While we crossed the first part of Turkmenistan by car, we definitely wanted to cross Karakom Desert, Asia’s hottest desert, by bicycle. Up to the Uzbek border there are 280 km to cycle in 2.5 days. As in every desert we have been on this trip, also Karakom desert has a strong winds, and it makes a huge difference whether the wind comes from the front, the side or the back. With head wind, the 280 km are not doable in 2.5, with side or tail wind, it is possible.
Starting at Sunrise
Having some experience with desert winds by now, we know that the winds are always weaker in the morning, and today was no exception. So we set out as early as possible, and we were accompanied by a slight tail wind which made the first 50 km a bit easier. During the day however, the wind got stronger and stronger and the direction changed to side wind. This was still ok as it does not slow us down very much, but if the directions only changes a little bit towards head wind, we would have to work much harder, given the wind speeds of 30-50 km/h.
On the route
The cycling however was not too spectacular as the landscape kept on repeating itself – as it is to be expected in the desert. The only highlight was that occasionally there were tortoises on the roads. Whenever we saw them, we stopped and helped them off the road, where their chances of survival are considerably higher, given the driving speeds of the Turkmen.
Meeting Olivier and Henri
After cycling for almost 140 km, we took a break. And while sitting on the desert floor, we were quite surprised to meet Olivier and Henri again, the two French guys we met in Mashhad and who are travelling the globe with their camper. They invited us for a tea inside the camper. A welcome break from the sandy winds in the middle of the desert. Also, we agreed to spend the night at the same place, so we drove 15 km more and set up my tent about 100 m away from the road behind some sand dunes. It was a nice setting and tomorrow I will post some pictures from the campsite during daylight. Also, as the light pollution in the middle of the desert is very small, we could see millions of stars over our heads.
Max elevation: 229 m
Min elevation: 171 m
Total climbing: 886 m
Total descent: -929 m
Total time: 11:55:50