Day 0 – Travelling

6 May

Actually left on time. Slight detour via Inchture. Edinburgh airport car park couldn’t recognise my registration, although it did make my car 10 years newer!

Totally uneventful checking in.  I’d been prepared for lots of questions and a discussion.  As it was, all I got was a compliment for having all the correct paperwork. And wanting to sit at the back of the plane. It still gets there at the same time!

Gate 3 had a man (“Graeme” – not that I was eavesdropping) lying in the recovery position with several staff and police officers standing around.

I did manage to help other passengers when they carelessly left their passports lying on the seat as they walked away.

Turkish airlines offered turkish delight as we got on the plane and was very surprised to find a full menu of films available on my personal screen.  As well as a printed menu of food. Had I been upgraded? No. Everyone got one. Nicholas Cage does some terrible films, but I’m still addicted to them.

Everything on time.  Istanbul airport very busy, but managed to find a seat within sight of a charging plug.  Helped by my newly acquired 5m charging cable. Two free hours of Internet as well! 

Will meet one of the group on this flight, so currently trying to play spot the American. Will be easier when they tell me the gate.

People spotting is a good airport game to pass the time. So far I’ve spotted a Guantanamo escapee and a segway rider with a death wish (head buried in mobile). They also let three wheeled stand on scooters loose at top speed. But it had a basket on the front, so that must make it OK.

Made it to the gate on time, after the slowest waiters ever served chicken and tartar sauce. I thought it was a misprint. It wasn’t.

Met up with Carolyn who had been asking every young man if I was them. A Pole and a Swede had previously declined. She had been travelling for 30+ hours from Los Angeles by the time we arrived.

We separated for the plane. She at the front in cattle class, me with three seats to myself at the back. Excellent service and plane from Turkish Airlines again – managed to avoid the chicken again.
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Arriving in the dead of night to Ashgabat airport we were allowed to wander randomly across the tarmac to head to whichever door we fancied. I went with the throng and found the queue for the Wiza (not for the toilets) and Bank. Still not chancing a photo at this stage as there were lots of security people about.

In typically unorganised style, we queued for the visa, queued at the bank to pay for the visa ($95 + $4 airport tax) and then took the receipt back to the visa desk to claim our passports back. I’d hate to do that when it was busy!
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Sailed through passport control, unlike Carolyn when they discovered that she had dual Irish nationality. Those computers seem to be linked to everything nowadays.

Baggage reclaim was fast as everyone else had taken theirs hours ago. I was reassuringly challenged to prove it was my bag, but he lost interest once he discovered it was from Turkish Airlines. I know not why.

X-rayed my bags, and my shoes, before we were allowed to LEAVE the airport though. And checked the passport, again.

We had met our UK tour leader – Max – in the visa queue, and we quickly met Maksat, our Turkmenistan guide who showed us how to change money on the black market for a better rate. i.e. not in front of the airport cameras.

The hotel was only a short drive away and was far better than expected. Snaffled a map from reception and headed to bed at 3:30am. Luckily breakfast finishes at 11am today.

The adventure begins shortly …

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