A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about petrol station

Kilimamoja Lodge - Lake Natron

Exploring new ground


View Baby Boomers - Tanzania 2020 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Despite having lots of strange and unpleasant dreams, I slept very, very well last night. I get up before dawn this morning to try and capture the sunrise.

large_8f043140-56fe-11ea-8a10-b1bcdd869abf.jpg

large_b8f3ee10-56fd-11ea-8a10-b1bcdd869abf.jpg

Breakfast

large_f6303310-56fd-11ea-8a10-b1bcdd869abf.jpg

A continental selection is available as a buffet, and Lilian comes to take our order for cooked food. As soon as I see Eggs Benedict on the menu, I know what I am having.

large_04378210-56fe-11ea-8a10-b1bcdd869abf.jpg

large_e83ba8c0-56fd-11ea-8a10-b1bcdd869abf.jpg

We slide along the same muddy track back to the main road this morning. It hasn't improved any overnight!

large_32e40e30-56fe-11ea-8a10-b1bcdd869abf.jpg

We are joining the sealed road only briefly today, as far as Mto Wa Mbu, where we turn off left towards Lake Natron

large_621c3880-56fe-11ea-8a10-b1bcdd869abf.jpg
My mum used to meet me with my bike and hers after school when I was eight, but I have never before seen someone cycling with THREE bikes before!

large_affbfb30-56fe-11ea-8a10-b1bcdd869abf.jpg
There are always a lot of baboons near Mto Wa Mbu. This one looks somewhat philosophical!

The Road to Lake Natron

We are now entering new territory for us, this is the first time we have come this way. The track follows the Ngorongoro Escarpment on the left, with the flat plains of the Great Rift Valley on the right.

large_0088a380-5701-11ea-9457-ab24950d0fc8.jpg

large_66df2250-56ff-11ea-8a10-b1bcdd869abf.jpg
Pale Tawny Eagle

Roadworks

Work started on repairing this road last year, with the rocks just having been arranged in place when the rain came and washed them all away. Now they have to start all over again.

large_0e084bf0-5701-11ea-9457-ab24950d0fc8.jpg

We can certainly see why they are having problems. I find it amazing that Malisa can manage to negotiate these sort of tracks. He has brand new chunky tyres, four-wheel drive and is an excellent driver, but even so.

large_be7a2080-5701-11ea-9457-ab24950d0fc8.jpg

large_7fd219b0-5705-11ea-9346-d597a5fc1d0f.jpg

The track crosses a number of rivers on the way. Why does this make me think of a UB40 song?

large_7e4a24b0-5706-11ea-8280-c5f9ff960fa4.jpg

.

As we get nearer, I realise that the river is really rather fast flowing. "Are you sure you are going to drive across that Malisa?"

large_78df2920-5707-11ea-8280-c5f9ff960fa4.jpg

So far so good...

large_d163fd00-5707-11ea-8280-c5f9ff960fa4.jpg

At this point I am getting a little concerned that we are going to wash away down the river. The water is so murky that it is impossible to see what is at the bottom, or how deep the river is.

large_2b016cd0-5708-11ea-8280-c5f9ff960fa4.jpg

At least we'll have a good video for YouTube if we do!

large_9a0dec20-5708-11ea-8280-c5f9ff960fa4.jpg

We make it, safe and sound (and dry) to the other side!

large_4878f430-5709-11ea-ac11-3daf2e1bfdb7.jpg

The track doesn't get much better this side – I have seen smoother dried up river beds.

large_4693f5a0-570b-11ea-8280-c5f9ff960fa4.jpg

This looks like another impossible crossing – a sheer drop of around a foot.

large_2513f370-570c-11ea-8280-c5f9ff960fa4.jpg

A few little boulder the other side of the drop does the trick. We're fine!

large_f2124890-570c-11ea-8280-c5f9ff960fa4.jpg
White Throated Bee Eaters

Abdim's Stork

A migrant from Europe, who comes to this area for winter; this is the first time we have seen the Abdim's Stork in Tanzania.

