A few almonds for breakfast and an apple for lunch has left me a little hungry (and completely out of food), but around noon I hear the anchor being pulled up – we’re headed to port! I’ve only been on the ship for a couple days now, but I feel like Columbus discovering land – I can wait to get off this floating steel coffin and back on my bike.
After another for or five hours of steaming into port, we dock in Turkmenbashi. I wait in the galley for the next 2 hours with my chain-smoking friends, who are still arguing over the best route through Central Asia. We drink tea; they argue; I slowly wither away from all of the second hand smoke.
Off the ship on into the customs/immigration building where I wait for another hour or so. My appointed “guide” arrives and starts working on the documentation; one room for passport control, one room for motorcycle passport, another 4 rooms for what I’m not sure. It appears the tenant of each room is higher up on the food chain as they go through the same info each person before looked at and either stamp it, or send us to another room in disapproval. We go back get a different stamp, back to the previous room and then onto the next. Given the customs and or immigration workers cant read English, I’m fairly certain it doesn’t matter what document I hand them or what info I give as long as I tell them something. Starting in Turkey when customs asked for my motorcycle “technical passport”, which I’ve come to learn may be the title; I’ve handed them the registration. Nobody seems to care, so I continue with each country handing over the registration. Some countries list the VIN # as the license plate, others simply put random words, like “white”, listed on the registration. I’m not sure it matters as long as I give the same info at the entry and exit borders. It could say Mickey Mouse for all they know – as long as it’s the same on entry and exit everyone is happy.
I get through customs and meet my real guide; apparently the other guy just gets me into the country, which is good because he was lacking in personality. My “new” guide has a bit of a Ukrainian boxer look as well as a bit more personality, I’ll hope for the best.
The hotel is typical eastern block era, which appears to be abandoned with the exception of the staff. This is very typical of these type facilities in this part of the world – they have a few glory years but are quickly replaced by newer fancier models as they undoubtedly fall apart from the extremely poor construction.
Land Ho! Lets concur the natives and take their land!