We first applied for our Turkmenistan visa on the 22nd March in Tashkent. We queued for 4 hours and handed in our application, explaining that we were cycling and asking nicely for 7 days to allow us to cycle the 600km across the country. We were told to come back in 10 days! No receipt, no smile, just an order!
We then cycled across Uzbekistan to get closer to the Turkmen border, caught the overnight train back and again queued for hours only to discover that they had moved their embassy to the other side of town without telling anyone. We eventually found the right place, queued again for hours and were told that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had checked our application and had approved a ‘3 Day’ visa if we came back at 5pm. We asked politely how could we cycle across the country in 3 days, receiving a blank stare, but felt wary that they often just refuse visas so we had to accept it.
In summary ‘The Turkmen Ministry of Foreign Affairs are a bunch of idiots!’…they give 5 day visas to cars, but 3 days to cyclists…Why?
Do the paranoid fools think we will tell their population how the government is stealing all their money and wasting it on vanity projects in Ashgabat, or on a ridiculous reservoir in the middle of the desert. Do they worry that we’ll tell the people that the history they were taught in school is nonsense or that their government is destroying their environment faster you would have thought humanly possible!!! Or that that the communist self styled 'father’ of their country died with over 3 billion dollars in the family bank account, while the people struggled on a dollar a day!
Whoever thinks that a cyclist can cycle 600 km in 3 days and 2 nights is a moron with a brain the size of most Turkmen’s bank balances.
We did eventually enter the country after loads of forms and declarations and many officials signing bits of paper, yet no-one even showed the slightest interest in our baggage, so all our propaganda leaflets got in safely and we were able to tell the people about their rubbish government.
Once in to the country the people in the villages were delightful, people stopped us often and gave us sweets and one time even forced money on us. How can people be so nice but the government so stupid?
We managed to get a vehicle to drive us for 250km one afternoon so we then raced through the rest of the country in the remaining time on our visa arriving at the border with a couple of hours to spare.
I’d have loved to see more, to spend money in the country, maybe even stay in a hotel, meet more locals, help the local economy etc but in the end we spent $8 on food in total and camped in the desert for 2 nights. We watched rampant corruption everywhere,even the Chinese trucks building the new roads were paying to get past every police check and it wasn’t even subtle, we watched two fat police officers splitting each bribe and putting into their pockets as they shouted at the guys on the street to stop more vehicles. They didn’t even care that we were standing in front of them. The guy who drove us South said that the police are terrible and that on the way back he would have to pay constant bribes to get his car back to Turkmenabat.
What a stupid government!!!