Along the desert railway

The stretch of desert road leading to Turkmenabat was not as deserted as it seemed to be. There were in fact several small communities living in this remote area. One thing in common for these villages … they are all built along the desert railway.
(Turkmenistan … 09.01.05 to 10.02.05)

With our friends from Peski, our 1st dessert village. From the TurkmenGaz workers, we learnt of the existence of little villages every “10km” along the dessert railway. Peski is one of such village built around a small railway station. Annaberdi (2nd from right) was the guy who ‘picked’ us up from the railway tracks when we rode into the village, enquiring for a roof for the night.

Annaberdi and his friends took us to see their dessert. In these dessert villages, no crops or fruit trees can be grown. The villages have to buy them from suppliers who specially come a few times weekly on trucks.

Annaberdi’s mother making thread from sheep’s wool

A Kazak origin family that we met on a lunch stop. Tahi’s grandfather had come from Kazakhstan during the Soviet days to work at the railway. They eventually settled down in Turkmenistan.

Razyezd 51 village. There were only around 10 houses built along the railway in this village, mostly of Kazak families. Tahi’s house is the 1st one on the left. This is the typical desert village that we would come across along the 150km dessert road to Turkmenabat, the northernmost city near the border with Uzbekistan.

With our Kazak hosts in Razyezd 50 village. As in previous families that we met along the railway, the man in the house also works in the railway repairs. Kanakat (old lady in right) invited us to her house for the night and treated us to a meal of camel organs. The meal was cooked from the little stove infront of her.

Kanakat making thread from camel fur while her daughter knitted and watched. She made camel fur socks and waist warmer to sell on trains everyday. Everyday, Kanakat would travel with her friends to the next village 16km away and hops on the train towards Razyezd 51. During the short 15mins in the train, they would try to sell their handmade accessories.

Most of the families have camels, cows and sheeps for their meat and milk

Sanat, a neighbour’s son, brought us on a cross dessert ride on his motorbike. We had a little version of the Paris-Dakar when he rammed his bike across sand dunes and slopes in the dessert. Very shiok leh …

The desert becomes the playground for these kids growing up there. 2 boys on a downhill ride on their stripped down version of a motorbike, only the skeleton. They would push the ‘bike’ up the slopes and zoom down, always flung out of the ‘bike’ when they crashed.

The underground 50T water tank. Water is transported from Turkmenabat city 40km away by train every week. Though they have water holes recently, the water is not enough for the animals and villagers. In summer, there are 2 trips per week to meet the needs of the village.

The kids on the railway that has become part of their life. These kids from the various railway villages all study at a government boarding school in Turkmenabat city. Every Monday morning, they will take the train to the city and study, only to return on Saturday afternoon to their villages, by train. Thus in fact, many of them knew each other from the different villages, even the families.

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