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Old 8 Feb 2011
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I have limited time: is Ashgabat worth a visit or...

Cheers!

I'm at planning stage of my trip to Samarkand of July 2011.
I have only 30 days of holiday from work, so this is my time-window that I have to ride from Italy to Uzbekistan and back, it's the maximum I could obtain from my boss at work.
I must carefully plan my trip in order not to exceed this time limit (I got one week more than the usual 3-week closing period of our Company "as a gift" from him, so I really need to be home not later than the 30th day).

Given this, I need a suggestion / an opinion from whoever's been to Turkmenistan.
I mean to ride from Mashad (Iran) to Ashgabat (TM) leaving Mashad at dawn in order to be in Ashgabat around noon after carrying out the (long) immigration procedures for me and my Harley.
In this case, I'd have that afternoon to visit Ashgabat and leave the following morning direction Mary, visit the ruins of ancient Merv and be in Turkmenabat before the sunset.
Do you think this is possible to do or am I too optimist?

Or would it be better to avoid Ashgabat and ride from Mashad north-eastbound directly to Mary, Merv and Turkmenabat saving one day, in this case?

I really don't know if to kill this time in Ashgabat because I came to know that the Arch of Neutrality with the rotating golden statue of Nyazov has been removed and I don't think there's so much to see in that city, except for large marble buildings...

Thanks for your suggestions, that will be much appreciated!
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Old 8 Feb 2011
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hi,
as for my experience, avoid ashgabat; it'll be a waste of time as you can invest ride towards uz. by the way; if you intend to visit khiva (highly reccomended) you can skip turkmenabat border riding from ashgabat north to darvaza, new and smooth road across the kizil kum desert, to nukus in uz. custom procedures weren't an hassle and the place itself it wasn't crowdy. from nukus you'll ride along (and across) the amu darya to reach khiva (beautiful) and from there bukhara.

tecapi?
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Old 8 Feb 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Knight of the Holy Graal View Post
I must carefully plan my trip in order not to exceed this time limit
Haven´t been to the Stans north of Iran & Pakistan, but for your time worries I do have a suggestion: why not ride one way, and then once you arrive at your destination, arrange shipping the bike & fly back home? That´ll take a few days, too, and could cost you a bit (plus it can be a headache!)... but still I´d consider that instead of having to hurry to make it there and back.
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Old 8 Feb 2011
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dnicoletti View Post
hi,
as for my experience, avoid ashgabat; it'll be a waste of time as you can invest ride towards uz. by the way; if you intend to visit khiva (highly reccomended) you can skip turkmenabat border riding from ashgabat north to darvaza, new and smooth road across the kizil kum desert, to nukus in uz. custom procedures weren't an hassle and the place itself it wasn't crowdy. from nukus you'll ride along (and across) the amu darya to reach khiva (beautiful) and from there bukhara.

tecapi?

Ho capì!

But if I ride Ashgabat, Darvaza then Nukus of course I'll be visiting Khiva (I don't wanna miss it at all), then Bukhara and later Samarkand, but in that case I'd have to ride back riding the same route to Moynaq on the disappeared Aral Sea (another must-see of my trip) and I'd have to skip the visit to Merv ruins in TM that I really wanna see....
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Old 8 Feb 2011
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Originally Posted by pecha72 View Post
Haven´t been to the Stans north of Iran & Pakistan, but for your time worries I do have a suggestion: why not ride one way, and then once you arrive at your destination, arrange shipping the bike & fly back home? That´ll take a few days, too, and could cost you a bit (plus it can be a headache!)... but still I´d consider that instead of having to hurry to make it there and back.

You are right Pecha, but I want to do it on my motorcycle completely...

I've been studying this route for the past two years using the info I found on the HUBB also (Colebatch's experience and many other ones...) and I think I can make it, but if I can relax and avoid something that is not worthy, I will do it.
Thanks for your comments!
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I thought there was some great stuff in Ashgabat, a few monumental statues built as an homage to Turkmenbashi (although he was still alive when I was there, might have changed a bit). There's a decent market and an amazing amount of white marble and gold on the state buildings - funny choice for a desert.

Darvaza is an absolute must, nothing else like it on the planet!

As for Ashgabat to Turkmenabat (the port on the caspian, right?) I left Turkmenabat at around 9 am, went to a market to get some food, then absolutely hammered it to Ashgabat and arrived in the dark, maybe around 9:30 pm?? I don't recall the distance but it was a long day, did stop to visit some ruins along the way though.
I left Ashgabat for Darvaza at around 4pm (bike wouldn't start!) and got there at around 1am after a few crashes (there was no road to the craters, did about a mile of deep sand in the dark which killed my time a bit).
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Old 8 Feb 2011
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Originally Posted by henryuk View Post

Darvaza is an absolute must, nothing else like it on the planet!
Hello, Henry!

You are right, but Darvaza involves some off roading that I can not afford on a big HD Electra Glide like mine.
It'll be under stress on the very bad stretch from Nukus to Beyneu in Kazakhstan on my way back, I prefer to limit the off roading as much as possible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by henryuk View Post
As for Ashgabat to Turkmenabat (the port on the caspian, right?)
No, you are talking about the city of Turkmenbashi
Turkmenabat is the town which is close to the TM-UZ border, on the road between Mary and Bukhara.
You've been there, mate?
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Didn't go into Mary I'm afraid! I went up to Nukus, then back down to Ashgabat, then back up to Nukus (with the right visa this time) and over to Bukhara (long day) and Samarkand before heading north to KZ.

Would agree that the stretch to Darvaza is probably too much for an HD - I heard excellent things about the Mary road from some Canadians. Excellent as in new and smooth, rather than excellent as in 'well gnarly'!
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Old 8 Feb 2011
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Ashgabat wouldn't tempt me back. It may have the world's tallest flagpole, but, um, that's not _massively_ exciting.... Not much else to do or see apart from a load of white marble buildings. (And some very pretty women.)

Darvaza - Incredible. The sand rules out going on your bike, but don't rule out going to see it. We went in our guides 4*4. You may find a way of doing something like that, and leaving your bike at the train crossing guards building on the main road, like we did.

I spent most of my visit to the Darvaza crater being extremely ill in the desert with food poisoning and heat stroke, feeling worse than I have ever felt and wondering if I might not make it out alive, but if I had the chance to go back again, even being ill like that again, I'd still go.
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Old 8 Feb 2011
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Thanks for your contribution, guys!

I appreciate a lot.
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