Turkmenistani villagers welcome the Mongol Ralliers. (Leon Logothetis )
The Mongol Rally, the 10,000-mile road trip that started in Britain and should end in about three weeks in Ulan Bator, Mongolia, is not just about adventures. Equally important are the people you connect with along the way. On Sunday night, I had the good fortune of stumbling across a small Turkmenistani village where I made connections galore.
Steve Priovolos, my co-driver and I, were trying to drive to a larger town, but we finally realized we coulnd't make it and that a night camping under the stars was inevitable. Driving on most Turkmenistani roads is suicidal at night, unless you are a local, and then it seems to be normal practice. It just wasn't an option for us.
At the entrance to a smaller village I asked one of the first chaps I saw whether we could camp by his house. He said yes, that we could set up camp near the center of the village, right next to the Caspian Sea. Perfect.
Then things got interesting. All the village children came running up to the car and started taking pictures and asking for autographs. The joy in their faces was priceless. They were genuinely over the moon to be with an foreigner who had a car adorned with hundreds of stickers. What a sight.
Even the adults got in on the action, inviting me to their houses for dinner. They were exceptionally friendly. That doesn't always happen in the Western world. After the kids had taken pictures it was time for me to sleep.
The only thing worrying me at this point were the flies and the camels who were eyeing up my cookies.