We dragged ourselves out of bed after our lovely relaxing two hours sleep and on going out to the balcony with a breakfast lager bottom, we discovered the beautiful snow-capped mountain view that the darkness had hidden from us last night (from Susan and Vita’s room that is – Jill’s just had a view of a corrugated iron hut with bins of potato peelings and some cats). We headed down to the lobby, thinking we were already late, but Dima was nowhere to be seen. After giving him half an hour we decided to give him a ring to see where he was, only for him to inform us that it was only 9am – it turned out that Jill and Susan’s phones had both updated to Pakistan time instead of Turkmenistan and we were an hour early! Aye, like we REALLY couldn’t have done with that extra hour in bed!! We bought some beers for the journey from the shop at the hotel (for an exorbitant $1 each) and once Dima turned up (on time) we headed off in the car towards Alaja farm. The ride through Ashgabat was interesting and Dima took us on a quick tour in the car since we had lost a day due to our flight mishaps so we wouldn’t get to go wander around and go to the amazing sounding crap theme park, Turkmenbashi Tales which we were the most gutted about! Ashgabat is a very rapidly developing city with lots of the country’s huge oil and gas profits being poured into building the grandiose, white marble fronted buildings with seemingly no purpose, or people. Even the multi storey car parks, bus stops and traffic lights were intricate wrought iron patterns, painted white and gold. For anyone interested in seeing some better pictures of the place than ours from a moving car, here’s a good article with some great photographs.
Tag Archives: Micro Travelling
Trajectory Vasectomy getting the best o me.
6th March: LIFT OFF!!
The Pinge & Wang (and friend!) news team will assemble at Gatwick Airport (Susan and Vita flying over from Dublin and Jill getting the train down from Sunderland) to catch the 13:10 Easyjet flight to Moscow, arriving at 20:00 Moscow time. There we have a long eight hour wait before our flight to Ashgabat (at 01:30) so will check ourselves into the lounge to enjoy the complimentary drinks and snacks for a bit, while we use the time wisely trying to get Vita to teach us Russian (she’s fluent – score!).
7th March: Ashgabat (Turkmenistan)
We land in the Turkmen capital at 07.15 and will be met by our tour guide who will be taking care of us during our time in Turkmenistan. We were reluctant at first to book a proper “tour” package as we always pride ourselves in being able to organise and implement our own logistical plans without any outside help, but in Turkmenistan an organised tour is a necessary evil that you need in order to get a visa. We specified our own itinerary though and the price was quite reasonable, so it didn’t end up too much of a hardship. We are staying in the Hotel Paytagt – the cheapest, most central hotel we could find (accommodation in Ashgabat is surprisingly expensive and there are next to no hostels!) – so hopefully we can dump our stuff, freshen up and head out to explore the city. We don’t need the guide to accompany us in Ashgabat, so we’ll probably have a leisurely wander (interspersed with taking in some local booze) as we head to the main attraction for the day, the Turkmenbashi Tales – a theme park based on Turkmen fairytales! We’ll probably be knackered after the lack of sleep (hopefully we’ll catch a few hours on the Moscow-Ashgabat flight If we’re not too hyper and excited) but we will soldier on and attempt a shot at the night life.
8th March: Ashgabat (Turkmenistan)
We will spend the morning horse riding at Alaja farm (just outside of Ashgabat), who are famous for their strong and graceful Akhal Teke horses (the Turkmen people love their horses even more than their vodka!). Susan, who was a horsey child, is really looking forward to this but Jill has serious reservations as her only horse based encounters have involved falling off them, usually into something spiky. In the afternoon we will visit Kow Ata – an underground lake in a cave (also just outside of Ashgabat) that is always around 30 degrees (due to sulphuric gases from the rocks) for a nice swim and to see Central Asia’s largest colony of bats that also live in the cave! Another evening and night in Ashgabat.
9th March: Erbent Oasis, Gas Crater (Turkmenistan)
We have a driver for this part of the tour (luxury!) and will be leaving Ashgabat by car and travelling into the Karakum desert, stopping at the Erbent Oasis where we will hopefully see some nomads, milk some camels and touch some of their beautiful Tazys (traditional Turkmen hunting dogs that are quite similar to Afghans). . From there we will continue North via the mud and water craters then spend the night camping next to the Gates of Hell gas crater in a yurt, celebrating Susan’s birthday at midnight and hopefully avoiding getting bitten by Caspian Cobras. We really can’t wait for this – it’s going to be epic!
Peter Powell’s definitely going to come now! Successful Stan a plan in the can ready to gan.
You all may be thinking that it’s been a bit quiet on the Pinge and Wang front recently (we admit it and we’re sorry – we’re never going to get on Ellen at this rate with this lack of commitment to our social media outlets and with our knees at our time of life!!!) but behind the scenes it has been a hive of activity, working away to finalise the itinerary for this year’s amazing trip: The Stannering. We’ve come up against a lot of obstacles – closed borders, routes, visas etc… It’s been a logistical nightmare, but now we are basking in the warm glow of having proposed another fabulous trajectory that would make Peter Powell proud!
