25.05.2008 - 28.05.2008
View Route Olympia - China on Lent's travel map.
In Mary, SW-Turkmenistan, I managed to slip into an Internet-Cafe to cover the unbearably hot afternoon hours. Internet is a fairly recent arrival in Turkmenistan (most people don't even understand the word) and public access is only possible in official "Kafes" that exist in connection with post offices in the larger towns. Control is exercised furthermore through passport deposit and dubious filters that are activated upon e.g. uploading picture files. Temperature since Ashgabat is now rising over 40 degrees every day and even local people find this a little hot for the season.
So during the eventless last four days we try to get on to the road as early as possible and cover as many kilometres as possible to find a good cayhana (teahouse and restaurant) to have lunch and then a long and refreshing nap in one of these eating and sleeping ancoves.
This truck with a Coca-Cola and Fanta load did not stop because of thirsty cyclists but because of a breakdown. This is a common view along roadsides in Turkmenistan.
Before Mary we touched the Iranian border and slowly the Kopet Dag mountains receded and gave way to the more fertile plain of the Murgap river flowing down from Afghanistan and fading away in the desert sands. From here the road distance to Afghanistan would be appr. 300 km and from the same southern direction practically all of the water is received that is now used to irrigate the wheat and cotton fields in the area.In Mary we join the actual Silk Road which is a collective term for a number of routes leading from the Mediterranean to China. One main branch started in Syria, crossed Mesopotamia and the Highlands of Iran and then entered the desert in the old oasis town of Merw preceding the modern city of Mary 30 km to the west of the present day ruins.
So from here 30 more kilometres to ancient Merv that bears so much archeological evidence of the once prosperous overland trade relationships.
Check the GPS track and a couple of photos on http://www.everytrail.com/view_trip.php?trip_id=20277