Of Camels and Dokmak

Beware of CAMELS!
(Turkmenistan … 09.01.05 to 10.02.05)

Handade looking at our Malaysia Ringgit. We had to tackle cold rains, sweeping wind and 80km of almost desert stretch of road before arriving at our 1st Turkmen village, Belek. We were totally drenched and shivering by the time we managed to find a roof for the night.

Handade’s son, Elyas having breakfast before school. Typical Turkmen style of eating on the floor. Notice the embroidered cap on Elyas’ head. Every children wears such cap to school and the embroidery patterns differ according to tribes and regions.

Outside their house with Handade’s eldest son who will be leaving for Turkey to play football in Turkey’s famous club, Fernabache! Maybe he will turn out to be the next soccer star!

Oops, did not expect that our 1st encounter with a camel would be a DEAD one! Wonder if it was a victim of hit and run … 8-(

Deserts and camels, they seem to be inseparable. True to the saying, we really came face to face with camels on the road. It was our 1st sighting of a camel in this journey. More to come!

We met Suleyman along the way to Jebel village. He was on his motorbike, scouting for his camels which were grazing somewhere in the desert. Only a brief conversation later, he invited us back to his house for the night!

Aman, Suleyman’s best friend and a goldsmith by living.

Turkmen traditional dish – plov, a dish of rice cooked in oil with carrots and meat. We had camel meat that night! 1kg of camel meat costs around US$1.

With Suleyman’s family in front of their Kamaz truck that is used often to transport their camels, some grazing as far as 30km away in the desert.

“These were the 4 cyclists that visited our house in 1994.” Murat showing us the black and white photo of 4 Russian cycle-touring cyclists when we approached him for our lunch break. The Russians had posted that photo to him after their return to Russia.

A photo session with his truck and Lada after lunch. After we return home, we would post this photo to him to add to his collection. Maybe another 10 years later he will be able to show them to another cyclists on the road. *grin*

On the wind swept road out of Balkanabt. We have been cycling along such long desert road and in opposing wind ever since from Turkmenbashi. The Balkan mountain range lies in the background.

A Turkmen paying respects to Sean? We met Alyos while riding into Gumdag village. He approached us and offered to help. When we asked about the road to Ashgabat, Alyos began drawing the way out of Gumdag on the sand. Before leaving, he actually invited us to his place for the night. Wow, really cannot believe the luck and the people we have bumped into so far … *blink*

We came to know of a Chinese oil company nearby from Alyos and decided to pay a visit. China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) has been drilling oil in Gumdag for 4 years already. There were only 4 staffs left at the Gumdag base as the rest had returned to China for the coming Spring festival, the Chinese New Year.

We had a surprise when we stepped into Alyos’ mother’s house – her daughter and niece were weaving carpets! Dokmak (carpet in Turkmen language) weaving is almost a household skill in Gumdag and many villages in Turkmenistan. The ladies weave carpet and sell to earn extra income for their family, especially in the winter.

A 1m x 0.5m carpet completed. The ladies making the finishing touches on the other carpet. Each lady takes around 5-7 days to weave a 1m x 0.5m carpet, selling to the bazaars at only, US$12.

We did not see Alyos until the next morning just before we were about to depart. (picture) With the weaving ladies and Alyos in their house compound.

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