Tea growing near Pu Mat National Park at Con Cuong, Vietnam.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Con Cuong (Pu Mat National Park), Vietnam.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Ninh Binh, Vietnam.

Monday, October 23, 2023

The Gates of Hell

After our city tour on Thursday morning, we got on the highway heading north from Ashgabat. There are twenty of us in the group, so we had six 4WD SUV style vehicles taking us out into the desert.

While the roads in the city are well maintained, many of the main highways outside the city are not. If the locals need to go to another city in Turkmenistan, they will usually fly or take the train. But we were headed to a destination not served by rail or flight... The Gates of Hell.

It is 271 kms (168 miles) from the city of Ashgabat to the crater. We left at 1:45pm and arrived at the crater four hours later at almost 5:45pm.

There isn't a lot to see along the way.

Camels!

Goats and sheep.

Kevin, Thomas, Ruth, and our very serious looking Russian driver. 
He spoke no English.

Some of our convoy.

The Karakum Desert.

The road is very wide, but with a lot of obstacles!

A small salt water lake in the middle of the desert.

They built the road right through the middle of it!

We stopped for a break in a village along the way and wandered around a bit...

Are you sure you can't fit just a little more on?

Local women.

Camels and chickens!


The women and children generally don't like having their photos taken. We asked several times, and they responded with a firm no. The men, on the other hand, were quite willing!

Just before we arrived at the Gates of Hell, there are two other craters we stopped at. 

The Water Crater, which is obviously named because of the water at the bottom.

Shame about the years worth of plastic bottles that have been thrown into it.

The sun will be going down soon.

And the Mud Crater.

This crater has a small natural gas fire burning at the bottom.

And then we arrived at the main event... the Gates of Hell.

Back in 1971 when Turkmenistan was part of the USSR, the area was being drilled for natural gas, of which they found a lot. In fact Turkmenistan has the sixth largest reserves of natural gas in the world.

But there was an accident, and the well collapsed at this area and caught fire. They said "oh, just leave it... it'll burn out in a couple of weeks". And here we are fifty years later and it's still burning...

The Gates of Hell.
Officially known as the Darvaza Gas Crater.

Of course it's become a bit of a tourist attraction, which is exactly why we went. There were more people than we expected (mostly Chinese tourists), and there has been a small yurt village built to accommodate people. Our group leader Johnny was here in 2016 before it became popular with the internet crowd, and he was the only one here. But Turkmenistan was totally closed up for three years during Covid and only opened back up in the spring, so there was obviously a backlog of people wanting to come.

Also, there has been a lot of talk recently about shutting it down and putting out the fire, although there have been efforts made in the past which were unsuccessful. 

Kevin and Ruth at the Gates of Hell.

The idea was to arrive at sunset, which we did. But the crater is much more spectacular after dark.

We climbed to higher ground to give you a better overall view.

Ruth, enjoying the sunset.

Sunset at the Karakum Desert.

Our accommodation for the night!

We brought a bottle of imported Moldovan brandy for happy hour.
Cost was about $10 USD.

The group at happy hour.

The guide and drivers made us a grilled lamb and chicken dinner, and then we made our way down to the crater to enjoy our giant campfire for a few hours.


Two of the guys brought these masks with them specifically for the photo opp!

Thomas enjoying the campfire.

Kevin, Ruth, and Ambia.

Us, with group leader Johnny.

Our gang.

Selfie at the Gates of Hell.

Johnny, enjoying some solitude.

I walked around to the opposite side of the crater to get this short looking back at our group.

Some of the gang.

Didn't get to bed until after midnight. Lots of fun with these guys!

Next up... a very long travel day!

8 comments:

  1. Wow. Pretty cool (or hot). Another great adventure.

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    1. It was very cool to see, and it only felt hot if you were standing in the same direction as the wind, then you could really feel the heat. So glad that we were able to make it there.

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  2. Wow. It's just amazibg. Not much more I can say.

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    1. Yep, it was definitely one great big "WOW" for sure. It is not everyday that you get to see something like this.

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  3. Not much to see?? My eyes feasted on the landscape, the people, the animals along the road, the awesome desert with a salten lake (salten sea?) and the craters. Loved the selfies and group pictures. Awesome trip!!

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    1. Driving along the very barren parts of the desert really wasn't interesting, driving into the little town/village was. I am sorry but when the landscape is totally flat with no trees or shrubbery it just isn't our cup of tea. Seeing the camels occassionally was fun and whenever there were some hills or mountains then it gives you something to look at but when it is just nothingness for miles and miles for hours on end then it just doesn't do anything for us. The craters though were a whole different ballgame, we really enjoyed seeing them, especially the gas crater.

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  4. That’s super cool. I’ve heard of it but how awesome to see in person!

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    1. It was really an incredible sight to see! Up until we decided to go on this trip, we had never heard of it and I am sure that is the case with most people so we are very impressed that you knew of it. :-)

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