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The Gates to Hell… at Darvaza, Turkmenistan

On a visit to Turkmenistan I got as close to Hell as I ever hope to get… the Gateway to Hell at Darvaza in Turkmenistan.

The Darvaza (or Derweze) area is rich in natural gas and this so called ‘Gateway to Hell’ is a huge burning gas crater in the middle of the Kara-kum desert which was left over from failed gas mining operations in the early 1970’s. Since visiting this awesome spectacle I’ve read that engineers decided to ignite the gas rather than let the dangerous gas escape after the mine rig collapsed. They apparently thought it would burn out after a few days. It is hard to imagine something burning for so long – I was born in 1972 which means that it has been burning all of my life!

It had been a very long and bumpy drive through the desert as we attempted to get to the burning gas crater that we had heard about when we crossed into Turkmenistan. We finally reached a place to camp and visit the crater – it was rapidly getting dark and the only people around were some road construction workers with what can only be described as a monster truck. They agreed to transport us to the crator in the truck. It was an amazing ride in the dark bumping around in the back as we sat on giant spare tyres – a little dangerous perhaps, but worth it!

The ride there was pretty amazing, but the crater itself was awesome – fire everywhere – the heat coming off it was tremendous. A wall of heat hit you as you walked closer to the edge. The ‘Gateway to Hell’ is a place I’ll never forget… the heat, the orange glow, the smell of gas, and the birds glowing as they soared on the thermals overhead.

The crator is known to some as “The Gate or Door To Hell” (Derweze or Darvaza in the Turkmen language). It is a huge burning gas crater in the middle of the Kara-kum desert, Turkmenistan. It was left over from failed gas mining operations in the early 1970’s which means that it has been burning all of my life… awesome.

A few miles down the road is another huge hole. This one was far deeper than the burning one, but smaller in diameter and filled with water – impressive nonetheless…

If you ever find yourself travelling through Turkmenistan I’d recommend a visit to Darvaza to see the ‘Gateway to Hell’, especially at night, a place I think it is definately better to see it before you die rather than after!!!

A few more photographs from Darvaza (Derweze) in Turkmenistan:

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