Owww, my kidneys!

Trip Start Mar 12, 2011
Trip End Dec 15, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Rahabat

Flag of Turkmenistan  ,
Thursday, April 7, 2011

Couldnt leave early, as the hotel have to give our passports, entry certificates and 2 photos each to the government official, who records them and returns tham by around 10.30.So a leisurly breakfast of fried egg(hot), boiled egg (cold), salad, salami, cheese and bread, with tea. What a mixture.
Then we met up with Antonina fro Stantours, who organised our LOI and the required guide. Very expensive, especially taking into account the surcharge for being 3 days late because of the ferry. Not their fault however, cant blame them. But thinking about how much it cost us to endure those extra days of filth makes it all that much worse! However, she drove us to the Turkme Bank, which is apparently the only place in the country where you can draw money against your Visa card. Feeling richer we went back to the hotel, paid Antonina and then set off, feeling decidely poorer!The road to Mary (pronounced Maarie) is not a good road. (hence the title - its like being punched in the kidneys) Sections are acceptable, but large swathes are pot hold, rough and all the adjectives that indicate that the road is c**p. What makes it worse is the fact that for a lot of the way, we were driving alongside the new road, which varies from not started through dust track, reasonable to fine tarmac. However, even where it is completed, they have barriers to stop you using it, so you cant get onto it. If you do manage to, then you could go a few miles, find another barrier and unless you can negotiate the return to the old road, then you have to return to where you joined. And  the new section may only be a few hundred yards before its back to a dust bowl and not worth the effort. Why dont they finish anything properly? Which all explains the title, if you hadnt guessed. The potholed road is so bad that all the screws holding my door catch have come loose, twice.
Anyway, got to Mary, checked into the hotel. Told that its being renovated, but as far as I can see, we are the only people checked in, into the only habitable rooms. Outside our room is a load of plaster panels which are going to be fitted into the nearby rooms. Living in a building site, we are. Even the sheets feel as if they have never been used.
Went out to dinner, had a reasonable meal, but half way through they turned the music up loud, which meant that all intelligent conversation between us ceased. Asked for the bill, and got a little piece of card with "56" written on it. Not a lot of detail provided!
However, tomorrow is another day, another country and another step closer to finishing the trip.
The consolation is the price of petrol. 62K/litre, which is about 20p a litre. It was over Ј1.50 when we left, so its a tiny fraction of the price.Its unusual in that the cost of the tankful is the lower figure on the pump, normally the litres is the lower figure!
Martin's Mary moment:I love that bit about intelligent conversation between us ceasing.During the day because of Roger's deafness,the roar of the car and my mumbling,his main contribution is "say again" and mine is a bellowed "how much further".We did discuss tthe question of married priests and the history behind The Catholic Church's requirement for its male priests to be celibate on the way down through Italy but now our main preoccupation is clinging to the wreckage.Small talk is only about the state of things at the momentAnyway welcome from the land of the golden smile - there are more gilded teeth than I've seen in my life.Our new driver,transporting our courier,has a full upper and lower set.Looks like that character from the James Bond film (jaws?)So Ashgabat? Unbelievable.Like a scene from one of those film epics about the Roman Empire.Apparently within last two years residents within a certain radius of the city have been rehoused in amazing high rise standalone apartments which look more like the Dubai skyscape than anything.These buildings - see Roger's piccies- are intersected by multi-lane highways.Fantastical.Oh and the governor flies the world's biggest flagSo this morning the taxi drivers in the hotel helped us wash the car and we got away after the business with the bank.That was something out of Citizen Kane.The cannot have any disabled customers - they wouldn't be able to open the door ,overloaded as it is with gilt ironmongery.And the road to Mary must have been the longest stretch of very bad road I have driven.Like the worst parts of the old Bidddenhan Turn stretching for 250 miles.Roger reckons his kidneys are beaten up.I'm suffering from the motoring equivalent of bed sores. The country is lush green in parts,camels stroll around (why aren't they in a decent zoo somewhere?) and the sheepdogs look nothing like Black Bob.Ladies have there legs covered and are given to wearing a sort of velveteen material-usually a vivid green which is the country's colour or maroon.Only the teams of women road sweepers and gardeners cover their faces but I suspect this is for protection rather than modesty.
Hang on - they're bacK:
Was looking for fun when he happened to runUpon Abdullah Bul Bul Ameer
I know its totally disjointed and you've all lost the thread but its a strand in my somewhat discombobulated life at the moment which I can use as a lifeline.
So we are still pushing on.A bit nervous that we've spent the last couple of weeks either imprisoned on a floating cross between a boot camp and a deserted experimental germ warfare establishment or being chaperoned by good people in Baku or indeed escorted as we have had to be through Turkmenistan and soon we will be on our own again.Every day is crucial but we have a big climb to make up to Bishkek over the weekend which I think calls for us to get up to 4000M.The most we've been to before was about that in feet.Has Roger mentioned that the reason our comunication of late has been so poor is that Turkmenistan does not link with any outside mobile phone provider - and internet is severely restricted.Bless 'em.  
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Polly on

I'm lost

Barbara Goss on

You guys are wonderful! Caan think of many who would have given up long ago, but now it all seems to be gettig better again so hanging on was worthwhile! I am sso amused at the Pronutro. Haven't SEEN it since my children used to eat in Rhodesia that was...........

Emily on

Really interesting to hear about what you are making of the places you are travelling through. You seem to be on very good form, and coming across some fascinating cultutal stuff. Some of your descriptions remind me of Abu Dhabi- wide roads in the city, huge mosques in the desert...

Can't tell you how pleased I am that Stanley is running well. Long may it continue!

Well it's saturday lunchtime, 1:30 and Mum and Polly haven't turned up yet. But atleast it gives me a chance to catch up with you. Boiling here, I've got the windows wide open, lovely.

Can we have some photos please?

mike b on

none the wiser about how to pronounce Mary [ which you say is maa-rie] !!
is it mur-iee?

mike b on

that should've read ''mur-ree''.

Fran Sharp on

Just wondered if you were going to make the next 41 Club Meeting next week.!!"!!!!!

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