As I wrote in my previous post...
We’ve been in Dushanbe for a week now and have successfully got our Uzbeki and Iranian visas. They are relatively straightforward to get. The Turkmen one on the other hand is notoriously time consuming, and even then, not guaranteed. We’ve to go back to the embassy on Thursday (21st July) and it should be issued to us then but we aren’t holding our breath…we’ve heard plenty of horror stories and loads of people that have just give up on it and re route instead. If we don't get it, our only option will be to fly over Turkmenistan, which we are not particularly keen to do! Just thinking about boxing up the bikes for a flight gives me a headache, so fingers crossed we get the visa and we'll be back in the saddle on Friday!
....and yet here we are, still in Dushanbe, on Saturday.
When we went to the embassy on Thursday, the man made a quick call to someone in Ashgabat to enquire about our visa status, hung up the phone and shook his head. So that was that. No Turkmenistan visa. So we did the only thing we could, which was to book a flight from here to Tehran, which leaves tomorrow.
Why from here, I hear you ask? We obviously aren't too chuffed to a) be flying anywhere and b) to be missing out on two countries (Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) and not just one (Turkmenistan). But when we looked into flying from Uzbekistan to Iran, there weren't really any options, or no good ones at least. Our planned Uzbeki route was pretty short - from here (Dushanbe) cross the border and head to Samarkand, Bukhara and across into Turkmenistan just east of Turkmenabat. There are no international flights from Bukhara and no flights to Iran from Samarkand. That only left Tashkent, the capital, as an option but Tashkent is over 300km out of our way and there were no direct flights from Tashkent to anywhere in Iran. The only flights we were able to find online went from Tashkent via Moscow or Istanbul, with flight times of up to 24hours for what should really only be a three or four hour flight. So, Dushanbe to Tehran it is, tomorrow.
Initially, we both felt pretty deflated, and annoyed at such a small, stubborn little country thwarting our plans to cycle the whole way home without any air travel, but there really was nothing we could do about it, only move on and keep enjoying ourselves. At least we aren't the only ones. When we first started researching this trip, there didn't seem to be any issue with getting a transit visa for Turkmenistan, but since reaching Central Asia, we've met more people who've been rejected than people who have managed to get it. Such is life! I got some Iran-friendly clothes made in the market the other day and bought a couple of headscarves so, with the bikes packed now, we're all set for the next leg of the adventure.
Having been cycling for the last few months, and used to the slow progress that means, it is very exciting to think that we will be in Iran tomorrow! The question I'm wondering now is: as the plane enters Iranian airspace, will women will be instructed to cover their heads?