Our long journey towards the Darvaza Gas Crater begins in Ashgabat. We depart through the Dashoguz Gate and head into the vast Kara Kum Desert, where 160km in we stop for a short rest in the dusty village of Erbent- a higgledy-piggledy collection of sand-covered dwellings and wooden animal enclosures. Giggling, barefoot children smile for camera shots as we wander around the village to the sound of camels bleating and groaning under the warm April sun.
The 4X4s snake their way across sand dunes and savannah as the drivers, to everyone’s amazement, navigate their way to Darvaza without the aid of roads or signposts. The glow of the gas crater shimmers on the horizon and, as we draw closer, the fact that this is not a natural phenomenon but a mistake by over-eager Soviet gas prospectors is quickly forgotten!
The smell of the gas and the heat given off from the many fires blazing from within the crater creates a volcanic atmosphere – it almost looks as if lava is flowing inside – and we pause to admire this extraordinary, eerily beautiful sight and pose for photos.
Meanwhile, our trusted drivers put up our tents and conjure a feast of aromatic barbecued beef and lamb, fresh bread and salad. The delicious food is enough to peel us away from gazing into the fiery pit and we amble over to enjoy a wonderful picnic under the desert night sky. Our stomachs satisfied, we retire to our tents but not before one last glimpse into the burning crater. Another fabulous day in Turkmenistan!
Have you been to Darvaza Gas Crater, or perhaps another similar wonder elsewhere in the world? Share your experience by commenting below.
Click for more information on how to visit the Darvaza Gas Crater as part of a Turkmenistan holiday.