Jason has been talking about the ‘Stans for a while. You know. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Kazakhstan? Oh, wait. You haven’t heard? Ya well, neither had I until he told me about them. I mean, I’ve heard of Afganistan, but not really a place I’d like to visit at the present time. So over the years, Jason would mention that he wanted to travel to some of these ‘Stans, and I would look at him with a blank stare on my face, quickly followed by a mmmmhmmmmm, and a polite nodding of my head. I’ve been avoiding it for a few years, but he really was determined this summer to make it happen. He narrowed it down and decided on Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan. Without much for me to go on, I set out with him unknowing what to expect. Here’s what we found:
One night while wandering through the city, we discovered this rooftop and found the most amazing view of Khiva.
After nearly 2 weeks in Uzbekistan, we walked through the border into Turkmenistan. Even though it was right next door, it was a completely different world. For starters, there is a life-long president, and all political gatherings are illegal. There is a city-wide curfew of 11:00, and several sites of dissapeared from the internet, like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. Why did we go? Well, the country has the 3rd largest natural gas reserves in the world. What does that mean? It means your capital city is constructed completely out of imported Carrara marble. That’s right. The whole city is white but the other cool thing is a flaming crater in the middle of the desert called The Door to Hell. While drilling in 1971, Soviet geologists tapped into a cavern filled with natural gas. The ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, leaving a large hole with a diameter of 70 metres (230 ft). To avoid poisonous gas discharge, it was decided the best solution was burn it off. Geologists had hoped the fire would use all the fuel in a matter of days, but the gas is still burning today.
We spent the night camping near the crater. It was amazing. Truly a once in a lifetime experience.