I lay on my back, gazing up at a sky full of stars, watching the full moon rising in the distance.
A light breeze swirled around me, occasionally breaking the silence as it rustled the flaps of my tent.
Aside from my guide, Oleg, a few feet away, I was completely alone.
I wondered who else might be staring at the same sky full of stars (cue the song “Somewhere Out There”).
And I wondered if it was possible to get any further away from civilization than I was at that moment.
When we arrived at the Yangykala Canyon that afternoon, Oleg told me he only learned of its existence a few years ago. Upon seeing pictures of the canyon, he didn’t believe it was in Turkmenistan. Most people in the country have no clue it is even there. Indeed, once we turned on to the dusty, rocky road leading to the canyon (which of course was not marked), we passed only one other person – a man on a motorbike who likely lives in the small Kazakh village at least an hour away. Oleg said he has never encountered another person while visiting the canyon – tourist or local.
But there we were, standing on the plateau above the canyon, staring at pink and white rock formations created by an ocean that existed some forty million years ago.
And there I was that night, camping under a full moon on a canyon plateau in the middle of the desert in Turkmenistan.
And there I was the next morning, watching the sun rise in complete solitude over the same canyon.
About as far off the beaten path as you can possibly get.