15th July 2015:
Our second night in Turkmenistan we stayed in Mary. Our hotel which was quite palatial was situated in the Government buildings sector on the outskirts of town. This new part of town is very modern with beautiful white marble government buildings.
We were glad we had departed early that morning as temperatures were in the mid forties by the time we reached Mary. Just outside of Mary, on the way into Mary we visited the ancient city of Merve and had a very quick look around. Luckily there was not a lot see as the city was destroyed by neglect and the weather. The heat drove us away early. One impressive building that had recently been restored and the rest was pretty well worn mud ruins though the old city walls were pretty impressive not withstanding their weathered state.
Due to the heat over the last few days we had not seen or met many people (locals or travellers).
Whilst Barry and Mike stepped out to visit the museum next door I decided to try out the Hotel pool where I had spied a couple of locals from my room window. When I arrived at the pool a large crowd had arrived whilst I was making my way there. In no time the pool was full with about 20 people, boys and girls alike mainly in their twenties. Everyone seem to be well acquainted so it is likely the pool was a gathering area for the younger and young at heart (me).
It was great to see everyone having a good time with plenty of flirting going on. Everyone said hello to me and all wanted to shake my hand. A couple of the girls had a smattering of English and tried their best English out on me much to the delight of everyone present. Lots of giggling (the boys were impressed). Lots of laughter throughout the afternoon (with plenty of glances my way, I would have loved to know what the girls were saying but it is perhaps better that I didn’t. I just smiled back. What impressed me was the lack of shyness amongst the girls as they played and romped around with the boys especially as 80% of the population of Turkmenistan is Muslim. The girls were all wearing the latest western bikini fashion. Our guide later explained that Turkmenistan practises moderate Islam. Alcohol is readily available here.
What made this seemingly normal (western) afternoon so special is that this was the first time since Russia that we related with people going about there normal activity. Normally we spoke to them in shops and when they gathered around the cars. Yes they are just like us except they eat different food and live in a different country.
During their visit to the Museum Barry and Mike met up with a fellow traveler – Charlie. Charlie is traveling from Shanghai to London using whatever means of transport is available, taking a year out to reach London. It was interesting swapping travel yarns over dinner. I commented on the number of road sweepers we had seen throughout our travels sweeping major highways as well as city roads with a broom. This got us into a discussion on the benefits of full employment vs efficiency. That evening Charlie wrote on my car ‘Here’s to the relentless drive to inefficiently – slow travels Pete; Charlie’. Thanks Charlie.
We left Mary the next morning before sunrise. As we got on to the highway I noticed the sun peaking over the horizon in my rear view mirror and was able to watch a beautiful sunrise in my rear view mirror. At one point a large truck was perfectly silhetoted against the sun as if it had a big halo around it. A spectacular moment. Unfortunately the photo did not work out.
Yeah! There was definitely Something About Mary.
Sorry I can’t post photos at the moment but will do so when I can. Peter