large_4373b7f0-570d-11ea-8280-c5f9ff960fa4.jpg

large_514ec6d0-570d-11ea-8280-c5f9ff960fa4.jpg

Uh, uh.

large_4fe1acd0-570e-11ea-8280-c5f9ff960fa4.jpg

It is not as bad as it first looked; there is a slightly easier route to one side. But only slightly.

large_dc03ef00-5710-11ea-807e-612bd9be7132.jpg

Another river to cross, although this one is nowhere near as deep.

large_2c3e1c70-5711-11ea-807e-612bd9be7132.jpg

We pass a few villages, with straw and mud huts.

large_d5f05760-5711-11ea-807e-612bd9be7132.jpg

large_0d9e7de0-5712-11ea-807e-612bd9be7132.jpg

Ngaruka

We drive through the small settlement of Ngaruka Town, which has only recently had electricity installed.

large_020d8940-5716-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

large_0c4532a0-5716-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

large_16993da0-5716-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

Of course, not everyone has power.

large_3568a950-5716-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

large_3e246110-5716-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

large_47af28a0-5716-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

Gotta love the petrol station, where fuel is sold in plastic water bottles.

large_51017b10-5716-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

large_595ebf20-5716-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

This may look primitive to us, but it is also pretty eco-friendly: true basic upcycling.

large_bfdd3c80-570d-11ea-8280-c5f9ff960fa4.jpg
Blue Naped Mousebird

Another river to cross. We're getting good at this!

large_811fa320-5717-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

large_adb55d30-5717-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

Traffic Jam

We encounter an unexpected traffic jam.

large_c63268a0-571a-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

Affectionately known as 'Maasai Landrovers', donkeys are much sought after within the agricultural community and are generally well looked after.

large_d7282500-571a-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

I have never before noticed that donkeys have a stripe along their backs and down their necks.

large_e165e8e0-571a-11ea-92af-9ba134d92038.jpg

Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano

Meaning 'Mountain of God' in the local Maasai language, Ol Doinyo Lengai is an active volcano that last erupted in 2008, although in 2017 scientists confirmed it was quietly rumbling, showing signs that an eruption may be imminent.

large_1f0220d0-571e-11ea-891a-339074d7d699.jpg

From a scientific point of view, it is extremely fascinating: it is the only active volcano known to erupt carbonatite lava. This thin, silvery lava melts at a lower temperature (around 600 °C), and more importantly, it can flow faster than a person can run. This sensational discovery was not made until as recently as in the 1960s.

More bad road surface.

large_b09a3400-571f-11ea-bd3f-57c80d65f9c0.jpg

large_ba0abcd0-571f-11ea-bd3f-57c80d65f9c0.jpg

large_c4a3e720-571f-11ea-bd3f-57c80d65f9c0.jpg
Layers of lava clearly showing.

large_ee434490-571f-11ea-bd3f-57c80d65f9c0.jpg
Augur Buzzard

large_0f7383a0-5720-11ea-bd3f-57c80d65f9c0.jpg
Ostrich

large_22d44c90-5720-11ea-bd3f-57c80d65f9c0.jpg
Brown Snake Eagle

Giraffe

I don't think I will even get used to seeing exotic wild animals such as the giraffe, roaming free. In the national parks, yes, but here we are just driving across the country, not actually in a designated animal park. There are no physical barriers and the animals don't know where the borders are of course.

large_5d1c3b50-5721-11ea-bd3f-57c80d65f9c0.jpg

large_727d4110-5721-11ea-bd3f-57c80d65f9c0.jpg

The youngster is about a year old.

large_8f086210-5721-11ea-bd3f-57c80d65f9c0.jpg

Broken Down Bus

Up until this moment, it has felt like we are pioneering travellers in a land that time forgot. Knowing that this is a bus route ruins all that in a flash.

large_1391ac80-5722-11ea-bd3f-57c80d65f9c0.jpg

I am not at all surprised that it has broken down, I am more amazed that it managed to get this far in the first place!

