The decision was made. If Turkmenistan doesn't want to see us in October they would not see us at all. Well, to be totally honest we don't really know if they wanted to see us or not, as we never gave them the chance to officially express their feelings. After talking with a few tourists and confirming the information with visa agencies we decided not to apply for the Turkmenistan visa at all. We could have applied, but we would have to wait for at least 3 weeks and from what we were told the chances of getting the visa were close to none, so we decided not to waste our precious time. We want to go to Iran as soon as possible and we want to be home for Christmas, so there's no time to waste.
Getting a visa for Kazakhstan in Bishkek was not a problem, but we had to wait three days for it to be ready. The visa for Azerbaijan started badly, as the guy at the embassy told us he's not doing any transit visa for the ferry. He could give us a tourist one, but only if we had a letter of invitation and it would take 3 days, unless we want to pay 50% extra. It took a little time and a lot of negotiation, but at the end we paid the normal price and got the visa in one day, without any additional formalities.
The Aktau-Baku ferry was a bit more complicated. The only thing that's sure is that there is a ferry. And that would be about it. It goes when it's ready. Sometimes it means twice a week and sometimes once a month. So you never know how long you'd have to wait. Costs were not clear neither. But well, we have made up our minds and decided not to question this decision anymore. We'd go to Aktau and check it ourselves! We would make it work somehow!
It turned out that getting to Aktau was the hardest part of the plan. It seemed easy enough, until we crossed the border. People were warning us that the road is not the best one, but we thought that after driving for a month through Mongolia and crossing Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan before, we would be fine. But we didn't know that the road we were facing was worse than anything we have seen so far. It was actually worse than anything we could have ever imagined. I can't even tell you how bad it was, as it's something you would have to experience yourself (but you rather shouldn't if there is any way to avoid it!). It was a nightmare! And the worst thing about it was, that it went forever!
After an hour of driving we wanted to turn around and go back, but unfortunately it was not an option. We only had a single entry visa for Uzbekistan, so there was no coming back. Getting ahead was not easy either. We never had any problems buying fuel in Kazakhstan, so we were hoping to tank directly after the border. We lost our hope when we reached Beyneu, the first big city. “Sorry, no fuel” we heard. It wouldn't surprise us in Uzbekistan, but here in our beloved Kazakhstan we could hardly believe it! At least until we saw how the road looks like. After that we no longer wondered why no fuel trucks were getting to this part of the country. We wouldn't be willing to drive it again either.
Fortunately one of the stations still had some 95 octane fuel left. Of course only unofficially and the price was three times higher than usual, but we could take 20 liters and mix it up with 80 octane which would be enough to get us to the next gas station. By the way, we keep complaining about buying fuel on the black market and paying two or three times the price and some of you started worrying about our budget. No worries, the highest black market rates are around one Euro pro liter, so we are still way below what we are paying in Europe. Unless the prices went down significantly since we left, but somehow I don't believe that's the case.
So we had fuel. And we had the road before us. And trust me when I say it, it was the worst road experience of our entire journey. The car was shaking so badly, that we though it would fall into pieces. We though we would fall to pieces too. The vibrations were going through our bones, cells and brains, certainly leaving some irreversible damage. And the huge holes were making our stomach jump up to our ears every few minutes. But the worst part of it was the dust. There were tons of it, so that we had to drive with our windows closed, though it was quite a hot day. But even that didn’t really help and we soon had dust absolutely everywhere. It gets under the bed, between the teeth and in the ears too. What can I say, the road was a nightmare and it went for miles and miles, so that we though it would never ever end. But it did. It ended around Shetpe, where they had both fuel and asphalt and we managed to get to Aktau after all. You can't believe how happy we were.