Day 21 of Rally: Meeting Locals in Merw, Turkmenistan

7146 kms traveled so far.
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In Merw Turkmenistan, with Roshan as our guide, we set off to see the old mud forts, mausoleums and mosques – UNESCO world heritage sites dating back to 7th – 10th century and learnt a bit about Turkmenistan’s history. We even traded some Nasreddin Hodja stories 😂 Finally got the chance to take pictures with local women (in their beautiful dresses) at the ruins. In one of the mosques, we visited their communal kitchen where they serve free meals, and saw pulav (chicken and rice with spices) and several types of lamb dishes being cooked.


Anitha and I veered off from the guide (much to his chagrin) to consort with the local women and children who were all very excited to meet us and share stories (showing pictures on phones about families). They fed us watermelon, some form of musk melon, took a ton of pictures, and even gave us a holy cloth for protection before we parted ways. Amazing!

Then it was off to Faraq to cross into Uzbekistan. The roads were treacherous with invisible potholes everywhere. While the locals in Toyotas zipped past and made the journey in 3hrs, we ambled along at 30-40km/hr. We strongly suspect the local Toyotas all have a bi-weekly subscription to suspensions – there’s no way they can drive at 80km/hr on those roads and have their suspension survive more than 2 weeks. The roads were a veritable graveyard of truck tires and treads – literally every few meters was a busted tire or shredded tread. There were even discombobulated rims lying around – I imagine by some very frustrated drivers were huffing as they hurled the rims on the ground. I was all the way to the front of the seat, hunched over the steering wheel hoping to spot a pothole in enough time to swerve and avoid – Anitha claimed I looked like Tom hunting for Jerry – I myself felt like a race car driver. If I took just a moment to check the rear view mirror, a sneakily placed pothole would have the last laugh and we’d bang Harriet’s undercarriage. I flinched so much – every time we couldn’t avoid a pothole and heard a scrape or bang – that I think I’ve acquired a permanent flinch. Needless to say, it was exhausting. We could’ve slowed down, but the border was closing at 5:30pm and we had to make haste or be caught in the middle of nowhere.
Driving through the Karakhom desert was amazingly beautiful. Despite putting in reed barriers to prevent the sand from flying onto the roads, the sand was everywhere. Lots and lots of sand twisters, camels, sheep being herded by wirey men on mules….

After the usual running around like headless chickens, with very unhelpful bureaucratic officials asking for preposterous things like engine weight (I just made up 75kgs), we made it through 2 borders in 3hrs only to encounter more terrible roads all the way to Bukhara (100kms away)
Soon after we crossed into Uzbekistan we heard a loud call from a group of men aged roughly 18-30. Naturally we stopped to investigate and discovered it was a catcall in Uzbek! Since then, we’ve encountered many a loud sound from groups of men, but we’re now Uzbek-wise and know to keep walking/driving 😂

We are writing stories and posting pictures mainly to serve ads about rural kids in India who don’t have access to high quality education 😈Looks like our audience is developing banner blindness, so we will shortly be switching to Native Ads. Until then, here’s the ad that will most likely be skipped 😭: please help us raise funds to send 150 more kids to school. It costs only $20/month to send a child to and all donations are 100% tax deductible. Donate at