When we realise that there are people working underneath the vehicle, we stop and give them some of our water. They are delighted, and even more so when they find that the bottles are cold out of the fridge!

large_7c49d720-5722-11ea-bd3f-57c80d65f9c0.jpg

large_e08b34c0-5724-11ea-aa28-9f654ea51771.jpg
Kori Bustard

large_ec44ea40-5724-11ea-aa28-9f654ea51771.jpg
Booted Eagle - a dreadful photo, but it is a lifer.

large_09fca460-5725-11ea-aa28-9f654ea51771.jpg
We have no idea what this boy was doing under the tree miles from anywhere, but I think he makes an interesting silhouette.

The original sheep contraception. Sometimes simple solutions work better than chemicals.

large_8f1ed370-5725-11ea-aa28-9f654ea51771.jpg

large_c89f5380-5726-11ea-aa28-9f654ea51771.jpg
Yellow Fronted Sandgrouse

From a distance we can see tonight's accommodation, so I will finish this blog entry here. Thank you Calabash Adventures for making this trip possible.

large_5080f0b0-5727-11ea-aa28-9f654ea51771.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 03:30 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animals birds wildlife volcano bus sunrise breakfast safari eagle birding lava donkeys petrol giraffe baboons ostrich goat electricity ford gas_station kori_bustard bird_watching buzzard roadworks great_rift_valley broken_down_bus calabash_adventures eruption mto_wa_mbu snake_eagle tawny_eagle traffic_jam mousebird augur_buzzard bee_eaters sandgrouse wildlife_photography petrol_station kilimamoja_lodge muddy_tracks lake_natron river_crossing abdim's_stork ngaruka fuel_station maasai_landrovers ol_doynio_lengai mountain_of_god volcanic_eruption broken_down goat_contraception Comments (4)

Serdar - Kopetdag - Magtymguly - Mollakara - Balkanabad

Moon Mountains and the Salt Sea


View The Forgotten Stan - Turkmenistan 2019 on Grete Howard's travel map.

Breakfast this morning in the guest house here at Serdar consists of yogurt, cherry jam, cheese, tomatoes and the ever-present bread. There can't be many nations on earth who eat as much bread as the Turkmen do.

large_862d5370-e5cb-11e9-a95d-53d804c8da72.jpg

Later we are asked if we want fried egg and salami. It's an unusual combination, but rather enjoyable.

large_8fa667c0-e5cb-11e9-a95d-53d804c8da72.jpg

This morning's drive takes us south through barren and desolate scenery, with no trees or even falcons, which we saw many of on our journey yesterday. Nothing. The place appears eerily devoid of life.

We are now nearing the Iranian border and arrive at a restricted area that requires special permission to enter. We have been warned that the checks here may take a while, and that we are to avoid photography at all costs. We hand over our passports, which Artem (our cute driver) takes to the police post along with vehicle registration documents, his driving licence and the tourist authorisation certificate; and wait. And wait. Meanwhile we listen to music in the car; Artem plays a good mix of popular western and Russian songs. The procedure takes just over 25 minutes in all, and we are on our way again.

Moon Mountains

The Kopetdag Mountains is a 600 kilometre long mountain range stretching along the Turkmenistan-Iran border. The landscape is distinctly lunar in appearance, living up to its local nickname of 'Moon Mountains'. The name Kopetdag, in fact, means 'many mountains' in the Turkmen language.

large_04bcb240-e69d-11e9-8373-b31ddda0bb85.jpg

large_2afe3eb0-e69d-11e9-8373-b31ddda0bb85.jpg

Once located at the bottom of the sea, the heavily furrowed sedimentary rock slopes look like soft gravel or even slag heaps, but are in fact more akin to solidified mud, and very firm underfoot. We see evidence of crustaceans on the ground, adding to the surreal atmosphere.

large_140078e0-e69d-11e9-8373-b31ddda0bb85.jpg

Stretching as far as the eye can see, the forbidding desert-like landscape is as curious as it is beautiful – seeing the arid remains of low-level vegetation, I can but wonder what it would look like in spring, after the rains, when plants and flowers come to life.

