|In our last entry we said that we were waiting in Baku for the cargo ship to take us across to Turkmenistan. We were supposed to catch the 'ferry' on Wednesday 14th May. So we waited around all day until were told that the ferry had not yet made it into shore and that it was due in the following morning. So Thursday we woke up early and were told the ferry was due in at 8.30am and we would be boarding around midday. At midday we were told that the ferry still had not made it in and this was likely to be the following day! Friday came along and the ferry finally showed up around 6pm. We all got on the truck and headed down to the port.....only to find at 10pm that the truck could not get on as it was only supposed to be in the country for 3 days and we had been there for longer (the border officials put the wrong thing on the truck carnet!).
Anyway, we failed to sweet talk the border officials so ended up getting on the ferry around 11pm leaving George and the truck behind.
The 'ferry' itself was not actually that bad apart from the one toilet available which was disgusting, and we managed to get a cabin to ourselves (four bunk beds) which even included a sink. The ferry left the port around 11.30 that evening so most of us just went to bed after a few night-caps. The following day (Saturday) the ferry actually made it to the coast of Turkmenistan around 4pm – taking us about 15 hours which was much shorter than we expected. Despite this we could not go into shore for some reason – we were told that we were in a queue and had to wait until the other ferries had moved off the ferry dock.
So we settled in for another night in which most of the group soon drank through the majority of their booze – well I guess there was not much else to do!
Waking up on Sunday morning we then found out that the ferry had rail carriages on it and there was no locomotive on shore to pull them off...so essentially we had to wait until a locomotive turned up. By Sunday evening most of us had cabin fever and we had also finished all our food anddrink. So the only thing to solve the cabin fever problem was to drink the bar dry of all the russian vodka and mixers. Ed and Jennifer were both fairly drunk by the end of the night and it was a struggle putting Ed to bed which was a great source of amusement to the rest of us.
However at about 1am Monday morning the engines started up and we moved in closer to shore. We all went to bed and were woken at about 5am to say that we had arrived and had to leave. So from this point to about 3pm later that Monday afternoon we basically spent getting off the ferry and going through immigration and customs – what a bloody palavar! It was the longest border crossing we have ever done and involved standing in three different queues to pay for the visas and fill in various forms as well as having our bags searched.
We were all very relieved to end up in a nice hotel in Turkmenbashi that evening for our first shower for some time and some food. The truck also showed up that evening at about 8pm which was an added bonus. Turkmenbashi itself only dates from 1717 when it was set up a a Russian fort town – on our afternoon walk into town we saw quite a few Russian people. Even in our hotel that evening there were a couple of high class Russian hookers at the bar however the blokes from the truck were all too tired and hungover to even notice them!