On Monday morning, I was awakened by a dog chasing a camel. I got up and exited my tent to see what the commotion was and then the camel started chasing me.
Welcome to Turkmenistan.
It was soon time to say goodbye to the friends I had made Sunday in this village and head off toward the capital Ashkebad, a seven-hour drive, or so I was told.
I wasn’t expecting (but probably should have been) how terrible the roads were and how many military checkpoints we would encounter. The soldiers were friendly, though. Once I showed them my papers they waved me on with a grin and a mock salute.
What was not so endearing was the actual drive. My co-driver, Steve Priovolos, and I were in the car for more than 15 hours on roads that can be described generously as horrendous. They were so terrible that the condition of the roads, coupled with the sheer monotony of the drive tested my desire to be in the Mongol Rally at all.
I always knew things would be tough. It’s 10,000 miles through 18 countries in uncertain and dangerous conditions. Last year on Day 8 Steve and I were broadsided by a driver in a 4X4; we were in Nissan Micra. It was destroyed, but not our desire for a replay, which is how we found ourselves at the starting line again. On July 14, we and hundreds of other ralliers left on the adventure.
And now, here we were, driving hundreds of miles in 104-degree heat. The potholes were endless. So were the overzealous drivers, who came at us from both directions. I began to question why I was doing this in this dinky, crummy little car (which is what the rules call for — dinky anyway, crummy not specified).
In that moment of weakness I had no answers. Just fatigue and frazzled nerves. When we finally arrived in the capital, we settled into a hotel overlooking the presidential palace. I decided to sleep on my thoughts. Maybe Tuesday will bring with it a renewed vigor. Maybe it will not.