Day 15: Iran, Turkmenistan
In the next 2 days we might be facing jail time, deportation and car impoundment... The future of our rally is in jeopardy.
Awoke early at 7am to have speedy breakfast. At this point we realised we had no money to pay for the hotel. ‘Kahn Touch This’ stayed with Rob while Matt and Jamie went to a bank. The manager hailed a taxi and told them to follow it to a currency exchange. Winding through an unfamiliar Iranian city then being left somewhere with no map gave Matt and Jamie a pretty good challenge of their navigational skills to get back to the hotel…
We nearly took the hotel flip flops but decided against it after remembering that stealing in this country might lead to a severed hand.
We drove, stopped for lunch where again we were offered a free meal by the Iranians… incredible. We continued until stopping in the evening for pasta by the side of the road and shisha with Kahn Touch this (Stephen, Adam and Whuangers). Conscious that we had to be at the Turkmen border by the morning, we drove until about 3am when we reached it, but were turned away by armed military. Finally we ended up sleeping (Matt and Jamie) in the car and Rob and a few other teams on the floor outside what looked like the building people walk into at the start of a horror film, to the sound of rabid dogs barking in the distance.
Border day. Woke at 7am after 3hrs sleep in the car. The border took hours to get through. Things to note about the Iran-Turkmen border: There are no toilets. NONE. For 10 hours; There is no food, or places where they allow you to cook; You must buy obligatory insurance, and you also must choose the right route (North) to take if you want to visit the ‘Gates to Hell’ - we did not and this would come back to bite us in spectacular fashion. Once Matt (the car owner) was re united with Rob and Jamie (the passengers) the boys drove to Ashgabat.
Bearing in mind Turkmenistan has only allowed tourism in the last 15 years and only 300 Brits a year (Mostly Ralliers) enter the country. Nobody knows about Ashgabat city. It is like Inception crossed with las vegas crossed with Dubai and North Korea. Perfectly built, clean, magnificent, but with far too few inhabitants and police on every corner. We’d barely managed to say the words ‘police state’ before being pulled over for having a dirty car. We met the other teams in a bar for some drinks and inexplicably ended up in a Turkmenistan night club. Great night, plenty of sauce, but we were robbed in the taxi home and lost $160.
The insurance came back to bite us. We could not continue with our friends from Kahn Touch this or Lion Rampant. We drove to the US and UK embassies, then back to the border, then to the transport police office. All is shut until Monday (Day 16). We need to reach the opposite end of the country by Tuesday (Day 17) or we will be arrested for overstaying our 5 day transit visa… in the Police State.
We put that on hold, booked into a lovely hotel with a pool for $40 a night, met the ‘FNQ Medics’ (look them up) who are 4 cars full of A&E medics from Australia, very cool. We had a meal, some drinks, and the first good nights sleep in a while.
Chilling out by the pool before we embark on our 27 hour disaster quest to the Northern border.
Watch this space. If the roads are too poor to get us there in time or anything happens to our car meaning that we don’t reach the border we might need serious help breaking out of a Turkmen Jail…
Wish us Luck,
The League of Extraordinary Mongoliers.
P.S. We still concede that however bad our situation is sometimes, it is nothing compared to those who need the wonderful services provided by EACH. So please, if you are enjoying watching us flounder abroad while you sip a cold one in a comfortable abode, we would be very grateful for a donation to our Justgiving page [Click ‘DONATE’ above].