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Monday, August 6, 2012

Ferry to Turkmenistan

We met the rest of the ralliers and our “fixer” Ishmael at the ferry and proceeded to play the waiting game yet again. This time however, we were in luck! There was a ferry leaving to Turkmenbashi and we were going to get on it. Teams congregated at the port and we amused ourselves for the eight hours until we got onto the ferry by playing football, chatting, napping and taking glamour shots with our cars. Our fixer made sure that everyone got onto the ferry all for the low, low price of $15 that each of us paid him. Once we saw the receipt for our ticket on the ferry, we also noticed he and his friends took a pretty good cut from that too! Ohhh the Azerbaijanis.

It was a lot more expensive than we thought it would be for the ferry, each person had to pay $100 and then $70 for each metre of their car. Luckily, our car is pretty short but there is a team with a long ambulance who had to pay a hefty price! Pockets empty, we eventually got onto the ferry and were pleasantly surprised with the condition of it.

We got a 2-person cabin with a window which was perfectly adequate. We were told to expect the boat from hell, so we were pleased we got on a newer boat, complete with mattresses with the plastic on them still. The one thing that people were accurate about were the communal toilets, they were disgusting. They basically did not flush and the water level inside the toilet rose continuously so they were pretty much not useable after an hour. There were showers, but due to the condition of the toilet, you can imagine what else took place in there. Some of our fellow ferrymates found creative ways to satisfy their needs, one team in particular devised a method for evacuating their bowels by using the window in their cabin. Desperate times call for desperate measures. By the end of the ferry ride, the one Russian speaker in our group of friends had been told by the cleaning ladies to tell all of the ralliers that we were very dirty and that they wanted to write a letter of complaint to our “company”.

The ferry ride was supposed to be about 14-16 hours, but in the end, it took us about 40 hours! We were stuck in the port for five or so hours after we were all loaded on. We didn’t really mind because the teams had a party on the boat, people were making food, having drinks and some guitars were broken out so we had live entertainment. We slept in late and played cards, read and lazed around the ship the next day. Around the time we were all getting sick of being on the ferry, the craggy hills of Turkmenbashi were in view and we had some hope we would soon dock. That hope was quickly dashed once the anchor started to go down. 

There was no space at the port for our boat to dock, there was a line-up of ships waiting, and not much movement. Hours later, we started to advance towards the dock, only to be turned away when we were almost there because it was too windy. We spent another night on the boat and finally docked the next morning at around 10am.

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