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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars


Turkmenistan - 9 September, 2002



Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Ashgabat (Hotel Nissa) N3755.750' E05823.220' 253 meters .
Kw-Ata underground lake . . . .
Finish Bush camp, Kelkor Salt Pan N3916.696' E05435.330' -24 meters

417 km

Total Leg 3:

447 km

Total Leg 2:

2,153 km

Total Leg 1:

3,018 km

Grand Total:

5,618 km


Weather: Clear, sunny and very very hot.  Cool/cold at night.



We leave Ashgabat this morning - sad that we will be leaving such a nice hotel, but ready for some further adventures.  We drive for about an hour and a half westwards, when we stop at the lower slopes of the Kopet Dag mountains to go and explore the hot water mineral lake of Kw-Ata.  It certainly looks like one of those Soviet era spas that has come on bad times - everything a bit rundown and with a strong mildew and damp smell and feel.


To get to the hot lake, we have to enter the mountains at a small cave entrance and then proceed down some slippery steps 250 meters into the darkness below.  There are lights that feebly attempt to light up the way down into the dark chamber that is damp and reeks of rotten eggs from the pool of water below.  We arrive at the changing room, but decide from the appearance and smell to carry on down and strip at the small concrete platform just above the lake.


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The water is slow clear that is is hard to tell where the water level begins on the steps going down into the lake.  In fact, the water level is higher than it seems and it was good that we did not step in with our shoes on by mistake.  The water is 37C and supposed to be good for you (but just do not stay in too long).  As you swim further back into the cave, the water gets hotter and hotter.  But we are warned not to swim to far back as they are afraid that we may get lost in the darkness.


After about 20 minutes, we emerge from the hot water and then start the long climb up.  And it is a long climb up.  Once back out in the fresh air and daylight we dry off and hang around for a while before heading on our way.  We pretty much drive for the rest of the day, just stopping for lunch by the side of the road.


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Around 5 PM we start looking for a bush camp and in the end find a spot in the middle of the Kelkor Salt Pan.  This place is a bit of a mess, with trash laying around and massive pipes sticking out of the ground and heading off into the distance.  But we are out of sight of the road and the ground is firm.


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We set up camp for the night and then go about our tasks.  We prepare some food for the meals that we will be responsible for on the boat crossing the Caspian Sea.  While we prepare the food, a herd of camels comes wandering through out camp site.  What a sight.


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While taking the GPS reading for the day, we notice that we appear to be below sea level.  At first we think it may be a mistake, but then we go and check on the map and notice that the Caspian Sea is about 28 meters below sea level, so the GPS reading looks like it is correct at 24 meters below sea level.  We also take the time to sort through all the carpets that everyone has purchased so far on the trip.  


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Before dinner, we enjoy the sunset.  After dinner, we just hang around the camp.  There is no wood nearby, so we do not have a fire.  It is just as well, as some locals come driving up in a car and ask us what we are doing here.  In the end, it turns out that they have no problem with us camping here, they just want to let us know that we are in the middle of a gas field and that we should not light any fires.  They were on their regular inspection patrol to make sure everything was in order with the gas pipes.


Then it is off to bed, once again falling asleep in our tent under a bright, clear star-filled desert sky.


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