large_35e980a0-e69d-11e9-8373-b31ddda0bb85.jpg

large_40d0f200-e69d-11e9-8373-b31ddda0bb85.jpg

This area is rich with pomegranate and walnut trees, and we see a number of the former along the side of the road.

large_09cfc270-e69f-11e9-8df9-cfe0ca3e4e3e.jpg

It's the first time we have seen pomegranates in their natural habitat, and I am keen to see how they grow and photograph them. That is one of the numerous things I love about travel – exotic fruits that I have only ever seen in the supermarkets, are commonplace somewhere in the world. It never ceases to amaze me that however much we travel, we still manage to get 'firsts' on every single trip.

large_129194b0-e69f-11e9-8df9-cfe0ca3e4e3e.jpg

Magtymguly Museum

We make a stop at a small museum dedicated to a local hero, Magtymguly Pyragy, who was an Iranian-Turkmen spiritual leader and philosophical poet in the 18th century.

large_ef1c37d0-e773-11e9-a17e-659f016eeb6a.jpg

large_05e870e0-e775-11e9-a17e-659f016eeb6a.jpg

Looking at the copies of some of the books Magtymguly has written, I am intrigued by the frames within each page containing diagonal writing. Neither the guide nor the museum curator are able to shed any light on this peculiar aspect.

large_206e24f0-e775-11e9-a17e-659f016eeb6a.jpg

large_2ac5b260-e775-11e9-a17e-659f016eeb6a.jpg

Magtymguly was much more than a renowned poet; he also worked as a silversmith for a while.

large_80d76df0-e776-11e9-a17e-659f016eeb6a.jpg

He even made a wedding ring for Mengli, the girl he loved and wanted to marry. Unfortunately her family forbade the union, and the ring remained unworn.

large_c54f5a60-e776-11e9-a17e-659f016eeb6a.jpg

Magtymguly had a number of strong political views, and fought to keep the Turkmen-way sacred, as well as maintaining the harmony and integrity of the Turkmen nation. He became a symbol of Turkmen unity but also a common voice of Turkish and Islamic world and is revered not only in Turkmenistan but also in neighbouring countries. The museum is very proud of the artefacts associated with his life and career.

large_8a0aaa30-e777-11e9-a17e-659f016eeb6a.jpg
17th century ewers found during excavations

large_d5ceb8d0-e777-11e9-a17e-659f016eeb6a.jpg
Meat cooler made from sheep skin

large_36f41b50-e778-11e9-a17e-659f016eeb6a.jpg
Kitchen implements, including a pestle used to make the customary small holes found in the traditional Turkmen bread

David is suffering from a severe cold he picked up on the flight out here, with his eyes being extremely sore and sensitive to light, so stays behind in the car while I have the museum, guide, and curator to myself.

The journey back through the border control is way quicker, just a mere three minute passport check and we're on our way, continuing further west. For a while the road is intermittently bumpy, with a number of potholes, and a couple of times I find myself caught unawares and bouncing off the ceiling.

Lunch

Yet another private room with a huge flat-screen TV. This one is not playing Lara Croft, however, but a very funny Russian slap-stick comedy about an incompetent chef in a restaurant. There is no need to understand Russian to appreciate the humour, although Meylis translates any dialogue of importance. None of us want to leave when we have finished our meal, as we are desperate to find out what happens next in the soap opera. Alas, we will never know the fate of the live goose the hapless chef bought.

large_321d2090-e7b4-11e9-b695-7f55c4ed3d64.jpg
After the huge lunches we've had the last couple of days, and as my tummy is still pretty fragile, I order just a plain lentil soup accompanied by the ubiquitous bread

The road from here is long and straight, cutting through a vast flat area with the Kopetdag Mountain Range behind, and in the distance a mirage appears on the horizon. It must be soul-destroying boring to drive, and although the speed limit is 90km / hour, we are travelling a 'little bit' faster than that.

large_6ecf26f0-e7b4-11e9-b695-7f55c4ed3d64.jpg

Sand from the Karakum Desert (which covers 80% of the country) blows across the road for a few miles, offering some reprieve - and interest - from the previous monotonous view.

