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Published: June 21st 2017
Geo: 42.3277, 59.1544
This is cheating a bit - the desert was some way south of Konye-Urgench which we visited first, but I'm sure you will allow the geographical slip.
Konye-Urgench came soon after a trouble-free crossing of the Uzbek-Turkmenistan border. Trouble free because I was there early, immediately in front of a busful of Americans/Canadians being shepherded by their guide but who would surely have kept me waiting a while.
My guide was waiting as promised just outside the Turkmenistan border area and so we were immediately on our way.
There isn't much to see of Konye-Urgench, but it is anther town that can lay claim to having been the centre of the Islamic world. This was in the 12th century, under Persian rule, but it went into decline when the capital was moved to SAmarkand in 1220. Ghengis Khan arrived in 1221 seeking revenge for the death of his envoys and after a 6n month siege broke through the walls and set fire to the houses, to stop continuing resistance they then diverted the nearby Amu-Darya river and flooded the city.
So the town came under Mongol rule (the Golden Horde) and was rebuilt and prospered again as a vital trading post on the
Silk Road. Then came Timur - and completely finished it off.
Today the remains are mostly undderground except for a scattering of mausoleums and a minaret - CEntral Asia's tallest minaret - spread across the desert.UNESCO World Heritagr Site since 2005.
Then on - and into the desert to the Darvaza Gas Crater. This crater is the resut of a gas exploration accident in the 1950s - gas makes its way to the surface where it burns, You can find it on Google Earth by searching for Darvaza from which you will see it lies about 10km off the road across sand dunes, really only accessible by 4WD though there were two people there who had walked from the road. My guide and I put on our happy hats and gave them a ride back to the road. There is another crater that does bubbling mud and flame and another one full of water.
So I spent the night in a tent, not too cold, overlooking the main crater and was awake to see the sun rise.
PS - I can't access Facebook here in Turkmenistan so this won't get posted there (mu guidebook says Facebook and Twitter are blocked though my guide denies
it and says he uses it. Who to beleive - anyway it doesn't work!
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