21km Turkmenabad to Jalkym
The Turkmenabad hotel was a little pricey for our tastes so we moved on this morning but not before we stopped to watch a few women in the kitchen preparing samsas for a nearby restaurant, putting chopping beef and onions into pastry, brushing the dough with chicken fat and baking the delicious looking treats for about 30 minutes. Food to drool over!
When we finally tore ourselves away from the kitchen it was off to the market to spend our remaining manat. As usual, we caused a stir and several children and adults alike gathered around Andrew to pepper him with questions in Russian while Friedel did the shopping. It was hard to figure out what to buy because we didn’t have much money left and needed to make sure we got the right things to last us until Uzbekistan. It took about four trips in and out of the market, checking prices, discussing what we wanted most and then running back in to make the purchase before we’d spent the very last of our coins and notes.
To give you an idea of how far money goes here, for about $3 U.S. we bought three large rounds of bread, a large bag of carrots, a few mixed cucumbers and tomatoes, a large tin of sardines, pickles and a small portion of a prepared salad.
After our shopping, we set off the road to Uzbekistan, across a bumpy and unstable floating bridge which forms yet another part of the main road through Turkmenistan. They collect a toll for crossing it (not from cyclists) but it still looks like it might give up at any moment and traffic drives all over the bridge, trying to avoid the worst parts. This country must be such a joke among truckers. Its transport links seem to be falling to pieces everywhere we look. What a shame because the Turkmen people are lovely. They deserve a better government.
We stopped in a quiet place to read for a few hours but wind and threatening rain sent us off to look for a campsite before long and we had to search for a while in the heavily cultivated fields. Finally we found a spot at the end of a track and we were glad to get into the warmth of our tent. We heard on the radio that snow – yes snow!! – in London had forced many flights to be cancelled and we wondered if this was the same cool weather pushing through Turkmenistan. It was certainly a world away from what we’d seen over the past week.