We’ve also had no end of bother with bureaucracy, involving Jill having to get a new passport (because Uzbekistan refused her visa with the scruffy, beef sauce covered, guilty-stamped one that has been with us on all our previous adventures), Susan having to take a day trip to Northern Ireland to buy return UK postage for her Uzbek and Tajikstan visas (but getting a fun evening in dubious bars in Newry being fought over by old men out of it) and being concerned about Turkmenistan’s fear of good for nothing Latvians.
Oh yes! We forgot to tell you! We have a companion for the first (and maybe second) leg of this trip – our lovely friend Vita will be joining us as we rock the shit out of Turkmenistan! You know that usually we’re partners in crime and don’t want anyone else along for the ride (and no one else could put up with us to be honest), but this year is kind of special as it’s Susan’s 40th birthday! She had wanted to spend it on the moon, but budget tourist space flights aren’t a thing quite yet so she’s settled for camping at the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan as the next best thing (“Turkmenistan – the next best thing to the moon” – Turkmen Tourist Board, you can use that if you like!) and invited a few close friends along for that leg of the trip. BUT, our Turkmen tour organiser (you can’t get a visa without an organised tour – booo) has warned us that it is unlikely that Vita will be issued a visa as Turkmenistan think that “people from all ex-soviet countries are trouble makers”! The cheek! Of course, Vita is no trouble maker and we’re hoping that he’s talking bollocks (the Turkmen Embassy in London seemed to think when we asked!) and that the consul will be won over by her very angelic-looking visa photos!
So the progress report for the day is so far we have: finished the trajectory, booked the tour in Turkmenistan, booked the Almaty- Yerevan flights and applied for Uzbekistan visas (Jill for the 2nd time!). Shit’s starting to get reeeeeal!!!
Coming soon – the moment you have all been waiting for… OUR 2015 ROUTE MAP!!!!
Fighting off the not-dubious-in-the-right-way dubious old men in tedious tourist hell – Cyprus
For your delectation – the final part of our Rewangering adventure, we last left you in the airport in Bucharest, en route to Cyprus. Enjoy and please congratulate us on actually writing up a full trip for the first time ever!:
We should probably explain that we found dirt cheap (about €20) flights from Bucharest to Larnaca in Cyprus, so as the route back via Bulgaria was at really inconvenient times we’d decided that a couple of days relaxing in the sun on a beach would be just what we needed after all the dashing about over the last couple of weeks, and would be a kind of holiday within a holiday to recharge our batteries and cheer us up when the trip was coming to an end and we would be very depressed about having to return home and go back to work.
We landed in Larnica after dark, and after asking around and being told that the next bus into town wasn’t for another half an hour Susan went off in search of some boozes while Jill had a cigarette outside. She returned looking very put out. “Jill – we’re not in Eastern Europe any more”. A can of cider and a packet of smoked almonds had just cost Susan 8 Euros! Damn you Cyprus! We wandered around trying to find another bus, as we couldn’t be bothered to wait (and probably pay the zillion euros) to get the tourist Airport Coach, and it looked like there was a bus stop across the road. We found a little minibus headed into town that was only €2 each.
As is now typical for us, we overshot the town centre in the bus (well you never know where the actual “town centre” is unless someone tells you! Even if it looks a bit town centre-ish it might not be!) and ended up at the depot, in the middle of an industrial estate. Put the rest of this in your face
Castles, Karaoke and Cool Car Drivers – Welcome to Romania!
Where we Develop a Plot to Travel Back in Time and Marry Jill off to King Carol I – Transylvania, Romania
So, we left off in an industrial estate in Brasov at 4.30am…
After calling into the posh hotel near the bus stop to see if the bar was open, it sadly wasn’t, so we decided to go to the service station next door for a cuppa and a beer while we made our mind up what we were going to do. We were both a bit reluctant to pay for a night in a hostel for what would only be a few hours, but were absolutely shattered and reasoned that if we just stayed up then we’d be in no fit state to see any of Brasov the next day, so got the bloke in the service station to phone us a taxi to the Rolling Stone Hostel. We rang the doorbell several times, saw no sign of life and we were starting to worry that it was going to be Budvar all over again (and there weren’t even any tables to sleep under or patio doors to open and squat in a house) but finally a nice young lady answered the door in her pyjamas and welcomed us inside. It was a lovely hostel in a nice old building with loads of wood panelling and wooden floors (so we didn’t mind taking our shoes off to go in as there was actually a reason for it this time – not like the one in Vilnius!) and our room was gorgeous. We had a four bed room (proper beds – not bunks!) to ourselves with a settee and a TV and some seriously gorgeous antique wardrobes! We had a nice few hours sleep until people started waking up and stomping around and talking loudly (all the wood was very nice on the eye but had the disadvantage of amplifying every sound!) but persisted with trying to have a nice lie in until we had to admit defeat and get up. We got ready and headed out to town with a to-do list (including going up the mountain in a cable car and listening to the organ performance at the Black Church) of recommended things and a map covered in scribbles from our hostel girl. Put the rest of this in your face
Disappointingly Undubious Transnistria & craic commando Chisinau.
