I woke to -16 outside the tent. According to the thermometer on my watch, it was -1 inside the tent. Can two layers of nylon insulate up to 15 degrees? I have my suspisions about the inside tent reading.
Everything at this temperature is ten times as difficult. Undoing your fly to relieve yourself, pulling tent pegs out of the ground, stuffing a sleeping bag into its stuff sack…I didn’t even try to cook my porriage for breakfast. But that was more to do with the fact that the water in my bottles inside my tent was frozen.
I was packed up and waiting at the border gate by 7:30am, but had an excrutiating 1..5 hour wait to get into the customs and immigration building. By the end of the first hour, I had pulled my sleeping bag out and had wrapped this around me to keep warm. Even then I was very cold. I was just keen to get cycling to warm up.
The border crossing was straight forward. The only catch that was different from other borders was that I had to pay $12 (in US dollars) for a ride in a police car to Turkmenabad.
I’m sorry, can you repeat that? A ride in a police car to Turkmenabad?
Well, that is what the rule book says, but the sight of a fully loaded touring bicycle was enough to put them off, and I did not have to ride with the police to Turkmenabad. I did however still have to pay the $12. According to other cyclists I have spoken to, this is standard. No big deal. The immigration and customs officials were the most professional and well groomed of any officials I have met anywhere so far on this trip, so the whole process is all perfectly pleasant.
The immigration building is however open at both ends, which means that a cold breeze wafts through all the time. I was very cold by the time I had finished, and even the short 45 minute cycle to Farap did not warm me up. In fact I was colder.
I was quite throrougly not in a good way by the time I had arrived at Farap. I went to a small cafe and ordered permenyi (meat filled pasta), but couldn’t stand the sight of it let along the taste. The 750ml of weak hot tea I drank did not stop my shivering either. At this point I thought I may have mild hypothermia.
If there had been a hotel in Farap, I would have stayed there. There isn’t, so on to Turkmenabad it was.
What a ride. Nothing to eat, very cold, and legs that felt like lead. My body ached – back, pelvis, shoulders. I had to stop often to regain some form of strength. At one point I needed to pee. Standing up off the bike I felt as though I was floating, but feet were of lead.
Out of sheer neccessity and need for a warm bed, I made it to Turkmenabad, checked into one of the two open hotels, and promptly collapsed into bed. My body temperature at around 5pm was 38 degrees celcius.