large_3de05680-e7b5-11e9-b695-7f55c4ed3d64.jpg

large_50712540-e7b5-11e9-b695-7f55c4ed3d64.jpg

In this arid and barren region we are surprised to see a flood plain. Apparently the water is still here since some heavy rain they experienced in April. I am absolutely flabbergasted that surface water can survive the oppressive dry heat in this region for five months without evaporating. That must have been some rain storm! It's not just a small puddle either, but covers quite a substantial area. Meylis tells us that at the time the road was deep under water for a couple of weeks. I can well imagine that is must have been pretty bad for there still to be so much flood water left now.

large_37760170-e7b8-11e9-9591-2fd86838bd70.jpg

We stop at a filling station to put fuel in the car, and are impressed by the Eco 93 petrol sold here. Apparently it is the first 'clean petrol' in the world, made from gas (of which Turkmenistan has rather a lot). At 2 manat a litre (57c / 46p at the official rate of 3.5 manat per dollar) it is more expensive than regular petrol. I wish I could take some home!

large_c9a46130-e7b9-11e9-9912-493696835f24.jpg

Mollakara Sanatorium and Salt Lake

Opened in 2012, the modern health spa was built in a famous therapeutic mud resort on the shores of Lake Mollakara. The lake is fed by underground sources, and its healing features include chlorides and sodium sulphate, magnesium, iron, bromine salts and other minerals.

large_2f660380-e83b-11e9-9ea2-f73aba083a59.jpg

Artem is trying to find a way down to the lake, but it seems the sanatorium wants to monopolise the salty waters, and has closed all gates and entrances that lead down to the shore. After trying a number of options, which include ignoring signs, attempting to pick gate locks, and driving off road to get around fencing; we finally manage to get near the water's edge, only to find the lake is almost dry!

large_40251f80-e83b-11e9-9ea2-f73aba083a59.jpg

How astonishing! We passed areas of flooding just a few miles back, yet here there is very little water left in the lake! The sanatorium websites talk about swimming and floating in the alkaline waters - here it is so shallow that you'd be lucky if your ankles get wet!

large_783537f0-e842-11e9-8e48-15bef6e9f7c4.jpg

After driving around a little bit more, Artem finds another part of the lake, where, although there is very little water left, the salt deposits are easily accessible close to the road.

large_96acc3d0-e83b-11e9-9ea2-f73aba083a59.jpg

large_38064e90-e83c-11e9-9ea2-f73aba083a59.jpg

The salt has formed little ridges on the surface, creating an interesting texture.

large_fcffdfe0-e83c-11e9-84d6-25d78c41acfe.jpg

large_08a34e40-e83d-11e9-84d6-25d78c41acfe.jpg

large_55bd8190-e83e-11e9-84d6-25d78c41acfe.jpg

large_13c0e370-e840-11e9-84d6-25d78c41acfe.jpg

Like little kids, all four of us go and play on and with the crusty salt formations.

large_2e8b1760-e83c-11e9-9ea2-f73aba083a59.jpg

large_a6e056c0-e83d-11e9-9ea2-f73aba083a59.jpg

large_b0576f40-e83d-11e9-9ea2-f73aba083a59.jpg

large_e4c3bef0-e842-11e9-8e48-15bef6e9f7c4.jpg

large_8943b700-e843-11e9-8e48-15bef6e9f7c4.jpg

The benefits of salty water and mud treatments have been know to people from old times, and as long ago as 1900 there was a sanatorium built here.

large_eda12c50-e83e-11e9-84d6-25d78c41acfe.jpg

Who needs an expensive health spa to reap the benefits?

large_4d730cc0-e83f-11e9-84d6-25d78c41acfe.jpg

Cemetery

It seems that different regions of Turkmenistan have different traditions and cultures when it comes to burying their dead. The grave markers at this cemetery consist of leaning plants of wood.