From an excessive walking to look at sights : beer ratio to an all beer zero sights ratio. Click below to view our 2 Girls 1 Country (per day) – an Adventure in Pinge and Wang Facebook album and get all the gory details into your eyes:
Proyet doodle-egg of Aru Gramzar! Mi Mool, Craic Commandoes (New Kosovan New Nu Born Bjorg Bald) and Boat Trip Recreations – Chisinau, Moldova
We arrived in Moldova after thankfully having no trouble at the border (so we must have still been within our allotted time, although it was very bizarre the way the officials just handed the pile of passports/ID cards to the bloke sitting at the front of the bus and they were all just passed around everyone until they landed on the lap of their rightful owner!), again in the pitch black. As is now routine for us, we ended up in the bus depot and not in the city centre as you’re never sure where to get off so we normally wait until the last stop. There was a pizza place across the road that had wifi and accepted cards (we didn’t have any Moldovan Lei), so we thought we’d pop in for a beer and use their wifi to get our bearings and decide where we were going to stay.
The place smelled so good and we were pretty starving (we’d forgotten about our Transnistrian pasties that were still in Jill’s bag) so we ordered a pizza to share, a couple of nibbley things and a bottle of wine. We were also over the moon to be back in the Latin alphabet (Ukraine and Transnistria were all Cyrillic)! Even if you don’t speak the language, it’s much easier to work out what things are if you recognize the letters! Still, something must have broken down in our communication as the waitress brought us a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon instead of Sauvignon Blanc, and we struggled to communicate this through gestures and grunts and even trusty Google Translate so she got the manager who spoke English, was really lovely, sorted it out and thought the whole thing was hilarious. Upon booting up our faithful companion Google Maps, we discovered that Chisinau was quite a small city, the bus depot wasn’t far out of the centre (not in the in the back of beyond in an industrial estate as per usual) and we would only have 20 minutes or so to walk to either of our shortlisted hostels. Put the rest of this in your face
Searching, looking for dubious bars, every place we caaaan. Searching, looking for baaaaaars, we have to find an old man! – Tirispol, Transnistria
We arrived in Tiraspol at about 7pm in total darkness, where we were greeted by some official looking chaps on the platform and escorted to a little window round the front of the station building, using the walk to wisely plan how to get out of having to bribe them if they tried to detain us for anything, and were pleased to find out we just had to fill in our registration forms so we could stay for 24 instead of 10 hours. It was a very professional and official looking set-up, where the bloke in the window had to hold back the blinds with paperclips so he could talk to us, and kept stopping to text his girlfriend. Once we were all official and everything, we headed off into the night (with no passport stamp, bad show!).
Earlier in the day while sat in the bar in Odessa, it had occurred to us that due to the drunken tomfoolery of the previous few days, that we had forgotten to book our hostel in Tiraspol. Well…we had attempted to, but their website was abysmal and nothing happened when you clicked either the “Booking” or “Contact Us” button. Since “Tiraspol Hostel” was the only hostel in the whole of Transnistria, we thought we had better get it booked just in case, so we emailed “Tim” the proprietor (upon finally managing to find the email address on the website) asking if they had room for us tonight. He replied quite quickly saying that yes, this was fine, we exchanged phone numbers in case we got lost and he sent us vague directions to “Andy’s Pizza” where we would meet him and he would take us to the hostel. Said vague directions were along the lines of “go right outside of the train station, past the park, right down the main road and Andy’s Pizza is on the left”, so we attempted to follow them and ended up miles from anywhere (after nearly being trampled by a stampeding horse and donkey being raced by what we can only assume is the Transnistrian equivalent of chavas– great first impressions of Tiraspol!) as we’d assumed the wrong road was the Main Road (they’re all main roads when we’re finished with them). We were glad we had his phone number at this point, and Susan rang him to see where we’d gone wrong and despite his offer to meet us at the corner told him to stay put at Andy’s Pizza and we would be there shortly. Upon finally locating the now infamous Andy’s Pizza, Tim was nowhere to be found. Susan rang him again and he had taken it upon himself to have a walk to try and find us instead of staying put, so of course we missed each other. After 10 minutes of hanging around, stroking the horse and donkey (a different horse/donkey combo than the ones we’d been stampeded by on Not Main Road) that were randomly tethered to the railings outside of Andy’s pizza and throwing a welcoming smile to any bloke who walked past in case it was Tim (before thinking better of it stood on a random street corner in a dubious break away Soviet state), the man himself finally turned up. Continue reading Searching, looking for dubious bars, every place we caaaan. Searching, looking for baaaaaars, we have to find an old man! – Tirispol, Transnistria