The Gates of Hell

Trip Start Dec 12, 2010
Trip End Dec 16, 2012

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Flag of Turkmenistan  , Ahal,
Thursday, April 25, 2013

Enter Turkmenistan from Ashgabat. Drive north through the sandy desert for several hours. Pass through a sleepy village that time has forgot, and continue along the highway that is a world away from the amazing smooth roads in the country's capital. Spot a large hole in the desert ground that is full of water. Keep going, and you will come across another large hole that this time contains bubbling mud and a couple of small fires. A little further into the desert and there you are. You have finally reached the gates of hell.

Back in the 1960’s during the soviet times of Turkmenistan’s history, the Soviets were vigorously searching for gas deposits in the earth’s surface. Drilling deep into the desert caused several collapses of the earth’s crust, resulting in deep craters. Today, one crater is full of water, anther contains bubbling sulphuric mud, and the other can be simply described as 'The Gates of Hell’.

Arriving deep into the Karakum Desert, we were eager to view the gates of hell. Leaving our guides to set up camp, we were pointed in the right direction. We then climbed a small hill to get our first glimpse of ‘The Gates of Hell’. As our eyes were drawn to the bright, flaming crater, we immediately identified with its title, yet were lured to get a closer look.

This environmental disaster was created by the collapse of a drilling rig in the 1960’s, which now is a crater that continually burns natural gas into the earth’s atmosphere. As we approached the flaming crater, the fury of this constantly burning crater became real as we were conscious not to get too close to the edge. A crater with the diameter of well over the width of a football pitch, this was a massive gas heater produces enough heat needed to heat a whole Central Asian city during their freezing winters, or maybe one good Aussie BBQ. We couldn’t believe that the government has continued to let it burn for over 50 years!!! Yet, we had to ponder on the thought of how one would plug up ‘The Gates of Hell’.

After a barbeque dinner, we headed back to the gas crater, aka ‘The Gates of Hell’. We sat for hours, mesmirised by the sight of brightly burning gas. The scene at night was extraordinary. As we got close to the edge, we felt so insignificant compared to the ferocious flames inside this gas crater. It is something to see to believe. One certainly does not want to fall over the edge and be barbequed!!!

Over the centuries the scene of hell has been romanticised, imagined, illustrated, and feared by many. But if you really want to experience what it may look like, without actually going to hell, just come to Turkmenistan, head into the desert and visit the gas crater. Turkmenistan’s gas crater is as close as one may get to ‘The Gates of Hell’. Scary, yet enticing, it is truly a sight to be seen!!!
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