Saturday – Ashgabat to the Caspian Sea

It was an early start. By 7.30 we were on the road. When we started out it was with the intention of staying overnight at a bush camp and then set out for the Caspian port first thing. Apparently it is not possible to book onto a ferry in advance. You have to be there to get your place.

The plan had been to visit hot springs on the way, but as no-one fancied the hot spring opportunity, we cracked on. Leaving Ashgabat we passed the largest mosque in Central Asia on the outskirts of the city and a long row of buildings which I think was military accommodation. It was not long before the mountains that separate Turkmenistan from Iran were running parallel with the road. A railway line ran along between the highway and the mountains.

The road was pretty grim. There is a new road in the process of being built, although we saw no-one working on it, and in some areas it was complete but frequently there were long stretches where it was not and we bumped along the old road, which was a single lane in each direction. It was a long day. I read a complete book!

The desert closed in on either side. The mountains to our left towards Iran disappeared. Mountains then appeared to our right – the Minor and eventually the Great Balkan mountain ranges came and went. A very soviet looking oil town appeared, and was then left behind.

At about 4.00 pm news came through to Kurban that there was a ferry due to dock in the early hours of the morning and we may be able to get on it, so the decision was taken to keep going to the port and camp there. (How are we going to get tent pegs in I thought to myself?) We kept going. At about 6.30 pm we got our first sighting of the sea. By 7.30 we were at the dock side. The sun was setting. Penelope was parked comfortably amongst her trucky chums but looked a little less at home when we got out our cooking gear and started to cook supper! The other lorry drivers looked a bit surprised as they discretely opened up food compartments cunningly built into in the side of their vehicles. It is another world!!

The good news was that we had been accepted on the ferry -which apparently also takes a goods train across…….. Hmmmmmm thinks I – Penelope and a goods train. Pretty heavy stuff.

In the end Keith and I, plus one or two others, decided not to battle with getting tent pegs into the asphalt but to sleep on the truck. Although I have not bothered too much with reports on ‘facilities’ in my writings, the standards of the toilets on the dockside were nothing short of horrific. They were absolutely disgusting and we had no idea how long we would be there. Everything was pretty ‘elastic’. No-one knew what time the ferry would actually arrive or indeed if and when it did arrive, when it would leave. Meanwhile, we and all the lorry drivers who continued to arrive all evening, plus the other foot passengers, plus the border staff, plus the port staff were all condemned to use the same loos, which were unspeakable. I will move swiftly on…….

We adjourned to the truck to sleep.

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