the village that was too big

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When I woke up, hot water for our morning tea was already boiling:

boiling water

It felt like a sort of luxury camping actually. And no more spiders. Or at least I hadn’t seen any.

Today my guide Shukur helped me get the Caboose out from the dunes:

the Caboose’s tracks

I had been experimenting with nicknames for the two, and by now I had decided on “the Boss” for Shukur and “the Don” for Gödzh. Because Shukur was my guide, so naturally he was the Boss. But Gödzh had been a shepherd once, so nothing in the desert could ever scare him, no scorpion, no spider, and not even a cobra. So he was the boss of all bosses. He was the Don.

I was again in my slippers. I tried wearing them with or without socks. It was never good, but it was still better than my shoes.

This is what my left little toe looked like:

bad toe

It was no good, so bad in fact that I eventually cut out parts of my slippers in order to give it more room (as you can see in the picture). Why did this have to happen now? It felt very unfair.

The first thing I saw was another roadside grave:

desert grave

Then there was a truck stop:

truck stop in the desert

And then I came across something I had seen in Kazakhstan before, once on a very big tree and another time next to a waterfall:

pieces of cloth hung in a tree

This was for good luck. And the people had kept this belief albeit converting to Islam many centuries ago.

We left the region of Lebap and entered that of Mary at around 11 in the morning. There was a police checkpoint where the cops took a selfie with me on their phones. And there was another gate that marked the new region:

entering Mary region

We took our lunch break shortly after that:

The cops were not the only ones who insisted on a selfie. People would stop their cars for group pictures all the time:

group picture

Then we passed by a settlement that was strangely out of proportion:

settlement that seems too big

Not many people seemed to live there, but all buildings were massive and shiny in the desert sun. It even had a large complex with a hotel and a restaurant, and word had it that all of this had happened because the First President had once stopped here and remarked that the village should get some improvements. And so it did.

I got some ice-cream from the Boss:

ice cream

And then I went into a shop to look around:

shop

It was actually half restaurant half shop:

inside a Turkmen shop

And it didn’t have too many products you could buy:

desert shop

But I got a cold coke, which was absolutely awesome in the afternoon heat. And I noticed that it had an advertisement for the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat on it:

Coca-Cola in Turkmenistan

It seemed as if everyone in Turkmenistan was very excited about those games. They were to start on September 17th, and people often asked me if I would go see them. Sadly, I wouldn’t.

Like these dudes:

photo with young dudes

They seemed very astonished that anyone would not go see the Asian Games.

But I had other things to do, and I was on a tight schedule. I had to walk along with the setting sun:

evening light

These guys were apparently having a hard time out there:

dudes who are having a bad time

But we took a fun selfie nonetheless:

photo with stolen hat

And then, at about seven in the evening, after another 35+ kilometers in my slippers, I arrived at our camp. It was in the dunes, and it was very quiet, with only the occasional truck roaring past in the distance. We had our vegetable stew, which was awesome as always. And I pitched my tent under the stars.

Only today, I left the light on for the picture:

tent with light under milky way

Looked much better this way.



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