Travelling north now through the Karakum Desert on our way out of Turkmenistan. 120 miles from the opulence of Ashgabat is the village of Erbent. In 2004 President Niyazov commented on the ugly appearance of the nearby village of Derweze. Three weeks later the residents were evicted and the village razed to the ground. Many of the displaced now live in yurts here in Erbent. The site of Derweze today is a discolored smudge on the desert floor.
We spent the night camping near the Darvaza Gas Crater. While drilling in 1971, Soviet geologists tapped into a cavern filled with natural gas. The ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, leaving a large hole with a diameter of 70 meters.