19 July 2014

The gates of hell (part 2)

What feels like a lifetime ago, although it's just under 14 months, I went to the gates of hell. Whilst I still need to sort out my photos from the place, along with most of my photos, there is an interesting piece in yesterday's Guardian about it::

Which is based on something from National Geographic:

I find it interesting that the article talks about visiting Turkmenistan for thrill seeking:
Turkmenistan is one of the most isolated countries in the world, yet its fledgling tourism industry hopes to capitalise on crater as an attraction for thrillseekers. Because it’s not fenced off, visitors can stand right on the edge of the crater, despite the safety hazards.
You can indeed stand right at the edge of the crater, but as thrills go it's not a big one - it is however well worth seeing; there is something impressive about a big whole in the ground which has been burning for 4 decades.
I'd also not recommend Turkmenistan for thrill seeking in general, there are many better places around the planet for that and Turkmenistan is far more interesting from a cultural perspective. The country has been isolated for so long due to the despot who ran the country for years; the new regime is less crazy, but that is a comparative. The country is still ran my mad men and it has a horrendous human rights record (second only to North Korea - another place I want to go - to the point it is often referred to as "the North Korea of Central Asia"). That said, it is a place I'd like to return to and see more of - hopefully seeing some of the things missed due to the fun in crossing the Caspian.

My only complaint about the article, and it isn't really a compliant, is that it just doesn't convey how hot it is at the edge of the crater. This picture gives you and idea, but even then it doesn't really do it justice.

To be fair to both National Geographic - a magazine I'm on-record as liking - and The Guardian, it must be hard to adequately convey what a 30m deep, 69m wide, crater that has been on fire for 40 years is like. I can't do it, although I'm not a journalist. "Hot" will just have to do.