Number 4 – The Gate to Hell in Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan was a truly amazing country to visit. From its surreal capital of Ashgabat to Ancient Merv and the city of Mary.
One site however stands out as a truly memorable experience from my 2018 visit – the Darvaza Gas Crater in the remote Karakum Desert.
In the late ’60s gas was discovered near a small oasis settlement called Darvaza, with drilling commencing in order to tap the fuel for commercial gain. Whilst drilling in 1971 there was an accident when the drilling equipment collapsed allowing gas to escape.
The decision was taken to burn off the surface gas to enable drilling to recommence. The gas engineers estimated it would burn off in around ten days. 47 years later it is still burning!
We arrived in the late afternoon after a three and a half hour drive from Ashgabat in our 4WD vehicle. The last seven km were off road, up and down dunes being shaken about like tomatoes in a tossed salad.
In daylight hours the crater was I have to say slightly underwhelming. A few fires burned away but were largely anonymous with no sign of a collective burst of energy.
I had expected the crater to be like a gas ring on my cooker back home. Instead it was more like a small collection of fires the like of which we used to make as kids after discovering what matches do to kindling wood. We were however promised a more spectacular sight after sunset.
After dinner in a yurt it was time to venture out. The sun had long since set and now in the pitch darkness the crater glowed orange, a giant peach hanging in the black void.
We all gasped at the ethereal spectacle, which we were now drawn towards spellbound like the morlocks in the H G Wells classic ‘The Time Machine’.
Once we were around 100 metres from the quarry we started to feel the heat on our cheeks. By the time we reached the perimeter fence it felt akin to getting as close as you dare to a bonfire on Guy Fawkes night back home in the UK.
I slowly circled the fiery pit a couple of times, mesmerised by the flames that were a whole lot more impressive than earlier.
The gate to hell was beckoning, it’s red hot surface dancing in the crescent moonlight like Satan beckoning his followers to join their master. Take a look for yourself by clicking GATE TO HELL.
After an hour staring into the eye of the malevolent tiger, it was time to retreat to our tented accommodation, stopping every now and then for another glimpse of the raging fire pit.
Coming Next – Number Three, South America