I set my alarm to be up early - is this a vacation?
I couldn't have breakfast in the hotel so I stopped at a café around the corner. There were buses loaded with people going to work, it seemed. I felt very privileged.
I went south-east and for the first 30 or 40 kilometres the road was perfect. But then it got really bad. Broken asphalt, dust, detours, potholes and it was getting very hot again. My helmet seemed to be 2 sizes smaller. I had a headache, even with sunglasses it was too bright for my eyes. I stopped to take an Aspirin, it was the first on this trip.
From Ashgabat I went to Mary where I stayed in a hotel/motel for 30$. I had planned to camp out, but after 350 or 400 kilometres in the blazing sun and the dust I felt like a shower, air condition and - you guess it - cold beer. I got it all. I spent the evening with a German couple who had a local guide. They had visited the ruins of Merv during the day and were still recovering from the heat. I knew I didn't want to stumble over ruins in my black motorcycle gear.
I left early the next morning and was heading towards Turkmenabat. Another day on bad roads, semi-desert, heat, tea at truckstops, trains in the distance. This is not a place where you want to have a flat tire or other mechanical problems. It was Sunday and it was market day in Turkmenabat. Lots of people, lots of traffic. Where did they all come from?
My impressions of the country: There is Ashgabat and there is the rest of the country. Fuel is extremely cheap (but you have to pay a road tax at the border) and so is food at the truckstops. People are friendly, but it's not like Iran or Turkey. It takes some time. At first contact, there seems to be a certain distrust of the foreigner. At times I felt as if I was being watched. Maybe just my paranoia!
There is gas and oil and tourism doesn't seem to be on the agenda.