. 22.4 kph. Av Cadence. 67 Rpm

Elevation: 350 m up; 235 m down

Calories burned : >5000

Another day blending into the previous day!

Today rode within 4 kms of the historic city of Merve. No mention from TDA Crew. Whilst it is now a pile of old rock, it would have been interesting to visit, especially in light of the fact we were at the hotel by 10am and couldn't get in until 1pm, so just sitting in the lobby.

The crew seem a little apathetic, certainly none offering more than is required, with the exception of the mechanic who is cheerful and obliging on bike repair. He has taken apart one rider's rear wheel numerous times, trying to overcome a faulty rim, spending hours on the process. In any other environment, you would replace it, but that is not an option here.

I was expecting Mary to be a small centre. It's not. It's the bureaucratic centre for the region. Many large, designed white stone buildings and 4 Minaret Mosque. They seem soulless. Statutes of the President, a huge flagpole and flag, as in the other Stans, heavy jacketed Cossack looking soldier statutes, and wide roads with few cars.

The hotel is grand, opulent with brocaded furnishings, gilded mirrors, somewhat surreal after the past few days. The bizarre is across road, but offers very little, not like the ones visited in Uzbekistan which were more middle eastern influenced. This was more basic shopping, clothing, etc.

Food here is difficult to find. The hotel is isolated among grand empty edifices. Last night forced to eat pizza. On a hotel night we fend for ourselves on food. Even the kebab shop was closing and sent me to the pizza place. Friday, the Islamic Sunday equivalent, must be a wedding day, as observed a few decorated wedding vehicles and one bride, dressed in a white flowing gown. Maybe she was Orthodox Christian, regardless she looked very happy.

MARY SATURDAY 20 AUGUST, 2016. Hot, blue sky. REST DAY.

Ventured out to visit the impressive 4 Minaret Mosque. Unfortunately it was locked up tight. Past other grand buildings, a theatre, as in live performance, a music auditorium, and other domed, white large structures. All closed. Nothing else to see!! There appears to be a theme park with a ferris wheel behind the bazaar, which comes alive in the evening, at least, it lights up!!

Now back in foyer. No social media, no email, spasmodic messaging, no Google. It may be a while until this is posted. Presume it is like this through Turkmenistan and possibly Iran, maybe even Turkey, with its current problems. Certainly the internet doesn't seem to enable photos to be uploaded.


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