27-Oct-2006 -- This is the 21st confluence visit on a bicycle trip from China to Central Asia. The story starts at 32°N 107°E.
After a successful visit of 42°N 61°E, we went to a historic castle called Kizil-Qala, which means “40-girls-castle”. Then we crossed the Amudaryā river and reached the town Manghit which is 13 km beeline from the confluence. After a lunch we went further south to a village called Qilichbāy which is only 4 km to the point.
This confluence is currently indexed as a belonging to Uzbekistan, so it shouldn’t be a problem to reach it. But according to my map, the location of the point is in neighbouring Turkmenistan. Well, we had made the experience that the map has not always been correct and with its small scale of 1:1.75 Mio we figured that it may be wrong this time as well.
In Qilichbāy, Elionora stayed with the bicycles in the village, while I took camera and GPS receiver and ran towards the point – not knowing how far I would get. Starting from a distance of 3.7km I could reduce the distance to 2.5km by running on farmers’ tracks in-between crop fields. But suddenly I came across a fence, which turned out to be the border to Turkmenistan. Local people confirmed that fact and they warned me not to cross it illegally, because there are patrols on the Turkmen side that could arrest me or even shoot at those running across.
I could not take that risk. Empty-handed I ran back. From Qilichbāy we took a taxi to Nukus because it was too late to cycle 60 km with the remaining daylight. Both bicycles were put in the trunk. The taxi driver also took two funny Babushkas with us – and turned the radio loud. We were joking, singing and having fun in the taxi. Only when we passed cemeteries, the radio was turned off for a second and a short prayer was said. A second later the music and fun started again until we reached the city of Nukus.
The confluence is definitively indexed incorrectly as belonging to Uzbekistan. In order to visit that confluence, you must have a valid visa for Turkmenistan (assuming that you are not Turkmen). Not surprisingly none of the 53 confluences has been visited yet: obtaining a Turkmen visa is not straightforward. You must book a tour or at least have a government authorised guide always on your side. It may not be easy to find a guide who is enthusiastic to go confluencing with you.
CP visit details:
- Time at the fence: 15:30 a.m.
- Time to reach the CP from the road: 15 minutes
- Distance to a track: 100 m
- Distance to a road: 3.7 km
- Distance of bicycle parking: 3.7 km
- Topography: flat
- Minimal distance according to GPS: 2.5 km
- Position accuracy at the CP: 5 m
- Vegetation: cultivated farmland
- Weather: overcast, 15° C (estimated temperature)
- Description of the CP: In the Amudaryā River basin in eastern Turkmenistan
- Given Name: The Closed Turkmen Confluence
Story continues at 43°N 60°E
Coordinator's Note: This point has now been indexed to Turkmenistan