Hell Goes on the Back Burner – So, Where Next?

I want to bicycle across Turkmenistan and look through the Gate to Hell (Darvaza).

For several months I have been sending queries to Turkmenistan’s tour operators, guides, tourism board and embassy in DC. Silence – bupkis – not one response. Fed-up (yet hoping for advice) I contacted Mike Boles after reading his bike trip Blog about Iran (wonderful), Uzbekistan (harrowing) and Turkmenistan (tantalizing).

Immediately before I received Mike’s reply, an email arrived from Turkmenistan. Excellent. It was from the manager of a tour company I’d contacted weeks previously and he was dissuading me from coming. What? What kind of travel agency does that? You need an invitation from a Turkmenistan, government approved, tour operator to get a tourist visa and this was the first response I’d received in months.

Then Mike’s email blipped across my monitor saying: “By the time your passport is finally stamped, you’ll want to take all the red tape you encountered and tie yourself a pretty little noose.” He also told me that he had to wait ten days for a five day transit visa and the embassy told him to bike 800 kilometers and pick it up in Mashhad (which translates to The Place of Martyrdom).

I’m seriously not in the mood for this.