large_b746a030-e844-11e9-8e48-15bef6e9f7c4.jpg

Balkanabat

large_b3889be0-e846-11e9-8958-9141bbe27db9.jpg

This area is well known for its strong winds (which we saw evidence of earlier, with the sand drifting across the road), something that is reflected in this sculpture depicting desert people leaning in to the wind and shielding their faces from the blowing sand as they walk.

large_cd70fe80-e846-11e9-8958-9141bbe27db9.jpg

large_0ee10cb0-e848-11e9-8958-9141bbe27db9.jpg

Balkanabat may be a modern city built on the proceeds of oil; but there are still unattended camels wandering around the streets.

large_28dcd040-e848-11e9-8958-9141bbe27db9.jpg

Nebichi Hotel

As with the hotel we stayed at in Ashgabat, Nebichi Hotel looks palatial from the outside and has a grand-looking lobby.

large_0aa04e60-e84b-11e9-ad49-f70522861532.jpg

What it doesn't have, however, is a lift. Nor does it provide more than one set of towels or spare roll(s) of toilet paper. This seems to be a common trend here in Turkmenistan, and we ring for Housekeeping to bring the missing items to the room. Thankfully Meylis helps carry our bags up the two flights of stairs. Having a strong young man for a guide, certainly has its advantages.

large_186f4f50-e84b-11e9-ad49-f70522861532.jpg

Dinner

As he did last night, Meylis knocks on the door as he has been asked to come down to the restaurant to help us order as the waitress speaks no English.

large_6fc702f0-e84d-11e9-9616-7dc8a374df71.jpg

The restaurant is full of idiosyncrasies – lovely linen tablecloth, covered in tacky-looking plastic; and the beautifully folded cloth napkins are apparently just for decorative purposes. Once the waitress has taken our order, she removes David's napkin and places it on a storage cabinet next to us. As soon as she is out of sight, however, I recover the napkin and place it back onto David's plate. When she returns with our drinks, the server yet again removes the cloth napkin, and brings us cheap paper serviettes instead. By this stage I have already unfolded mine and put it on my lap, so the moment she disappears back into the kitchen again, I carefully re-fold it, thread it through the little serviette-ring and put in with David's on the side. I might as well comply with the unwritten napkin rule and enjoy a my beer.

large_d9fc6240-e84e-11e9-a940-ad718446e54b.jpg

large_79546290-e84d-11e9-9616-7dc8a374df71.jpg
Too pretty to be used

large_dd1c0e40-e84d-11e9-a940-ad718446e54b.jpg

David's head cold is still making his eyes extremely sensitive to light, so he plays Mr Cool with his sunglasses on.

large_0c3a9610-e84e-11e9-a940-ad718446e54b.jpg

Adana Kebab - meat in a wrap with vegetables and a tasty sauce.

large_8a27df00-e84f-11e9-a940-ad718446e54b.jpg

large_973368e0-e84f-11e9-a940-ad718446e54b.jpg

The beef stroganoff features the best meat we've had so far on the trip

large_ebbc08e0-e84f-11e9-a940-ad718446e54b.jpg

Russian salad. With ham. In a Muslim country. OK.....

large_7aac0de0-e84e-11e9-a940-ad718446e54b.jpg

The food is good, and we go to bed feeling very satisfied after another fascinating day here in Turkmenistan. Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this private trip for us.

large_43270850-e850-11e9-a940-ad718446e54b.jpg

Posted by Grete Howard 06:12 Archived in Turkmenistan Tagged beer desert landscape cemetery scenery museum dinner tv flood camel salt gas petrol cold travel_photography mirage poetry fuel arid comedy poet turkmenistan salt_lake kebab central_asia undiscovered_destinations head_cold pomegranate karakum ex_ussr fried_salami border_checks moon_mountains kopetdag kopetdag_mountains lunar_scenery pomegranate_trees magtymguly magtymguly_museum private_dining lentil_soup karakum_desert mollakara sanatorium mollakara_sanatorium mollakara_salt_lake balkanabat petrol_station nebichi_hotel idiosyncrasy napkin napkin_saga serviette adana_kebab beef_stroganoff stroganoff russian_salad Comments (11)

(Entries 1 - 2 of 2) Page [1]