After Mary we though we could cross the border at Turkmenabat that day, though we decided to have a look at Merv. There was an old hill that was once a settlement in 100AD or something, though the area was quite nice. Just lacking some good information about it, since we were without Internet or a guide.
On the way to Turkmenabat Jamie and I hit a low point. Jamie got the car stuck on sand and the people helped us out of us then demanded money for their generosity. Not cool.
By the time we approached Turkmenabat at 5-6pm, it was far too late to cross the border. We then spent another hour or two trying to find a hotel. We eventually found the LP recommend one, but they said we must go to the new Jehun hotel. This is typical Turkmenistan weirdness. Foreigners are denied a stay in any hotel. Also it's quite hard to get A-95 fuel, unless you're a VIP or something.
At the hotel we found Team America who had been hanging around for hours they claim which we found surprising and a little depressing since we honestly tried to push that day. Nonetheless we enjoyed Lex & Jeff's company, whilst geeking out with a few beers.
The next day (today), we aimed for the border. Team America had to fill up, so we had a head start. The border experience was once again a kafka-esque experience that I'm trying to forget. Firstly it was near impossible to find the border since there were no signs. We had to pay a small "fine" on the Uzbek side since Jamie drove through the disinfectant pool too fast, which was not true. We were at the border for over four hours and strangely we didn't see Team America. I wonder where they are. We did bump into the Mongolian team again, which was nice. They escaped Turkmenistan by paying a 42USD fine for overstaying their visa, since they were waiting for their Uzbek visa. Nightmare.
Finally I'm here in Bukhara, home of the Great Game. We're in the old city which feels like a bit of an oasis. A few French tourists, another Mongol Rally car and sweet Internet. Roaming on my mobile also works to great relief. It wasn't working on the border.
[There was one positive to take from the Uzbek border crossing, it was the first border where I had to use a visa in my old passport. The guards just laughed at me. One down, three to go. Jamie]
[ps, Team America have just emailed to say that we missed a step and the border guards were saying that we should go back :-/]