Day 272: At the gates of hell

Standing above hell

Woooooaaahohohooo! This is fuckin’ insane! We’re standing above the gates of hell, like a scene out of Lord Of The Rings. The crater before us is a roaring inferno of burning gas. I’ve never seen anything like this and don’t think I ever will!

Heard of Darvaza gas crater from Yuji and have been looking forward to see it with great anticipation since we met in Romania. This was the biggest pull for me to come through the entire Central Asia region. Thank god we were able to come!!

The crater in the midst of Turkmenistan’s vast desert is leftover from Soviet-era gas exploration. Scientists probably never expected to hit gas so near the surface; whatever the reason they set it alight to burn off the gas…

… however, that was in the 50s and it is still burning today.

Dorus, Vlad (our driver) and us at another crater, this one without fire.

50+ years of wasting natural gas. That’s real perverse, when the world is looking for renewable sources of energy here’s Turkmenistan burning away tons of it daily…

But perverse as it may be, this is hands down the craziest shit I’ve ever seen. And now that I’ve seen it, I hope they figure a way to stop wasting the world’s natural resources!

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  1. Leslie says:

    OMG that's nuts! Your faces must have been burning red after that! that it's not something you'll ever see again! i hope they figure out a way to stop it too… 50 years!

  2. J says:

    Loving your blog! I'll be following in your footsteps shortly and I'm VERY excited about it.

    Can you tell me please, how did you visit the craters? Did you do it in one day from Ashgabat? Because I'm thinking about exiting to Uzbekistan at Konye Urgench instead. Do you know if that's possible on a transit visa? It wasn't in the past.

    Thanks and happy travels!

  3. 山 him says:

    Hi J!

    We hired a driver from Ayan Travel and did a day trip to the craters. It's about 4 hours drive from Ashgabat, we arrived at around 6pm and stayed til 8pm, then back to Ashgabat by around 11pm. When you get your transit visa, even if they don't ask you on the app form, make sure you request your entry and exit points. We wanted to exit at Konye Urgench too but didn't request it and were given Farap as the exit point (Turkmenabat – Bukhara) which screwed our routing. Luckily we were still able to see the craters (which were obviously out of our transit route) because the checkpoint police don't really check. If you get unlucky, a ten/twenty dollar bill should sort things out.

  4. 山 him says:

    PS. other way to get there is to catch a bus from Ashgabat heading to Konye Urgench and ask to be dropped off near the Darvaza craters. It's a 2km hike from there and I think you can only see the light of the fire crater in the dark so during daytime may be tougher to find but can follow the 4WD tracks in the desert. Camp overnight, and next day, hike back out to the main road and hitch a ride to Konye or back to Ashgabat. We wanted to camp but didn't have the gear (too cold), so opted for a day trip instead.

  5. Iván says:

    What an amazing experience! I've never heard about this… thanks for sharing something like this! It's like attending to a geography and history lesson at school!!! :)

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