hello, cloud

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The people I come across on this Turkmen part of The Longest Way are really nice, almost all of them. There have been the occasional instances where people stared at me in a way that could be considered unfriendly, but I think they were just confused and didn’t know what to make of me. Foreigners are rare in this country. Young people with big beards and long hair are rare. Walking people pulling Cabooses are rare.

But most people are nice, and when they don’t speak any Russian (which has been increasingly the case in the villages ever since South Kazakhstan), we just smile at each other and make gestures.

And sometimes the smile doesn’t have to be very big:

donkey rider

My day started out on roads that were just a little bit busier than the one that crossed the desert:

Balyk

There was a large canal:

bridge before Mary

And behind the canal, my enemies were lurking:

beekeeper

I am afraid of bees, but luckily, these ones ignored me for some reason.

Then a large modern travel bus stopped right next to me, and suddenly the whole place was full of Japanese tourists:

Japanese tour group

For some reason, Central Asia seems to be a prime destination for Japanese holidaymakers. Wherever you go, you are bound to run into these very quiet and polite people who only get a little louder when they are in groups.

This group and I had a lot of fun. There was a lot of handshaking, there were a lot of selfies, and they gave me juice boxes, apples, and muffins.

Then we went our separate ways.

One thing that was different between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan was the fact that the latter didn’t really have any imported cars, not even second-hand cars. But Turkmenistan, just like Kazakhstan or Kyrgyzstan, had a lot of cars that had come from Europe, which many of the trucks still displaying their original artwork:

European truck

The desert returned shortly after this:

desert as it should be

But not for long. There were melon stands:

melon stand

Empty melon stands:

straw hut

There was Shawn the Lizard:

There were salty dry spots:

dry spot

And there was what I perceived to be ancient ruins:

ancient ruins?

Or maybe they were not so ancient, I had no way of knowing.

Then we had our lunch break, and the Boss gave me one of his inflatable pillows to use. I had used it many times before, but today I actually looked at it to read the user warnings:

different Englishes?

Why were the versions in Australian English, American English, and British English so different?

After lunch, another selfie with a couple:

photo with couple

I know it might look like I am sharing every single selfie I took with people in Turkmenistan, but believe me, I’m not. There were just too many.

I took a Let’s Walk video which might shed some light:

The Iranian Turkmen gentleman from the video:

village near Mary

The lovely young lady who gave me tomatoes:

friendly vegetable vendor

Another thing about Turkmenistan: I think the economic situation is overall better than in Uzbekistan, at least judging from the condition of the cars, the roads, and the buildings. This would be of course due to the massive gas reserves that Turkmenistan has started using in the last decade or so.

But here, too, just like in China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, or Uzbekistan, the divide between the city and the village is huge. It’s like two different worlds. Remember what Turkmenabat looked like, with its large boulevards and its imposing structures?

Well, the villages here (except for the village that was too big) are a lot more humble:

village in Turkmenistan

It’s as if there were two different worlds:

food truck

There is the world of metropolitan glamour, and then there is the world of camel herders:

camel herder

And herds of camels:

camels

Of tomatoes for sale on the roadside:

tomatoes for sale

But again, I am digressing from my original point – I took a lot of selfies with people in Turkmenistan:

photo with dude

And I mean A LOT of selfies:

photo with another dude

There was not going to be any camping tonight, as we were too close to the villages and the city. So we walked as far as we could before nightfall, then we parked the Caboose behind a restaurant. This was going to be her sleeping place for the night:

the Caboose sleeps here

It was right next to some tandyr ovens (the ones that had baked all the nang-breads I had eaten from years ago in Xinjiang to here):

tandyr

And then I saw the most wonderful thing – my first cloud in Turkmenistan:

first cloud in Turkmenistan

I had not seen a single cloud up until today. Just blue skies and more blue skies. “Hello, cloud”, I thought, but then we got in the car and drove off. We were going to stay in the city of Mary and then come back the next morning to continue walking from here.

So we went and had a nice hearty dinner:

dinner in Mary

(I am German, therefore I like to mix my cola with fanta. It’s the best thing on the planet. In the universe, even. We call it “spezi”.)

The restaurant was nice and big but rather empty on a Friday night at nine:

restaurant in Mary

Then we went to a little store in the neighborhood:

shop in Mary

I bought Turkmen cola and Turkmen candy:

buying candy in Mary

And yes, the vendor was very beautiful.

When I saw my hotel room, I almost couldn’t believe it:

hotel room in Mary

I’m going to let this little video speak for itself:

Remember how I looked like shit at the end of my first day in Turkmenistan?

Well:

I look like shit again

Yeah.



  • 周苏晓

    Do you by any chance know why my notebook doesn’t show your videos at all, not talking to watch them?

    Reply

  • Kelly Kitchen

    From this end it was kind of surreal. You were essentially disappearing into a foreign country for a few weeks and we following on the outside would have no clue of your condition. Because you had to wait so long Just to walk through it felt slightly…trepidatious? So I wondered and wondered about you and what you were doing, and honestly, if you were safe. And now I see the videos and it’s cool as fuck, these windows into the world. The people, (gives me hope!) the scenery (or lack of haha) the culture…the “otherness” I just can’t get enough. But I also have an appreciation for how hard it was (& is) and how monotonous sometimes. I shouldn’t have worried so. Cuz those were the tough parts and you just shouldered through. Thanks again for sharing this life of yours. I’m about to shoulder through a little bit myself!

    Reply

  • Cathy

    Stunningly handsome!

    Reply

  • Becci

    Don´t you dare coming back home with uncombed hair!

    Reply

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