21.04.2008 - 23.04.2008 35 °C
Moving further southeastwards along the Kopet Dag mountains, clouds and rain have now definitely gone away and made room for temperatures far over 30 degrees. Somehow against my expectations also the nighttime temperatures are quite warm despite a clear sky. Camping in the desert is an experience!
Approaching the capital city of Ashgabat, agriculture becomes more diverse: besides irrigated cereal crops there are now also orchards for growing grapes. The nearby mountains contain some sulphurous springs (in Kow-Ata we could swim in an underground thermal lake) and so the presidential summer residence was built next to a health resort in Arcman. Interestingly, after Arcman the road changes into a wide motorway turning also our cycling into a presidential (if not royal) event becauce biking on an almost empty motorway beats everything you can ever experience on the most developed cycle track networks in countries like the Netherlands or Germany.
Closer to Ashgabat it is possible to visit the national symbols of the Turkmens ancient and modern. Goekdepe is the site of the defeat against the Russians in the 19th century and has therefore been chosen as the spot for a gigantic modern Mosque in memory of the president's pilgrimage (Haj) to Mekka in 1992. But unlike the manifestation of religious revival in Georgia (see entry More sightseeing in Tblisi) the building doesn't seem to be designed for people. At least there was nobody around except a policemen guiding us to the entrance of this huge structure....
Under the independence tower in Ashgabat
For GPS track Turkmenbashy to Ashgabat with a few more photos: http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=19274
P.S.: Roaming with my mobile phone is not possible in Turkmenistan. I hope that this will change in Uzbekistan after May 2. Next update of this blog very likely not before Buchara. It is very difficult to find Internet places around here.