Pamela MacNaughtan

I may not have made it to Mongolia, but I did make it to Turkmenistan. Turkmenistan!

Writing about not finishing the Mongol Rally was difficult, I think because I was admitting (more to myself, than others) failure. Okay, perhaps failure is a rather strong word. And perhaps I am harder on myself than I need to be. I do take pride in what I do, and when I don’t accomplish something I set out to do, it bothers me. But, did I actually fail? Maybe not…

At the beginning of the year, I announced that I was going to do the Mongol Rally. I was stoked. I loved Mongolia in 2010 and I was eager to return. Not getting to Mongolia was never an option, I was determined to get there. Oh, how headstrong I was…

Well, I didn’t get to Mongolia, but I did get to Turkmenistan; after crossing the Caspian Sea!

“I crossed the Caspian Sea, in a cargo ferry, and landed in Turkmenistan”, I repeat this sentence to myself as I look in the mirror, my hair finally clean, the dirt is gone from under my fingernails, and my clothes smelling clean and fresh.

I didn’t make it to Mongolia, but I did make it to Turkmenistan.

Sure, the journey wasn’t easy, and there were some challenges, but there were some fabulous moments (and accomplishments).

  • I learned how to drive a manual car (thanks to my brother, who was a fabulous teacher)
  • I honed my navigational skills (When you can navigate yourself to a hotel, in a car, in a new city, in the dark, where 5% of the streets have street signs, with a lonely planet map, you know you’ve made it!)
  • I travelled from Prague, Czech Republic to Ashgabat, Turkmenistan; a distance of 5,580 kms.
  • I travelled to (but mostly through) 10 *new countries! Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan. (*new to me, obviously they are not new countries)
  • I learned that the words fixer and honest do not belong in the same sentence, ever.
  • I slept on a beach in Vama Veche, and woke up to a great view of the Black Sea – I could have gone without seeing a naked guy frolicking on the beach though.
  • I ate a lot of Kebab/Shwarma; but the best is still in Bangkok, Thailand.
  • I sailed across the Caspian Sea, on a cargo ferry, from Azerbaijan to Turkmenistan!

When you’re disappointed about something, it can be hard to see the positives. I know I was having difficulty looking at the positive aspects of the Mongol Rally. It’s not impossible though; as I have learned this week.

There is more to the Mongol Rally than saying yes, paying the fees, and driving from the UK to Mongolia. There were several moments where I could have said “No, I’ve changed my mind”, but I didn’t, I pressed forward. That in itself is an accomplishment. I’m not saying I shy away from a challenge, I don’t, but the Mongol Rally did challenge my travel style more than I thought it would (something I’ll write about later).

I made it to Turkmenistan. That. Is. An. Accomplishment.

Turkmenistan (what I saw of it) was…fascinating. Turkmenistan appeared on my radar when I started planning a trip along the Silk Road; a trip I had originally planned to do this year. I spent hours and hours researching historic points in Turkmenistan (and Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan), so when we docked and the sun rose, I was like a kid in a candy store. Everything was awesome and beautiful.

I didn’t make it to Mongolia, but I did make it to Turkmenistan! Yeah Me!!


  • January 31, 2013

    OK, it has been an odd lifelong dream of mine to go to Turkmenistan. To say I am jealous is an understatement!

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