Turkmenistan, saying this world already brings the vague idea of a country that is locked to the world.
A country that was governed by Niazov, the ex-president, creating one of the toughest dictatorships in the world. The visa administration we had to deal with was time-consuming for any details and seemed to be somehow arbitrary. We were already wondering how we would be welcomed in the country and only obtained a 5 days transit visa to cross the Karakoum desert and enter Uzbekistan.
However the life at the border is not what we could have expected. We entered central Asia and the round faces with Mongolian features and bright shinny smiles of golden teeth welcomed us. Straight away, we are staring at the bright colourful cloths that women wore. Long endless dresses, with large scarf mainly yellow and brown that covers a ring that was placed on their head. The intense colours bring us to the joyful side of life, to the fluffiness of spontaneous sharing, with a population that would touch us by their glimpse and their friendship.
Form everlasting arid land we crossed for miles, we just entered a universe of green surroundings, of delightful smells of spring flowers and of the melody of the crickets songs. It was a jubilant life energy that vibrated our body, soul and heart. But if these landscapes were just a relief for us, these emerald trees and crops had an expensive price. They participated in one of the major ecological disasters, the disappearance of the Aral Sea. The Russian had built a canal that would bring water across the Karakoum desert over 1’100 kilometres in order to intensify the cotton production. Overusing the water of the Aral Sea and provoking the damage of mono-agriculture.
But our path on this land was limited by time, and we had to cycle everyday with a headwind that never weakened. Moreover, there were just no sign in the country and we made a 50 kilometres side trip on our most optimistic option. We had to ride 500 kilometres in 5 days, and the roads between Saraghs and Mary were sometimes smashed and often in a shattered states. But we took one day after the other, one moment after the other, not giving to much hope of crossing Turkmenistan on our bikes.