From the port of Turkmenbashi I head east and spend my first night at Kow Ata where I can bathe in the warm waters of an underground lake.
Close by and worth a visit is Geok-Depe, site of the Turkmen’s last stand against the Russians, and today home to the futuristic Saparmurat Hajji Mosque which also contains the mausoleum of the eccentric ex-president Niyazov.
I continue to the capital city Ashgabat where it seems the current president is using the country’s wealth to build an entire city out of white marble – you have to see it to believe it ! I will need my sunglasses as exploring the city’s monuments and palaces will be a brilliant experience.
Heading north into the blistering heat of the Karakum (black sand) desert I camp in the dunes and have the opportunity to take a 2 hour walk to the unusual Darvaza Gas Craters. More commonly referred to as the ‘Gates of Hell’ this burning crater makes for a real dessert experience and is best viewed at night.
Leaving the harsh dessert behind my last stop is at Konye-Urgench, beautiful ancient ruins that were once the centre of the Islamic world.