We sped across Turkmenistan, crossing the Karakum desert which was sandy and scrubby for the most part. The roadside had mainly camels as the lack of proper vegetation prevented supporting sheep and goats. At some point we went off into a small settlement to try and find a shop to replace our matches as we had had a mishap with our water tap which had leaked into the matches store.
But Turkmenistan is a place with few shops and cafes or signs and no advertising or shop hoardings.
We trundled up one very sandy street and found a school, but no shops and back down the other street and found a small farmyard with a pond and gushing spring, a couple of cows and two camels and their newly born young. Opposite their neighbours farm had a yurt for habitation erected in their yard.
We were delighted with our find and were permitted to photograph the scene. Then off we went without finding matches. (We found matches later and two dodgy looking chocolate ice creams.)
Before we had picked up our tow we spied another genuine yurt on the brow of a hill. Parked alongside was a new looking white Toyota between the Yurt and an enclosure for the animals. Quite a surprise.
We later dropped off the broken down car we were towing at a small shack which looked like a cafe, so he could pick up a new helper, as we planned to veer off the main road onto a desert track to find the crater.
Again Maps.Me was coping and proposed a number of tracks. To be on the safe side, as there were no signs, we paused to check with a local police checkpoint as this was definitely going to be an off road experience and we did not want to get lost before we started! Luckily we only had 4 kilometers to go, so it was intrepid enough for us and not too adventurous.
After bumping up and down the sandy tracks, with me shouting at Jim to go faster so we would not get stuck, we arrived at a plateau and spotted a few yurts in the distance and signs of life.
Clustered around these were smaĺl modern tents. We concluded that we had found tourism in Turkmenistan. Needless to say we were close to the crater and we circled to find a quiet spot to camp. Peering into the crater we could see flames dancing in the void. We had been told that the greatest impact was after sundown. So we set about establishing our camp and getting a meal together with our newfound matches. We decided after an Iranian month with no alcohol, to crack open our remaining Romanian grog. (Apologies to George's Mum as we don't know what it is called, but it was delicious and Portlike, but with a bit more kick.)
Before long a string of new gleaming white Landcruisers appeared and deposited their visitors close to the camping Yurts where they were due to be fed under the stars after they had climbed the various hills overlooking the crater. A New Zealand couple, Julie and David, who had also appeared with their own Toyota driver, came over for a chat before setting up camp and they helped us polish off the homemade Romanian port.
After the sun had set, the whole crater glowed redly in the night sky. What is a bit boring is that when I went to sleep, after a couple of days of sore throat I felt fluey. However, nothing that a night alongside glowing embers and golden sand could not solve.
In our various clusters we peered in and wondered at this forever burning void and we were grateful to be there. In the windy night time I peered out of our canvas and could see the red embers fading as the morning light began to compete.