The roads started out really quite nice, and we made excellent progress for the first few hours. Pulled over for some food in Tortkol, just outside Urganch, and after a little searching found a place that would accept our US Dollars. There didn’t appear to be a menu, so we just mimed for some food and sat down, not sure what was going to happen. The spread we were presented with could not have been finer: white peppers stuffed with rice and lamb; a pot of subtly sweet tea; some very hot, tasty and watery soup with two big baskets of bread; a tomato salad with onions and more white peppers; and then, when we were already stuffed, more rice with lamb. The total for this veritable feast? $5 each.
Incredibly satisfied, we got back on the road, expecting to make considerable progress on the good roads. Alas, the quality deteriorated quickly and we were reduced to a crawl for several hours. No matter, we knew there was room in the schedule for this, so we just carried on until it started getting dark, then pulled off onto the endless scrubby plain for another beautiful sunset.