Day 19 of Rally: The Gates of Hell

6310 kms traveled so far.
50/200 kids sponsored. Please help us send another 150 kids to school by making tax deductible donations at

Arrived in Ashgabat around noon, and found a good hotel to scrub! We de-grimed, de-salted, de-loused, disinfected the ferry muck to the point where our already sun burnt skins were peeling off like carrots.
Now off to Darvazah – The Gates of Hell! We have smartly engaged a local driver with a 4×4 as it’s 3hrs there and 3hrs back we could sleep in the car + saving Harriet from driving on bad roads and the ignominy of towing her through the sandy desert.

The Karakhom desert (which covers 80% of Turkmenistan) is majestic. Ashgabat is mostly marble office buildings, everything brand spanking new, super sparse population (maybe because of the heat?), good infrastructure (except for Internet), gas, water, electricity are all free for citizens, petrol is cheap <$1/gallon ($0.25/L); green roofed buildings everywhere (and only green roofed buildings) which you can lease (and later own) from the government.
People we met seemed to be bordering between proud and defensive when answering questions about their country. With only 8000 visitors a year (thanks to very tough visa and immigration rules), we are being openly gawked at, like exhibits in a museum, wherever we go. Harriet hears honks from every passing car. Don’t see much of public transport, but see people just jutting their thumbs out hitchhiking short distances – makes us believe this is their normal and approved mode of transport to school, work, visiting relatives, going to the ball game etc.
Women all wear well-fitted, printed long dresses – somewhat like the Indian “nightie” but well-fitted. Their heads are all covered, we are told the higher headgear is for married women. Photos are not encouraged, so we have precious little to show.

The Gates of Hell was a crater made by Russian drilling in 1987 – they were hoping to hit oil, they found gas instead and lit it to burn it off before proceeding with further drilling. They had hoped to burn it off in a day. 30 years later, it’s still burning.
Gates of Hell is simply mind blowing with a few large and many small fires burning the rocks in the crater to cinder. The one in the middle was like a gentle dragon’s snore. The fiery plumes looked like yellow and red iris petals blooming every half a second while the small flames on the side looked like butterflies. Sat at the precipice for a good 20mins and experienced a fire-bath as the winds carried the heat to us.


(there’s a car in this picture, for perspective)


We are raising $$$ to send kids, who are working in fields, farms, and factories, to school instead of to work. Please help us raise donations by sharing our stories with friends who love to travel (I can send you an email template – please message me). Http://